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Netflix is Hiding the Most Unsettling Thriller of the Year Behind a Strange Title

Baby Reindeer is about neither babies nor reindeer.

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Netflix has a bad habit of deception. Whether it’s mixing up episode orders or brute forcing a seemingly “random” show, there’s always a bit of smoke and mirrors around how the algorithm works. But one of its biggest deceptions is hiding its most affecting and heartbreaking shows behind marketing that makes it look like just another dramedy.

There’s no greater example than this British miniseries, which plays into the marketing’s false sense of security to tell a terrifying story of how we can locked into our own tragic backstories.

Baby Reindeer opens with the protagonist Donny, played by writer/star/executive producer Richard Gadd, reporting his stalker Martha (Jessica Gunning) to the police. It’s a classic “you’re probably wondering how I wound up here” start, but the answer is far more complex than anyone could have guessed.

The full story — based on a real-life event that Gadd turned into a solo play à la Fleabag — starts six months earlier in the pub where Donny works. He sees Martha, a weeping woman at the end of the bar, and feels sorry for her, so he gives her a drink on the house. Quickly, she opens up to him and becomes a regular. As a struggling standup comedian, Donny loves the attention and the way he makes her laugh, but the attention quickly goes too far.

Suddenly, his inbox starts filling up with messages from her, and she starts showing up to his gigs and playing his emotions. Donny looks her up and discovers a terrifying past. But not even that is enough to convince Donny to report her to the police because he has a terrifying past of his own.

Through flashbacks in Episode 4, we learn Martha isn’t the real villain of the story, just a reminder. There’s someone in Donny’s past who did something far worse than burst into song during an open mic set, and we learn all about them in horrifying detail. “I couldn’t stand the irony of reporting her but not him,” Donny says in voiceover. “To admit to her was to admit to him, and I hadn’t admitted him to anyone yet.”

Donny and Martha’s bar conversations turn into a game of cat-and-mouse that exposes something far worse.


Once we learn the real truth of Donny’s story, no matter how Martha escalates her stalking, Donny is still the central chaotic figure in his own life, caught up in his own trauma to the point where he doesn’t know anything differently. He can’t let himself feel good, so he constantly lets the drama distract him from the pain in his core.

By the heartbreaking last moments of the episode, Martha becomes a figurehead of something else. Not a symbol of his past trauma, but of his own abusive relationship with that pain. It feels oddly good, like pressing on a bruise, and that’s something that has to be addressed before he can ever get closure with his stalker.

Baby Reindeer is the kind of show that is never explicitly a horror story, but it will scare you more than any slasher. The only thing scarier than an evil villain is realizing you’re addicted to being the villain in your own story.

Baby Reindeer is now streaming on Netflix.

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