‘Baby Reindeer’s Shocking Revelation Is Also Its Most Heartbreaking

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Editor's Note: The following contains full “Baby Reindeer” spoilers. It also deals with themes of sexual violence relevant to the series.


The big picture

  • “Baby Reindeer” explores the story of a failed comedian named Donny who is being pursued by a woman named Martha.
  • Donny's traumatic past is revealed in the season and shapes his current behaviors, helping the audience understand him.
  • The shocking revelation reveals deeper layers of Donny's trauma beyond Martha's bullying.


Baby Reindeer it's a chilling drama. It is a story of obsession and shame and is unique in that it explores the role of masculinity in minimizing the sexual violence experienced by men. The series was created and written by Richard Gadd and is based on a true story about his personal experience with a bully in his 20s. The Netflix limited series is extraordinary, puzzling, humorous, and subsequently terrifying. Donny's (Richard Gadd) attempts to extricate himself from a living hell filled with shame and trauma are exacerbated by the manic and deeply disturbed Martha (Jessica Gunning). The series of events is addictive, leading the audience through a maze of twists and turns. Gadd shows exceptional vulnerability as Donny, undermining the audience's expectations with a shocking revelation mid season The revelation about Donny's sexual assault will change the way people think about sexual trauma and will explain Donny's behavior throughout the series in a heartbreaking backstory.



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Donny is an aspiring comedian who works in a pub and lives at his ex-girlfriend Keely's (Shalom Brune-Franklin) mother, Liz (Nina Sosanya) home. It languishes in a kind of arrested development, a stagnant art school dropout who just can't seem to make it. The boys in the pub barely respect him, subjecting him to cruel and stinging jokes. His toxic masculinity is an alienating force that finds Donny seemingly alone and unloved in a city far from his family. On top of that, Donny's comedy dreams seem to be dead in the water. As an oddball prop comedian, his “anti-comedy” act fails to impress. The act can be unpleasant, strange, and sometimes downright unfunny.


Enter Martha, a disbarred attorney fresh off a stint in prison for criminal stalking. Martha is quite taken with Donny, instantly obsessing over him as he seems to be the only person willing to give her the time of day, or in this case, a cup of tea. From this single act of kindness, Martha becomes obsessed, doing everything she can to establish a relationship with Donny and work her way into his life.. Donny's relationships suffer under the harassment, as she threatens the stability of his precarious living situation, sabotaging his budding relationship with the beautiful Teri (Nava Mau), and generally wreaking havoc on the poor guy's life in ways that may seem harmless and even funny at times, but quickly turn disturbing.

Why is Donny's revelation so shocking in “Baby Reindeer”?

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Halfway through the series, Donny breaks away from the main narrative to explain to the audience how he came to be in this situation, returning to his beginnings as a comedian when he decides to join the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a comedy festival annual than on the city. Like many artists, Donny left his humble home for the lights of the big city to find fame as a comedian Performing his comedy act to unsavory audiences in and out of Edinburgh pubs for what seems like forever, until he finally gets his big break. One night, after getting a VIP pass to a members-only club in Edinburgh, Donny meets Darrien, a successful writer on one of Donny's favorite TV shows. The two form a fast friendship with Darrien helping Donny develop his actthough his help comes at a cost that quickly becomes apparent when Donny reveals that Donny drugged and raped him frequently during this time.

The shocking revelation that Darrien sexually abused Donny for months and years is truly heartbreaking. What makes this revelation so surprising is how often the abuse occurred, and that Donny can't help but go back to Darrien's house, even being aware of the abuse. This may seem counter-intuitive to some, but it expertly highlights the complex relationships victims have with their perpetrators. Adding to this shame is Donny's internal struggle to reconcile his abuse with his sexual identity, which further estranges him from his girlfriend Keeley. This shame becomes a prison that traps Donny in a world that cuts him off from the people he loves most and makes him seek the validation that Martha so easily gives.


Darrien's abuse of Donny is at the root of the “Baby Reindeer story.”

The truth about Donny's past makes him a deeply sympathetic character, as we learn that many of his character quirks are a result of his abuse. The shame spiral he is stuck in it is the root of his self-loathing and Darrien's assault has become the event that has eroded his entire life. His inability to take steps to prevent Martha from further disrupting his life product of this shame and isolation. That's why it's taking so long to report her to the police. Because of Darrien, Donny is filled with self-loathing and Martha's attention comes very easily at a time when his comedy career is crashing. Caught in this cycle with Martha, trauma and shame eradicate his ability to love others, costing him his relationship with Teri.


Prior to the Edinburgh episode, the narrative of the series has a comedic edge. Donny is clearly a victim of Martha's bullying, but he's also an unlikable character himself. He looks like an idiot who seems to enjoy the attention Martha is giving him. When he reveals that he lied to Teri about his identity after meeting her on a trans dating app, the audience wonders if the protagonist is transphobic and ashamed of his feelings for Teri. In that sense, it makes watching Donny squirm under Martha's proverbial thumb feel somewhat justified, at least until Martha sexually assaults him over the channel. Donny's behavior may initially seem dysfunctional and dishonest, but it makes perfect sense in the context of his abuse. The revelation about Darrien and Donny's relationship changes the narrative and raises the emotional stakes for the audience as all hearts bleed for Donny.


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Suddenly everything about their relationships, specifically with Teri and Keeley, makes sense. The assault has made him uncertain about his sexuality and struggles with physical intimacy. It all comes to a head during Donny's performance where he stops his anti-comedy routine and tells the world what happened to him. It is recorded by someone in the crowd and the story quickly goes viral. The people in Donny's life now know the truth about his abuse. It's only after he comes out and tells the truth about what happened that Donny begins to heal.


This happens in a big way when Donny finally comes out to his parents and then reveals what Darrien did to him. Donny questions whether his parents will see him as less of a man after learning what happened. But in a cathartic moment, Donny's father, who has been perceived as a rude and no-nonsense man, reveals that he is also a victim of sexual assault simply saying he was raised in the Catholic Church. Father and son embrace and Donny finds some peace after this moment of honesty.

Baby Reindeer it streams on NETFLIX in the US

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