‘Bad Orphan’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: What Happened To Jessica?

If you are a horror movie fan, I believe most of you will be familiar with the movie Orphan, where a woman pretends to be a little girl in a family after being adopted and causes chaos. Well, Bad Orphan on Lifetime feels like a toned-down version of that. It’s missing some of the scary stuff, and the psychological drama isn’t as intense. But the story is similar: there’s a couple named Jessica and Karl who really want to adopt a child. They end up adopting an 8-year-old girl with special needs named Gabby. On paper, she’s 8, but the way she talks and acts seems more grown-up. Why is she lying about her age? Will Jessica, Karl, and their daughter Rhiannon figure out the truth? Could she become a danger to their family? Let’s find out what happens by reading this explainer of Bad Orphan movie.

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Spoilers Ahead


Why did Jessica and Carl want to adopt Gabby? 

Jessica and Carl always wanted to adopt a child, but it just didn’t happen. Now that their daughter Rhiannon was about to go to college and their home would soon be empty, they felt it would be even lonelier without kids around. Their reasons weren’t entirely selfish, though. Jessica believed that if she had the chance to be a mother and offer a loving home to a child in need, why shouldn’t she? That’s why she had wanted to adopt for a long time. The problem was they were getting older, and they knew new parents might hesitate to give them their child because of their age. Then they received a call from the adoption agency about a girl named Gabby, an eight-year-old with special needs. Her story was heartbreaking; Gabby had never really had a proper family. When she was just a year old, there was a terrible fire in Portugal. Her mother, unable to care for her, decided to give her up for adoption to marry a wealthy man. Gabby ended up in foster care. When her grandmother wanted to take care of her, she could not because she had dementia, so she remained in foster care ever since. Gabby desperately needed a family, but luck never seemed to be on her side. When Jessica and Carl heard her story, they were deeply moved. They decided to meet Gabby and instantly felt a connection. They knew they wanted to bring her into their home and give her the loving family she had been waiting for all this time.

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What happened after Gabby came to their home? 

Gabby wasn’t really the eight-year-old she claimed to be; she was a dwarf, which made her look like a child when she wasn’t. Jessica and Carl didn’t realize this at first, nor did their daughter, Rhiannon. But little by little, they started noticing odd things about Gabby and her unsettling behavior around the house and at school. For instance, when they got home, Jessica offered to help Gabby with her bath, but she firmly refused and insisted she could clean herself. Her reaction seemed odd, almost as if she were hiding her grown body from them. They brushed it off by thinking she might just be shy and adjusting to their family. But things started getting stranger. Jessica, who was a realtor, took Gabby along to show houses to buyers. Gabby was upset that she couldn’t go to a movie with Jessica, even though she wanted to. So, she purposely messed up the cookie ingredients Jessica was about to use for the buyers and scattered them all over the kitchen counter. It was like payback for not listening to her. Gabby also kept leaving dolls and other things on the stairs for Jessica to trip and fell over. Jessica began feeling unsafe in her own home.

Not only that, Gabby would take Rhiannon’s trophies and medals, put them in her own room, and pretend to be hurt that Rhiannon’s achievements made Jessica proud, while Gabby didn’t do anything. This made her feel like Jessica didn’t love her or feel proud of her. It seemed like she was pretending to be innocent and jealous at the same time. Gabby even flirted with Rhiannon’s boyfriend by stealing her jewelry to look beautiful. It was all very strange. Why would an eight-year-old do that? But the most shocking incident was when Gabby skipped class one day and took tampons from the teacher’s lounge. Why would an eight-year-old need those? Jessica thought maybe Gabby started her period early, but then why hide it? It made her wonder if Gabby wasn’t really eight at all, but maybe an adult pretending to be a child. Jessica tried talking to Carl about her suspicions, but he dismissed them as he believed Gabby’s birth certificate proved she was eight, so there was no need to think about this. But Jessica did not believe that. She started feeling lonely and even afraid of Gabby because she didn’t know what he might do next.

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What happened to Jessica? 

Jessica, meanwhile, found news about Gabby’s previous foster family, whose house had caught fire the previous year. The foster father accused Gabby of starting the fire, but there was no proof, so he was suspected of insurance fraud. Jessica started to suspect Gabby might actually be responsible, given how cleverly she could cover her tracks. She began to wonder if this girl was even Gabby at all, or if she was pretending to be someone else while the real Gabby was missing or maybe even gone for good. But when Jessica saw that Carl wasn’t taking her concerns seriously, she decided to take matters into her own hands. Despite being allergic to latex, she deliberately gave herself a severe allergic reaction and blamed Gabby for it. Jessica hoped this would make everyone believe Gabby was dangerous and drive her out of the house. However, Gabby pleaded desperately, admitting she was fifteen and willing to do anything to stay. Jessica became desperate, too. She locked Gabby in a cupboard to send her back to foster care so that she would not run away. She did not tell anyone about this. But that night, Carl found out Gabby was tied up and realized Jessica had framed her with false evidence to get rid of her. He couldn’t believe what his wife had done and felt his wife needed psychiatric help to understand why she would harm a child like this.

In Bad Orphan‘s ending, Jessica was sent to a mental health facility to get psychological help because people thought she might have a mental illness. She believed things that didn’t seem real to others, which made her feel like she was the crazy one, not Gabby. Jessica began to feel guilty for how she had treated Gabby and started to think that maybe she was the evil one all along who looked for negative traits in Gabby where there weren’t any. But was that really the case? When Gabby was asked why she lied about her age, she said that the foster families only take young children, so she had to lie to get a family. She claimed she didn’t mean to hurt anyone. But did she really not? Even after this incident with Jessica Gabby, she kept stealing things from Rhiannon to make herself look pretty and continued to lie and act innocent. I don’t think she’s fifteen like she claimed—she’s much older, but Gabby was clever and finally got what she wanted. I wish they would thoroughly investigate to determine whether Gabby is alive or deceased because I doubt the person they currently have is the real Gabby.

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Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka Banerjee
Sutanuka, a devoted movie enthusiast, embarked on her cinematic journey since childhood, captivated by the enchanting world of the Harry Potter series. This early passion ignited her love for movies, providing an escape into the magical realms of cinema. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in media science, combining her academic pursuits with her unwavering passion for the silver screen.

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