The Luminaries Ending Explained: Crosbie Wells, Lies, Magic and the Trial

If you've already binged all six episodes of magical New Zealand-set romance The Luminaries on BBC iPlayer, we delve into the events of the finale. Major spoilers ahead…

The Luminaries finale
Photo: BBC Pictures

Warning: contains spoilers for The Luminaries finale

The Luminaries is a story about confidence tricks, lies, unlikely coincidences and an impossible connection. Set in the 1866 Gold Rush on New Zealand’s West Coast, it follows two émigrés – Anna Weatherall and Emery Staines – fortune-seekers in a new land who are deceived and manipulated by con artists Lydia Wells and Francis Carver.

The lush, magical series is currently airing in the UK on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One. If you’ve already devoured all six episodes on BBC iPlayer, you may have some lingering questions about the events of the finale. With major episodes one to six spoilers, here’s how it all unfolded…

What was Lydia and Carver’s plan?

To steal her husband Crosbie’s gold bonanza and kill him so that Carver could assume his identity, become rich and rid himself of his convict’s reputation (Carver had served 10 years on Cockatoo Island for smuggling). Posing as Crosbie Wells, Carver blackmailed Lydia’s ex-lover, the politician Alistair Lauderback, into signing over to him ownership of his ship The Godspeed.

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Lydia arranged to meet Lauderback – who knew her only by her maiden name and was unaware she was married to Wells or involved with Carver – in The Godspeed. Instead, he found Francis Carver there with a trunk bearing the name A. Lauderback. Carver, posing as Crosbie, explained that the trunk was filled with five dresses, the seams of which contained the gold he/Crosbie had struck at the goldfields. Carver blackmailed Lauderback into signing ownership of The Godspeed to ‘Crosbie Wells’, threatening to destroy his political reputation by having him accused of theft, smuggling and adultery if he didn’t agree.

Lauderback thought he was speaking to his half-brother Crosbie, who had been writing to him (unanswered) for years and had mistakenly followed him from England to New Zealand, thinking his name on the shipping charter was that of their father.

When Anna let the drugged Crosbie out of his locked room and told him his gold was in a trunk on The Godspeed, it interfered with Lydia and Carver’s plan to kill Crosbie, and saved his life. Crosbie stowed away on the ship, then escaped, while the trunk containing the dresses washed up on the Hokitika shore and was bought by Anna’s pimp as salvage. He gave Anna the gold-filled dresses, unaware of the gold contained in their seams.

Lydia and Carver also conspired to keep Anna and Emery separated so Lydia could use Anna as her apprentice. Lydia lied to the illiterate Anna about the hotel name Emery had written down, then burned the newspaper notice he posted trying to find her. She had Carver lure Emery into leaving Dunedin for Hokitika by sponsoring his stake on the goldfields there.

How was Anna proved innocent of Crosbie Wells’ murder?

Ultimately, because Francis Carver confessed to it at the trial, taking full responsibility for the murder and swearing that Lydia Wells was ignorant of the blackmail and murder scheme (even though she had concocted it with him). He confessed to making Crosbie drink a fatal overdose of laudanum, telling the jury it was because he needed him dead for his identity-stealing plan to work.

Carver lied on the stand to protect Lydia from the gallows, after Emery Staines did the same to save Anna from being hanged as Crosbie’s killer. Emery’s testimony was mostly lies, all designed to exculpate the innocent Anna and place the blame at the feet of Crosbie’s real killer – Carver.

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Emery lied to the judge and jury, saying that he was the one who had picked Anna’s pocket and stolen her purse, and it was him who left the purse and a laudanum vial at Crosbie’s cabin (the evidence falsely planted by Lydia to inculpate Anna). He truthfully testified that Anna had saved Crosbie from Carver’s plot to kill him, and that Carver had attacked Anna, causing her to miscarry her pregnancy. He used the Aurora land claim that Carver had made him take out in their joint venture as proof that he was in cahoots with Carver, until the vicious attack on Anna made the two men enemies and him resolve to change his ways.

Where did the gold Anna gave Lydia at the end come from?

It was the remains of Crosbie Wells’ bonanza, which Lydia had stolen and stitched into the seams of her dresses before loading them into a trunk on The Godspeed. When the ship ran aground, the dresses were bought by Anna’s pimp for her to wear while soliciting, unaware of their valuable contents. Quee Long discovered the gold hidden in the dress, and stole it from Anna’s seams while she was unconscious after smoking opium. He tried to bank it but wasn’t allowed, so smelted it down and stamped it with the name Aurora, denoting Emery and Carver’s plantation, where he lied he had found it. The tin of gold that Anna gave to Lydia was the remains of Crosbie’s bonanza from the dress seams.

What is Anna and Emery’s mystical connection?

They’re ‘Astral Twins’, born on the same day, at the same time, and very close to one another. According to Lydia, that means their destinies are forever entwined. Their connection allows them to share each other’s minds and magically inhabit each other’s bodies at times. It allowed Anna to become suddenly literate and recall Emery’s memories, and allowed Emery to be wounded by the bullet Anna shot into her own chest while they were miles apart.

Because of the connection, Anna knew that Emery wasn’t dead, despite Lydia’s attempts to convince everybody that the key witness in Crosbie’s murder had passed over to the other realm.

So, Crosbie was Alistair’s secret half-brother?

Yes. Crosbie’s mother was a prostitute and he shared a father with politician Alistair Lauderback. Towards the end of his life, their father wrote to Crosbie to introduce himself and ask forgiveness, sending him 20 pounds. Crosbie saw his father’s name advertised as among the passengers of a ship from England to New Zealand so used the money to follow him across the globe. In fact, it wasn’t his father but his half-brother Alistair, who shares the same name. Crosbie then wrote a series of letters to Alistair, who never answered him out of fear for his own reputation.

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At the trial, Alistair allowed the letters to be used as evidence of the con Lydia and Carver had played on him. Because one of Crosbie’s letters was dated after Alistair had signed The Godspeed over to Carver (posing as Crosbie) and made no mention of the meeting, it proved that the two had never met and that Carver had perpetrated a scam.

What happened to Anna, Emery, Carver and Lydia at the end?

Emery was sentenced to nine months of hard labour on account of the theft and scheming he had falsely confessed to at Anna’s trial. Anna promised to be there with him when it was over.

Anna was acquitted of the murder charge and free to go. She was last seen panning for – and discovering – gold in a river, happily waiting for Emery to return from his prison sentence and join her.

Carver was sentenced to hang for the murder of Crosbie Wells, but on his coach journey from the courthouse, was murdered by Maori greenstone hunter Te Rau Tauwhare, in revenge for killing Te Rau’s ‘brother’ Crosbie.

Lydia wept over Carver’s murdered body and was last seen alone on the beach, where Anna gave her a box of gold and tells her that if only she’d asked instead of stealing her purse and lying to her, she would have gone to apprentice for Lydia willingly.

The Luminaries continues on Monday 22nd of June at 9pm and all episodes are available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.