‘The Cuckoo’ Ending Explained & Series Recap: Is Sian Dead Or Alive?

A cuckoo bird is known for laying her eggs in other birds’ nests and letting the host raise her babies instead. Quite similar to a cuckoo bird, Sian, a middle-aged woman, invades the house of a couple, believing their children to be her own, in this British thriller. Set in County Cumbria, The Cuckoo tells the story of a family of three who have recently moved to the countryside from London after the husband, Nick Hayes, loses his job and is caught cheating with someone else. His wife, Jessica, has given him a second chance, but since then, their marriage has been falling apart. Their teenage daughter, Alice, has become distant following their move to this rural region from the big city. Facing a significant money crunch, the Hayes decide to rent out one of their spare rooms to possible tenants for a bit of income. That is when they come across Sian.


Spoilers Ahead 

How Does Sian Move In With The Hayes? 

While Nick and Alice are out, Sian appears at their doorstep, presumably to look at the room they’re renting out. Sian appears to be in a hurry to move into the room, but Jessica prefers that she discuss this with her husband first, as there are other prospects as well. When their plumber arrives at the house demanding payment for a staggering amount of 2400 pounds, Sian offers Jessica three grand in advance. Left with no choice but to accept this money, Jessica is compelled to make the sole decision to let Sian stay with them. By the time Nick and Alice return to the house, Jessica announces that Sian is their new lodger. Quite obviously, Nick doesn’t take this very well either, but Jessica suggests that it was his fault that he didn’t pay the water bill in time. 


How Does Sian Get Close To The Hayes? 

From the moment she arrives, Sian seems to be overly friendly with the Hayes family. She goes out of her way and prepares them breakfast the next morning. However, Alice, feeling awkward about her unwelcome presence, rudely leaves, asking Jessica to drop her off at school. Meanwhile, Sian runs into Jessica at the market in town and gets a drink with her to get Jessica to open up to her. As expected, Jessica tells Sian about Nick’s unfaithful past and how they moved to Cumbria with no job or savings. Later at night, Sian pays a visit to Alice in her room, who doesn’t like her presence but slowly warms up to her. Alice is into art, which is similar to what Sian makes. Up to this point, everyone, including Jessica, had always made discouraging remarks about Alice’s art, but Sian was the first to appreciate the sentimentality behind her works. Following a heartfelt conversation, Alice ends up becoming friendly towards Sian. 

Why Does Nick Pawn Off Jessica’s Jewelry? 

Since the moment Sian appeared out of nowhere, Nick felt off about her. When Nick finalizes Sian’s agreement for the lease and looks her up, strangely, he finds no traces of her on the internet, even though she claimed to be an artist. He cross-checks Sian’s reference, but for a middle-aged woman to put her aunt down as a reference feels quite fishy to Nick. Henceforth, he decides to pawn off the jewels Jessica had in her family to pay Sian back and have her vacate their home. However, Sian seems to have other plans. She is unwilling to vacate the house and gaslights Nick that he wants her to leave because he feels attracted to her. Sian subtly threatens Nick, saying that she might even frame him for cheating on his wife again if he insists on her leaving. To tighten her grip around Nick, she even shows Jessica the receipt Nick had received from the pawn shop. 


What Are Sian’s True Intentions? 

Since day one, Sian has been lying about her identity and has been weaving a web of lies to win Alice and Jessica to her side. Sian had moved into the Hayes household with only one purpose: to get her daughter back. It was only revealed later that Sian had gotten pregnant at a young age. Her family was not supportive of her choice to keep the baby, which is why her aunt Fay took care of her while she was pregnant. Soon after her daughter’s birth, she was told that her baby had died. 

However, Sian always believed that her daughter, Alice, was alive. Sian went through a harrowing journey in search of her daughter and finally tracked her down to the Hayes family. Sian was convinced that Alice Hayes was indeed her own Alice, who had been adopted by the Hayes family. Since the moment she started living under the same roof as the Hayes family, Sian has been spying on them. She had been figuring out the openings where she could sow the seeds of distrust to isolate Alice and convince the girl to come with her. Moreover, Sian snooped around the house and found Alice’s adoption papers in the family safe after having figured out the code. 


Was Alice Really Adopted? 

Alice is a teenager, and it is common for adolescent children to feel distant from their parents, but it seems that the reason Alice feels distant is more than just a phase. Moving to her school in Cumbria, Alice begins to get bullied by local girls who dislike her for being from London. Only when an instance of bullying leads to a physical altercation do Nick and Jessica find out about their daughter’s predicament. They wonder why Alice didn’t tell them about the bullying, coming to the conclusion that it’s because Alice has an inkling that she is adopted. Despite Nick’s protests, Jessica decides that it is time they disclose the truth to Alice. Even though Jessica chooses her words carefully, the harsh revelation upsets Alice, making her grow more distant towards her adoptive parents. 

Sian, on the other hand, uses this opportunity to finally prove to Alice that she is indeed her birth mother and that she went through a gritty ordeal to find her. Though Alice is reluctant to believe Sian, she eventually does and begins to trust her more than Jessica and Nick. Sian successfully widens the rift between Alice and her parents. 


How Does Sian Run Away With Alice? 

Despite protests from Aunt Fay, who insists that Alice has her own family, Sian is adamant that Alice belongs with her birth mother. Alice is a naive young girl being manipulated by a woman who is led by her own selfishness. Sian has been successful so far in convincing Alice to run away with her, but there are still a few steps to go until she can finally have her daughter. Sian’s major obstacle is Nick, who has become completely opposed to Sian. By now, Sian had won over Jessica as well and painted Nick in a bad light on multiple occasions. She knows Nick will cause trouble, which is why she must get rid of him at once. 

Jessica and Nick try to talk to Alice after her breakdown over finding out that she’s adopted. When Alice starts to panic again, Sian interrupts once again, and annoyed by her manipulation, Nick pushes her away. When things get settled down, Sian makes a call to the police and frames Nick for assaulting her. She then heads to talk to Nick privately and deliberately injures herself to make a case against him. As expected, the police arrive and then detain him. Nick arrives at the police station and gives his testimony about how he’s being framed by Sian. Nick tries to be truthful, but the police, quite naturally, believe Sian’s words over his. They can’t seem to believe him because he cannot prove any motive for why Sian is plotting against him. 


Once Nick is out of the way, Sian returns to Hayes residence and instructs Alice to pack up. Her plan is that she and Alice will sneak away late at night while Jessica is asleep. However, Jessica catches Sian red-handed trying to unlock the family safe. Realizing that her husband was indeed telling the truth about Sian, Jessica orders her leave at once, and she complies. Later, at midnight, Sian appears once again, which infuriates Jessica. As she threatens Sian that she will call the police, Sian reveals that she is Alice’s birth mother. She proceeds to lock Jessica in a cupboard under the staircase by force, and she leaves with Alice. 

Why Does Alice Change Her Mind About Sian? 

Alice had been thoroughly brainwashed by the cunning Sian; however, Alice had not been raised to be a morally ambiguous person like Sian. Since the moment she ran away with Sian, Alice has felt concerned that Sian locked Jessica in a cupboard. Before leaving, Sian had instructed Alice to leave her phone behind, but Alice kept it anyway. At a pit stop in their journey to their new home, Alice pretends to go to the restroom to check her phone and finds a voicemail from Jessica implying that Sian is dangerous, but Sian catches her and convinces her to discard her phone. 


When they actually arrive at the isolated public housing estate where Sian lived, Alice is unimpressed. Although Sian claims this place to be her new home, it didn’t feel like home to Alice. This place wasn’t anything like the “luxury” she had been enjoying with her adoptive parents. Even the house she was supposed to live in was in disarray and disorganized, unlike how Sian had portrayed herself previously. Therefore, she realizes what a big mistake she has made. She tries to run away from Sian, but Sian catches up to her and locks her inside the house. 

How Does Sian Die? 

Nick, after being released on bail, heads home as quickly as possible. Jessica, who broke out of the cupboard, informs Nick of what had transpired earlier. They head to the police, who again prove useless, prompting Nick and Jessica to take matters into their own hands. Nick tracks down Aunt Fay from the reference address Sian had given. Aunt Fay reveals that her baby had actually died the very day Sian gave birth to her, but Sian was not ready to come to terms with it. Aunt Fay shows them pictures of Sian at the housing estate from when she was pregnant. Nick takes a guess that Sian might’ve headed to the same location as the picture.


Meanwhile, Alice sees Sian’s aggressive side when Sian confines her to the house. Sian tells her a story about her childhood, but Alice protests that she doesn’t remember anything, nor does she think that Sian is her biological mother. Alice hits Sian, grabbing the keys to the door and fleeing away from her. Nick and Jessica arrive at the estate and go through every single house to find their daughter, but when Nick finds Sian’s house, Sian stabs him. Sian proceeds to corner Alice on a nearby cliff. Jessica tries to convince Sian to let Alice go, but instead Sian attacks Jessica with the intention of stabbing her. To protect Jessica, Alice intervenes by telling Sian that she remembers Sian as her mother. 

Finally hearing these words of validation from Alice, Sian’s delusion comes to an end. She remembers that her baby had indeed died at her own hands. Sian’s baby had been crying, which made her hold her baby so tightly that the baby suffocated. Sian was never really able to accept the trauma of having killed her own baby. However, as she comes to terms with this realization, Sian expresses that she wishes to meet her baby again and jumps off the cliff, killing herself. Upon their return, the Hayes move out of their house in Cumbria. Even though they recently moved here, the Hayes family has negative associations attached to this place because of their horrifying ordeal. They indeed needed a new start, which this place could never give them. Jessica and Nick even realize that even Alice needs to have a say in where they move next so that she may never feel alone again.


The Cuckoo‘s ending takes us to a completely different house in an undisclosed location. A stranger knocks on the door, only to be answered by a young girl also named Alice. Though this stranger’s face is blurred, she is quite obviously Sian herself though it is unlikely that Sian survived the fall. The dream-like blurriness of this scene most likely implies that this is Sian finally meeting her daughter in the afterlife. In her mind, Sian expected Alice to be sixteen years old by now, which is why the Alice who answers the door is older than her baby who died sixteen years ago. 

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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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