‘Shining Girls’ Finale Gave Fans Something Increasingly Rare: A Definitive Ending
The first season of “Shining Girls” came to a close on Friday with a surprising twist: a fairly definitive ending. Sure, there are still avenues for a potential Season 2 to go down, but for a series focused so heavily on time shifts and scene-by-scene changes, to have Season 1 end with everything being settled and secure felt refreshing. The series, based on Lauren Beukes’ novel of the same name, followed Kirby (Elisabeth Moss), a woman suffering from both a traumatic attack and the fact that every morning her reality is different. Some days her job will be different, other days she’s married to a co-worker. Through it all she’s hellbent on finding the man who attacked her, played by Jamie Bell.
As Kirby and Bell’s Harper came closer and closer to a final showdown, it left the characters around them in precarious positions, namely disgraced reporter Dan Velasquez (Wagner Moura) and astronomer Jin-Sook, aka Jinny (Phillipa Soo), another woman like Kirby whose reality has started shifting. In the penultimate episode Dan himself confronted Harper and, as the finale starts, ended up dying in the attack. With Kirby having no allies, and having to be the strong one for Jinny, who doesn’t understand what’s happening, things were looking dire.
But Kirby eventually finds the house that is Harper’s time travel portal and, for all intents and purposes, kills him in the present. She goes back and tells a past version of Harper that the house is “hers” and that if she killed him in one timeline and she can do so in another. Kirby gives Harper what he refuses to give her, an opportunity to go and have a life, but not before Harper gets a bullet in the shoulder for his trouble. Now, this is the perfect opportunity for Harper to continue to be a thorn in Kirby’s side in future seasons, but for a series that’s been focused on using the time travel conceit as a way of examining trauma, it gives Kirby a sense of autonomy. There’s an awareness that, once things are righted for the final time, Kirby can be in charge of herself and the time she has on this planet.
In a television landscape where every show wants to telegraph future seasons in an effort to actually secure one, the ending of “Shining Girls” is fascinating. Once Kirby takes control of the house and Harper is neutralized, things are apparently righted. Jinny is back to her old job and Dan is alive and well (though still spending time in bars with his alcoholism still at issue). There’s a sense of closure to Kirby, for the first time since the series started, knowing that her reality is stable. She is guaranteed that tomorrow will see her in the same apartment and job as yesterday. For audiences who want to see her have a sense of self and progress, the ending gives a clear indication of that. Kirby has grown and will now be able to take what she’s applied and live her life.
The problem is Dan and Jinny no longer know who Kirby is, leaving Kirby to hope that one day Dan will remember and “come find [her].” The finale doesn’t leave us with any answers, but it doesn’t necessarily leave any pressing questions either. The book isn’t part of a series, leaving any future seasons to be conjured up by creator Silka Luisa, but it opens up the possibility for time jumps or an anthology-esque series with other “shining girls” like Kirby. But this seems unlikely, especially with Moss being such a deep participant in the series, joining in the production right as it was greenlit. It also would deny audiences the opportunity to see Kirby continue to grow, and undercut any future interactions with Harper.
“Shining Girls” started out as a series that tried to use a sci-fi gimmick within a mystery series and it worked. With Moss and Bell capably playing off each other the show was able to succinctly explore trauma and male privilege in a way that didn’t come off as preachy. Season 2 hasn’t been greenlit, and that’s for the best. If we never get beyond this first season there’s a solid arc and a fond farewell to these characters we’ve enjoyed. Even if new characters get introduced, that sense of closure leaves us, like Kirby, on firm ground.
“Shining Girls” Season 1 is streaming on Apple TV+
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