Black Narcissus ending explained: What happened at the end?

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BBC series Black Narcissus wrapped up this evening with the three-parter finishing the story in a shocking manner. The BBC and FX miniseries gave a fresh 2020 take on the classic tale of forbidden desires set against the punishing backdrop of the Himalayas. Express.co.uk looks at the main plot points from the Black Narcissus finale.

What happened at the end of Black Narcissus?

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers from Black Narcissus

Father Roberts and Sister Adela turn up

Father Roberts (played by Jim Broadbent) arrived at the mission in Mopu to see how Sister Clodagh (Gemma Arterton) was faring.

The priest was saved in the forest by Sister Ruth (Aisling Franciosi), who came to his aid in his hour of need.

He praised the school and the nuns’ efforts but newcomer Sister Adela (Gina McKee) was more critical after removing some flower garlands she perceived to be elements idolatry.

Sister Adela replaced Sister Philippa (Karen Bryson) who left Mopu after declaring it was all too much for her to handle, getting out before things got really sinister.

If only the others had heeded Sister Philippa’s words earlier, events might not have spiralled out of control.

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Clodagh and Ruth were at odds

The tensions between Clodagh and Ruth had been building throughout the series but finally they reached fever pitch with the two nuns at each other’s throats.

Clodagh tried to convince Roberts to take Ruth back to Darjeeling, saying she feared something “awful” would happen should she remain.

However, he refused to heed her warning to his detriment with Roberts telling Clodagh how Ruth was her scourge but saying she must also embrace her.

Sister Ruth had a mental break

Whether it was high altitudes or solitude, Ruth seemed to have a breakdown as she was haunted by the spirits of Mopu and obsessed by the ghost of Srimati Rai (Gianni Gonsalves).

She lashed out at the other sisters, suggesting Sister Blanche (Patsy Ferran) wanted a baby while she ranted at Sister Briony (Rosie Cavaliero) while she was trying to administer a sedative.

Ruth shed her habit and donned a dress and jewellery before putting bright red lipstick on, deciding she was going to leave the order.

She then went to Mr Dean (Alessandro Nivola), renouncing her faith and declaring her love for him – but he sadly rejected her.

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Ruth dies and the nuns leave Mopu

In an explosive climax, Ruth tried to push Clodagh off the edge of the bell tower, sending them both nearly over the edge.

Clodagh saved them but Ruth made a second attempt at her fellow nun’s life before taking her own life in a scene mirroring what happened to Srimati.

Much like the German monks, the nuns left Mopu hastily after Ruth’s death and abandoning the mission.

Part of the reason for the hasty departure came after Sister Blanche gave a dying child cold liver oil with the locals then blaming the nuns for the death.

The locals were resentful and none of the children attended the convent school after this, meaning they had failed on this front.

Clodagh’s backstory is revealed

Viewers finally learnt Clodagh became a nun after a failed romance with a boy in her village with whom she had slept with outside of wedlock.

Clodagh’s lover had abandoned her for America, not wishing to marry her and leaving her heartbroken.

She took up orders as means to restore her faith but the memories and flashbacks of her former life haunted her while she was at Mopu.

Mr Dean tried to convince Clodagh to stay with him but she told him it would have to be in another lifetime.

Before she bid him adieu, she revealed her name was Catherine and shook his hand – something the nuns were strictly not supposed to do.

All the nuns had been changed and broken by their experiences in Mopu as they retreated lighter than they had arrived.

Black Narcissus is streaming on the BBC iPlayer now

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