Fool Me Once ending explained: Who killed Joe?
The twisty, turny thriller delivered on a big ending – but who was the killer in the end?
*Warning: This article contains full spoilers for the ending of Netflix's Fool Me Once.*
The latest Harlan Coben adaptation has landed on Netflix – and it's just as thrilling as you'd expect from the master of twists and turns.
Adapted from the author's 2016 book of the same name, the series follows Maya Stern (Michelle Keegan), a widow who sets out to investigate the sudden death of her husband, Joe (Richard Armitage), after she seemingly spots him on her nanny cam.
So, what happens at the end of Fool Me Once and was Joe really alive? Read on for everything you need to know about the ending in our full spoiler-filled breakdown.
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Fool Me Once ending explained
Most of Armitage’s screen time consists of the same flashback of his nepo baby character Joe Burkett getting shot dead. So, who was responsible for putting those three bullets in his chest in Fool Me Once?
There were certainly plenty of credible suspects. Was it one of the two motorcyclists who’d earlier tried to rob wife Maya (Michelle Keegan)? Perhaps the informant threatening to burn his family’s pharmaceutical empire to the ground?
As it turns out, the culprit was the woman who’d spent the entire series investigating his death (and his apparent rise from the dead, too).
Yes, as disclosed in the seventh episode’s cliffhanger, the gun-wielding killer was none other than Maya. But why?
How did Maya find out Joe killed Claire?
Maya had discovered the bullet which took the life of sister Claire (Natalie Anderson) had come from the same gun only she and her husband had access to.
And after confronting him in the park, she learned Joe would quite happily kill his own wife in cold blood, as well.
Unfortunately for him, she’d replaced his weapon with a fake and kept the real thing for herself. Unfortunately for her, one of those pesky motorcyclists witnessed everything - and eventually reveals all to detective Kierce (Adeel Akhtar).
Why did Joe kill Claire in Fool Me Once?
Joe discovered co-worker Claire had been leaking secrets to whistleblower Corey (Laurie Kynaston), so that he wouldn’t release the audio which further incriminated Maya in the military tragedy which saw a truck full of civilians blown to smithereens.
These secrets, which included fudging the numbers of successful patient trials and brushing various fatal side effects under the carpet, would bring about the downfall of the Burkett company.
And so, Joe silenced Claire for good by staging what initially looked like a robbery that got out of hand.
Who was Tommy Dark in Fool Me Once and how did he die?
However, Claire wasn’t Joe’s only victim. In fact, he was essentially a serial killer. He’d also dispatched with Tommy Dark, the yacht captain who’d been receiving monthly bribes from the Burketts ever since Joe’s brother Andrew lost his life at sea.
Andrew didn’t commit suicide or accidentally fall from the boat as the family purported, though. He was deliberately pushed into the water.
As explained in the 1996 flashback, the siblings had caused football teammate Theo to drink himself to death during a hazing ritual. But with a guilt-ridden Andrew about to confess all, Joe decided he’d rather lose his brother than his freedom.
Joe then killed Tommy to keep him schtum and, at the end of episode 5, Maya and Corey find Tommy’s dead body in a freezer in his own rental unit.
How did Joe end up on the nanny cam in Fool Me Once?
In the first episode, Maya is left shocked when she sees Joe playing with their daughter Lily (Thea Taylor-Morgan) on nanny cam footage taken days after his funeral.
We now know, of course, she was fully aware he couldn’t possibly have faked his own death. But just as you’re thinking 'long-lost identical twin brother', a far more baffling explanation emerges.
The video was a deepfake produced using Joe’s wedding video and the similar-looking boyfriend of the nanny (Natalia Kostrzewa) who pepper sprayed Maya.
Was Joe really alive in Fool Me Once?
No, Joe is very much dead and isn’t miraculously alive.
For reasons which stretch the boundaries of credulity, the pair were hired by Joe’s suspicious mother Judith (Joanna Lumley) to make Maya question herself, lose her mind and eventually confess to being the murderer. In the end, the deranged plan kind of worked.
However, it didn’t quite have the desired resolution.
Did Maya die in Fool Me Once?
After revealing all to confidante Shane (Emmett Scanlan), Maya heads to the Burketts' manor to confront Judith and her late husband’s siblings Caroline (Hattie Morahan) and Neil (James Northcote), armed with a gun... which she soon unloads and places on a side table in convenient reach for the dastardly clan.
Anyway, after a heated tête-à-tête in which both parties admit to all their wrongdoings – Maya killing Joe in revenge and the Burketts causing mass pharmaceutical corruption on a global scale – Judith suggests making a deal: keep schtum about everything and blame Joe for all the damaging info already leaked.
But before Maya has a chance to even consider it, she’s fatally shot by the weaselly Neil.
As Judith and Caroline look on in horror, a dying Maya glances towards the same digital photo that helped disguise her nanny cam. Seemingly prepared for things to get deadly, she’d sneakily placed the hidden camera to capture all the drama. And in cahoots with Kierce and Corey, she’d live streamed it all to the rest of the world.
Who was the baby at the end of Fool Me Once?
We quickly learn the surviving Burketts have all been imprisoned for their various major crimes before the action flashes forward 18 years for a hospital-based reunion.
Having realised the Burketts' medication was responsible for his near-fatal deterioration and hallucinations of his murdered wife, Kierce is now in full health and with an adult son.
As requested by Maya in the event of her death, Claire’s husband Marcus (Eddie Garvey) took custody of Lily, who’s just given birth herself. And the baby’s name? Yes, you guessed it, Maya.
What did Shane do in Fool Me Once?
Shane (Emmett J Scanlan) appeared to be one of Maya’s closest confidantes in the series, having worked with her in the military.
Throughout the series, he helps Maya with her investigation and even helps her to test the bullet which took the life of Joe's sister Claire, leading her to confirm that it had been Joe that had murdered Claire.
However, there are a number of scenes that suggest Shane is up to something shady, including the moment he puts a tracker on Maya’s car and the scene in which he sneaks into her house in the middle of the night.
Shane’s strange behaviour is never explained in Fool Me Once, and it’s likely that that it's merely a plot device thrown in by Coben to throw viewers off the scent ahead of the final episode.