Spoiler alert – do not read unless you’ve seen the final part of Flesh and Blood…
ITV’s Flesh and Blood finished on a huge cliffhanger, with plenty of unanswered questions and characters’ fates left hanging in the balance.
The series followed Vivien (Francesca Annis), an attractive older widow, whose three adult children and overprotective neighbour Mary (Imelda Staunton) become suspicious when retired surgeon Mark (Stephen Rea) sweeps Vivien off her feet and eventually marries her abroad.
Over the series’ four episodes, Vivien’s children, Helen, Jake, and Natalie (played by Claudie Blakley, Russell Tovey and Lydia Leonard respectively), become increasingly convinced that Mark is bad news and after their mother’s money, particularly once they learn that Mark’s first wife died in apparently suspicious circumstances, and he stood to inherit after she died.
Meanwhile Mary is also determined to protect Vivien at all costs, and when she learns that Vivien intends to sell up and go travelling across India with Mark, she begins to intervene in their private life – even stealing Mark’s Viagra.
It all came to head during episode four, when the family – including Mary – gathered at Vivien’s gorgeous seaside home for her 70th birthday party, and long-held resentments finally bubbled to the surface – with life-threatening consequences…
Why did Mary try to kill Mark?
From the very first scenes of episode one, we knew that there had been a potential casualty during a nighttime bash at Vivien’s house, but on Thursday we finally discovered that person’s identity: Mark.
On the balcony, Jake (whom actor Russell Tovey has described as the “epitome of toxic masculinity“) got into a drunken argument with Mark, causing Vivien to collapse in another faint. Her children crowded around her and shoved Mark away as he attempted to help her (as he pointed out, he was the only doctor in the room), causing Mark to eventually lash out and punch Jake. Helen and Natalie crowded onto the balcony and in the confusion, the three siblings appeared to push Mark off the balcony and he fell to the ground below.
Mary took control, ordering the children to call an ambulance and tell the paramedics that Mark had drunkenly slipped. Meanwhile she went downstairs to administer mouth-to-mouth – only in reality, she covered Mark’s mouth with her hand and attempted to suffocate him.
It’s long been obvious that Mary has an intense crush on Vivien, hero-worshipping her and – it’s now evident – plotting to ensure that they remain neighbours forever (“It’ll be just the two of us,” she gleefully tells the police after Mark’s fall). She’s also fiercely protective of Vivien’s children, whom she almost views as her own following the death of her baby years ago – and she will have wanted to ensure that Mark wouldn’t wake up and turn them in.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, Imelda Staunton previously said of her character: “I think she’s looking out for Vivien and I also think maybe she doesn’t want things to change, and if [Mark is] around then things have changed a little bit, and Vivien’s out and enjoying herself… I think [Mary is] a bit weary of him [and] … I think she sort of worships Vivien.”
Is Mark alive?
We heard the doctors dismiss Mark’s case as hopeless, we saw the police close their investigation into his ‘fall’ – so it was only logical (in TV land, that is) that Mark should wake up from his supposedly permanent coma in the very last seconds of the final episode.
Mark is alive, and he witnessed and struggle against Mary’s attempts to kill him – in addition to the three children shoving him over the balcony in the first place. He has plenty to tell both the police and Vivien once he wakes – at least, as long as his head injury hasn’t impacted his memory.
Who set Vivien’s car on fire?
In episode two, Vivien’s brand new red sports-car (a flash gift from the ever-generous Mark) was set on fire during a family picnic on the beach one evening. Vivien and the kids rushed up to the house when Mark (who’d gone to fix some drinks) began shouting – they arrived in time to see it burning, while Mark shouted at everyone to keep back and Mary ran out to see what all the commotion was.
At the time, everyone blamed local kids for the incident, but Mary was quick to point out to Jake that the car could have been bought on credit, planting the idea that Mark might have staged the fire in order to claim back the money he’d spent on it – while still managing to look like the “hero”. We also later learnt that Mark is a secret smoker – he could well have accidentally dropped a cigarette into the car while smoking on the balcony.
However, following Mary’s murder-attempt, it’s looking more likely that the real culprit behind the incident was her, not Mark – although the show never confirmed who was responsible.
Was Mark trying to kill Vivien? Why was she ill?
During the series, Vivien kept falling ill and fainting – something that seemed completely out of character for her. Suspicions were raised that former surgeon Mark may well have been poisoning her or purposefully lowering her blood pressure – after all, when his first wife died, a woman had testified claiming that she believed Mark had had a hand in his wife’s death (something Mark vehemently denied).
He also seemed to be withholding information or outright lying. He invited Vivien to Spain to meet his daughter, Sophie, only for him to say that Sophie could no longer keep the engagement – but her absence worked to his advantage when he and Vivien visited Gibraltar and got married. Later, when Vivien asked to see a photo of Sophie, he claimed not to have one on his phone.
However, while viewers might have doubted Sophie’s existence, at the end of the fourth episode Mark’s doctors made it clear that Sophie does exist – and that she was on her way to the hospital to see her father.
If Mark was telling the truth about his daughter and the reason why he and Vivien were in Spain in the first place, perhaps he was telling the truth about his first wife, meaning that the only other person who might have had motive to poison Mary – or at least make her noticeably poorly – would be Mary. We all saw her clock Mark’s medicine bottles lying around the house, and if she could easily sneak into Vivien’s room multiple times, she surely would have had the opportunity to spike Vivien’s drinks – or even tamper with one of the frequent food parcels she was always dropping off…
Has Jake blown it with wife Leila?
Jake’s lies finally caught up with him in the series finale, after his estranged wife Leila – whom Jake had been slowly convincing to get back together with him – found out about his affair with older woman Stella, who’d been paying him for sex.
It also seemed like Stella (who was paying for Jake’s swish new flat) had begun falling for Jake, too – leaving him in a very difficult situation.
Is Natalie pregnant?
Vivien’s youngest daughter, Natalie, had been concealing her affair with her older boss, Tony, for five years. Earlier in the series she lied to him in the hope that he’d leave his wife, before admitting to the lie and dumping him, despite his protestations of love.
However, ahead of Vivien’s birthday party Natalie admitted to Helen that she thought she could be pregnant after all…
Will there be a second series of Flesh and Blood?
ITV has not yet confirmed whether or not there’ll be a second series of the drama, but series star Tovey previously told RadioTimes.com that he was “totally” keen to reprise his Flesh and Blood role.
“This show… it’s heightened and it’s quirky and it’s cheeky and it’s thrilling,” he said, “and you think you know what it is, and you don’t know what it is, and then suddenly you’re in and you wanna know everything.”
Flesh and Blood airs on Sundays at 9/8c on PBS Masterpiece