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The Ending Of Echoes Explained

Netflix's "Echoes" tells the story of identical twin sisters Leni and Gina McCleary (Michelle Monaghan in a dual role). They've enjoyed pretending to be one another from early childhood. Unlike the silly antics one might expect, however, Gina and Leni's switching takes on an increasingly alarming edge as they trick family, law enforcement, and even intimate partners.

While they briefly abandon the practice in their early adulthood, Leni's postpartum depression leads to a relapse. To help Leni recover and to protect her daughter Mattie (Gable Swanlund), the sisters switch lives for a year. This quickly becomes an annual tradition. Leni, Gina, and their husbands — Jack (Matt Bomer) and Charlie (Daniel Sunjata), respectively — celebrate the sisters' birthday in some beautiful location. Then, the twins meet in secret to trade lives once again.

"Echoes" begins when one sister seemingly goes missing, which forces the other to contemplate which life she should choose as her "real" one. Things only grow more complex from there. An ever-escalating potboiler of a series, "Echoes" is crammed with epic plot twists — many of which are double plot twists. Given this avalanche of reversals — one sister even admits she sometimes doesn't know which twin she is anymore — finding the ending a tad bit confusing or overwhelming is completely understandable. Looking to ensure you didn't miss any important details? Then you're in the right place. This is the ending of "Echoes," explained.

Leni McCleary's many secrets

Leni, who's seen as the "good" twin by family, friends, and neighbors, turns out to be the most invested in maintaining the twins' interwoven lives. As children, the girls witnessed their mother Maria's (Tyner Rushing) death. Leni, unable to fully comprehend such a tragic event, became obsessed with a particular idea: She and Gina should become everything to each other, and protect themselves from any possible harm. This isn't the only example of her extreme tendencies. Leni is the twin who pushed their older sister Claudia (Ali Stroker) from a great height, leaving Claudia disabled, though everyone thinks Gina is responsible. Later, Leni set fire to an abandoned church in a fit of jealousy. The blaze led to one man's accidental death and sent Gina's sweetheart Dylan (Jonathan Tucker) running, for fear of being blamed for the crime.

When the exposure of the twins' years of switching begins to unravel their lives, Leni remains dedicated to the idea of her and Gina continuing to live as if they are the same person. She's so devoted, in fact, that she proposes they both abandon their established lives and run away together. When Gina refuses and seemingly kills herself instead, it briefly looks as though Leni will finally face up to her past. Instead, she runs, essentially following through on her twin's plan to escape to a different country under a different identity. But does she stay away?

Gina McCleary runs for her life

Gina is seen as the "bad" twin because of the antisocial behaviors Leni displayed while she pretended to be Gina during their shared childhood. It got so bad, Gina left town to escape her reputation. She also wanted out of her increasingly unhealthy relationship with her sister. Unfortunately, after years of living with that connection, Gina struggled to exist without it. She found help from a therapist named Charlie. Soon, she was able to graduate from college and sell her senior thesis — a thinly fictionalized account of her relationship with Leni — as her first novel.

Despite enjoying aspects of Leni's life during their annual switches, Gina grows increasingly uncomfortable with the "tradition." A chance encounter with Dylan leads her to decide to run away. Alas, Leni (posing as Gina) derails the reconnected sweethearts' plans by killing Dylan. After Gina fails to get Leni charged for this, and several other crimes, she decides to leave anyway. In the course of saying her goodbyes, however, her father, Victor (Michael O'Neill), dies, and Leni catches up to her.

After Leni refuses to help her carry their father's body out of their burning childhood home, Gina runs for it, with her twin in hot pursuit. Even begging for her own life — and revealing the truth about their mother's death — doesn't convince Leni to let Gina go. Feeling devoid of other options, Gina appears to leap to her death. Her body, however, is not discovered.

The twins together

After Gina's apparent death and Leni's escape, viewers no longer have a clear sense of which twin they're watching. We can safely assume that Gina likely used her freediving skills to survive her leap off the waterfall, which led to her body never being discovered. Leni's encounter with a customs agent who swears she saw someone looking exactly like her only days earlier further reinforces this assumption.

Later, Charlie hosts an event for his new book. A woman who, despite a disguise, is clearly one of the sisters asks if there's more information about Gina. She immediately slips away, denying Charlie the chance to talk to her. But when Charlie gets home, he finds a twin waiting for him. Her demeanor and attitude suggest she's Gina, but given the twins' history of mimicry, it could just as easily be Leni. 

It does seem evident, though, that the sibling at Charlie's and the one at the reading are different people. They have different lengths of hair in different shades, for one thing. Additionally, when Charlie brings up her disguise, the twin doesn't know what he means. Finally, she claims to have been at the house for more than an hour, making it impossible for her to have been at the reading. This appears to be accurate. These twin (pun intended) encounters suggest that Gina is alive, both twins are back in the United States, and Leni continues to hunt for her sibling.

Jack's bleak prospects

In the end, Jack appears to be finally free of the McCleary drama that has dominated his life since his teens. Unfortunately, the truth is a bit more complicated. First, he's now a single father with very little support. His real wife is gone, his occasional false wife who is also his sister-in-law is seemingly dead, and his father-in-law is definitely dead. As he seems to have no relationship with his own family — perhaps they're also deceased? — he's left with Claudia and nanny Natasha (Maddie Nichols) to help him balance the farm and his fatherly duties.

But Jack might not have Natasha's help for long, as his money problems seem likely to grow worse. His one quick-fix source of income, aiding in the theft and fencing of foals, has dried up. Worse, the reason he can no longer help with that illegal enterprise is that Sheriff Louise Floss (Karen Robinson) learned of it while investigating Leni's disappearance at the start of the series. Thus, Jack might not just be looking at bankruptcy, but multiple criminal charges.

Perhaps Sheriff Floss might let him slide on those crimes, given his situation, though nothing about her suggests she's the type to look the other way. But even in that best-case scenario, Jack must also psychologically process the fact that his wife and his sister-in-law were trading lives under his nose for years, without him realizing it.

Charlie's terrible truths

While he does a reasonably good job of selling himself as a decent and stable presence in the McCleary twins' lives, Charlie is the only person in "Echoes" who gives them a run for their money in terms of dishonest and manipulative behavior. To start with, he uses his position as Gina's therapist to date and marry her, a blatant violation of the profession's ethical code. Secondly, while he's known about the sisters' switching for years, he never attempts to help them find a healthier way to process their trauma, or a better way to make choices. Heck, he never even reveals to them that he knows the truth.

Worst of all, from the moment he realizes they're trading lives, Charlie fills multiple notebooks with his observations of their actions and intimate information about them. Then, he turns those notes into a tell-all book that almost certainly violates even more ethical codes, and makes him a pretty lousy husband to boot. Finally, he seems to have done all of this within months of his wife's apparent death.

Despite — or perhaps because of — this, Charlie is the only person to see either (or both?) of the twins after Gina's apparent demise and Leni's escape. That may not be great news for him, though, as one twin shows up at his house, promising to pay back her debt to him. The way she says this suggests this will be an act of revenge, rather than love.

Dylan James' mysterious end

Dylan provides the spark that inspires Gina to change her life and escape her sister's obsessive hold on her. But when the two are ready to escape, he receives a last-minute phone call from Leni, posing as Gina, telling him to meet her at a different location than they'd initially planned. Though he's the one person who can typically tell the twins apart, the phone defuses his skill. He doesn't suspect a thing.

At the new location, Leni stabs him multiple times in the abdomen. While he lives long enough to see Gina again, he's far too injured and has lost way too much blood to survive. Gina uses his truck as a makeshift funeral pyre. Leni admits to her sister that she stabbed Dylan to death. She insists, though, that she only did so in self-defense. This claim might actually be true, as Dylan has previously acted in a threatening manner towards Leni. Still, changing the meeting spot while pretending to be Gina suggests a certain amount of forethought on Leni's part, and a lot of her signature cunning. If she wasn't luring him to his death, what was she doing? Given her history of trying to drive a wedge between her sister and Dylan, it seems likely she always intended to kill the man — but we can't be completely certain.

Victor McCleary's complicated demise

Victor's health issues, noted in Episode 1, finally come home to a head at the end of Episode 6. When Gina comes by to say what is likely her last goodbye before running off to a new life, she finds her father collapsed on the floor. Weak and apparently confused, he tries to talk to her about something that happened to her mom that he insists she saw. Unfortunately, his breathless statements only serve to bewilder Gina, and he dies before she can fully figure out what he's trying to say.

When Leni arrives shortly after his death, Gina attempts to put aside her differences with her twin so the two can contact an ambulance and get their father's body seen to. Leni immediately argues against it, saying the town will suspect them of foul play given everything that's happened over the past several days. A struggle ensues, leading to a fire breaking out in the dining room. Gina once again attempts to get Lena's help in moving the body outside, but the situation just continues to escalate.

Eventually, Gina has no choice but to run upstairs and escape out a window, leaving Victor's body to be consumed by flames as they utterly destroy the family's home.

The death of Maria McCleary

Maria McCleary is repeatedly referred to as having been sick when the twins were younger. It seems safe, for most of the series, to assume she died of cancer. However, "Echoes" doesn't definitively explain her fate until the final episode, which reveals that apparently reasonable assumption to be anything but. After being sick for a while and steadily getting worse, Maria decided she wanted to die on her own terms. She eventually convinced her husband, Victor, to help her enact the plan.

One night, after the girls were in bed, Maria and Victor filled their bathtub with water and the apple blossoms from the large tree outside that she loved so much. Then, Maria entered the bath, and Victor held her under until she died. While an autopsy should've revealed she drowned, rather than died of cancer, no suspicion of such an act ever emerged among the police or townspeople.

Unfortunately, there was one unintended witness: Leni. While she kept it a secret, it seems to have inspired her desire to remain forever connected to her sister. This also accounts for her present-day flashbacks. Victor assumes Gina witnessed the death, and that her bad behavior followed due to the trauma of such a sight. He's partially correct — he just has the wrong daughter in mind, as Leni was pretending to be Gina when she acted out.

Claudia McCleary faces the truth

After years of openly resenting Gina for pushing her off a ledge, Claudia finally learns the truth in the final episode. Gina reveals how the sisters have traded identities for years, and that the day Claudia was pushed, it was actually Leni dressed as Gina who did it. However, Gina agreed to keep the secret, convinced that Leni was doing it to help her. Only in retrospect does Gina realize it had more to do with Leni wanting to keep their switching a secret than preventing Gina from getting punished.

This confession doesn't yield the results Gina expects. Even after she further reveals that she's spent the past year encouraging Claudia to do things like date and craft her own adult life, the eldest McCleary sibling remains angry. If anything, Gina's revelation makes her even angrier. As Claudia points out, Gina has kept this secret for years, long after it should've become clear that Leni making her take the blame grievously damaged her relationship with Claudia. Moreover, she's denied Claudia the truth about a moment that totally redefined her life. Even more infuriatingly, Gina only elects to break her silence when the twins' lives are in ruins, with seemingly one or both bound for prison. If the circumstances were slightly different, she might never have revealed the truth at all, leaving Claudia to live in ignorance.

Echoes faces the critics and viewers

Critics did not fall in love with "Echoes," despite its complex structure, layered plotting, and multiple red herrings. Rather than feel compelled by these twists, in fact, critics were put off, and found their ramping intensity somewhat ridiculous. Even the show's positive reviews feel full of backhanded compliments. As Variety put it in their review, "Its seven episodes fly by fast enough to distract from the fact that they only barely make sense."

While critics may not have been convinced of the show's worth, Netflix subscribers certainly responded to its allure. Double the Michelle Monaghan and enough shocking-twist energy to power a small city will do that. "Echoes" was the streamer's number one English-language show from August 29 to September 4 (via IndieWire). It might be a critical disappointment, but something about "Echoes" has caught viewers' attention so fiercely, it's gotten them to check it out in droves. What this means for the series' future remains to be seen, but it could mean its finale might not actually be the story's end.

Echoes' future

A few factors are working against the possibility of future seasons of "Echoes." First, its critical reviews are, to put it simply, dispiriting. While Netflix shows with big divides between audience and critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes still get renewed, it does make things harder.

The second factor is the fact that Netflix has billed "Echoes" as a limited series from the start. They've continued to do so even after the show's debut. A streaming service can change its mind, but this is yet another impediment between "Echoes" as it currently exists and the possibility of a continuation. If it was always conceived of as a limited series, it may be difficult to get all the necessary people to return. It might also suggest that the creators have nothing further to say about these characters and their world.

That said, plenty is left unresolved at the end of "Echoes." Obviously, the twins' status is the biggest mystery: Who is living and who is dead? This is followed closely by the matter of who's pursuing who, if they are indeed both alive. Then, there is the question of what that twin visiting Charlie "owes" him, the fate of Jack and Mattie, and Sheriff Flood's developing obsession with the case. Given the sheer amount of twists and turns presented, "Echoes" is probably capable of filling multiple seasons with the truth about this frequently dangerous and duplicitous duo.