The Ending Of Based On A True Story Explained

Contains spoilers for "Based on a True Story" Season 1

In the final moments of this dark comedy series, Simon (Aaron Staton) bursts into Ava (Kaley Cuoco) and Nathan's (Chris Messina) new beach house while they are mopping Ruby's (Priscilla Quintana) blood off the floor. Although the series ends with Simon asking, "Whose blood is that?" it is unclear why Simon barged in on Ava and Nathan in the middle of the night, nor is it evident if Simon is aware Ruby has gone missing and is dead.

At the end of Season 1, Ava and Nathan Bartlett become accessories to murder when Matt (Tom Bateman) dumps Ruby's body at their front door, forcing them to dispose of the corpse and dragging them deeper into his crimes as the Westside Ripper. By Episode 8, Ava and Nathan are in so deep they probably can't see a way out of their predicament. Unsurprisingly, they opt to dispose of the body rather than come clean to the cops.

The last episode of "Based on a True Story" sets the dark comedy series up for another season filled with murder and mayhem while revealing some surprising plot developments. Despite these surprises, the last episode of Season 1 leaves the story unresolved. Of course, a thriller series that shows who its serial killer is in the first episode probably isn't going to be playing by the rules.

What you need to remember about the plot of Based on a True Story

A hilarious satire of America's obsession with true crime, "Based on a True Story" follows Ava and Nathan's struggles as they await the arrival of their first child. Ava's real estate career is stalled out of apartment rentals, while Nathan, who was once a promising tennis star, has been demoted at the tennis club he helped build into a Beverly Hills institution.

When their toilet breaks, Nathan hires a plumber named Matt, and they become fast friends while throwing darts at a nearby bar. When one bartender, Chloe Lake (Natalia Dyer), is murdered, Ava realizes their new friend, Matt, is the Westside Ripper. Ava concocts a plan to blackmail Matt into making a true crime podcast together and convinces Nathan it is the answer to their financial woes.

Matt agrees to the podcast, and he reluctantly accepts their caveat — the killing must stop. Nathan and Ava quickly realize it's impossible to control Matt, as he takes creative control of their podcast. The podcast makes a splash at Crime-Con when the Westside Ripper takes credit for the murder of Dahlia Stone (Lizze Broadway), who capitalized on the lie she survived an attack by the Westside Ripper. Matt sees the podcast as an extension of his persona. "He's getting more and more artistically involved because it's the first time in his life he's ever felt seen," actor Tom Bateman, who plays Matt, told The New York Times.

Episode 6 unleashes a runaway train barreling toward the end of Based on a True Story

When the podcast goes viral, our trio celebrates a tentative multimillion-dollar deal with Spotify at a swanky dinner party hosted by Simon and Ruby. Ruby confirms her suspicion Matt is the Westside Ripper by calling from the burner phone Ava had dropped in Vegas. But when Ruby confronts Ava about making a podcast with a killer, Ava says the podcast is a lie they created to fix their financial troubles.

Ruby and Simon fight during dinner, leading to a disagreement between Ava and Ruby that ends their friendship. Ruby demands to be a part of the podcast's inner circle and reveals she told her husband, Simon, that Matt is the Westside Ripper and that Ava and Nathan are making a podcast with a killer. Ava informs Nathan about the Ruby situation, while Jessica Alba's viral tweet calling for a cancellation of the podcast results in its being removed from the iTunes library within minutes.

When Ruby and Simon's argument reignites, all hell breaks loose and Simon snaps. Simon shoots Nathan's beloved dog, McEnroe, before threatening Nathan with the gun. Matt steps between Nathan and the gun and talks Simon down before confiscating his weapon. In Episode 6, Simon is portrayed as the bad guy and Matt as the hero, showing our perception has become as twisted as Ana and Nathan's.

Episode 7 sets the stage for the ending of Season 1

In Episode 7 of "Based on a True Story," Nathan dreams up a plan to save the podcast by creating a subscription-based platform that cuts out iTunes and Spotify after both platforms dropped the podcast. Matt suggests they make a premium level with updates on "fresh content," his euphemism for new murders. Matt admits he misses killing and has picked out his next victim, which is something Ava and Nathan have forbidden, but Matt believes they are actually "going to love it."

Michelle (Li Jun Li) chews Nathan out for setting her up with Matt, detailing how he broke up with her and called her a "dead end," leading Nathan to believe Michelle is Matt's next victim. Nathan confronts Matt about his suspicions while throwing darts, but Matt insists Michelle isn't his target. Matt shares how the podcast is the best thing that happened to him and that he owes it all to Nathan. At this admission, Nathan loses his temper and attacks Matt, threatening him with a blue dart to the carotid artery.

Upon returning home, Ruby warns Nathan that if he doesn't give her a front-row seat to the Westside Ripper becoming a huge celebrity, she'll go to the police about his identity and their involvement in the podcast. Nathan gives Ava their dream home in Malibu, but they fight. When Ava attempts to leave, they discover Ruby's corpse at their doorway with a blue dart in her neck.

What happened at the end of Based on a True Story?

When Ava and Nathan confront Matt about Ruby's murder over the phone, they interrupt a Zoom session between Matt and the killers he is interviewing for Season 2 of their podcast. Matt explains Ruby called the cops and lures them back to their house in Mar Vista with an ominous threat toward Ava's sister, Tory (Liana Liberato).

They arrive at a surprise party for their 10th anniversary with a dead body in their trunk. When Simon crashes their party, Nathan takes him outside to talk, but a new problem arises. Simon hears Ruby's phone ringing from the trunk of their car and becomes worried someone might be trapped inside. When Nathan and Ava check Ruby's phone, her voicemail confirms Ruby contacted the police about the Westside Ripper.

After the party, Ava and Nathan dispose of Ruby's body at the tennis club in a hole slated to be filled with concrete the next day, and Nathan remembers to remove the incriminating blue dart, that has his fingerprints on it, from Ruby's neck before burying her in a shallow grave. In the final minutes of "Based on a True Story," we discover Tory and Matt have been secretly seeing each other, leading us to question if Tory is Matt's next target or just his new girlfriend. The scene cuts to Nathan and Ava cleaning up Ruby's blood at their beach house while bonding over baby names before Simon barges in.

What the end of Based on a True Story means

During their anniversary party, Nathan asks, "When does this end?" after Matt suggests solving their new problem with Simon's murder. "That's the beauty of it," replies Matt with a cold smile. "It never ends." The ending of "Based on a True Story" proves Ava and Nathan tied themselves to Matt and his fate when they proposed making a podcast together. They've lost their illusion of control and must admit to themselves Matt is in charge and they are along for the ride; they've lost not only their way but also their moral compasses. In Episode 2, Matt tells Nathan, "This will not end well for you." By the end of Season 1, it appears Matt is correct. "These are good people who make a really poor decision. We see that a lot, which is why I think why we love true crime. Most of the time it's a normal person doing something terrible," star Kaley Cuoco told Glamour.

"I love the idea of people who have fallen so far apart from each other that they choose the most ridiculous, stupid, darkest and most twisted way to find their way back," co-lead Chris Messina told Today. Despite being in over their heads and subject to the whims of a serial killer, Ava and Nathan reconnect in Episode 8 after being at odds throughout the entire season. If there is a Season 2, we may witness a more unified front from the pair.

Another possible explanation of the ending

It is also possible that Simon barging in on Ava and Nathan, while they mop Ruby's blood off the floor at the end of Season 1, is the beginning of yet another fantasy interlude. These fantasy interludes included in the series show Ava, Nathan, and Matt's fantasies while making the audience question what they are seeing, and knocking the audience off-balance. We even see a violent reverie from the dog, McEnroe, and Ruby's corpse in Episode 7 and Episode 8.

These interludes not only reveal something about the characters' inner lives but they are also a commentary on American audiences' appetite for sex and violence in our entertainment. For most of us, sensuality and violence are antithetical, but in Matt's disturbing yet sexually charged murder spree fantasy in Vegas, we see the two tied together. Although some viewers may have found these interludes distracting, confusing or ineffective, they are linked to the series' social commentary on America's obsession with true crime and serial killers.

Another alternate explanation for the ending of Based on a True Story

An alternate explanation for this ending might suggest that Simon has become ensnared in Matt's diabolical web. Matt is always one step ahead of everyone, and Simon's arrival at the beach house just as Ava and Nathan are cleaning up the crime scene could suggest that Matt is pulling the strings behind the scenes and hoping to incite a confrontation between Simon and the Bartletts, forcing them to kill Simon to protect their secret.

Matt delights in compromising the morals of Ava and Nathan. Transforming the couple into killers seems like the next step in his plan of mutually assured destruction. Still, is it just about Matt ensuring Ava and Nathan understand their culpability to secure their loyalty? "He feels very invisible but has quite a lot of secrets that he can't reveal but sort of desperately wants to," Tom Bateman told TV Insider, explaining how important the podcast becomes to Matt.

Is it possible Matt agreed to the podcast simply to continue hanging out socially with Nathan and Ava? Are his manipulative efforts to corrupt them his way of ensuring a continued friendship by bringing them down to his level so they will no longer judge and fear him? When Nathan and Matt met, they clicked and Matt embraced the friendship as fully as Nathan did. When Matt agrees to make the podcast, his one caveat is they continue throwing darts together, suggesting Matt has multiple reasons for continuing the podcast.

What has Kaley Cuoco said about the ending of Based on a True Story?

"I am such a true-crime fanatic," star Kaley Cuoco told Glamour. "The tone of this show resembled kind of what I did in 'Flight Attendant,' in the sense that it had all the things [like comedy, drama, high-stakes adventure]. I thrive in that area. I like that chaos, so it felt perfect. Then Chris Messina signed on, and we had the best time together. It checked every box."

Cuoco and Messina seem to have had a blast making the series, and Cuoco said she identified with her character, finding the story close to reality. "It happens all the time," Cuoco told ABC. "That's why this was very believable to me. They are in a desperate situation, make a really ridiculous choice out of desperation and end up in a very bad place."

The actress doesn't give her character a pass. "At the end of this season, Ava and Nathan are as bad as the serial killer. I mean, they will at some point be in as much trouble as he would be in," Cuoco told Glamour. "I do not condone a serial killer doing a podcast in real life," Cuoco told The New York Times, admitting, "I feel like I would be one of those people who say, 'This should be illegal,' and then probably go in my car and listen to it. We can't help ourselves."

What has Chris Messina said about the ending of Based on a True Story?

Chris Messina said he was drawn to the script of "Based on a True Story" by the relationship between Ava and Nathan and their quiet desperation, seeing it as a love story at its core. "You find them at a point in their lives where they're looking in the mirror and not looking at what they thought it would be, which is extremely relatable. What one dreams of doesn't always come to fruition," Messina told Today.

Messina said he has never been a fan of true crime but understands the allure, equating it with rubbernecking at the aftermath of a car accident. "We do slow down and look because of that thing in us, as humans, that wants to gaze into the darkness sometimes," Messina told Collider. Despite understanding the dark fascination of true crime, Messina said he doesn't think Nathan would have agreed to his wife's baffling scheme: "If his professional life was on track," Messina said. "He sees himself so negatively and thinks that his wife has lost interest in him because he is unsuccessful."

Messina said he and Craig Rosenberg, the creator of the series, had many discussions about the likelihood of people going to such extremes for fame and fortune in a society such as ours. "It's a bananas scenario, but I don't know necessarily how far-fetched it is," Messina told Collider.

What have the producers said about the ending of Based on a True Story?

Peacock's "Based on a True Story" explores America's morbid fascination with true crime, but it also lampoons our obsession with fresh content, branding, and social media, using the city of angels as the breeding ground for a serial killer who is as savvy about content creation as he is with murder. Series creator and writer Craig Rosenberg has spoken about his inspiration for the series in the past.

"Murderers have become celebrities and celebrities have become murderers which inspired me to create this show," Rosenberg said in a statement (per US Magazine). "I became fascinated with the idea of a relatable married couple whose youthful dreams hadn't come to fruition and who saw the true crime tidal wave as an opportunity to change their lives and save their marriage. Our Los Angeles setting — the city where everybody wants to be famous — became a vivid backdrop to our story of fame, ambition, aspiration and murder."

"We thought, This is absolutely talking about a metaphor for how millions of people get lost in stories as escapism," Michael Costigan, an executive producer, told The New York Times. "But what are they escaping into? What are they forgetting about?" The writers and producers were cautious when satirizing a genre that is often seen as exploitative.

What the end of Based on a True Story could mean for the future of the show

The cliffhanger ending of Season 1 left the story wide open for another season. "It lends itself to that, for sure," Kaley Cuoco told Glamour. "Chris [Messina] and I obviously would love to do a season two. I think there's a lot more story to tell, a lot more [hijinks], silliness, comedy. We would absolutely be down for that." Cuoco also said she's open to her character, Ava, exploring a much darker arc in Season 2, she told Entertainment Weekly.

"I love acting with Kaley," Messina told Collider. "She made me better. I would love to learn more from her and just get to hang with her. I'd like to see a Bonnie and Clyde thing with them, where they just make worse and worse decisions and stupider mistakes that send them deeper into the hole. It would be fun to get another shot at playing with that."

Tom Bateman told Entertainment Weekly when he was first approached about joining the cast, multiple seasons were already planned out. "He's [Craig Rosenberg] really got this plan mapped out in his head," Bateman told Entertainment Weekly. "I feel that with where it ends, Season 1 is just so delicious. And you think, 'Let's have a second helping of that, please.'" The WGA strike poses a problem; even if a second season is greenlit by Peacock, we likely won't see it soon.