‘The Good Mothers’ Recap & Ending, Explained: What Happens To Maria, Giuseppina, And Denise?

It is not easy to watch a drama unfold about women being held up using a remote control, such that they must behave the way the system and society expect them to. This is the story of a mafia family commonly known as the ‘Ndrangheta mafia of the Calabria region of Italy, where women are treated quite differently and are not even asked about what they want from life. Directed by Julian Jarrod and Elisa Amoruso and written for the screen by Stephen Butchard, “The Good Mothers” is all about the leading ladies of the family taking a stand on whether they should keep enduring the disrespect or walk away when the chance comes by. Set in the late 2000s in Italy, this show is a Hulu original that was released on March 5, 2023.


Spoilers Ahead

Lea And Denise Meet Carlo

“The Good Mothers” begins with the public prosecutor Anna Colace trying to find a link between Lea and Carlo and other prominent women from the mafia families who she can approach and whose work she can do. The scene cuts to Lea and her teenage daughter Denise Cosco waiting to meet Denise’s estranged father, Carlo Cosco, at the Milan train station. Denise is meeting her father for the first time, and she is excited. Her relationship with her mother, Lea, is also strong and loving, and she is not livid at her mother for letting him meet her. Carlo is happy to see his daughter and his estranged wife. Lea and Carlo, though they share a violent history, seem to be very cordial in front of their daughter. Lea also feels Carlo has mellowed down thanks to the idea of wanting to see his daughter. Carlo and Lea were at one point married, and his family belonged to the notorious ‘Ndrangheta mafia, which meant he used to control Lea’s life. Lea was unhappy in her marriage because of the rules set by his family, so she decided to become a police witness just to get out of the marriage. Her information to the police led Carlo to prison, and she did not realize that betraying the ’Ndrangheta mafia would endanger her life. Carlo seems to have forgiven her on the condition of being able to meet his daughter once. Lea believes his words and decides to spend some time alone with him. Lea hopes his time in jail helped him find some time to work on himself. Denise is happy to see her parents together, and for once, she is hoping to live as a family. 


Carlo comes back alone to let Denise know that her mother ran away. The point he wanted to prove is that her mother ran away from the responsibilities of taking care of a girl, and Denise, from now on, would live with her father. Denise is not ready to believe her father’s words because she knows her mother will never abandon her. She and her mother have spent a lot of time together, so she knows her mother will never leave her alone. Denise is shipped off to Calabria with her father and her new bodyguard, Carmine. She is sure of the fact that her mother has been kidnapped and kept alive in some dungeon. She cannot fathom the idea of her father killing her mother. On reaching Calabria, Denise’s only solace is her aunt, who understands her pain over losing her mother. Denise notices that her father is constantly rejoicing, and no one is speaking about her missing mother. She is confused about what is making her father and his side of the family behave this way. She is constantly afraid for her mother, but thankfully, Denise is not afraid for her life. Because her father’s family is new to her, she finds it hard to mingle with them. Her mother was always there for her during times of distress, and right now, she is missing her mother more than ever.

Giuseppina Pesce’s Life

Giuseppina Pesce is another woman whose family is part of the infamous ’Ndrangheta mafia. Her family runs a drug ring, of which she is a crucial member. Her work brings them money, but she is treated with the utmost disrespect by her father, brother, and mother. Because she is a woman, she is expected not to ask questions and is not allowed to make any major business decisions. She is physically and verbally abused constantly by her father and her brother, to which she never has any response. Her husband, too, is in prison; she gets to meet him often, and she has three kids with him. Giuseppina, as a woman, is strong-willed and does not let her family’s behavior get to her as much. Growing up getting verbally and physically abused and getting married at a very young age, she made sure she became a person of her own. She has an ongoing affair with Enrico, which she cannot tell anyone about. Being from the ’Ndrangheta mafia, she knows if her affair comes out in the open, she will be killed by her father. Her affair with Enrico is the only time she feels liberated; the rest of the time, her life is always under her parents’ noses, who still stick to patriarchal values of treating women like puppets.


Maria Concetta Cacciola’s Life

Maria Concetta Cacciola is a friend of Giuseppina, and their children go to the same school as well. Both share all the troubles they face from their families with each other. Maria, just like Giuseppina, belongs to the ‘Ndrangheta mafia, and her family makes sure to treat her like someone they can control 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Her father makes sure not to let her leave the house without her mother accompanying her. Every major decision regarding her life and her children’s lives is taken by her father, and Maria, just like Giuseppina, is subjected to verbal, emotional, and physical abuse from her family, and even she can’t seem to find a solution to get away from it. Giuseppina and Maria are raised in such a manner that so far, they have not found ways to rebel against their families for treating them like aliens. These women have been subjected to abuse from such a young age, and enduring it has become a norm for them. They can only hope their children will not go through the same, and they do wish a better future for them, especially their girls.

‘The Good Mothers’ Season 1: Ending Explained – What Happens To Maria, Giuseppina, And Denise?

Anna Colace, the public prosecutor, has been trying to bring down the ‘Ndrangheta mafia for a while now, and she has realized that people do not speak against them for fear of retribution from the family. Lea also spoke out against Carlo’s family, but she was betrayed by the witness protection program. After her betrayal, she had to be on the run so that she wasn’t discovered by Carlo’s family. Anna formulates a plan to ask the women from the ’Ndrangheta mafia to give testimonies against their families. The women would surely know all the business holdings of their family. It is an open secret that women of the ‘Ndrangheta mafia are not treated well. They are barely allowed to breathe, let alone have a life of their own. Anna is hoping to bring these women under a stronger witness protection program that would encourage these women to come forward and divulge confidential details about their families. The trigger point would be the abuse they have faced for years from the men of the family. Anna is hoping this could well be used in their favor, and many would be willing to come forward.


Denise Cosco is back in Calabria with her aunt, who is the only person who understands the pain she is going through. Denise is yet to believe that her mother left her or that she died. She is hoping her mother will come back to save her from her father, who is turning out to be a tyrant. She is making sure not to fall for any of his pressure tactics on her. Carmine, a young boy of Denise’s age, has been hired to be around her all the time. He is primarily there to change her mind about her father. Denise was not born and raised around her father and his family, which makes it easy for her to reject their lifestyle. She doesn’t know how the women in his family are supposed to behave or what ’Ndrangheta women are supposed to do. She starts rebelling against her father slowly and steadily, making it clear that she has no plans to be the woman he expects her to be. She will not be someone who would bend over backward to obey all her father’s orders. Denise intends to be herself. She goes through memories of her mother, and she is hoping Lea will show up one fine day and take her far away from her father. Her friendship with Carmine also turns into something more, but they are aware this would not work in their favor because of her overbearing ’Ndrangheta father, who would never allow this relationship to grow. Denise is hoping to know more about her father and mother’s family, and as she gets to know more, she realizes that her mother, too, was a product of a patriarchal society. She ran away because she wanted something different for Denise.

Anna and her team arrest Carlo because he is the prime suspect in the disappearance and possible murder of Lea. Denise is shaken to know her father would be capable of committing such a crime. She refuses to meet him in jail, making it clear that she will be the one who ends the wretched ways of the ’Ndrangheta mafia tradition. Even though Carmine and Denise get closer, she learns he was an accomplice in her mother’s murder too. Denise has nowhere else to go but to her mother’s lawyer, who saved her from being killed by her father’s family. The woman is happy to help Denise this time. Denise is keen to get away from her father’s family because now she knows why her mother left her father and never wanted him or his family to get close to her.


Giuseppina is caught by the police inside a hotel room with her boyfriend, Enrico. She and her mother are arrested for being crucial parts of the mafia, and they are interrogated for information. Giuseppina is cornered by Anna, and she is asked to speak up against her family, for Anna is aware of how Giuseppina is being treated by them. Giuseppina feels torn about speaking up because she has many things to worry about, including her kids and her life after becoming a witness for the police. Giuseppina’s only demand is that her kids stay with her after she speaks up against her abusive family. Anna fulfills her demands, but Giuseppina’s elder daughter turns out to be a piece of the puzzle, for she has been manipulated by her grandparents to speak up against her mother rather aggressively. The girl has been raised with privileges, and with her mother under witness protection, she would lose all of them, and she does not intend to live on the run. Giuseppina tries to make her daughter understand the manipulation and gaslighting that goes on in their family, but the daughter refuses to hear her mother out.

After a while, Giuseppina, under pressure from her mother and her daughter, backs away from the witness protection program. She is convinced by her parents, who want to apologize to her and move forward. Giuseppina is a classic case of an abuse victim being manipulated to go back to their abuser, hoping that life would be different from then on as per the promises made. Giuseppina is arrested for violating the witness protection program regulations, and over there, she receives a letter seemingly from her daughter, but she is sure it is her parents who made her write the letter. The letter reeks of her parents’ power of manipulation over her daughter and granddaughter. This makes Giuseppina go back to her stance of becoming a part of the witness protection program to speak up against the crimes committed by her family.


Maria Concetta Cacciola is also having an affair with a man she met on Facebook, but her parents come to know of it, and they beat her up black and blue and do not allow her to step out of the house. Maria carries on with her affair because she is tired of the restrictions; she finds solace in a man outside her home, who helps her feel liberated and happy. Maria comes to terms with the fact that, like Giuseppina, she will have to find a way out of her family sooner rather than later. She approaches the police to join the witness protection program, hoping they will save her from her abusive family. She follows the instructions given to her and is taken to Genoa to stay underground. Though the loneliness that comes with being a witness for the police starts killing her, she wonders if she made the mistake of joining the program after all. She tries to connect with her family, who come by Genoa hoping to reconcile and get her back. Maria, being the fragile one, succumbs to her family’s emotional manipulation and goes back to them. She is again a classic case of an abuse victim who always ends up going back to the abuser after severe manipulation. Maria hopes her family will forgive her for betraying them as she promised, and they will move on. But the family forgets all the promises they made, and as per the ’Ndrangheta mafia tradition, she starts getting tortured again.

Maria ends up killing herself by drinking acid. No one knows if she was forced to drink the acid or if she committed suicide just to get rid of the pain of being part of her family. Giuseppina is also informed of her death, which makes her resolve to join the witness protection program stronger over going back to her family. She is aware that her family will not accept the fact that she betrayed them, and they will find a way to kill her, too, for hurting their family and pride. Giuseppina is proud of herself for having taken a step for her betterment and for staying alive to let the world know what her family has been indulging in for years.


The last scene of “The Good Mothers” has Denise deciding to testify against her father on the charges of murdering her mother, Lea. Just like years ago, Lea spoke up against Carlo and his family’s atrocities and lived life on her terms; Denise also chose to take that path so that she could live the life she wanted without any interference. This was indeed a poetic justice which Denise was glad was granted to her. Giuseppina’s testimony too helped Anna bring down the ‘Ndrangheta mafia. The entire show is based on true stories of women who dared to stand up to the status quo and survived the abuse and the ordeal so that people know what happens to them in the name of power.

“The Good Mothers” is a 2023 crime drama series streaming on Hulu.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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