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Defending Jacob: Jaeden Martell and showrunner discuss the exciting finale

Defending Jacob’s Jaeden Martell and  Mark Bomback break down the finale.


Warning! Spoilers follow for the season finale of Defending Jacob.

After eight exciting episodes, Apple TV+’s Defending Jacob has concluded. But even with the show said and done, you may not be feeling as resolved as you’d like, and the question of “did Jacob really do it?” is still probably in the back of your mind.

That was the case for me, at least, after screening the season finale of Defending Jacob. And luckily, we was able to catch up with Defending Jacob’s showrunner Mark Bomback and actor Jaeden Martell to figure out what was really going on in the finale. The interviews took place back in late April during the promotion for the series’ premiere. And I’ve held off their spoilery responses to share for just this occasion: the finale.

By the end, neither his mother nor father truly seemed convinced that he was innocent, not even through those very last moments leading up to the car crash. And the evidence just seemed stacked against him after the incident on their vacation, even if nothing became of it.

When asked about whether showrunner/writer Mark Bomback or director Morten Tyldum gave him a definitive answer about whether Jacob did it or not, Martell said the following: “No, they didn’t. But they made me decide,” Martell revealed.

“Basically, when I first met with Mark and Morten, they said that I should decide whether or not he did it or not, and they don’t want to know. And then I shouldn’t tell anybody. I didn’t even tell my mom. I didn’t tell anybody. It’s just in my head.”

Clearly then, there’s really no straight answer to give as to whether Jacob really did it or not. The jury’s still out, and it looks like Martell is going to keep this secret close to his heart.

Following up with that, he said: “But the reason for them doing that is that they wanted, in a way, to know that whether or not he did it or not, it wouldn’t skew how they approached the story and how they shot it. And so it kind of helped them to not know, in a way.”

After learning about the inconclusive finale, Bomback was next on my list to figure out their thinking behind this decision. The showrunner explained, “Well, it wasn’t only letting him decide if he was responsible. But he knows he wasn’t going to tell anybody; he was just going to know himself. So what was great is that we were in a similar situation to Jacob’s parents where we didn’t ultimately know where his heart was because he was never going to tell us what he thought Jacob did or didn’t do. And I think it allowed him to sort of entertain both possibilities himself.”

But while Martell had the freedom of playing the role the way he wanted, Bomback explained there were times when Tyldum would come in to tweak things just a bit. “Once in a blue moon, Morten might say: ‘Let’s try it again. And this time, maybe let the audience think he’s a little more guilty.’ You know? ‘Let’s make sure we feel he’s a little more innocent.’ But most of the time, we didn’t have to do that because he would play it in such an enigmatic way that you know, you would be guessing along with the parents.”

And so there you have it. Like the Lord of the Rings meme, we’ll have to give in and say “fine, keep your secrets.” But just know, as much as ironic as it may seem, an inconclusive ending certainly makes for a more interesting one compared to one where the answer is given to us outright.

As for the ending of the show compared to the book, there are some liberties Bomback took in rewriting the narrative for the screen. Mainly (and spoilers from the novel), toward the end, the family trip ends a lot differently in the William Landay book (but that’s not all). In the book, the family takes a trip to Jamaica, and Jacob runs into a girl similar to the miniseries. But when she goes missing, she’s actually found dead, not alive. And in the car crash scene in the novel, the wreck instantly kills Jacob instead of landing him in the hospital.

When it came to changing the ending, Bomback remarked: “You know, it was really a complicated decision. It really had to do with like, what are we trying to say about this family at the end of it? And to me, I was really interested in this idea that Andy has built his life with his lie in the foundation of it.”

Bomback explained that throughout the miniseries, we see the little white lies that Andy tells, like hiding the truth that he was talking to his father. But dealing with the truth even becomes something difficult for Laurie to grasp as well, as we see with her mental breakdown by the end of the series.

“I needed from my own sort of satisfaction to bring them both to this point where each has… arrived at the baseline truth of everything, and it drives Laurie to a place where she does this unspeakable thing,” Bomback added. “I like this idea that now they are prisoners of their own devising. And… the potential for Jacob to come out of his coma and wonder whether or not his mother did this is, to me, a much more fascinating and scary ending — even though, obviously, losing your child is an equally devastating thing to happen.”

For more on shows like Defending Jacob, follow the Television category on FanSided Entertainment.

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