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Explanation of the Ending of Fool Me Once: Is Joe Still Alive?

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An adaptation of Harlan Coben’s 2016 novel of the same name, the series follows Maya Stern, a single mother who sets out to uncover the truth behind the death (and apparent revival) of her husband, Joe (Richard Armitage) after he appears on her “nanny-cam”.

Coben is no stranger to jaw-dropping plot twists, as seen in the long line of Netflix adaptations based on his novels including The Stranger and Stay Close, and Fool Me Once is no different.

So, if you’re in need of a recap of Fool Me Once’s twisty ending, read on for everything you need to know about the events in the eighth and final episode of Fool Me Once. Though be warned, there are spoilers galore.

Fool Me Once ending explained: What was the twist?

Michelle Keegan stars in Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once.Netflix

Most of Armitages screen time consists of the same flashback of his nepo baby character Joe Burkett getting shot dead. So, who was responsible for putting those three bullets in his chest?

There were certainly plenty of credible suspects. Was it one of the two motorcyclists whod earlier tried to rob wife Maya (Michelle Keegan)? Perhaps the informant threatening to burn his familys pharmaceutical empire to the ground?

As it turns out, the culprit was the woman whod spent the entire series investigating his death (and his apparent rise from the dead, too).

Yes, as disclosed in the seventh episodes cliffhanger, the gun-wielding killer was none other than Maya. But why?

Well, the disgraced military pilot had discovered the bullet which took the life of sister Claire (Natalie Anderson) had come from the same gun only she and her husband had access to.

And after confronting him in the park, she learned Joe would quite happily kill his own wife in cold blood, as well.

Unfortunately for him, shed replaced his weapon with a fake and kept the real thing for herself. Unfortunately for her, one of those pesky motorcyclists witnessed everything – and eventually reveals all to detective Kierce (Adeel Akhtar).

Why was Claire killed in Fool Me Once?

Joe discovered co-worker Claire had been leaking secrets to whistleblower Corey (Laurie Kynaston), so then he wouldnt release the audio which further incriminated Maya in the military tragedy which saw a truck full of civilians blown to smithereens.

These secrets, which included fudging the numbers of successful patient trials and brushing various fatal side effects under the carpet, would bring about the downfall of the Burkett company. And so, Joe silenced Claire for good by staging what initially looked like a robbery that got out of hand.

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However, Claire wasnt Joes only victim. In fact, he was essentially a serial killer. Hed also dispatched with Dark, the yacht captain whod been receiving monthly bribes from the Burketts ever since Joes brother Andrew lost his life at sea.

The latter didnt commit suicide or accidentally fall from the boat as the family purported, though. He was deliberately pushed into the water.

As explained in the 1996 flashback, the siblings had caused football teammate Theo to drink himself to death during a hazing ritual. But with a guilt-ridden Andrew about to confess all, Joe decided hed rather lose his brother than his freedom.

Is Joe alive in Fool Me Once?

Michelle Keegan as Maya and Adeel Akhtar as DS Sami Kierce, Maya sitting at the table staring at a laptop with Kierce standing next to her.

Michelle Keegan as Maya and Adeel Akhtar as DS Sami Kierce in Fool Me Once.Netflix

In the first episode, Maya is left shocked when she sees Joe playing with their daughter Lily (Thea Taylor-Morgan) on nanny cam footage taken days after his funeral.

We now know, of course, she was fully aware he couldnt possibly have faked his own death. But just as youre thinking ‘long-lost identical twin brother’, a far more baffling explanation emerges.

The video was a deepfake produced using Joes wedding video and the similar-looking boyfriend of the nanny (Natalia Kostrzewa) who pepper sprayed Maya. So no, Joe is very much dead and isnt miraculously alive.

For reasons which stretch the boundaries of credulity, the pair were hired by Joes suspicious mother Judith (Joanna Lumley) to make Maya question herself, lose her mind and eventually confess to being the murderer. In the end, the deranged plan kind of worked. However, it didnt quite have the desired resolution.

Does Maya die in Fool Me Once?

Maya kneeling on the grass holding her baby with Joe lying next to her

Michelle Keegan as Maya Stern and Richard Armitage as Joe Burkett in Fool Me Once.Matt Squire/Netflix

After revealing all to confidante Shane (Emmett Scanlan), Maya heads to the Burketts’ manor to confront Judith and her late husbands siblings Caroline (Hattie Morahan) and Neil (James Northcote), armed with a gun… which she soon unloads and places on a side table in convenient reach for the dastardly clan.

Anyway, after a heated tte–tte in which both parties admit to all their wrongdoings Maya killing Joe in revenge and the Burketts causing mass pharmaceutical corruption on a global scale Judith suggests making a deal: keep schtum about everything and blame Joe for all the damaging info already leaked.

But before Maya has a chance to even consider it, shes fatally shot by the weaselly Neil.

As Judith and Caroline look on in horror, a dying Maya glances towards the same digital photo that helped disguise her nanny cam. Seemingly prepared for things to get deadly, shed sneakily placed the hidden camera to capture all the drama. And in cahoots with Kierce and Corey, shed live streamed it all to the rest of the world.

What happened next?

We quickly learn the surviving Burketts have all been imprisoned for their various major crimes before the action flashes forward 18 years for a hospital-based reunion.

Having realised the Burketts’ medication was responsible for his near-fatal deterioration and hallucinations of his murdered wife, Kierce is now in full health and with an adult son.

As requested by Maya in the event of her death, Claires husband Marcus (Eddie Garvey) took custody of Lily, whos just given birth herself. And the babys name? Yes, you guessed it, Maya.

All eight episodes of Fool Me Once are now available to stream on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from 6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what’s on.

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