‘Murdaugh Murders: The Movie’ Ending Explained & Recap: Is It Based On A True Story?

After churning out countless movies that claimed to be inspired by true events without any real-life references backing up these claims, Lifetime has finally gotten its hands on the infamous murder trial that ruined the legacy of the Murdaugh family. Alex Murdaugh’s rap sheet, however, is too vast to be contained within the span of two movies, one following the events leading up to the murders, and the next staying close to the investigation and the trial. Despite Bill Pullman pulling his weight as the wicked Alex Murdaugh, the narrative style and pacing in Murdaugh Murders aren’t nearly steady enough to hold the gigantic mess he had made of his life. What the two films do pull off is still managing to manipulate your speculations, even though what you’re watching is, for the most part, what actually happened. 


Spoilers Ahead

Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Films?

Alex Murdaugh is a lot of things. A celebrated attorney treated with great respect in South Carolina. A husband to Maggie, the woman who’s taken it upon herself to be the face of family values. And a father to Paul and Buster. But the man’s biggest burden and the most formidable role to play is being the successor to the long line of attorneys—a legacy his father doesn’t forget to remind him of and bully him with. Now, Alex is far from a great man. No amount of Oxy keeps him from burning everything around him to the ground with the wrath and hatred his soul is overflowing with. Maggie is wary of the way Alex enables teenage Paul’s reckless lifestyle and alcohol abuse. But Alex doesn’t pay heed. Without a sensible or rational bone in his body, Alex basically goes around ruining everything that’s unfortunate enough to lie in his path. And for a man like him, even the things and people he does manage to feel something like love for are unnecessary appendages he’d rather not nurture. If just being an overall awful man wasn’t enough, Alex’s criminal inclinations are sure to give a lot of seasoned criminals a run for their money. 


How Does Alex Steal Settlement Money?

From the moment you see Pullman’s very communicative, crooked smile, you know there’s something awfully off about the man who’s apparently quite the philanthropist. But I guess most people in power use charity as a means to cloak their dicey activities. Making a mockery of the law firm that’s been handed down to him and drowning in debt trying to sustain his painkiller addiction certainly don’t help him get a handle on his unlawful instincts. He sure knows how to play people. He’s convinced his family that there’s nothing shady going down in his life. He’s even made a man believe that he’s going out of his way to help him out when, in reality, he’s just getting his next victim nice and ready. And for a man who wasn’t born with the natural factors that make a great businessman, Alex has to turn to deplorable means to keep up appearances. His go-to method to bank a considerable chunk of green is to get people in dire circumstances to opt for settlements instead of trials. But does he hand the settlement money to the people it belongs to? No. And what does he do with the money that he transfers to his own accounts? Get more drugs, of course. And also allow himself the vile pleasure of beating up a prostitute. Someone who can look a poor old man like Mr. Hamilton in the eyes and plan to nab the lifesaving settlement can never be a man with a heart. It’s only further established just how barbaric his mindset is when he manipulates Gloria’s son to sue his insurance company just so that he can embezzle the money.

How Does Alex Enable Paul’s Criminal Activities?

It’s one thing to hand a brand-new van to a teenager with what I’m sure is a history of impulsive behavior. But it’s a whole other thing to exploit the Murdaugh name and bribe a judge into granting Paul almost a sense of immunity to the consequences of his crime. And when you see the father-son duo practicing their rifle shooting in their farmhouse right after Paul’s drunk-driving shenanigans, you know that Alex couldn’t care less about the path that his son was heading down. Your idea of what sort of a toxic father Alex really is gets somewhat clear by the time you see him taking a deal from Paul—mutual silence to hide the truth about their individual addictions. Is it really that big of a shock that Alex’d stoop as low as he can to save his son’s neck from the charges of a boating accident that has killed a girl? I mean, the man perhaps plotted Gloria’s murder. Although the real Alex Murdaugh wasn’t charged with the murder of the Murdaugh family’s housekeeper, considering we see Pullman’s Alex lie through his teeth to the cops, the film clearly means to indicate that he’s killed her for the insurance settlement.


Who Shot Maggie And Paul Murdaugh?

The scene that the first part of the movie opened with and the second one explored in depth was of a tragedy. The kind of tragedy that’d immediately make you feel for the man who was unfortunate enough to drive to his farmhouse only to run into the traumatizing sight of his wife and son’s blood flowing into the mud near the dog kennel. Maggie and Paul Murdaugh were ruthlessly shot to death. Now, the perpetrator could be anyone. Lord knows Alex Murdaugh’s made enough enemies who’d be waiting for a shot to ruin his life. Starting from the clients he’d defrauded and the drug dealer he’d angered, the murderer could really be anyone whom Alex’d wronged. What made the investigation even more complex was the fact that, ever since the boat accident, Paul’s been getting threats. Now, at least judging by the version of the Alex we’ve seen in these two films, he didn’t come off as a man who’d commit first-degree murder. He was someone who’d regularly check up on his disabled mother, and he even found it in his heart to feel bad that his bully of a father was on his deathbed. Is a man like that really capable of killing his own wife and son in cold blood?

Did Alex Kill His Wife And Son?

This may be the first time a Lifetime thriller has spared a thought on how to write a character that the audience would take seriously. While the bigger half of the credit surely goes to Bill Pullman, the writer’s undeniably done a good job on the disturbing portrayal of Alex Murdaugh. At times, you’d even find yourself feeling bad for the man. It couldn’t have been easy to shoulder the weight of all the expectations and responsibilities that he’d inherited from his successful predecessors. To walk into a courtroom and see his grandfather’s portrait hanging on the wall must’ve made him feel an overwhelming amount of pressure to uphold his family legacy. Even as an adult, he was relentlessly attacked by his father’s tyranny. But what exactly went wrong with Alex? It’s a simple case of a generational cycle of abuse. What Alex Murdaugh got from his father is what he passed down to his son, Paul. And it’s not just the wealth and privilege that Paul was born into. He was also born to get stuck in a destructive cycle of abuse.


Alex has never really put any effort into being a better father to his son than his own father has been. For someone who had firsthand experience of how it is to grow up under the crushing burden of meeting a standard that’s been set for generations, Alex should’ve been far kinder to his son than he was. Having his consequential sins pardoned and then getting thrashed for bringing shame to the family name was not the kind of parenting that was beneficial to Paul’s growth. All he was learning from his father was how to get away with things he wasn’t supposed to do. And by the time Maggie had gotten a whiff of who the man she’d been married to for decades really was, she was out of the door. If there was one thing that could’ve had a shot at saving Alex from certain doom, it would’ve been choosing to tell the truth for once. But Alex is a natural when it comes to lying. So much so that he’s manipulated everyone with his crocodile tears and his ruse of grief. No one is ever born with the kind of evil that Alex harbors within. It takes a consistent period of getting away with things for someone to even have the kind of obnoxious confidence that Alex has. What he majorly overestimates is his sway over the jury.

Even with all the evidence stacked against him and watching the witness he tried to bribe choose her conscience over money, Alex is determined to win over the mortified jury. Considering he’s a lawyer, it’s rather shocking just how poorly calculated and executed the whole plan really was. The first mistake he’d made was having a possible motive for the murders ready for the cops. The second was the wardrobe malfunction. And the third and most baffling one was addressing the jury. He’s been desperate before. He’s gone so far as to plan a whole staged suicide attempt to gain sympathy. But when the lies that he had no other choice but to confess to were all laid out on the table, there was no way the jury was going to fall for his tears. Alex Murdaugh went the distance and used two separate guns to kill Maggie and Paul. But a man as unstable and headstrong as him could never plan the perfect crime. Every attempt he’d made to come off as a grieving man afflicted with addiction backfired heavily. As the ending sequence rolls in and all your doubts start to clear up, you may still be wondering why and how Alex Murdaugh did what he did. The consequences of his actions were closing in on him. Being answerable for the theft of millions of dollars was becoming increasingly unavoidable for Alex. And if that wasn’t enough, he was being bombarded with threats from his drug dealer.


Close to getting evicted, Gloria’s son hired a lawyer to look into the matter of the delayed settlement. The walls were closing in on him. And instead of coming clean to his wife, he decided to take a far worse route. It takes a truly evil man to pull the trigger and reward the love that his wife and son had for him with the worst form of betrayal. All Alex wanted was to stall his downfall. He was in need of fast money. And the fastest way he could think of was to kill his family so that he could get his hands on the insurance money. He relied on his skills as a lawyer so blindly that he truly believed that he’d get away with such a poorly planned double murder. It might also be that he hoped to receive a lesser punishment for his embezzlement charges on account of the family tragedy. But his plan was bound to fail the second he took it upon himself to go beyond his go-to scheming capabilities.

Alex Murdaugh is a sociopath through and through. And even though he’d cried his eyes out in front of the mirror after killing his family and was truly relieved that his father had passed before he could disappoint him further, he did not have a heart. The ghosts of his conscience might eat him up from within for the rest of his life, but it was up to Alex to make the right choice when his back was to the wall. He could’ve come clean about the embezzlement, gotten himself a good lawyer, and tried for a reduced sentence. But Alex never really thought too far ahead.


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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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