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Reckoning Ending, Explained

May 9, 2020
7 min read

Serial killers have been a part of pop-culture for a very long time now. Both factual and fictional accounts of them have been endlessly used for creating content in every shape or form. Even so, as viewers, we still have a macabre fascination towards these serial killer characters, who often give a glimpse of the bleaker side of the world.

Netflix’s new crime drama ‘Reckoning‘ walks you through another fictional serial killer account which perfectly satiates your cravings for a peek into the inner workings of these complex characters. The series does not come off as your quintessential crime drama and even towards its end, many aspects of its storyline remain incomprehensible. So, in case, you’re looking for answers regarding the show’s plot or its ending, we have you covered. Read on.

Plot Summary

A local high-school girl named Grethen goes missing and with this, Detective Mike Serrato starts to fear that the infamous Russian River Killer, who had gripped the town five years ago, is behind it. But soon, Grethen shows up and reveals that she was just out on a one-week-date with some guy she met. As soon as Mike starts to ease out a little, Grethen’s dead body is found in the woods, by the river, with her tattoo dissected out of her skin.

All evidence suggests that the Russian River Killer is back and Mike dives deep into his old investigation to finally catch the killer. In the meantime, Leo, a local high school wrestling coach and guidance counselor, worries about his family and their future. Initially, Leo seems far from being a suspect of the case. But when Mike further delves deep into the intricacies of the case, he finds all of his paths leading up to Leo.

Reckoning: Who is the Killer?

Leo is the Russian River Killer. Initially, as a viewer, you even suspect Mike to be the killer because of his obsession with the case. However, somewhere in the middle of its runtime, a scene reveals that Leo has been committing almost all the murders. To further explain this, let’s begin with Leo’s wife, Candace, who later seeks therapy from Paige, Mike’s wife. During one of their counseling sessions, Candace opens up to Paige about being a stripper before she married Leo. She also tells her that a man had tried to strangle her to death one night and that’s when Leo saved her life. However, the truth is that Candace has been delusional all her life. She was just another one of Leo’s victims.

Why Did Leo Commit the Murders?

As revealed later, Leo’s psychopathy turns out to be an outcome of his traumatic past. When he was a child, his mother had cheated on his father. After his parents got separated, his mother tried to take him away from his father one day, but that’s when his father strangled her to death. Leo tried to save her, but he couldn’t and this deeply scarred him. His father also despised how his mother sported tattoos and always associated it with her cheating on him. So after killing her, using his surgical scalpel, he had dissected her tattoo out of her skin.

Later, one of Leo’s victims turns out to be a nurse named Valerie. When Leo kills her, his whole formulaic procedure of killing his victims is revealed. He first makes them unconscious using chloroform and then carries them to the woods. And only when they start regaining their consciousness, he strangles them. After strangling them, Leo is reminded of his mom and how he couldn’t save her. So he starts crying and tries to bring his victims back to life. While most of them die, the ones who survive are soon killed right after.

This explains that Leo’s murders serve as a coping mechanism for his childhood trauma. Even to this day, he’s trying to save his mother through other women but is often disappointed by the result. Since his mother also had a tattoo which was later removed by his father, he only targets women who have tattoos and does the same to them when they’re dead. Although, unknowingly, Leo becomes a reflection of his own father. Similarly, even with Candace, Leo had pulled off something similar. But since Candace had little to no memories of the incident, she simply assumed that Leo saved her. Also, since Candace and Leo have been together since the past five years, it becomes pretty evident that he ended his killing spree after he met her.

Who Killed Gretchen?

Gretchen was supposedly RRK’s first victim, but as the show later suggests, she wasn’t killed by him. In the initial episodes, before Gretchen was killed, Leo had been struggling to control his serial killer urges. He even takes psychedelic drugs to keep himself under control. He later gives Gretchen a lift but drops her in the middle of the road just to make sure he doesn’t kill her. Even later, at the school, when Leo learns that Gretchen has been killed, he seems shocked. Only later it is revealed that Gretchen was actually killed by her mother’s boyfriend who was selling her drugs and even sleeping with her. He killed her because he felt betrayed when she went off camping with some other guy.

The Ending: How Did Mike Find the RRK?

In the final moments of the season, Leo’s dad gets arrested after his mother’s bones are found in his dad’s backyard. Leo fears that his Dad’s DNA tests will lead the cops to him but that never happens. The reason behind this is that the man who killed his mother was not his biological father. Moreover, this also explains why his mother wanted to take him away from his father. This revelation finally brings some peace to Leo and he vows to never commit those murders again. His wife figures out who he is, but empathizes with him because of his troubled past.

Using toad poison as a psychedelic, Detective Mike plunges into the depths of his mind to figure out who the RRK is. But he only gets reminded of his own childhood—a tough time when his mother would often sleep with different men just to get over the pain of his sister’s death. In the closing moments of the series, he reveals it to Leo that he knows that he is the RRK. Mike was able to make this deduction after he saw things from Leo’s perspective. He recalls how Leo’s father had told him that Leo had tried to help his mother when he was a child. Since he, too, went through something similar during his own childhood, he figures out what Leo must have gone through and also able to solve the case.

Will Leo Be Punished for What he Did?

In our opinion, since there is no concrete evidence to prove that Leo is the killer, for now, he’ll get away with it. But from what we know about Leo, he’ll probably start killing again and will eventually get caught. Even previously, after meeting Candace, he had vowed to leave his old life behind, but he was back at it after five years. So a couple of years down the road, his inner demons will again take over and force him to do things he doesn’t want to. To put this simply in Detective Mike’s words: “Killing is in his DNA.”

Read More: Where is Reckoning Filmed?

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