‘Fool Me Once’ Ending Explained: Who Really Killed Joe and Claire?

Currently sitting at #1 on Netflix’s “Top TV Shows in the U.S. Today” is the recently released eight-part British series, Fool Me Once. Based on Harlan Coben‘s 2016 novel of the same name, this Netflix Original thriller premiered on the platform on January 1st of this year and has taken viewers by storm ever since with its engrossing story that constantly keeps you on your toes.

Fool Me Once follows ex-military pilot Maya Stern (Michelle Keegan), who now lives as a widower and single-mother following the murder of her husband, Joe Burkett (Richard Armitage). Joe’s death also comes mere months after the death of Maya’s beloved sister, Claire Walker (Natalie Anderson).

In the midst of battling PTSD from her time in combat as a special ops pilot, Maya begins doubting her own sanity when her dead husband seems to appear alive and well alongside their two-ear-old daughter, Lily (Thea Taylor-Morgan), in a video captured on her new nanny cam.

Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Sami Kierce (Adeel Akhtar) leads the investigation into Joe’s death, while also dealing with his own personal secrets and struggles. Claire’s children, Abby (Dänya Griver) and Daniel (Daniel Burt), are also launching their own little independent quest to find the truth about their mother’s murder. Could everything be more connected than any of these characters may have ever imagined?

Fool Me Once funeral
Photo: Netflix

Fool Me Once Ending Explained

Indeed, it turns out that the murders of Joe Burkett and Claire Walker, as well as Sami’s ongoing health issues are all more intertwined and related than anyone had first expected. While the same gun was used to kill both Joe and Claire, the shootings were done by two different people. Maya’s initial story to Sami was that two thieves on motorcycles accosted her and Joe in a local park before shooting Joe and running off. Instead, it was actually Maya who killed her husband not long after finding out that he was, in fact, the one to kill her sister.

Claire was a colleague of Joe’s at his family’s wealthy and powerful company, Burkett Pharmaceuticals. It was there she discovered the family’s long history of covered-up corruption and crime, both in their business and personal lives. It turns out that Burkett Pharmaceuticals was falsifying drug trials and putting dangerous products on the market that were making people ill and putting lives at risk.

This drug malpractice ended up being the reason behind Sami’s string of seeming neurological that began after he started taking a prescription made by Burkett Pharmaceuticals. When he arrested Maya for Joe’s murder, she revealed the truth, helping save his life in the process, and convincing him to allow her to confront Joe’s deeply corrupt and mistrusting mother, Judith (Joanna Lumley), about the Burkett matriarch’s own crimes before allows Sami to put her behind bars.

Fool Me Once Maya and Sami
Photo: Netflix

After getting the go-ahead from Sami, Maya shows up at Judith’s mansion, confronting her, her last living son Neil (James Northcote), and Neil’s wife, Caroline (Hattie Morahan), over the many crimes of the Burkett family. Though she walks into the room with a loaded gun, she quickly unloads it and leaves the gun and ammo laying there on a table in the middle of the room.

Then, Maya exposes their illegal business operations as well as Judith’s tampering with her nanny cam. Judith had hired her household staffers Izabella (Natalia Kostrzewa) and Luka (Frederick Szkoda) to create a deepfake of Joe on the nanny cam utilizing old footage from his and Maya’s wedding so that she’d be so unsettled and scared she’d admit to murdering Joe.

But the biggest bombshell of the evening is the reveal that Joe was a murderer. Besides torturing and murdering Claire before ransacking her family home to stage a break-in and murder by a random stranger, but he also killed several others.

First, he was the architect behind the murder of Theo Mora, a star soccer teammate of his in school that he was jealous of. He and a group of four others, including his own brother, Andrew, masked up and brought Theo out to a secluded spot for what was initially supposed to be some light hazing. But then Joe tied Theo to the chair and took things too far, making him drink alcohol from a funnel with no respite until it eventually drowned and killed him, though it was written off as alcohol poisoning from Theo partying too hard.

Fool Me Once haze
Photo: Netflix

Who Killed Tommy Dark in Fool Me Once?

The four surviving boys vowed to never speak of the event, but not long after, they were out in the open water on a yacht when Andrew started getting emotional. Theo was his best friend and he was so wracked with guilt that he determined to fess up about their crimes. Joe, however, refused to let him, and ended up pushing Andrew off the boat to his death in the water, though it was afterwards reported as a suicide to cover up the crime. 26 years later, Joe also killed Tommy Dark, the captain on the yacht that fateful night, to maintain his lies after Claire discovered the true story behind what went down with Theo and Andrew.

Who KIlled Joe in Fool Me Once? Is Joe Even Dead?

Indeed, that was why Joe ultimately killed Claire. She’d uncovered his biggest secret, so he made her pay. Maya drops this information on the three Burketts as she admits that she did kill Joe after discovering that he murdered her sister. Neil then covertly grabs the gun, reloads it, and takes aim at Maya.

She goads him into shooting and he does, three times in the stomach. But just as things look their grimmest for Maya as she bleeds out on the floor, she points to the side, where it reveals a nanny cam hidden in a picture frame had been recording and live streaming the entire interaction, with the help of well-known hacker Corey the Whistle (Laurie Kynaston). Though Maya dies of her wounds, in doing so, she exposes the Burketts to the world as criminals, simultaneously dismantling their empire and putting them behind bars where they belong.

The end of the episode flashes forward to 18 years later. A grayer but happier-looking Sami enters the hospital, where he crosses paths with Claire’s widower, Eddie Walker (Marcus Garvey), who also seems to be doing much better now (and has possibly even remarried, given the ring on his finger). Maya went into that confrontation with the Burketts knowing she wouldn’t make it, so before going, she wrote Eddie a letter asking him to take care of Lily. He followed through, and now all these years later, the two men are at the hospital to celebrate the birth of an all grown up Lily’s first child. A beautiful baby girl that she named Maya.

Does the new Maya have a better future ahead of her than that of the late grandmother after whom she was named? That’s perhaps up to us to determine, but it seems like Maya Stern’s sacrifice definitely wasn’t in vain.

Fool Me Once is currently streaming on Netflix.