Full Circle Brings Its Arcs Together in the Series Finale (Episode 5 & 6 Recap)

“Loyalty” & “Essequibo”

Mel stands under a sign at the hospital, facing Sam, in Full Circle Episode 6

The following recap contains spoilers for the finale of Full Circle with Episode 5, “Loyalty” and Episode 6, “Essequibo” (written by Ed Solomon & Laura Shapiro and directed by Steven Soderbergh)

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

More than anything else, Full Circle feels like an exercise in storytelling, and on those terms it’s certainly a successful one. I also found it to be entertaining, and I want to be clear about that. But I’m the kind of guy who finds the structure of Infinite Jest to be a delight, so who knows how things might land for others.

Some might enjoy Full Circle despite its form; I find its structure to be the best thing about it.

Mrs. Mahabir sits in front of a vanity mirror talking to a photograph

The story is a circle, but not cyclical. It’s not a matter of repetition so much as various arcs coming together to form a whole. It’s not linear, as even the lines determined by each character bend and influence each other. We don’t get a plot that follows one protagonist, or even really multiple plots following multiple protagonists; we get fragments of the story from each of the perspectives offered.

The finale rounds things off. Louis (Gerald Jones) and Natalia (Adia) have returned to Guyana, where the Colony at Essequibo is overrun by weeds. Aked (Jharrel Jerome) died in pursuit of them in Derek’s hotel room. Shrapnel from the bullet injured Nicky (Lucian Zanes), and this leads to some reconciliation between Nicky, Derek (Timothy Olyphant), and Charisse (Rachel Annette Helson) at the end of the day.

Mrs. Mahabir (CCH Pounder) is in jail after the raid on her house, during which Manny (Jim Gaffigan) died in pursuit of Garmen (Phaldut Sharma). Garmen died at the hands of Xavier (Sheyi Cole) so that Natalia and Louis could get away.

Nothing followed a master plan. It just happened.

Sam points a gun in Louis's face

Sam (Claire Danes) gave Louis an expensive painting because she felt bad for him, and about what happened 20 years ago, but that painting ends up being useless. The last we see of it, it’s sitting in the grass, discarded. It’s possible Xavier will pick it up, but we don’t follow him any further.

Being accosted by Louis, in some combination with learning what’s happened to Nicky, brings Sam to the hospital and she and Derek reconcile. Gene (William Sadler) has learned that it wasn’t Jeff (Dennis Quaid) who turned him in all those years ago, but Sam (whose first name is actually Jolene). The brothers go to lunch together.

Jeff has told Clarence (Ted Sod), who’s still confined to a hospital bed, about how these kidnappers took the wrong kid instead of his grandson, but he thinks he’s just telling this old man a wild story, with no idea that he was behind everything. Clarence freaks out, removing his oxygen mask, which causes Jeff to call for help, but then we don’t see him again.

Sam and Mel sit at a bar having a drink in the Full Circle finale

At the end of Full Circle, Sam and Mel (Zazie Beetz) sit at a bar asking one another what they’ll do next, since Mel has been suspended from her job as a postal inspector and Sam has gathered the evidence to turn bad people in to the FBI, but that would mean turning herself in, too. The series doesn’t resolve the question.

However, none of the questions we’re left with as Full Circle comes to a close amount to dangling threads, because the quilt the series aimed to patch together has fully taken shape. We’ve learned everything we need to learn. As for what happens to these people next, we can be left to wonder.

Xavier standing in the dark

Two decades ago, Sam facilitated a series of bribes involving investments in the Colony at Essequibo and they used the profit from this to launch Chef Jeff. Mrs. M’s husband, Manuel, strong-armed the residents in the area who didn’t want to leave. Most significant among these was Joseph Clarence, whose grandson was thus kidnapped in order to coerce him, and the boy was ultimately killed.

Mrs. Mahabir believes that this is the root of the curse on her family, placed upon them by Clarence (who I suppose believes the same). He knows enough that he’s come to blame Jeff for what happened, though Jeff himself continues to be clueless. Maybe it is fair to blame him, anyway, or maybe it makes some sense to think that he and his grandson are to the side of things in a way that parallels how Clarence and his grandson weren’t really involved in the real estate deal. Or, I don’t think ‘parallels’ is the right word. Maybe it’s a kind of inverse image?

Nicky, Louis, Natalia and Derek stand in his hotel room

Again, it’s the structure of Full Circle I find most compelling, as plotlines don’t intersect so much as arcs come together, and I hope nothing I invoke in geometric terms feels too forced. What’s striking is how writer Ed Solomon and director Steven Soderbergh execute what really feels like a distinctive narrative form.

This is a series without a main character and without what you would traditionally call a plot, but it nonetheless hangs together to form a cohesive whole. The circle is full. We don’t need to follow all of the tangents.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos


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  1. Just a quick note of continued thanks. I enjoyed this series very much and, as is true with any series completed, I come to TVO for potential greater insight and, often, introductions to unfamiliar context: “Infinite Jest” (now on top my must-read-next list) and “Hermeneutic circle” (St. Augustine of Hippo now at the entrance to my must-explore-next rabbit hole). The overview always enjoyable, the links provided for additional depth always appreciated. Thank you yet again.

    • And thanks as always for reading! I might go Gadamer on the hermeneutic circle, or at least that’s more who I had in mind. Though by all means read Augustine’s Confessions! Not sure if this reference fully cashes out in terms of the series here either way, though maybe it does and I just didn’t cash it out. Infinite Jest is great, but it definitely takes some effort. You’ll want two bookmarks! There are a couple hundred pages worth of endnotes

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