In Jez Butterworth's Mammals, whales crop up more than you'd expect in your average drama, but as we very quickly learn, this is no run-of-the-mill story.


In the first episode, one briefly appears while Jamie and Amandine are enjoying the hot tub on their coastal getaway, and the following morning the chef catches sight of another (or possibly the same one - are they being stalked by a whale?!) while he's booking spa treatments for the duo.

Sir Tom Jones, of all people, also pops up just after said whale has disappeared back into the blue – a bizarre yet brilliant detail.

A whale (the same one?!) also breaches during their very first encounter when the pair are sharing a drink on the yacht owned by Amandine's ex husband Jack, instantly halting their conversation. But before they can prattle on about what they just witnessed, Jack appears and Amandine heads off to bed.

And then there's the final whale encounter, which absolutely takes you by surprise.

Mammals ending explained

Jamie is left stunned when Amandine reveals that she knows all about his dalliance with another woman (pot, kettle, Jamie?). She presents her husband with a recording of herself setting fire to their 'manifesto', its ashes scattering in the breeze, before turning the camera on her partner, who is busy wooing a mystery woman on a hotel balcony.

Amandine walks out of their home, leaving a dazed Jamie to process the staggering development. But he's only afforded a moment of peace before a disturbance outside prompts him to follow.

There, lying slap bang in the middle of the road, is a whale, which causes quite a stir, naturally.

What does the whale mean in Mammals?

The internet will tell you that whale symbolism is fairly extensive (like Jamie, I've been doing some research of my own). Good luck and wisdom both crop up, as do protection, abundance, knowledge of life and death, solitude, transformation, gratitude and long-lasting love (etc, etc, etc). Take your pick.

All of the above can be applied at various points throughout the narrative, but is Butterworth working on a more literal level?

An unhappy-looking Jamie and Amandine sitting next to one another on a park bench
Jamie and Amandine in Mammals. Prime Video

Unlike beavers and barn owls, whales are not loyal to one partner, instead mating with multiple suitors over a breeding season. It's instinct; nothing more, nothing less. And perhaps that applies to Jamie and the millions upon millions of people who stray in their relationships, despite their apparent love for their partners, and those couples who open up their relationships to other parties.

Are humans naturally monogamous? Or has social conditioning locked vast numbers of us into that contract?

Perhaps the final whale is not a 'sign' at all. "Whales are mammals," says a frustrated Jamie. "They have to surface to breathe. That's all it was."

Is Butterworth asking us to suspend our disbelief and accept that in this particular realm, a whale has literally crashed onto a street in the middle of London without any explanation?

After all: "Love is impossible. If love is impossible, we must believe in the impossible. We must believe in magic."

If season 2 does get the greenlight, don't expect any answers. Jeff, however, has some serious explaining to do...

Mammals is available to stream now on Prime Video – try Amazon Prime Video for free for 30 days. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.


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