The Pale Horse ending explained – what happened at the end of the Agatha Christie adaptation

Chris Longridge
Photo credit: BBC - YouTube

From Digital Spy

The Pale Horse was another triumphant bit of revisionist Agatha Christie from Sarah Phelps, bringing a level of sinister, eldritch paranoia to what could have been a dusty old whodunnit. Like Phelps' other BBC adaptations, including The ABC Murders and And Then There Were None, it was a dark, grown-up look at the murder business.

But it wasn't without its problems. Many viewers were confused by the ending. Not just the murder solutions, but an apparently supernatural twist at the very end, too.

Don't worry, we're here to help.

Let's take the revelations one by one.

First, we found out that Aunt Clemency was killed by Mark's godson, David Ardingly. He wanted her money and someone had offered to "remove the obstacle" in his way.

This is key to the rest of the mystery, which was finally solved when Mark confronted supposed fellow-victim, the handyman Osborne. Osborne had hit upon a scheme whereby he could make money from killing (which we get the impression he'd quite happily pursue as a hobby even if he weren't getting paid).

Photo credit: BBC

He read about people in the newspaper who seemed likely candidates to want 'obstacles' removed, and wrote to them offering his services. If they replied, he instructed them to go to the Pale Horse in Much Deeping and talk to the fortune tellers there (who were, initially, oblivious to the scheme, being merely harmless fortune tellers).

His associate Jessie attended the Pale Horse and listened out for hints as to the obstacles in question. Osborne would then poison the victims indetectably with thallium and collect the cash.

So why was Mark Easterbrook on Jessie's list? Because his first wife, Delphine, had visited the fortune tellers and spoken of her troubles – hence the question mark next to his name. Jessie thought Osborne had sent her to the Pale Horse without telling her.

Osborne killed Jessie to cover his tracks, and because she thought he was doing jobs on the side without her. He then poisoned Mark, Mark's second wife Hermia and Inspector Sean Pertwee with varying degrees of success (and varying degrees of plausible motive, tbh). He also encouraged Mark to go and burn down The Pale Horse (again to cover his tracks, because the "witches" had figured out something fishy was going on – which is why they kept popping up at funerals).

But Mark didn't burn down the Pale Horse, and the witches came to warn Hermia about Mark – because he'd visited them asking them to do away with her (and the Inspector).

And at the end, when Mark returned home having killed Osborne to read about news of his own death, and to find Delphine in the bathroom, we realise that…

Photo credit: BBC

The "witches" really were witches after all! And Mark is cursed to relive his last days, murdering Delphine and being tormented by Osborne forever.

But who killed Mark? It was probably Osborne's poison, but there's the possibility that Hermia, having "woken up" thanks to the witches' warning, took steps to protect herself.

Whatever, we can all agree that the bit where she smacked that society deb round the head with a leg of lamb for not using an ash tray was perhaps the best bit of TV so far this year.

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