In ‘Under the Bridge’ Finale, Cam and Rebecca Both Finally Go Home

I’m inclined to start at the end: Rebecca on a plane, leaving the island with her finished manuscript, her face splashed across the newspaper in the lap of the man siting in front of her. Baby-faced Warren sleeping in prison. Dusty reading in her room. Josephine playing cards with Maya and Laila while Kelly sits at a table nearby, probably thinking about various ways to psychologically torture the people who love her. And of course, Cam getting out of her truck, walking out to where she can see a group of people on the shore who might really be her people. The unbearably sweet moment when Reena’s parents pop in her CD and dance, just a little bit, to the song the girls sang to each other the day that Reena died. This goes out to you and you and you. Manjit, man! Always breaking my heart, every time.

Before that; Cam and Rebecca meeting at the bar in the middle of the day, wherein I’d hoped for a final fingerbang, but perhaps that was never the point (it definitely was never the point). Touching each other’s hands, Cam saying it was great to reconnect.

Cam confronting her father about the circumstances of her adoption and the alleged abuse by her family, her muted fury at what he did to her life, and most triumphantly, her resignation from the police. “I’m sick of people being scared when I walk into a room, you know?” She explains. While her father was eager to close the case and move on like it was another day at the office, Cam couldn’t do that anymore.

(“We really did not want to make copaganda,” creator Quinn Shepherd told Variety of Cam’s storyline. “And wanted, in fact, to have a character whose arc was realizing that the community she was raised in is complicit in violence.”)

At Kelly’s trial, Rebecca learns what Warren truly did under the bridge at the gorge and it’s unfathomably brutal, clearly not the story she’d hoped to hear. Dusty and Maya and Leila and Warren all sit up there and tell the truth, taking responsibility for their part in it, but Kelly refuses. Josephine has opted out of testifying, because even after hearing the recording of Kelly attempting to pin the crime on her, she refuses to be “a rat.” She’s unconcerned about additional jail time because she has nowhere else to go.

Kelly herself takes the stand and appears impulsive, angry, anti-social, menacing, and violent, but the judge — wooed by her girl-ness, her whiteness, her apparent good grades, her wealthy parents in the front row — gives her the shortest sentence possible, implores her to life an exemplary life.

What Really Happened With Kelly Ellard’s Trial?

Like most episodes, the events of “Mercy Alone” are faithful to an emotional truth if not the specific facts of what really happened. Kelly and Warren’s testimonies were adapted word-for-word from a few sources: her police interrogation, court transcripts, and Warren’s interview with Rebecca, so some of what they testified was not testified in that trial, or at at all.

The judge in Kelly’s actual first trial, Nancy Morrison, was known as a “groundbreaking feminist legal advocate.” She married to an actor, Canadian television icon Bruno Cerussi. Becca wrote that Kelly’s lawyers were zealous and animated and The Crown’s lawyers “often induced a certain lethargy,”  Thirty witnesses were called in Kelly’s case, mostly the youth of View Royal. Kelly’s lawyers tore through them all, creating doubt with accusations of drug use, anger problems, a history of not liking Kelly, specifically. They did, in fact, use various girl’s friendships with or alleged desires for Warren against them. A witness uninvolved in the assault who’d seen Kelly and Warren that night was discredited for being an alcoholic. Kelly’s bunkmate in juvie, also privy to Kelly’s confession of murder, was similarly discredited. During one break in the trial, Kelly was scolded by her parents for dancing in the aisle of the courtroom. Warren was terrified of testifying, fearing repercussions from fellow inmates for being a rat. Kelly took the stand and said Dusty and Warren had done the murder. She did speak in a strange accent. She cried and wailed about being scapegoated in juvie.

Prior to deliberations, the Judge cautioned the jury to remember that no witnesses saw her kill Reena, and that they should consider whether or not the witnesses who’d been called were annoying, or had their own motives. As in the show, Kelly was declared guilty, and the Judge did say everything she said in the show, and more: that “there is a lack of racism in [Kelly’s] makeup” and that she “always had and remains having an overwhelming love of animals.” She ended up going home shortly thereafter, because her lawyers filed an appeal and the judge determined she posed no threat to society and could spend her pre-trial period on house arrest. She’d go on trial again sixteen months later, and then again once more. She filed numerous appeals, and made numerous attempts at securing parole. Kelly Ellard remains in prison today, with day parole.

As per the show’s final title screens, Warren did eventually enter into a restorative justice process with Suman and Manjit, sitting down together with them both for the first time in 2005. They spoke on his behalf when he was up for parole in 2007, saying he was on a good path and had expressed remorse and that even psychiatrists had been perplexed by his role in the murder, which they declared may “never be fully understood.”

Showrunner Samir Mehta said he hoped the final episode would give the characters a chance to find “their best shot at peace” and “a little grace in their suffering. Exhibiting a bit of mercy isn’t ever going to make the horror go away, but might allow movement towards a better place.” Creator Quinn Shepherd added, “Suman’s radical forgiveness of Warren needed to be the centerpiece of the episode.”

What is the Adopt Indian Métis Program?

Finally, although Cameron is a fictional character, the Adopt Indian Métis Program is very real, and absolutely horrifying. More horrifying still for Cameron to have been adopted into a police family.

The Adopt Indian Métis Program ran from 1967 to 1969 as part of what would become known as the “Sixties Scoop,” a broader effort and set of policies enacted by the Canadian government to “scoop up” Indigenous children and place them in primarily white, middle-class homes. They used newspaper ads with pictures of children to promote the effort, as happened with Cam in the show. In a CBC News broadcast in 1968, a reporter told viewers that the Indian and Métis children playing behind him represented hundreds who needed homes due to the “rise in illegitimate briths and marriage breakdowns among Indian and Métis children.” Children put into this racist and culturally biased system were usually raised with a lack of acceptance of Métis identity and citizenship by the foster parents and by the culture in which the children were raised. Scoop policies continued into the 1980s.

From the beginning, this show has been about belonging, and safety, and what it means to have family or feel truly accepted, to feel home. Cameron, at least, gets that. In a story like this one, the only character who gets a true happy ending is the character who never really existed at all.

Did you notice, when Cam and Rebecca sat together in the bar, that Donna Lewis’s “I Love You Always Forever” was on in the background? I did. I think it means something.

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3212 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. This episode was so hard to watch. Excellently done. I feel like the creation of Cam was important to bring up – as another real occurance – not just for her character arc as a non white person but also Warren’s, as an indigenous person. It didn’t feel shoehorned in. From the series, race definitely played like an issue on everything that went down and knowing that judge really said most of that stuff disgusts me.

    I caught the Donna Lewis song at the end Riese and I kind of wondered if it was a nod or tribute to Quinn Shepard and Rebecca Godfrey’s friendship.

  2. I was prepared to love this show because it had Lily Gladstone, but man, a lot of it was a mess. I get the impression that Godfrey, who was involved with the scripts, felt guilty about focusing so much attention on Glowatski in her book, but the show further marginalizes the Virks by diverting so much screen time towards this fictionalized version of Godfrey. I know Manjit Virk was also involved in production but I wonder if he liked the decision to make her a main character or if he just tolerated it in hopes that the show would send a message about racism and bullying. (I remember the Virks having issues with the book when it first came out.) I’m not sure that a few scenes of the Virks confronting Godfrey about her deprioritization of their daughter is enough to compensate. There is even less Reena Virk in this show than in that book.

    In the late 90s, the racial dynamics of Reena Virk’s murder were downplayed in favour of a panic about teenage girls being out of control. Decades later, Reena and her family are overshadowed in this series by the white woman who wrote a famous book about her death, who still said 5 years ago that, “this particular group of teenagers had a pretty sophisticated, modern racial dynamic.”

    As an aside, in the book Godfrey tells the story of Syreeta and some friends stumbling upon Josephine working as a stripper. There’s a heavily moralistic overtone to this description. I was honestly surprised that in 2024 they still highlighted Jo working as an ‘exotic dancer in biker bars’ in the show’s conclusion. It’s a jarring choice as the first piece of text we see after that moving final image of Reena’s parents in her bedroom. Was this really necessary?

  3. The writers had so much to do in this final episode, and I was circumspect that it would all come together, but I am so glad to be proven wrong! I can’t believe how much ground they covered in one episode, and what a masterful culmination and closing to this story. All the showing rather than telling…. The way Cam sits with Becca during Warren’s testimony, knowing it will be confronting. Jo’s pained reaction to hearing Kelly’s police interview and asking to hear it again, “just to hear her voice.”

    Also, CAM AND BECCA. So much sadness, so much vulnerability (you get the sense that Becca never shares any of these feelings with anyone else, no?), so much tenderness. The hand touch. The fondness. Donna Lewis (definitely clocked that and wow hello 1996). I have a feeling (I hope?) their paths might cross again in this imagined universe, but this also feels fitting to leave them moving in their own trajectories. It’s hard to imagine them being together in any real or healthy way in the immediate wake of these events.

    It felt clear that the creators wanted to offer a bit of grace to everyone (except Kelly), even as they remain steeped in the darkness and despair of their specific circumstances. That bit of grace also felt proportionate, realistic, to the circumstances. There were no easy resolutions. Even in Cam’s case: there’s a horizon of possibility, of charting a new life for herself, but she hasn’t met her birth family yet, who knows how that will go/feel, or where it will take her.

    I cried through much of the back half of this episode (basically from the Warren/Suman prison scene onward?). Manjit and especially Suman were just devastating. That final scene with the evocation of Reena could have played corny, but instead it was so wrenching––thanks to the delicate balance of the narrative, cinematography, and incredibly performances. I am so glad that the series ended that way, with Reena lingering in the doorway, her face soft, open, affectionate––at ease, at home. I lost a sibling in a tragic way, at a young age, and I know how painful that loss is––the loss of the person, and the way it cuts off resolution or living into the future together. I truly can’t imagine going through what the Virks endured… particularly years of trials (and retrials, in Kelly’s case). The more I read about their restorative justice, anti-bullying, and advocacy for better mental health care and intervention in teens, the more remarkable their response is. (ok, my dissertation is done)

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