Panic Ending Explained: Who Wins the Deadly Game?

Panic, Amazon Prime's new teen thriller, is filled with twists and turns. We break down the mysteries that drive the 10-episode series, including who wins its deadly game.

A girl falls against a black background, with a lit flare in her hand
Photo: Amazon Prime

This article contains MAJOR spoilers for Amazon TV show Panic.

Panic, a teen-centric dramatic thriller based on the book by Lauren Oliver, just dropped on Amazon Prime, and it’s filled with unexpected twists. The series incorporates a few mysteries into its 10-episode run. While the main question that drives the Panic plot is “Who, if anyone, will win Panic and take home the cash prize?”, the deaths of two Panic contestants the previous year adds a further level of intrigue to the pretty teen thriller. Now that the entire first season has been released on Amazon Prime, we’re breaking down all of the mysteries at the heart of Panic.

What is Panic?

Every summer, graduating seniors compete in Panic, a series of challenges that force participants to face their deepest fears, all for a shot at winning a large cash prize. All seniors are eligible, but only one person can win, and this year, the pot is bigger than it’s ever been—$50k. Many see this as the only way out of the small, nowhere town and take on the challenges despite the danger they pose. Heather Nill (Olivia Welch) surprises everyone, including herself, when she joins the game last-minute, and takes an immediate lead with a daring jump in the inaugural challenge. With all eyes on Heather, she has to navigate the game, her hectic family life, and her relationships with her best friends Natalie (Jessica Sula), now her competitor, and Bishop (Camron Jones) who she’s developed feelings for.

How is the Panic Game Organized?

Panic is an open secret in the small town of Carp, Texas. People know about the game, but not even the participants have all the information. There is a bag man, who holds the money, two judges, who set challenges and award points, and the MC, who hosts the challenges. No one knows who started Panic, and no one knows who the judges are—each judge chooses their own successor for the following year. The game is played in public, mostly under the radar of local law enforcement, but after the death of two teens in the previous game, Sheriff Cortez (Enrique Murciano) has the department on high alert. Every challenge already comes with some element of danger—the second challenge was crossing an unsteady beam several stories off the ground—but being in the Sheriff’s crosshairs makes it all the more dangerous.

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Who Dies in Panic?

Heather and Natalie agree to team up and split the winnings, but Natalie secretly makes the same deal with the new boy, Dodge (Mike Faist). Ray (Ray Nicholson) is the resident “bad boy” who feels threatened by Dodge, so he antagonizes him, and becomes smitten with Heather, so he antagonizes her. They’re all frontrunners in the game until Natalie is disqualified for cheating in one of the challenges, and Heather misses a challenge after a fight with her mother’s boyfriend. The final two players are Ray and Dodge, and the winner will be decided in Joust, or a game of chicken. But neither Dodge nor Ray participate in the final challenge. Cortez drives Dodge’s car and Heather drives Ray’s, and when a tiger crosses the road, Heather brakes and Cortez swerves, thus yielding and losing the game. Cortez makes it out of the vehicle before it blows up but he doesn’t get very far. Melanie Cortez (Moira Kelly) shoots her husband point-blank with a rifle and drives off with his mistress Jessica Mason (Nancy McKeon), leaving him to become tiger food. It’s what he deserves.

Who Killed Abby & Jimmy?

Sheriff Cortez sends his deputies on a wild goose chase to distract them from his participation in Panic. The two players who died in last year’s game were Cortez’s son Jimmy (David De La Barcena) and his son’s girlfriend Abby (Avianna Mynhier), who was pregnant. Jimmy killed himself in a game of Russian Roulette and Abby crossed a highway blindfold and was hit by a truck. The gun was supposed to be a training gun with fake bullets, but it had been switched out with a real gun. Abby had been receiving harassing letters calling her a whore and threatening to expose her; she was pushed to the brink. Cortez was in huge debt, so he bet on Panic, then attempted to fix the game by taking out players who threatened his son’s win, including Abby. His meddling—switching out the guns and writing those letters—led to both of their deaths. But instead of trying to put a stop to the game this year, he was hoping to take advantage of it… again.

Heather Solves the Panic Mystery

Cortez hooked up with Jessica under the false pretenses of helping her find the person responsible for paralyzing her daughter, Dana. They concocted a plan where her son, Dodge, would play Panic and, according to Cortez, have an opportunity to get revenge. Cortez lied about who was responsible—blaming Ray’s older brother and previous Panic winner Luke—and manipulated them so Dodge would play Panic, and he could bet on him. But Heather figured out the ploy when she discovered the note Cortez gave her little sister Lilly (Kariana Karhu) convincing her to help Heather win the game by entering the tiger cage. The handwriting matched the betting slips she found in an earlier challenge. Knowing Cortez would be driving Dodge’s car, Heather took Ray’s truck so she could face him herself. Neither of them knew that Dodge planted a bomb on Ray’s truck or that Ray found the bomb and put it on Dodge’s car, but they knew the final challenge would be explosive.

Who Wins Panic?

The sheriffs interrupted the second challenge and Ray’s friend Sarah (Maya Hendricks) was arrested and given community service at the sheriff’s station. She overheard conversations about Panic, and that they suspected Bishop was involved, and investigated herself. She found evidence hidden in his room that he was a judge, and warned him to move it. Later, she followed him to where the money was stashed, and stole it. After the game ended, judges—of which Natalie was one— decided that Heather was this year’s winner. Bishop sold his Audi to replace the missing pot, and awarded it to Heather.

Who Ends Up Together on Panic?

Heather and Bishop are friends to lovers back to friends. Heather and Ray are enemies to lovers. Natalie and Dodge are mutually-using-the-other turned lovers. All friendships remain intact.

Panic is an easy binge that is just intriguing enough intrigue to keep you watching, but is casual enough to enjoy the pretty people doing stupid things. The lesson here is: never trust the cops.

Panic is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

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