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The Ending Of Netflix's Maid Explained

"Maid" is the Netflix series created by Molly Smith Meltzer that just premiered on Oct. 1, 2021. Based on Stephanie Lang's memoir, "Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive," the story follows Alex (Margaret Qualley), a young single mother to Maddy (Rylea Nevaeh Whittet), as she finally decides to leave her abusive boyfriend Sean (Nick Robinson), only to find that her struggles are only just beginning. Over the course of the first season, Alex is forced to take a housekeeper job to make ends meet, while also finding her voice as a writer, with the help of her local writer's group. Alex wants to move with Maddy to Missoula, Montana, but a custody dispute with Sean, as well as her difficult relationship with her mother Paula (Andie MacDowell), both make that difficult.

At the end of Season 1, Alex lands a scholarship at the University of Montana, and finally scrapes up enough money to start a new life with Maddy. But while Season 1 does end on an optimistic note, it's far from a happy ending. Here's the ending of "Maid" Season 1, explained.

Alex's life is easier, but still not easy

"Maid" is ultimately about three people trying to improve themselves — Alex, Paula, and Sean. While Alex does ultimately get what she wants, a chance at a fresh start free of Sean, she doesn't get everything she wants — Paula breaks her promise to come with her (more on that below). But Alex is also fully aware that her journey is just getting started. As she tells her writer's group, while she does have a college scholarship, she's still getting by on government assistance, and she'll still have to work part-time as a housekeeper. "A lot of people would bet against a single mom putting herself through college," Alex says to her group.

The end of the Season 1 finale is full of moments that show how Alex has made some progress, but there's still a long way to go. She returns a cashmere sweater she "borrowed" from a wealthy client. The client tells her to keep it, but Alex refuses, vowing to earn enough to buy one of her own. But when the client notes the price, $1,400, Alex takes the sweater. Working hard to make a living is an honorable goal, but we all need help sometimes, and there's nothing wrong with accepting it.

Then there's Alex and Maddy's hike to the top of the mountain overlooking Missoula. As Alex notes via voiceover, the trail is long and zig-zaggy, and the hike will be difficult, but the end goal of reaching the summit makes it all worth it — just like Alex's journey towards a better life. At the top of the mountain is a giant "M," which Alex tells her daughter stands for "Maddy." It's obviously not true, but that's OK, too. Sometimes we have to indulge in a little make-believe because it allows us to keep going.

Paula shows how fragile self-improvement can be

While Alex makes progress on her journey of self-improvement, Paula's ending is what keeps this from being a fully happy one. 

Throughout Season 1, "Maid" has explored Paula and Alex's complicated relationship. In the present, Paula is there for both her daughter and granddaughter. But Paula is also struggling with plenty of issues on her own. Just like Alex, she loses her home and is forced to live out of her car. Paula and Alex also struggle to move on from their past. When Alex was a girl, Paula was also with an alcoholic and abusive partner. She did try to give Alex a new life, but she came up short — and in the finale, she does so again.

Alex invites Paula to accompany them to Missoula, and Paula promises to join them ... until her love interest Micah realizes he has feelings for her. Paula is thrilled when Micah kicks out his partner so that they can be together, enough to cancel her plan to come to Missoula.

Micah is far from an ideal partner for Paula. He has a drinking problem of his own, and he's not emotionally available. By canceling her plans to go to Missoula — especially for a man who's arguably not worth it — this is yet another time when Paula isn't there for her daughter. Their final exchange sums up the parent-child dynamic at play here. Paula asks Alex to tell her that she loves her. Alex does, but Paula doesn't say it back. Once again, Paula puts her needs before her daughter's.

In a way, Alex's relationship with her mother provides a frame of reference for the relationship she wants to have with Maddy. But that's a silver lining, because Alex and Paula ultimately don't get the happy ending.

Sean ultimately does the right thing

Alex's ex-boyfriend Sean is also trying to improve himself, even if it takes him much longer to realize it. Sean is also someone who's trying to learn from his relationships with his own parents in order to make himself a better parent to Maddy. In the Season 1 finale, Sean recognizes that he has a drinking problem, admitting to Alex that when he's with Maddy, all he thinks about is his next drink — just like his own mother used to behave around him.

This provides the motivation for Sean to start to change. When he understands the harmful impact he's having on Maddy, he drops his custody lawsuit, allowing Alex and Maddy to leave the state and start a new life. In the end, Sean has to give up what he wanted — custody of Maddy — in order to have a shot at having a relationship with her.

Like Alex's, Sean's journey ends on a somewhat hopeful note. Alex tells him he can visit Missoula as often as he wants, but only once he's sober. Sean vows to get himself clean. But just like Alex's journey, Sean's won't be easy, even if the destination is ultimately the right one.