The Scene That Should Win Netflix’s ‘Baby Reindeer’ an Emmy


Baby Reindeer is Netflix’s latest and most unlikely hit series, taking the world by storm in the weeks since its early-April release. The riveting, pulse-pounding drama is based loosely on star and creator Richard Gadd’s own experience with a relentless stalker (Jessica Gunning), who became fixated on him after he showed her kindness at the pub where he worked. It’s often horrifying to witness, but impossible to look away from—especially in one unforgettable moment in its penultimate episode, which solidifies the show as one of the year’s best.

[Warning: Spoilers for Baby Reindeer ahead.]

In Episode 6, to put it mildly, things are not going well for Donny, a bartender and failed stand-up comic (played by Gadd). Martha (Gunning) has started to relentlessly harass his parents, and an attempt to coerce her into sending him a violent email so he can finally get the police to do something backfires. Donny’s girlfriend has also dumped him after his inability to handle the Martha situation begins to affect their relationship. “Surely it couldn’t get any worse from here,” he narrates.

But if there’s one thing Baby Reindeer has taught its audience by now, it’s that things can always get worse. After Donny fails once again to get the police’s help, Martha returns to the pub in search of him. Donny insists that she is barred from entry, but there are no managers on site to stop her. Thus, Martha takes a seat and begins mocking Donny with another patron, pulling up videos of his problematic and unsuccessful stand-up routines.

How Netflix’s Stalker Series ‘Baby Reindeer’ Became a Viral Sensation

This pushes Donny to his limit. He then reveals—for the first time since learning this information in Episode 1—that he knows about Martha’s checkered past, including her previous arrests and details about past victims. Furious, Martha attacks Donny, smashing a glass on his head, leaving blood streaming down his face as the other patron watches in shock.

While this is horrific (and equally horrifying to watch), Donny finally has what the police need to take action, as the evidence of Martha’s escalation to physical violence is all over his face. But because his bar managers weren’t there, they beg Donny not to go to the police, as they could lose their jobs due to negligence. Despite his better judgment, Donny agrees, letting his chance to finally have Martha excised from his life slip through his fingers.

Donny has lost nearly all hope, but he carries on with the one thing he still has to genuinely look forward to—he’s a finalist in an up-and-coming stand-up competition. Playing to the largest crowd of his life, he starts with a promising joke about giving a blowjob while driving to explain his bruising, which gets a solid laugh from the audience. So far, so good.

Well, not for long. After some good jokes, one of his prop gags is met with complete silence from the audience, as does his follow-up joke. In this precise moment, Donny realizes he’s got no chance of winning the competition, and begins to openly spiral into self-loathing. “Course you didn’t see anything in it,” Donny mumbles into the mic. “You only saw me.”

Richard Gadd as Donny in Baby Reindeer.
Baby Reindeer

Richard Gadd as Donny in Baby Reindeer.


Donny, having given up on the competition—and pretty much everything else—throws his props to the ground and pulls up a chair. He then decides to do something extraordinarily bold: He bares his soul to a baffled audience, watching Donny in complete silence. “I wanted so badly to be the funny guy,” Donny shares with the audience, choking back tears. The camera stays on Donny as he shares his experience with Darrien (Tom Goodman-Hill), the veteran writer who, as we learned in the show’s fourth episode, groomed and raped him while falsely promising to help Donny find success in the comedy world. He’s never publicly shared this story to anyone, but Donny lays it all bare. From there, he admits to his shame about his break-up, his sexuality, and the situation with Martha.

The routine lays everything on the table for Donny. Up until now, Donny has been riddled with trauma and anxiety; he’s not only fearful of Martha, but of how he’s perceived by anyone for just about anything. Shame, for what feels like years, has been Donny’s reason for being. But during this shocking routine, Donny rids himself of the shame that’s been weighing him down for so long. Gadd delivers a remarkable performance, processing Donny’s pain and perhaps his own too.

We are forced to sit in Donny’s discomfort, the camera refusing to cut away from the scene until Donny finishes his routine and walks out, ending the episode. But before Donny walks away, there’s an air of triumph in his voice as he says, “I look forward to winning this competition.” It’s a joke, obviously—processing your trauma without any jokes isn’t going to win a comedy competition—but there’s a slyness to the line that suggests part of him understands he’s done something triumphant. And he has. It takes a phenomenal amount of courage to share your darkest experiences with one person, but to an entire room of strangers, who could be recording you to share with the world, is a whole different beast. (In fact, we learn that’s exactly what happened; Donny reveals in Episode 7 that a video of the set went viral, earning him a huge career boost.)

Baby Reindeer is remarkable in how it takes a moment that could easily be interpreted as the single worst moment in Donny’s life—baring his trauma to hundreds of strangers and bombing his comedy routine—and twists it into a moment of exceptional heroism. It’s the show at its most harrowing and hopeful, and moments like these are exactly why the show has become so deservedly popular.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.