Ellen Gallagher In ‘Fatal Attraction’ Season 1, Explained

While exploring Alex Forrest’s character, we found that childhood trauma can impact a person severely as they grow up, leaving them permanently scarred. Usually, abusive and manipulative parents give rise to children who are ill-adjusted to society and carry around their baggage of trauma, even if they don’t turn into deranged killers like Alex in Paramount’s Fatal Attraction. We might understand where Alex’s issues stem from a manipulative father, and a hateful mother makes for a pretty messed-up childhood that only worsens with age. However, what then can be said for Ellen Gallagher, who knew nothing but love from both her parents until her father was jailed? Why did Ellen turn out the way she did at the end of Season 1 of Fatal Attraction? Let’s try to look at what went wrong with the youngest Gallagher and how.


As a child, Ellen found love everywhere she went. Her father, Dan, would give her cookies secretly and make it a point to wait for her to return from school. Her mother, Beth, would ensure Ellen never skipped a meal while her grandmother read her stories from children’s books. Even Dan’s friend Mike loved her immensely, and Arthur, who came to care for Ellen after Dan was jailed, made it a point to patiently listen to her and indulge her in her intelligent games. So, where did things go wrong? Ellen’s life was the complete opposite of the childhood her father’s mistress, Alex, had led, so how did Ellen get so twisted that she ruined her friend’s career and threatened to do the same to her professor?

As an adult, Ellen was portrayed as a heavily observant and highly intelligent young woman who had two focuses in her life. Carl Jung, the topic of her thesis, took up a central position in Ellen’s day-to-day dealings, and she’d narrate parts of the Swiss psychologist’s life to her friends and family. The second was re-establishing a bond with her estranged father, Dan after he returned from prison. Ellen was emotional, sympathizing with others’ plights, and would check herself if she knew her actions would hurt others. She didn’t want to remind her mother, Beth, of the past feelings she had for her husband, Dan, because nothing but pain would come of it, but instead let her mother know that she loved her. Not only Beth, though, it was also a touchy topic for Ellen when Dan asked if she called Arthur “dad.” Arthur was the man who took care of Beth and Ellen and helped the kid grow up after Dan cut his family off. Honestly, Ellen seems to have been the sanest character in the show for the longest time. She was able to form friendships quickly and created a bond with a girl named Stella after skating together. Stella even ends up confiding in Ellen about her past as a juvenile delinquent, a secret to the college authority, and also the fact that she’s dating Ellen’s professor, Richard Macksey, a married man.


Ellen knew what affairs can do to a household, and we can say her father’s imprisonment was probably the biggest trauma she’s had from her childhood. But instead of wanting to spread the pain to others, she subtly lets her professor know that he’d been “seen,” and having known what such relationships do to families, she warned him of the repercussions, though in the mildest possible way. Hence, it felt like a scumbag-like thing on Stella’s part when she secretly blamed Ellen for Macksey ending the relationship and called Ellen’s dad a murderer. Despite Ellen’s repeated insistence that her father was innocent, Stella kept poking holes in the story and wanted to portray Dan as this horrible criminal.

Thus began Ellen’s change in behavior. She got Stella kicked out of the educational grant by anonymously letting the school authority know of Stella’s delinquent past. Okay, somewhat too severe a punishment to be ruining a person’s future for something they said while drunk, but Ellen didn’t stop there. She proceeded to create a roughly edited audio clip where Macksey was implicated in making lewd suggestions to Ellen and took pride in it. What did the professor even do to her? On top of that, she was doing all of this while sitting at the professor’s home and proceeding to scare him when he came home. Macksey was terrified of what this girl with crazy eyes could do and began backing away, but Ellen came closer and intimidated him by repeatedly asking  if he was angry at her. How did this happen, and how could a girl as well-adjusted as Ellen get this deranged in her mind? To figure that out, we’ve got to return to the day when she was kidnapped by Alex while returning from school. 15 years ago.


As Dan and Beth panicked when their daughter went missing, Ellen was walking around the park with Alex, eating cotton candy and talking about animals. Alex sat her down under a tree and said that adults are lying to her and trying to fool her, as they pretend that everything is alright when, in fact, nothing is alright. So Ellen should always pretend that others are able to fool her but never let others know that she’s seen through their lies. From this point on, Ellen’s psyche was broken by this woman she spent an hour with, and she grew up with one belief: everyone was lying to her. Based on this, we might have to assume that Ellen’s entire personality as a well-adjusted young woman was a façade and that she was just really a manipulative and obsessive person like her kidnapper all along. Her true colors showed after Stella called Dan a murderer, and Ellen wasted little time in destroying her. Her obsession echoed the time when Alex repeatedly called her therapist to ask if she was mad at her patient. Ellen’s repeated questions at Macksey hint that Alex is gone, but the things that made her insane have lingered on in Ellen. She inherited the obsession and the manipulation from her kidnapper, and we’ll have to witness how Ellen creates further chaos for anyone she deems to be lying to her if Season 2 rolls in.

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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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