‘The Grimm Variations’ Episode 1 ‘Cinderella’ Recap & Ending Explained: What Was Kiyoko’s Plan?

You know how the petrichor soothes the mind and soul after a dry and hot summer day? Well, this is how the new Netflix anthology series The Grimm Variations introduces itself in the first episode, titled Cinderella. Based on the classic folktales of the Brothers Grimm, this series takes the innocence out of the folktales and replaces it with dark, depressing outcomes. Disney won’t be very happy now, I assume. The brothers Wilhelm and Jacob narrate the tales to their little sister Charlotte as she eagerly waits for the twists and turns that are about to come.


Spoilers Ahead

How Do The Stepsisters Meet?

Cinderella’s abusive stepsisters are a pivotal part of the folktale. The tables have now turned, and Cinderella is the daughter of a viscount. Viscount Otawara proposes marriage to Miss Tsuruko, who has two daughters from her last marriage. Makiko and Sawako come to their stepfather’s lavish house with dreams and hopes of a happy life. Their stepsister and Otawara’s daughter, Kiyoko, greet their new sisters with great excitement. Both the sisters take notice of Kiyoko’s gorgeous hairpin and fight against each other to see who is worthy of it. Up until now, the plot has followed the fairytale, but that is soon to change. Kiyoko and her doll overhear the sisters, and the next day the hairpin is nowhere to be found. Yoshi, one of the servants of the house, is found with the hairpin, and Makiko accuses Yoshi of stealing the hairpin, which Kiyoko happily gave to her. Makiko slaps and beats Yoshi up, despite Yoshi claiming she found it in the garden and didn’t mean to steal it. Miss Tsuruko fires Yoshi, and Kiyoko talks to her doll later, telling her how fun it was going to be to be with her new sisters.


Why Does The Viscount Grow Resentful Of His Stepdaughters?

Makiko and Sawako figure out how Yoshi was framed for the theft. They see through Kiyoko’s kind behavior and then catch her eavesdropping on them. Kiyoko runs away when she’s confronted by the sisters, and she falls down the staircase. Viscount Otawara holds the sisters responsible for it, and the servants too support his judgment. The servants have their own prejudice against the sisters, and they think the daughters of a geisha are not worthy of staying in the family. But Kiyoko saves the sisters by vouching for them and asking her father to forgive them. Her charade of innocence blinds everybody in the family, and she offers to be the handmaid for both of them. Otawara grows tired of the sisters treating his own daughter horribly and arranges to send them abroad to study. But he’s soon found dead in an accident, and Kiyoko dresses up in a pretty gown to celebrate his death. She has no grief over her father’s passing, and the grieving family can’t make sense of her behavior. 

How Does Kiyoko Take Control Of The Family? 

Five years have passed since the viscount’s death, and Kiyoko has grown up to be a beautiful woman, still serving the sisters. Both of them are sick and tired of Kiyoko’s schemes, and they want to get out of the house. Miss Tsuruko stays ill most of the time, and her daughters are always told that they might catch a cold if they go visit her. Kiyoko has Miss Tsuruko wrapped around her fingers, and she takes care of her alone and doesn’t let anyone else in. An invitation arrives from a certain Count Ichijo for a dance ball, and Tsuruko tells Kiyoko to make sure her daughters behave well and don’t embarrass themselves. Kiyoko is over the moon to be dressing her sisters up in the prettiest gowns, and she makes sure they look their best. The sisters know this is their only chance to escape the madhouse, and they plan to get the attention of Count Ichijo’s son, Count Masataka. Freshly graduated from the Imperial University, Masataka’s handsome features and kind heart are well-known across the country. If Masataka picks one of the sisters to be his bride, their days of suffering will be over. Kiyoko still listens in on everything from outside, and God save the sisters from this crazy Cinderella! 


What Happens At The Ball?

As soon as Makiko and Sawako enter the hall, the gossip starts around them. It doesn’t bother them much, and Sawako gets the young count’s attention right away. Her charm over him doesn’t last for long, as she starts to drink more than she can handle. Makiko warns her not to do so, but Sawako is already buzzed enough to ignore her elder sister’s words. In the middle of this drama, Kiyoko walks in wearing an alluring gown, which grabs everybody’s attention right away. The count is instantly smitten by her beauty and approaches her. Kiyoko is sheer evil, and she ignores the count and falls to her knees, asking for forgiveness from Sawako. Sawako understands her facade once again and tries to slap her, but the count intervenes. He throws both the sisters out of the party and asks Kiyoko for a dance. Just like Cinderella, Kiyoko bids goodbye to the count earlier than expected, leaving her hairpin behind on the staircase. 

What Was Kiyoko’s Plan?

Kiyoko confessed her hatred for the sisters to Miss Tsuruko when her daughters left for the ball. She’s been feeding her doses of poison all along, and she’s finally done with Tsuruko. The family is nothing but a bunch of dolls for Kiyoko to play with, and she doesn’t want a broken doll. Kiyoko forces the last of the poison down Tsuruko’s throat, and the sisters return home to discover their mother dead, her body resting in a pool of blood. Soon after, Makiko claims her spot as the eldest of the family, and she refuses Count Masataka’s wish to see Kiyoko. But the count resists the sisters and reminds them that Kiyoko is the only person with blood relation to her father, and the inheritance has been passed down to her. The sisters are thrown out of the house, and while Sawako tries to get back in, Makiko reminds her that they’re finally free. 


Kiyoko is a deranged psychopath who just had fun tormenting the sisters and their mother. She understands that the sisters willingly united her with the count, but she has no regrets. From framing the servant for stealing the hairpin, jumping down the staircase, and finally killing her father and his wife, Kiyoko eliminated anyone who stopped her from having her “fun.” One would assume the count is nothing more than another plaything for our diabolical Cinderella.

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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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