‘Insomnia’ 2024 Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: Is Phoebe Pregnant?

Not being able to sleep is no joke, especially when your mother has traumatized you for life. Directed by Borkur Sigþórsson, Insomnia is about a woman who’s about to turn 40, but the number is rather scarier for her than others. Emma (played by Vicky McClure) is a bigshot lawyer with a healthy family, but as her 40th birthday comes closer, she’s torn between her past and the present. 


Spoilers Ahead

What happened to Patricia?

Emma and Phoebe’s mother, Patricia, started having mental breakdowns weeks before her 40th birthday. Patricia would be wandering around the house, with her face looking paler than that of a corpse. Her little daughters weren’t able to figure out what was wrong with their mummy, and her delirious behavior affected both of them. Patricia told Emma that she’s got the same bad blood as her, and she’d end up just like her. Emma grows up to be a successful lawyer who specializes in family law and is on the verge of becoming a partner in the firm she works for. She has a great husband who’s supportive of her and two kids, but as her own 40th birthday comes knocking, she starts having the same experiences as Patricia. During the opening scene of the show, Patricia is old and senile, stuck in some sort of psych ward where she’s being watched. She bangs her head against the mirror while counting a series of numbers, and it’s the same trick she used decades ago while trying to sleep. Patricia knocks herself out, and soon after, Phoebe calls her sister to the hospital. 


What happens when Phoebe comes back into Emma’s life?

Emma has been having trouble sleeping for a while, and she’d work all night to cope with the insomnia. When Phoebe calls her one morning, she goes running to the hospital, thinking something bad has happened to her. However, after getting there, she sees that Phoebe only called her to show her that Patricia has injured her head. Emma gets furious and clearly tells Phoebe that she wants nothing to do with her mother. Emma storms out of the hospital and goes back home to her cheerful little boy, Will. Willy’s got silly jokes for his mother, and that cheers Emma up. Emma’s husband is also pretty great at handling things back home; both of them worry about their teenage daughter Chloe, who’s going through her rebel phase. Their friends, Julian and Michelle, will arrive soon to join them for lunch. Michelle notes that Emma’s 40th is a few days away, but Robert tells her not to push it much as Emma’s mother died on her 40th birthday. Emma clearly lied to her husband when they met, and it’s fair if she wanted to not tell him about her cuckoo mother. Phoebe shows up at Emma’s door unannounced, and Chloe gets very excited to see her aunt. She tells Chloe all about her travels to Brazil and India, as Emma’s discomfort about them keeps growing. Both of them are pretending like they haven’t seen each other just a few hours ago. Emma asks Phoebe to join her in the kitchen, and once again, Phoebe has to withstand her sister’s rage. Phoebe tells Emma that she doesn’t have bad blood, and it’s about time she grows out of it. Phoebe also says it’s unhealthy that Robert still doesn’t know about Patricia, but Emma couldn’t care less about her opinions. 

What does Emma do in the courtroom?

Emma works for a reputed law firm, and she’s been working hard so that the board will make her one of their partners. She’s interrupted in a meeting with her board members since she’s due to appear in the courtroom to help a client see his son. Pete Stockwell is the client, who’s been kept from seeing his son Nathan ever since his divorce. Emma presents convincing evidence to prove that Nathan’s mother is making up false excuses to keep Pete away from his son. The judge rules in favor of Emma and orders that Pete make arrangements to visit Nathan with proper supervision. Nathan, however, gets agitated when his father visits him, cries, and asks for his mother. Later at night, while leaving for home, Emma finds Pete following her, and he looks hopeless. After seeing that his own son is afraid of him, Pete thinks it’s better if he just gives up. Emma isn’t willing to back down yet, and she tries to reassure Pete that they’ll come up with a way to reunite him with his son. 


Why does Phoebe not tell Emma about her pregnancy?

Unlike Emma, Phoebe never had a great career or a family she could fall back on. She’s possibly lived her life on her own terms and didn’t fall into societal norms. But even she had an unfulfilled wish of having her own child, and it turns out that she’s eleven weeks pregnant. When Robert calls her over to babysit Will, she tells him about the pregnancy. Robert seems genuinely happy about it and has already started to address himself as Uncle Rob. Emma gets some good news from Faisal and gets to know that she’s pretty close to becoming a partner at the firm. Despite Robert leaving a voice note for Emma specifically instructing Emma to be nice to Phoebe, she gets into a fight with her. Phoebe wanted to tell Emma about her pregnancy, but she felt insulted and left the house. 

Why does Emma go back to visit Patricia?

Emma still can’t fall asleep, and the frustration gradually starts to build up inside her. She starts working to get her mind off of the horrible things (her mother). She leaves a text to Michelle asking her to prescribe some sleeping medications, and shortly after, Emma finds herself in front of a filled bathtub. The next morning, Emma is obviously still very disturbed by everything that’s going on around her, and her assistant Rosemary gives her the dictaphone she records her instructions in. Emma listens to it and realizes that she’s accidentally recorded the same series of numbers that Patricia used to mumble on her sleepless nights, and now she’s doing the same. Emma’s nighttime rituals are nothing but exactly the things Patricia did when she was approaching 40. The trauma Emma went through as a child and the fear Patricia put in her saying she has bad blood definitely messed with her brain. Emma’s insomnia mirrors her mother’s, and when she gets a flashback of Patricia trying to suffocate Phoebe with a pillow, she finally loses control over herself. Emma goes to see Patricia and shouts over her unconscious body that she doesn’t have bad blood and she’ll never be like her. Emma hardly gets the closure she wanted, as Patricia suddenly opens her eyes and grabs her hand in the closing moments of the episode. 


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Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket Mukherjee
Aniket is a literature student pursuing his master's degree while trying to comprehend Joyce and Pound. When his head is not shoved in books, he finds solace in cinema and his heart beats for poetry, football, and Adam Sandler in times.

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