Tell Me Your Secrets Ending Explained by Lily Rabe
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 1 finale of Tell Me Your Secrets, “The Dead Come Back.”]
After a full season of Karen/Emma (Lily Rabe) struggling to put together the events of her past, we finally learn the truth about Karen’s involvement in Theresa’s (Stella Baker) disappearance in Episode 9 of Amazon’s Tell Me Your Secrets, “Gotcha.” Even though Karen was sent to prison for her involvement in what happened, flashbacks reveal that it was actually Theresa who had the violent streak.
After discovering Amy Walker’s body, Theresa compels Karen to run from Kit (Xavier Samuel). Just as they make their way out the apartment door, Karen’s water breaks. On the road, when Theresa reveals she has no intentions of taking Karen to the hospital, Karen hurls herself out of the car and runs into the icy forest with Theresa right behind her, hammer in hand. Just before intending to kill Karen, Theresa reveals, “Before it was you and him, it was me and him. And it’s always gonna be me and him,” confirming that, as Emma puts it in the season finale, Theresa is the real monster here. She ruined Karen’s life.
How did Rabe’s approach to playing Karen change after learning this vital information? Here’s what she told us during her episode of Collider Ladies Night:
“Listen, the thing about Karen to me that I love is that she is wide open and she is someone who sees the good in people. And I think we so often, when people are trusting of others, we like to say that they’re overly trusting or that there’s a lack of intelligence in being trusting, that being trusting means you’re gullible. I just wholeheartedly disagree. I think it’s such a beautiful thing to innately believe that people are good and to sort of lead with love. That’s who she is. That’s how she ends up in a lot of these relationships and in the situation she does. So I never judged her for a second. I never thought, ‘Oh, how could you not have …’ It was such a painful pleasure to get to play someone who is so guileless in that way and so optimistic about people, which is so completely on the opposite side of the spectrum from where Emma ends up in terms of being afraid of everyone really, and trusting no one including herself.”
In addition to the big Theresa revelation, the end of Season 1 of Tell Me Your Secrets also includes a long-gestating face-to-face confrontation between Emma and John, played by Rabe’s real life partner, Hamish Linklater. Given the fact that for so much of the show, Emma is entirely unaware of what John’s up to, did Rabe and Linklater have to avoid discussing the material with each other at home? Here’s how Rabe put it:
“I think before we were shooting I had read quite a few more, but definitely there were scripts that we were getting while we were shooting. But we were in such lockstep with [creator and writer] Harriet [Warner] that I was never turning the page and like, ‘What?!’ [Laughs] But I think the truth is we knew we would end up getting to be together. We just didn’t know exactly when. I love acting with him so much so I just couldn’t wait to get to the script where I was gonna turn the page and see that we were finally together, no matter how brutal the circumstances might be because, you know, that’s the show we were making.”
When it came to preserving some of that mystery in the later episodes of the show, Rabe and Linklater wound up naturally creating the necessary boundaries rather than overtly enforcing them.
“Without saying let’s have a lot of boundaries about this, there were things that we didn’t talk about. We’ve worked together so many times that there is a kind of dialogue that we have that is very different than the way we are as a couple or as co-parents. And we can be quite boundaried when we know that it will serve the work and not overshare and withhold quite a bit. We weren’t coming to set to see what the other person was doing leading up so that we did kind of meet these characters as they would have met. We weren’t running lines with one another in the way that we might have if one of us was working and the other one wasn’t. We were kind of keeping character secrets from one another.”
When Emma finally does get to see John’s true colors, it’s a pretty vicious encounter. While it might seem like quite the challenge to jump into a moment like that, that’s the kind of material Rabe is drawn to in general.
“When it makes me have that feeling of terror about doing something, that usually makes me feel also very excited to do it. I don’t sort of feel that I’m drawn towards being particularly comfortable. Not to say I don’t love doing shows where good things are happening to people [laughs], because I love that too. But if you’re gonna get out of bed and leave your kids, I want it to feel challenging and unlike anything I’ve done before.”
If you’re looking for more from Rabe, we already released a clip of her discussing American Horror Story Season 10. You can catch our Ladies Night conversation in full when it arrives on Collider this weekend!
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