‘One Day’ Series Ending Explained & Recap: What Happens To Dexter And Emma?

One Day is not just another rom-com that Netflix throws in our faces on a weekly basis! Based on David Nicholls’ novel, One Day is a story of ambition, friendship, and an inseparable bond between the two protagonists, Dexter and Emma. Every episode takes a one-year leap in the lives of the characters, exactly on July 15th (St. Swithin’s Day). Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall have contributed to the excellent execution of the series’ screenplay, bringing the characters from the novel to life. Will Dexter and Emma finally end up together? Will they be able to find the purpose of their lives? Let’s find out!

Spoilers Ahead


Was There An Instant Spark Between Dexter And Emma?

The inevitable spark between Dexter and Emma was evident during their graduation party. Their eyes met, and before they could realize anything else, he was in Emma’s room. Dexter was, however, not having an encounter with a bimbo, and he realized that when they started talking about their future plans and careers instead of having mindless sex. The very fact that Emma was keen on knowing more about Dexter than just making out with him was something new for him. The next day, before Dexter was about to leave, Emma woke up and asked him to stay over for breakfast. They then had an amazing time climbing up Arthur’s seat, which Dexter had never done in the 4 years that he had spent in the town. Emma introduced Dexter to new places on their very first date, which was something new for him. By that time, he knew that Emma was not just another superficial woman that he had met. Before splitting up, something about Emma made him want to exchange his contact details with her so that they could be in touch.


How Were Emma And Dexter Different From Each Other?

Emma and Dexter were leading their own lives a year later. While Dexter was leading an extravagant life, Emma was struggling as a writer in a theater. While she was at least trying to build a career for herself, Dexter was wasting his time, basking in the luxury of his ancestral property. Dexter’s mother, Alison, was very worried about his future and asked him about his future plans. She told him that he was not focused on his future and would soon lack a purpose in life, which is the key to happiness.

Eventually, in 1990, while Emma and Dexter were both back in London, he came to meet her at the restaurant where she was working a part-time job as a waitress. He came in with one of his girlfriends and told Emma that he was now working in television and was hosting a show. When he tried tipping Emma, she took that personally and was left feeling insulted. Later, when she met Dexter, she told him that he had been wrong in tipping a friend, as it was demeaning. Dexter apologized to her, normalizing things again, and they were seen spending their time talking about the future that they wanted for themselves. When she told Dexter that she wanted to go back to her hometown, he asked her to stick to writing and not give up on it, as he thought she had a zeal in her. Dexter’s life also changed to a great extent after he learned that Alison had cancer. The two friends were pillars of strength for each other, and they could rely on each other with their eyes blindfolded!


How Did Emma And Dexter Spend Their Time In Greece?

Dexter and Emma took a trip together to Santorini, Greece (1991), which increased their emotional intimacy as friends. Despite feeling an extreme urge to have a physical relationship with Dexter, Emma would often control her desires, as she knew that he couldn’t handle a relationship. She feared that getting physically intimate with Dexter could make her emotionally vulnerable. When she confessed to Dexter that she had a huge crush on him in college, he told her that he was well aware of it. Later, when Dexter approached her, asking for physical intimacy without any strings attached, she refused to do any such thing, as she was sensible enough to realize that it could affect their friendship in the long term.


How Did Emma And Dexter’s Lives Change Over The Years?

In 1992, Dexter was known to be one of the well-known faces of a popular television show. He was so hooked on parties and women that he almost forgot about his responsibilities toward his parents. When he went to meet Alison, she told him how much she despised his show and that he had done nothing good with the education that he had received. When Alison asks him to stay the night, he refuses, saying he has some plans. He also had a very strained relationship with his father.

When Dexter went to his room, he became nostalgic and thought about the good old family days that he had with his parents. It is true that time has an impact on our relationships, and no matter how much we try, we can never get back to the way things used to be. Dexter’s father dropped him off at the station, telling him never to enter his house while he was intoxicated. Dexter was shattered, and he kept calling Emma because he needed a shoulder to cry on. The strains of the familial relationships felt like a massive weight, and he broke down.

Meanwhile, Emma had gone out on a date with Ian, who was trying his best to impress her. While she was just a shoulder for Dexter to cry on, she got all the attention that she needed from Ian. Emma was also struggling with her life in a different light altogether. She was fed up with her career as a writer and had given up hope of becoming a teacher at a school. At that point, even Emma needed a shoulder to cry on, and at that point, she found no one other than Ian on whom she could rely.

When the scene shifted to a year later, in 1993, Emma was working as a teacher in a school, and Dexter had already become a famous celebrity. Dexter tried reaching out to Emma when he realized that some critics had been trying to tear him apart for hosting the television show. He asked Emma to join him that day on the set, as he was running low on confidence. Emma was, however, unable to make it to the show due to her work pressure, but when she saw the episode, she realized that Dexter was not alright and needed her. She immediately called him and apologized to him for not being able to go to his show to support him. Despite the ups and downs in her life, Emma had always been there for Dexter, no matter what the situation had been.


Why Did Emma And Dexter Grow Apart?

The scene shifts to 1994, when Emma and Dexter meet at a pub. She told him that she was dating Ian and that her parents liked him, while he said in one of his personal columns that he was currently trying his luck at reviewing restaurants. Emma realized that he had been abusing drugs in the middle of their dinner because he was repeatedly visiting the toilet. She was so put off by Dexter’s activities that she walked out of the restaurant. Dexter followed her out, and they eventually fell out after he started insulting her profession as a teacher. He told her that she was jealous of him because she was not as famous as him. Dexter realized that the venom that he had spewed on their friendship would last quite some time after Emma walked out on him.


Why Did Emma Break Up With Ian?

Emma had been sleeping with the headmaster at her school just to get a permanent position as a teacher. When she came back home, she realized that Ian had again snuck into her house with a spare key that he had. He kept coming back to meet her because he was obsessed with her. He could not get over the fact that she had moved on from him. When she told Ian that she had been sleeping with the school headmaster for the past 6 months, he did not seem to react much. He was more keen on knowing about her relationship with Dexter. He told her that after going through her pictures with Dexter, he thought that she was completely into him. Emma told him that they were not even friends now, but Ian refused to believe her. He was envious of the position that Dexter had in her life, even in his absence. He was having a hard time accepting the fact that Dexter and Emma were just friends. The intimacy that they had, despite being just friends, would confuse anyone around them, and they would surely assume that there was something going on between them.


What Happened At Tilly’s Wedding?

Dexter and Emma came face-to-face again at Tilly’s wedding, and by that time, Dexter’s career had taken a rapid fall. He tried reaching out to Emma and apologizing to her for whatever he had told her earlier. Emma told him that even while they were not talking, she would constantly keep thinking about him. He told her that while he was living his life carelessly during his younger days, he forgot to take care of his relationships and friendships. He then invited her to his wedding, saying that it was to happen in the next seven weeks. Emma seemed to be happy for him and told him how much she had missed their bond and regretted their fight.


What Crisis Was Dexter Undergoing?

By the time Dexter was 32, he had started feeling the pangs of midlife crisis. He went to his girlfriend Sylvie’s house to meet her parents, as he was planning on getting married to her. He was not having a great time with her family, but he had to put up with it anyway because she was pregnant, and they had decided to get married soon. Meanwhile, he got a call from the producer of the show he was hosting, saying that they would be doing the second season of the show without him. The glamor and spotlight that he had been enjoying and boasting about had already started to dwindle.

By the next year, he was seen to be a married man and the father of a girl child. He was working at Callum’s restaurant to provide for his family. He tried being a provider for his family, something that he had never tried doing in his entire life. Sylvie had also started to complain about the lifestyle that she was missing out on after having married him. Sylvie was also having a secret affair with Callum, which eventually led to a divorce.


Why Was Dexter So Dejected With His Life?

Time and tide wait for none, and Dexter was no exception! When he met Emma in Paris (1999), he was already a divorced man. He could seldom see his child, his ex-wife had moved in with Callum, and even his career was a mess. On the other hand, Emma was doing quite well, as her first book had been published after a lot of hard work and struggles. Emma, however, tried lifting his spirits when she saw that he was extremely dejected and needed a shoulder to cry on (as always).

Dexter had taken Emma so lightly that he thought that she would wait all her life for him. She proved him wrong when she told him that she had been dating someone. Somewhere deep within, he did not want Emma to move on and lead a happier life than him. Emma told him that she had always been his last option, and he would come back to her when nothing in his life seemed to work out. However, it is quite evident that Emma wouldn’t be able to suppress her feelings for Dexter. They eventually ended up making love to each other, and she decided to give up on everyone else after he committed to staying with her for the rest of his life.


Did Moving In With Emma Change His Life?

Emma moved in with Dexter, and the two were extremely supportive of each other. She supported him in opening a cafe of his own while he supported her writing career. They also had their wedding planned and were spending family time together. With the passing of time, they grew to be more mature and responsible, and Emma felt the need to start her own family. She wanted to have a baby with Dexter, but due to some issues, she was unable to conceive. After trying for one whole year, she seemed to see no results, which was frustrating for her. However, the two did not give up hope and were trying to work things out. Things were going fine until an unfortunate event shattered their little world.


How Did Emma’s Accident Change Dexter’s Life?

While Emma was on her way to meet Dexter for a date to make up for the argument that they had, she met with a road accident. This event upended Dexter’s world, and all he could think about was Emma. He was slowly turning into an alcoholic, and his life was a complete mess. He had started becoming paranoid and thought that the world was conspiring against him. Some signs of psychosis had settled in on him, and he was slowly becoming delusional about his life.

Friends and family came to meet Dexter on Emma’s second death anniversary. Ian told Dexter that it must be really difficult for him to bear Emma’s loss, as Emma loved him with all her heart. Even the friendly visits seemed unnecessary to Dexter, and he had completely stopped socializing with anyone. Every corner of the house reminded him of Emma, and he would often imagine that Emma had come to him to spend some time with him. She told Dexter that time changes everything. Time, indeed, did change the carefree Dexter into a man who was beyond recognition. Later, he was seen going back to the university to relive his memories with Emma. He also took his daughter to Arthur’s seat, a place that Emma had introduced him to. All he could think of was Emma, and her words seemed to ring in his ears. She was special to him, as she had refused to be just a footnote in the story of Dexter’s life!


Final Words

The love story of Emma and Dexter is quite unusual and does not sit in the guidebook of mainstream love stories! The trope of the estranged friendship resulting in a stronger bond in the long run between Emma and Dexter can be compared to the story of Joel and Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, or Allie and Noah in The Notebook. The essence of love gets twice stronger when estranged lovers decide to get back together. The bond of love has to be strong enough to glue hearts all over again. Even though Dexter and Emma were trying to tell themselves that they were just friends, we know that they were more than that. Even though Dexter had been selfish in the beginning about not understanding her worth, he realized later that relationships are not to be taken lightly. This lesson in his life would probably guide him to have stronger bonds with his father and daughter in the long run.


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Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti Dey
Debjyoti’s obsession with creativity and travel fervor has helped her branch out into the entertainment genre. Her love for psychological thrillers helps her get a daily dose of adrenaline. A regular caricature of the films and its characters is what keeps her going!

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