The Sister Ending Explained: The Paranormal Thriller’s True Horror

Was justice served in ITV thriller The Sister? Was it hell. Major finale spoilers ahead

The Sister ITV Russell Tovey
Photo: ITV

Warning: contains spoilers for The Sister

What a sweet story. The baddie was dealt with. Poor Holly finally got closure on Elise’s disappearance, and she and loving husband Nathan had the baby they’d been trying so hard for. Yes, granted, he’s now haunted by her dead sister, but what else is new? The important thing is that it all ended well. Togetherness. Baby. Lovely.

Except, hang on, what? Unlovely. There was nothing sweet about The Sister’s ending. It showed a dangerous liar getting away scot-free with – essentially – murder, and his only punishment coming from the ghost of the woman he buried in the woods a decade earlier. Hasn’t dead Elise been through enough? She deserves to spend her afterlife haunting a plush stately home nestled in manicured grounds, not spooking it up in the back of Nathan Redman’s hatchback.

Nathan may wear the extremely likeable face of Russell Tovey, but it’s a disguise. Underneath the kind eyes and everyman vibe, he’s an unhinged liability who only looked sane in comparison to Bob ‘fired from a fairground ghost train for laying it on a bit thick’ Morrow. Bob killed Elise, but Nathan violated her when he inveigled his way into the Fox family.

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New Year’s Eve 2009

A quick recap of the facts: on New Year’s Eve 2009, Elise and Nathan met in the woods on the way home from a party, where they were picked up by Bob, who parked the car in a ‘haunted’ hollow, gave them a bag of what they thought was cocaine and left them alone. Elise did a line, and then started to do Nathan, before having a fit, banging her head on the car window, and dying. 

When Bob returned, he convinced Nathan not to call an ambulance, and together, they buried Elise’s body in a shallow woodland grave. We later learn that Bob had deliberately given Elise and Nathan cyanide, intending to kill them in order to prove the existence of spectres once and for all by creating his very own. According to Bob, the circumstances of such a death – young woman, sex, close to running water – were ripe for ghost-making. 

Bob turned out to be right. He spent the next decade being haunted by the ghost of Elise Fox while Nathan spent them successfully scheming to become her brother-in-law.

That’s right. Driven to the brink of suicide by his guilt, Nathan decided that the best way to make it up to the Fox family wasn’t to, you know, tell them what happened to their loved one but to infiltrate their ranks, marry Holly and make up a four at Pictionary.

To a mind as addled as his, it must have made a certain kind of sense. You’ve destroyed someone’s life? Now fix their life by marrying them and becoming the protector of their happiness! 

“All I care about is you”

Had Nathan and Holly fallen in love by accident, with him unaware that she was Elise’s sister, that would have been another matter. But The Sister was playing a different game. It distracted us with Dickensian cartoon baddy Bob, so we were blinded to a much more plausible villain in Nathan. He’s the nice guy whose lies are only ever to protect his partner. Everything he does is for her sake, because she’s all that matters. 

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As obsessions go, it sounds benign, but with every repetition, Nathan’s ‘I only care about your happiness’ line rang less and less kind and more and more like the justification for a whole lot of manipulative, controlling, arse-covering behaviour. His fixation with saving Holly was unhealthy to the point of neurosis. As she joked, “He might seem pretty sane on the outside. Underneath, he’s basically mental.” Insensitive language aside, that’s the real horror of The Sister summed up.

When Bob tried to blackmail Nathan to come clean about what they’d done (hiding Elise’s DNA-covered dress and remains to use as leverage), Nathan refused because – he said – finding out the truth would destroy Holly. 

He was probably right, but by that stage, it was a bit late to start worrying about things that would destroy Holly. If the monstrous Bob’s conscience finally pushed him to do the right thing, what does it say about Nathan that his didn’t do the same, and that he stood in Bob’s way?

To protect Holly (himself), and spurred on by the realisation that Bob had intended to kill him with the cyanide too, Nathan planned and executed Bob’s murder. He went to his house with a bottle of Temazepam-laced whisky, pretended to drink it with him, then donned rubber gloves to pour the rest of the sleeping pills down Bob’s neck. When Bob attempted to call 999, Nathan thought fast, pretended the call was from him, and suffocated Bob with a cushion until the paramedics arrived. 

Bob was left in the kind of coma you don’t wake up from, according to police officer Jacki, who knew exactly what Nathan had done, and helped him to cover it up. What Jacki didn’t know was why Nathan had killed Bob, assuming that he’d done it as an act of heroic revenge on Elise’s murderer and not to ensure that his secret remained under wraps. “I’ll make sure she knows what you did for her,” Jacki told Nathan, and it was surely down to the honey she poured into Holly’s ear that reconciled the now-pregnant couple. 

Justice served?

In the end, the role Nathan played in covering up Elise’s murder stayed hidden, with Holly now falsely believing him to be her sister’s avenging hero. His reputation was only improved by his attempted murder of Bob, his sole punishment coming from his own guilt and Elise’s ghost (which may well be one and the same). Nathan was last seen driving home to prepare the house for the return of Holly and their new baby daughter, with Elise’s staring-eyed corpse riding along in the back of the car. 

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Fair play to ghost-Elise for turning up to haunt Nathan. If she does a good enough job, perhaps he’ll do the honourable thing and scarper, leaving Holly and the baby to a life free of him. If this is how far a man like him will go to ensure the ‘happiness’ of his wife, what might he to ‘protect’ his daughter?

The Sister is available on ITV Hub now.