What happened in the series finale of The Cry? A harrowing but powerful finale finally reveals the truth

Jenna Coleman's journey as Joanna has reached its end – so what really happened to Noah?

The Cry


The Cry has finally revealed all its secrets. Jenna Coleman and Ewen Leslie’s four-part BBC drama came to an end with a dramatic finale – as we finally found out exactly how (spoiler alert!) both Noah and Alistair died.


If you’re still reeling and need a recap of what just happened, we’ve taken a deep dive below – and also asked the key questions: did it stay faithful to the original ending of the book? And was it a satisfying conclusion to this harrowing story?

Here’s what we found out in the final episode:

Alistair killed Noah – but pinned it on Joanna

Ewen Leslie and Jenna Coleman in The Cry

Alistair turned out to be even more of a monster than we could possibly imagine. In the finale, Joanna finally twigged: it wasn’t her who had delivered the fatal overdose to baby Noah – it was Alistair. He then had the audacity – the AUDACITY! – to pin it all on her, and watch her fall apart thinking she’d killed her baby.

Alistair’s lies finally came tumbling down when Joanna collected a box of letters and cards they’d received when Noah went missing. One in particular caught her attention: “I was sitting behind you on the flight to Melbourne. Despite everything that has been said about you, I want you to know that I saw a young couple caring for their baby with patience and love.

“Even after we landed, your husband was so tender with the little fellow at the car hire, when he was crying. I wish you well and hope you find some peace in your days.”

This sweet, thoughtful letter gave Joanna (and viewers) some crucial new information: Noah was still alive and crying at the airport when Joanna went off to buy coffee.

Joanna with the meds in The Cry

So it wasn’t Joanna who had mixed up the bottles and given him fatally strong painkillers on the flight; it was actually Alistair who administered the overdose to Noah when they’d already landed.

What Alistair did next is a classic example of gaslighting – i.e. manipulating someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity or perceptions. Joanna knew she’d taste-tested the bottle she gave to Noah on the plane, but Alistair told her she was “out of her mind” and insisted: “You can’t trust your memory.”

By making her think she had committed the terrible crime, he was able to emotionally blackmail her into staging the kidnapping and pretending Noah was missing. It was a very effective plan.

Joanna killed Alistair in a car wreck

Joanna and Alistair in The Cry

Satisfyingly, Alistair got his just desserts in the end.

After receiving that card about Noah, Joanna took her other half out of town for a long drive in the countryside as a cure for “cabin fever.” On a winding, empty road, she confronted him about the medication mix-up – and demanded he tell her the truth.

Once he’d finally admitted to his cruel deception, Alistair tried to turn things around and insist he’d done everything for Joanna and she should pity him for the guilt he carried. She was not impressed. Unbuckling his seatbelt and pressing the accelerator, she took her hands off the steering wheel and soared straight off the road. The car tumbled down a steep bank.

When she woke up bruised and bloodied in hospital, Alistair was dead.

Did she mean to kill him? Probably, given the deliberate unbuckling of the seatbelt. Did she mean to kill herself? Possibly, given that she was also in the car wreck and could easily have died.

It’s not entirely clear if this was a premeditated murder. Joanna didn’t seem to have a definite plan and may simply have been enraged by Alistair’s cowardly confession. But she did head for a secluded stretch of road, and she had good reason to kill him. After all, with everything that had happened, she could never seek justice for Noah’s death in the courts.

Joanna was found Not Guilty of Alistair’s murder

Joanna in court for The Cry

There were no witnesses to Alistair’s death, and Joanna’s testimony that she had become upset discussing her missing son on the day after his birthday – and taken her eyes off the road – was plausible. Despite evidence being given that there were no skid marks to indicate braking, none of the friends or family who spoke in court implicated Joanna for her Alistair’s death.

And so she walked free, despite giving a ludicrously loaded speech in court in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.

“When Noah – left us – Alistair and I, we were – um – devastated. Broken,” she said, in an unprompted monologue after announcing that she wanted to tell the truth. “We had to try to rebuild our lives. What we went through brought out the best and – worst – in both of us.”

Addressing (invisible) Alistair who had appeared in the courtroom, she declared: “Whoever took my son from me made me think I had failed to protect him. Made me think I was a bad mother.

“I was a good mother. I know I loved my son. I loved Alistair. You can judge me how you see fit, you can punish me as you see fit, I’ve already been to hell. I’ve lost my child, and now I’ve lost Alistair. The only person who truly. Knew the truth. Of my pain.”

That’s a pretty weird speech to give when you’re on trial for your husband’s murder, but whatever.

Joanna has kept the secret of Noah’s death

Joanna with Noah in The Cry

The search for Noah has been scaled back, but it’s still ongoing – because (for understandable reasons) Joanna hasn’t been too keen to tell the police what really happened.

Alistair’s mum has guessed at the truth

Alistair's mum with Joanna in hospital for The Cry

Before Alistair and Joanna left her house in Australia to move back to Scotland, Elizabeth (Stella Gonet) cornered her son for a heart-to-heart. And without saying it out loud, she hinted at her suspicions that he could have had something to do with Noah’s disappearance. Alistair gave a veiled acknowledgement that her suspicions were well-founded – but also threw Joanna under the bus, observing that two people could have been involved in hiding Noah together.

What did Elizabeth take away from that conversation? It’s never spelled out, but it didn’t seem to cool her affection towards her daughter-in-law. She visited Alistair and Joanna in Scotland a few months later (which was actually the first time she’d flown over to stay with her son in a decade), and when Alistair died her grief seemed minimal. She was right by Joanna’s side in the hospital to reassure her when she woke up.

After everything that happened, and having witnessed glimpses of her son’s abusiveness and cruelty, Elizabeth seems to have sided with Joanna and taken her in as family.

Alistair lied about Noah’s real burial site

The Cry - Noah's grave

After carrying out the grim task of disposing of Noah’s body, Alistair spun Joanna a tale about burying him at the foot of a magnificent tree near the beach. It was a source of comfort to her, and she finally persuaded him to take her there so she could see the place where he had been laid to rest.

Except, he wasn’t there. Alistair had buried the boy somewhere else, but led her to this spot knowing the police were tracking their movements. (And he was right; they arrived soon after to dig up the whole area, but found nothing.)

Joanna only found out Alistair had lied during that fatal car journey. But she didn’t work out the true location of Noah’s burial site until Alistair was already dead.

Revealing the extent of Alistair’s treachery and his perverse pride in not getting caught, he had actually taken Joanna to visit a particular new-build house for sale in Australia before they left. Ushering her to a particular spot on the floor, he snapped a photo of her as she stood bewildered.

When Joanna was handed her late fiancé’s personal effects, she looked at his phone – and realised that photograph was set as his lock screen. Suddenly it all made sense. Noah was buried somewhere beneath the floorboards, and Alistair had hidden him there before the house was built.

… And so Joanna moved to Australia

The Cry

What do you do when you realise your “missing” dead baby is buried underneath a house in Australia?

You buy that house and move halfway across the world, of course.

Did The Cry end differently from the novel?

In the book, the mix-up begins when Joanna and Alistair are asked to empty out some liquid medicine from their hand luggage before going through security. There’s a rush to sort it out, and ultimately Alistair administers the wrong medication to Noah.

But the odd detail aside, this TV adaptation keeps closely to Helen Fitzgerald’s original novel. The truth is revealed bit by bit as we find out what really happened to the baby.

Was this a satisfying ending?

Aside from Joanna’s odd little speech in court at the very end of the episode which definitely didn’t make her look suspicious, the final episode of The Cry was pretty powerful. Here was a story about emotional abuse and coercive control in the toxic relationship between Alistair and Joanna – a relationship which shifted dramatically over time.

Talking about “time”, what was annoying about the first episode – all those flashbacks and flash-forwards that made it difficult to connect with the characters – became the show’s biggest asset as the four-part drama unfolded. The non-linear story revealed its secrets bit by bit until we finally saw the full picture.

And while it wasn’t exactly a happy ending (again: dead baby, devastated mother), at least Alistair got his comeuppance…


This article was originally published on 21 October 2018