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The Ending Of Brand New Cherry Flavor Explained

Spoilers ahead for Netflix's "Brand New Cherry Flavor."

Netflix's latest limited series, "Brand New Cherry Flavor," is arguably one of the most disturbing, twisted, and just plain gross television shows you'll watch all year. It also happens to be one of the most fascinating horror entries of 2021. Adapted from Todd Grimson's late '90s novel of the same name, the limited series comes from creators and "Channel Zero" alums Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion. "Brand New Cherry Flavor" stars Rosa Salazar ("Alita: Battle Angel"), Eric Lange ("Perry Mason"), Catherine Keener ("Get Out"), Jeff Ward ("Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."), and Manny Jacinto ("The Good Place").

Over the course of eight episodes, we're taken back to the Hollywood of the early 1990s. The story follows Lisa Nova (Salazar), a young filmmaker who gains the attention of fading film producer Lou Burke (Lange) through her shocking horror short film. Lou takes an interest in Lisa and offers her a deal to develop her short into a feature-length film, with the promise to have her direct the movie and mentor her. Lou's predatory side quickly reveals itself when he makes a pass at Lisa after weeks of mentoring her. She rejects him, but his bruised ego leads him to box Lisa out of working on her own movie. Devastated, Lisa seeks revenge with the help of Boro (Keener), an enigmatic dark magic practitioner whose offer to hurt Lou comes at a high price. 

As Lisa battles it out with Lou (and eventually Boro), she gets sucked deeper into the macabre underbelly of Hollywood, where magic, deadly spirits, and zombies (yes, zombies) mingle amongst human affairs. To fully understand the finale, we need to take a closer look at Lisa's feuds with Lou and Boro, as well as analyze the meaning behind the show's surreal events.

Lisa wins her deadly power struggle with Lou

"Brand New Cherry Flavor" begins and ends with the fraught, frequently violent power struggle between Lisa Nova and Lou Burke. After forming a bond through Boro's dark magic, Lisa begins her revenge attempts with some shocking attacks: Phantom insect bites, incurable hiccups, and causing the director Lou picked to direct her movie to spontaneously combust at one of Lou's parties. Things escalate when Lou's son, Jonathan, is taken to the hospital and is preyed upon by one of Boro's many zombie guards. Believing Lisa is the person who ordered his son to be turned into a zombie, Lou turns murderous. He arranges for a hitman to kill Lisa, but the job is botched when Jonathan, who feels tied to Lisa, walks in on the attempted hit and Lisa is left for dead.

Meanwhile, Lou's health is spiraling downward after snorting what appeared to be a magical tapeworm amidst a batch of fake cocaine gifted to him by Lisa. As the tapeworm eats away at his brain, Lou grows weaker and more manic. After Lisa recovers her health thanks to a healing milk bath at Boro's, she resolves to kill Lou once and for all. Lisa is given a key to Lou's room at the Bel Air Hotel after having a surreal conversation with the spirit of her mother (more on that in a sec) in the chamber underneath her apartment. Lisa goes to Lou's hotel room, confronts him, and gets him to confess his motivations for ruining her life; her rejection of him made him feel "small." Although disgusted, Lisa eventually gets the last laugh when she removes the tapeworm from Lou's eye and it is revealed in the finale he has gone completely blind.

Lisa narrowly escapes Boro's clutches, but she's not in the clear

Turns out, things between Lisa and Boro are even trickier than Lisa's battle against Lou. Midway through the limited series, Boro reveals she is much older than she appears. In fact, Boro's consciousness has been hopping from host body to host body for centuries and merely inhabits a missing housewife's body at the present. In the final act, which roughly begins at Episode 6, Boro heals Lisa from the murder attempt by one of Lou's hitmen. As Lisa recovers, Boro tells her a story about a man in South America who sought out a mystical jaguar to give him what he desired. The jaguar helped fulfill his wishes but demanded the man give his wife to the animal as part of the payment. The man tricked the jaguar, leading to a struggle between the two for power. Boro says that this man was a body she once inhabited, thus drawing a subtle connection between Lisa's fight with Lou and Boro's fight with the jaguar; this stuff is cyclical, man.

Later, Lisa meets the spirit of the jaguar in a dark chamber that magically appeared under her apartment earlier in the show. As she talks with the spirit, it reveals itself to be Lisa's mother, whom she had never met before. Lisa is forever changed by the encounter and resolves to seek revenge against Boro for the pain she caused in deceiving her. However, Lisa's planned confrontation with Boro is ultimately botched. In the end, Boro attempts to take over Lisa's body but fails to do so. Lisa escapes Boro's house and eventually, Boro just takes over the body of Mary, the actress in Lisa's short film who was also wronged by Lisa and seeking revenge against her.

Brand New Cherry Flavor is ultimately about the allure, dynamics, and price of power

"Brand New Cherry Flavor" wears its cinematic and literary influences on its sleeve and through them, helps us understand what it's attempting to say. David Cronenberg's body horror, David Lynch's fascination with the dark underworld of shiny Los Angeles, and even Bret Easton Ellis' morbid fascination with the ruling class in Hollywood are all filters through which "Brand New Cherry Flavor" examines what it means to seek out and effectively wield power in Los Angeles, a place many movies and TV shows have repeatedly depicted as a hollow, morally bankrupt city. 

Lisa's quest to find power through successfully getting her movie made devolves into a quest to regain the power Lou stole from her in both his mental and physical manipulations. Their feud takes the form of a haunting, #MeToo-esque struggle as Lisa works through Lou's predatory betrayal. Between Lisa and Boro, there is a supernatural battle for power, as Lisa tries to find power through magic and Boro tries to gain control over Lisa — much like Lou attempted — in every way possible. The kittens that Lisa coughs up as payment to Boro symbolize the grim toll of the Faustian bargain Lisa has made with Boro for revenge; In order to hurt Lou, Lisa must surrender another piece of her innocent self.

In the end, "Brand New Cherry Flavor" — a cheeky title poking fun at the state in which one arrives in L.A. before being worn down by all its darkness — tells us that it's hard to win a power battle. Instead, merely escaping with your life and trying to find peace in the fallout is perhaps the best you can hope for.