Warning: This post contains spoilers for Who Is Erin Carter?
In August, the high-octane British thriller Who Is Erin Carter? came whizzing out of left field to become the most watched English-language show of the week on Netflix. What is it, exactly, about this mysterious saga that caught our attention?
The plot revolves around the eponymous British schoolteacher, played by Kurdish-Swedish actor Evin Ahmad, in the wake of an incident at a supermarket. When armed robbers try to hold up the grocery store, Erin’s maternal instincts kick in, and she kills a man in self-defense to protect her daughter. But her preternatural fighting abilities raise eyebrows and suspicions, starting a chain of events that threaten to expose Erin’s dark past and dismantle the careful life she’s built for herself in Barcelona with her daughter, Harper (Indica Watson), and her husband, Jordi (Sean Teale).
For Ahmad, some of the allure of the role laid in the titular question itself: Who is Erin? And how should she play her?
“She obviously has a past which she tries to hide, but I think she’s ultimately a person who wants to do right,” Ahmad says in the show’s press notes. “She really loves her family and her new life, and at the same time, she has something dark within her. It made me think, ‘Do you always have to be just the wife or just the teacher or just the mother or just a criminal?’ You can be everything all at once.”
Showrunner Jack Lothian has said that the series was semi-inspired by ‘50s noir movies and the city and setting of Barcelona. It’s also a heady cocktail of genres: crime, thriller, mystery, action, domestic drama—an irresistible combination that likely drew audiences on. Who Is Erin Carter? isn’t based on any real-life story, but feels sometimes stranger than fiction.
What happens in the show?
After the showdown at the supermarket, things get very complicated. Erin, it turns out, isn’t Harper’s real mom. And her name isn’t Erin. The show reveals that back in England, after her mom abandoned her at age 6, Erin was an undercover cop who went by Kate Jones. There, she embedded with a gang responsible for a string of major robberies. Her assignment: infiltrate the group and find out who was bankrolling them.
Among the gang members was Lena (Denise Gough), Harper’s real mom. As Erin spent more and more time with Lena and Harper, they grew close, and Erin came to realize that —while Lena was doing her best—this was no life for a 5-year-old.
When a gold heist at the Harwich International Docks went wrong, Lena died in the crossfire, and Erin took Harper on the lam with her. They fled to Barcelona with some of the gold, starting a new life as mother and daughter.
But years later, Lena returns. Turns out, she barely survived the gunfight, was sent to prison, then escaped when she realized that Erin still had her daughter. Lena will stop at nothing to get Harper back: She shoots her former friend on an arid mountain, takes the gold, and leaves her to die.
How does Who Is Erin Carter end?
The final episode begins with Erin escaping the mountain, as she is wont to do, and scrambling to make it home before Lena gets there. The rest of the finale is a whirlwind: Lena gets captured by Daniel (Douglas Henshall), the father of one of Erin’s students and, as it turns out, the mobster who bankrolled the Harwich hit all of those years ago. Daniel learns from Lena that Erin was the mole and sends a hit squad after her. Lena begs him to ensure Harper’s safety, trading him the missing gold for his word.
Daniel’s assassins chase a still-wounded Erin through the city until she runs into a neighbor, who drives her to temporary safety. Meanwhile, Lena has tracked down Harper and Jordi to a friend’s house, and finally gets to briefly meet her daughter. Then Daniel’s men show up and take Harper and Jordi as collateral.
Lena and Erin, friends turned enemies, meet up and become tentative friends again. Erin, they both realize, has been a good mother to Harper, no matter the circumstances. The true love story is between these two, not Erin and her husband.
“I lied to her,” Erin says of Harper. “It doesn’t matter if I’m Kate Jones or Erin Carter, I’m still pretending to be someone I’m not.”
“Like every parent in the world, ever,” Lena replies. “Pretending to be responsible, pretending to have all the answers. Doesn’t mean that everything was a lie, Kate.”
“You’re right,” Erin says. “I mean, I do love her.”
“I don’t blame you,” Lena says. “She’s amazing. She’s all the best bits of me. And now she’s some of the best bits of you.”
The two team up to rescue Harper and drive to find her at Daniel’s boatyard, where they have to fight off a small army of his goons. Lena sacrifices herself to draw fire away from Erin, who breaks away and finds Harper and Jordi trapped in a room with Daniel. She kills Daniel and escapes with her family.
Does the ending set up a second season?
Flash forward to the present, and Erin, Jordi, and Harper are relaxing at the beach. Harper knows the truth about her mom now, and she and Erin bond by writing letters to their late mothers.
But the spell is broken when Erin spots DI Jim Armstrong (Jamie Bamber), her former boss from her undercover cop days, hanging out at the beach bar. Erin asks Armstrong if he’s going to try to arrest her.
“Nah, I wouldn’t want to ruin your holiday,” he says. “But you know what they say about holidays: They come to an end. Then it’s time to get back to work.” While a season 2 hasn’t officially been announced, the door is wide open.
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