**MAJOR spoilers for Anatomy of a Scandal on Netflix**
We love a twist ending, but Netflix‘s Anatomy of a Scandal‘s big earth-shattering reveal happens mid-season, at the end of Episode 4. Moreover, it’s a wild one that shakes the foundation of the series and pushes it into the realm of tawdry soap opera. So what exactly goes down? And what does Michelle Dockery‘s no-nonsense barrister Kate Woodcroft have to do with the shy, nerdy, and improbably named Holly Berry (Nancy Farino)? Turns out a lot!
Anatomy of a Scandal is a new Netflix thriller from David E. Kelley, the man who brought us other glossy, scandal-filled fare like Big Little Lies and The Undoing. Anatomy of a Scandal takes us to contemporary London, where a hot posh conservative politician named James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) finds himself beset with the allegation that he raped his ex-lover/underling Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott) in an elevator. James will admit to the affair, but not the sexual assault. His wife Sophie (Sienna Miller) reluctantly stands by her man as the hard-nosed Kate attempts to prove the golden boy of the Tory party is a rapist in Britain’s super theatrical court of law. Dogging Sophie through the trial are memories of a troubled girl she knew at Oxford named Holly Berry. Holly left Oxford under dramatic circumstances (i.e. in retrospect, it’s clear to Sophie she was likely raped by a classmate) at the end of their freshman year.
The end of Anatomy of a Scandal Episode 4 drops a bombshell by revealing that Kate Woodcroft is Holly Berry.
So how exactly can that be true? Why would Kate/Holly change their identities? And why in heaven’s name would Kate go forward with prosecuting someone she knows from her past? Let’s break down Anatomy of a Scandal‘s wildest twist: Kate is Holly.
Anatomy of a Scandal Twist Explained: Kate Woodcroft is Holly Berry!?!
Yeah, so Kate Woodcroft is Holly Berry!
Were there clues? Sort of? Is it a twist that makes sense? Theoretically? Is Kate performing a massive legal malpractice by not disclosing she not only knew the defendant she’s prosecuting at university — and!!! — that he raped her?!? Absolutely. As Kate herself admits, she fucked up!
Essentially Kate Woodcroft was born Holly Berry on Christmas Day, 1970 or ’80-something in Liverpool. She managed to attend Oxford in the ’90s at the same time as a young Sophie Whitehouse (Hannah Dodd) and the two were mismatched tutorial partners. In the Oxford tutorial system, students attend lectures kind of like they do in the States, but are dispatched to research and write a paper each week for their tutorial sessions. Tutorials are when an Oxford professor meets with just two or three students at a time. Everyone has to write to the same prompt, with limited guidance from the professor, and then they have to read aloud their work and debate it with their teacher (and fellow students). Anyway, because they were partnered, Holly and Sophie were closer than they would have been otherwise.
Sophie notices towards the end of the year that Holly is upset and seemingly bent on leaving. What she doesn’t know is that Holly has been raped by Sophie’s upperclassman boyfriend James Whitehouse (Ben Radcliffe). Holly leaves Oxford and falls off the grid. She travels to Australia, where we later learn she marries and divorces someone named “Woodcroft.” The adult Holly/Kate explains to Sophie in one of the show’s last scenes that she kept her ex’s last name and started going by Kate. At some point, she returned to the UK and finished her degree in Liverpool.
Kate Woodcroft became a quickly rising legal star in London, known for being meticulous and dogged. When she gets a high-profile case alleging that James Whitehouse raped his former lover Olivia Lytton, she wrestles with taking it. However after seeing evidence that mirrored her own violent encounter with James, she seems inclined to take it. She moves forward, assuming no one will be able to link her to her past self, Holly Berry.
Only long-time friend Ali (Liz White) puts it together what is going on. There are a few conversations where Ali suggests that Kate should tell the judge that she ought to recuse herself, but we’re lead to believe it’s because stress or because Kate and a former boss have their own illicit relationship. No, it’s because Ali knows Kate was Holly Berry. Ali knows Kate is connected to the Whitehouses via Sophie. Eventually, Kate confesses that James is the Libertine who raped her.
Kate persists in the lie and is only discovered because Sophie recognizes Kate’s meticulous style of keeping notes. (Sophie would copy Holly’s work, which is a HUGE no-no in the tutorial system, but whatever. The show is about the abuse of privilege, so…) Sophie confronts Kate, but remains unconvinced until Ali seemingly confirms the connection.
In the end, Sophie doesn’t rat out Kate and instead turns her back on James, revealing to the press his and the Prime Minister’s involvement in the death of one of their Oxford friends.
So, yeah, Kate was Holly Berry. After her assault, she changed her name, got a new hairdo, and smoothed out her accent. And if it wasn’t for her love of highlighters, she could have gotten away with it!
If you or someone you know believes they are the victim of sexual assault, you can reach out to RAINN at 800-656-HOPE (4673) for 24/7 support.