Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Kindred.
In an era of so many sudden and untimely cancelations, ending the first season of a show with not just one, but various stories still to be concluded is a pretty risky move. But, hey, that doesn’t mean there aren’t showrunners brave enough to try it. Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is certainly one of these guys. The first season of Kindred, FX’s adaptation of the Octavia Butler novel of the same name, is the perfect springboard for an exciting second season, as well as a neat conclusion for a drama that spans two entire centuries. After being trapped in the past for over a week, Dana (Mallori Johnson) is finally able to return home, but not quite in the way she expected. There are still many trips to the past waiting for her, Kevin (Micah Stock) is stranded in the 1800s, and Olivia (Sheria Irving)… Well, Olivia is also back, but there’s no way of knowing so far what exactly this means. While we wait for the answers to the many questions Kindred Season 1, Episode 8 has left us with, here’s a breakdown of what went on in the finale.
Dana and Olivia Return to the 2010s
The last episode of Kindred Season 1, “Alice,” starts with time travel of a kind so far unseen in the show: the story takes us to the early 1990s, to the Brooklyn home in which Dana used to live before moving to Los Angeles. Sitting in the living room, a young, pregnant Olivia is talking to her mother-in-law about her concerns over having a baby so early in life. Olivia isn’t sure it’s the right time to have a child, what with her husband still in med school and Olivia herself still unsure of what she wants to do with her life. Regina (Donna Biscoe), however, diminishes her worries, telling her daughter-in-law to stop being so wild and take this child as an opportunity to think about others besides herself.
The show then cuts to Olivia in the 1800s racing against time to get to her daughter before Tom Weylin (Ryan Kwanten). In Episode 7, Tom threatened Kevin at gunpoint and forced him off the plantation, leaving Dana behind. Not knowing what else to do, Kevin went to Olivia, who quickly realized that Tom plans on making Dana his slave, and she’s the only one that can stop him. What she doesn’t know is that Sarah (Sophina Brown) is already giving Dana the bad news.
Sarah also tells Dana, albeit somewhat threateningly, that she should start making plans to get out of the Weylin plantation as soon as possible — advice that Dana promptly takes. Careful not to wake Tom, she packs up her things and leaves the house, but morning comes before she has time to get out of the plantation. She hides in the Jezebel cabin to wait for nightfall, but, once again, luck is not on her side. Tom finds Sarah and Olivia talking in the kitchen and suspects that they have something to do with Dana’s disappearance. Believing Dana to have already made her escape, Sarah tells Tom that she’s probably hiding in the Jezebel cabin to mislead him.
Alas, much to Sarah’s surprise, Tom finds Dana in the cabin with a book open on the table. He accuses Dana of stealing his books, and she tries to defend herself by telling him she can teach him how to read. Enraged, Tom grabs Dana by her hair and drags her outside, where he proceeds to rip her clothes off and whip her. Olivia runs to her daughter’s rescue, and Dana’s pain and fear propels the two women back to the 2010s.
However, when Dana wakes up in her home, she is all alone. We go back to the very first scene of Kindred Episode 1, in which the police are trying to get Dana to open the door to her house. She eventually manages to convince them that everything is okay and asks her aunt Denise (Eisa Davis) to come over. Thankfully, this time, when Dana tells Denise about her travels through time, she believes her instead of trying to get her committed. The two women go looking for the James family Bible, which has a registry of every single one of the family’s known ancestors. Dana tries to find Carrie’s (Lindsey Blackwell) name, still believing Sarah’s daughter to be the one that is supposed to have children with Rufus (David Alexander Kaplan), but, instead it is Alice’s name that she finds. As she processes this information and prepares for the next trip, Denise receives a call from Alan (Charles Parnell) telling her that the NYPD has found Olivia, 24 years after she was declared dead.
Sarah Tells Olivia About Her Revenge Against Margaret
Before getting back to the 2010s with Dana, Olivia finds out some pretty important information about Sarah. It turns out that she was the one that was in the room with Rufus on the night Dana was pulled back for the first time. Not only that, but she was the one that turned Rufus on his stomach so that he would suffocate on his sleep.
Sarah has a particularly traumatic history with the Weylins. It’s not just that she resents Tom for getting her out of the main kitchen and putting Winnie (Amethyst Davis) in her place. No, her hatred goes way beyond that. As she explains in one of the previous episodes, she holds a particular grudge against Margaret (Gayle Rankin) for selling all of her children, except for Carrie, to buy new furniture for the main house. In order to get back at Margaret, Sarah had been poisoning her whenever she got pregnant in the hopes that Tom would kick her out for failing to give him an heir. This is why Margaret lost five children in a row.
However, things changed when Margaret got pregnant with Rufus. Suddenly, Olivia appeared on the plantation and made Sarah’s life a lot harder. The only thing she could think of was to kill the baby after he was born, but even that didn’t work out, since Rufus called out to Dana to save his life. This is why Sarah never liked Dana and Olivia all that much: she felt that the two women were putting a damper on her plans and helping to uphold the status quo at the plantation.
Olivia is shocked by Sarah’s revelations and tells her that she ought to be ashamed of what she did. In a particularly powerful scene, Sarah confronts Olivia and tells her that she has no use for shame, slaving herself away in that cookhouse. “You free”, she says. “You always been free. You ain’t got no idea what it’s like.” It’s hard to say that she’s wrong…
Kevin Is Left Stranded in the Past
While Olivia rushes to save her daughter from Tom Weylin, Kevin is trying to correct a grave mistake. Earlier in the season, Dana took Winnie to Olivia’s home, hoping that her mother could help the woman escape after Sarah poisoned the Weylins’ food and blamed it on her. However, Olivia never found the right time to get Winnie out of Maryland, and Winnie started to get a severe case of cabin fever, even threatening to return to the plantation. To keep her out of harm’s way, Olivia locked her in a crawl space under the house. When she left to look for Dana, Kevin opened the door to Winnie’s hiding place and accidentally set her free.
Kevin first appears in “Alice” running after Winnie in the woods. When he finally catches up with her, she threatens him with a knife, forcing him to give her his clothes so that she can pass as a man and run away. Kevin returns to Olivia’s without Winnie, and Alice refuses to let him leave, taking out a gun and making it clear that no one is to set foot in or outside the house until Mama Olivia returns.
But, as we already know, Olivia never comes back. Kevin learns that she and Dana have disappeared from a distraught Tom, who breaks into Olivia’s house looking for answers. It is unclear what happens afterwards, but, the last we see of Kevin, he is riding alongside Alice in full 19th century attire, passing through a line of slaves for sale. Meanwhile, in the future, his sister, Penny (Elizabeth Stanley), has found new allies in Dana’s nosy neighbors, Carlo (Louis Cancelmi) and Hermione (Brooke Bloom).
What Does the End of ‘Kindred’ Mean, and What Does the Future Hold?
In the first scene of “Alice,” Olivia feels trapped, as if there was never another path for her besides motherhood. Half trying to console her, half pressuring her to accept her gender roles, Regina tells her, “This baby might just save your life.” In the end, however, it is Olivia that saves her daughter’s life, at least for the time being. Has Dana saved her mother’s life as well? We don’t know yet. Sure, the NYPD might’ve found her, but did they find her alive or were they finally able to retrieve her body?
The final episode of Kindred sets as many things up as it concludes. What will happen to Kevin now that he is trapped in the past? Will he be able to retain his moral fiber in such a horrible time and place? How will Alice’s and Rufus’ paths cross now that Margaret has taken her son out of the plantation? Will Carlo, Hermione, and Penny find out about what’s going on with Dana and Kevin? How will Sarah react when Dana inevitably returns to the past? Will Winnie get caught, and, if so, what will she reveal? Here’s hoping there will be a second season to answer all of these questions.