American Rust – Season 1 Finale: Recap, Review & Ending Explained


Episode 9 of American Rust begins this finale with Billy on the verge of being released back into general population. Not even a week has passed, which makes this situation all the more serious. The inmates are lusting for blood, and Billy is essentially lamb to the slaughter.

Meanwhile, Henry has a heart to heart with Lee. She’s had trouble fitting in everywhere she’s gone so now she’s returned home, properly, determined to take care of Henry. “Why is that so wrong?” She asks. Interestingly, Henry actually answers this before with a story about Lee’s mother and how she lost herself staying in Buell.

Del Harris waits for Jackson after work and takes him out for a drink. After quoting a line about being rotten (a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet) he shakes up Jackson, mentioning “ripping up the cancer and tearing the whole thing out.” This is, again, another reference that links to Jackson’s part to play in all this, given he’s been working with Bobby Jesus all this time.

The music in this series has regularly been the stand-out component and the next scene exemplifies why. Mysterious, tense and creepy, it works beautifully to set the scene as Del Harris crosses state lines and sneaks into Bobby’s house. The only trouble is, Bobby was prepared for his. Bobby chokes him out, only to receive a fatal gunshot from Del for his troubles. When Jackson turns up, Del shoots him too and stages the crime scene to make it look like the pair killed each other. Only, he didn’t bank on there being an old lady there too, who shoots Del with a shotgun. He hits back and kills her but it poses a real problem for him. Del now has three bodies and he’s forced to try and stage the whole scene to make himself invisible.

With the deed done, Del returns home to Grace, who helps remove all the fragments of bullets from his shoulder. Despite his questionable methods, Grace reassures Del and tells him he’s one of the guys who’s bringing good into the world.

Back with Billy, he’s released back into prison from solitary confinement. Before he leaves, he tells the guard to leave a message for Lee “I kept my promise.” He says. Of course, this is a direct reference to him covering for Isaac and taking his secret to the grave.

Predictably, the minute he steps into the main hall, he’s beaten down. Billy is taken into hospital and is in a rough way. Broken ribs, multiple cuts and bruises, along with an induced medical coma to try and get his brain swelling down. Grace arrives to check on her son, despairing over what’s happened to him., as Billy’s life hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile, news of the triple homicide breaks. While the station is abuzz with news of this, Del shows up and finds Virgil Poe  in his office. He apologizes, in a round about way, before mentioning Grace’s mess up with burning her house down. She’s left a gym bag in the tool shed holding pictures of Billy, which were originally hanging up on the wall in her trailer. Virgil figures out this was staged but hes going to keep hold of this for “rough times ahead.”

Henry, realizing that Lee may be trapped in this town and forced to look after him, pops numerous pills and heads out into the garden. When Lee finds out, she races down after noticing the empty packets to find him slumped to the side in his chair. Now, given this is the last we see of him this season, it’s unknown whether he actually survive or not.

When he leaves, detectives from Pittsburgh show up. They begin questioning Del Harris about his old buddy, Chuck Castellanos. Del lies though, claiming the last time he saw the guy was just before he left Pittsburgh. However, their conversation is interrupted by Isaac showing up in town.

He heads over to the station and shows Del Harris the wrench used in the killing. Del narrows his gaze and tells him to leave, never show the wrench to anyone.

The Episode Review

So it seems like Del Harris has decided to lean in fully to the lies and deceit he’s concocted to Cover his own tracks. I’m sure he didn’t expect Isaac to rock back up in town, which has undoubtedly left him a lot to think about. Before we find a resolution to this though, the scene cuts to black. But is there enough here to warrant a second season?

Well, yes and no. On the one hand, the murder is done and the case solved. The only thing left to do here is put the pieces together and see if Del Harris meets his own reckoning for his questionable deeds across the season.

At the same time, we’re left with lots of unresolved questions. What will happen to Del regarding the Castellanos case? Will the triple homicide be linked back to him? And will Billy actually survive his injuries? His loyalty to Isaac and Lee is ultimately Billy’s own undoing here, and perhaps this could be interpreted as a cautionary tale that sometimes you need to look out for yourself first rather than taking the fall for someone else.

Then again, the tale could also be interpreted as an example of loyalty; Billy was loyal until the end and in that respect, he’s arguably the best friend you could have. In a round about way of course.

It’s an interesting dilemma and one that leads nicely to Henry and Lee. Henry, realizing that Lee could be stuck looking after him and not aspire to move beyond her means, decides to kill himself with those pills. Is he really dead though? We’re left with big question marks over whether he’s really kicked the bucket or just unconscious. However, his moving speech earlier in the season is enough to heavily imply the former.

His suicide – while selfish for those who are left to mourn him – is ultimately an act of mercy on his part, allowing Lee an out to move away from Buell, given Henry is the only thing keeping her there. But yet, with Isaac returning, does that still hold the same significance?

There’s undoubtedly some tantalizing possibilities for season 2 and to be honest, the only way this show could possibly go for a renewal is with another key character being killed. Speaking of killing, since Virgil has evidence that could be used to incriminate Grace, will Del hit out and kill him too?

Lots of questions, lots of answers and lots of scenarios for season 2; American Rust has been a slow burn but a pretty enjoyable watch overall despite some blips along the way.

So what do you guys think? Would you like this one to return for season 2? Let us know in the comments below!

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You can check out our full season review for American Rust here!


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38 thoughts on “American Rust – Season 1 Finale: Recap, Review & Ending Explained”

  1. It’s a TV show based on a novel . All of you feel entitled to a season two full of murder , dysfunction from Poes mother , the Police chief , etc.
    Do any of you stop to consider just how f*cking high Jeff Daniels would be by the time the Pittsburgh Dets came calling ?
    The answer is short …… borderline unresponsive . I don’t care about his tolerance due to years of using .
    No one mentions the fact of the murderer being gay and slight of build . How about the convenience of those photos preserved in the shed ? Yeah , her ex sure seemed like the “ help you out at any cost “ type of guy .
    My summary . They bit off more than they could chew . You really believe the Police Chief did a successful coverup of the birdshot holes in the perps home ? Yes , I’m a detective. Some outside force which will only be known to a few people made the possibility of another season impossible due to …. what else , money . All the big name actors ( ok , two ) plus the ones who realised thru their agents they had leverage now and could demand more $ per episode was the reason for the one season and WRAP !
    Money , money and more money . Always the answer to premature departure of characters and cancellations of shows . Look at quality of “ Animal Kingdom “ after Smurf dies . All good cable series create their earlier than expected demise from characters who crush it and demand big bucks .
    Breaking Bad ….. shortened seasons . Too many great characters .
    Thank you , Be good

  2. I just finished the series and loved it!!! I just read online that Amazon is picking the show up and there will be a Season 2. So hopefully questions will be answered. Going to start the book today-can’t wait to compare…….

  3. Well, just finished watching episode 9 and was quite excited for episode 10 to see how it all pans out and now Billy’s in an induced coma, Del is being questioned by the Pittsburg Police, the deputy is putting things together regarding the gun and vest being missing and the news about the 3 deaths at the farm, Lee has just discovered Henry in the front yard and Issac is back with the wrench which for some reason will remain in his pocket and Grace has wrangled her way around things so Del would do anything for her and there are no more episodes available. I was so looking forward to the climatic ending now I’ll just have to imagine what could have happened. Bummer


  5. In the book, Billy Poe does not fair well in the end.
    This, is why I had to stop watching the show. The actor portrayed this individual with such passion; and I can’t help but think “what a waste”. Billy Poe broke my heart. I can’t watch him go through any more hell.

  6. Showtime, you are ridiculous! I watched American Rust and loved it. Maura Tierney and Jeff Daniels are always worth the investment. But why would you allow an ending to this series like episode 9, how disrespectful to the viewer. I thought the series was just taking a holiday break and was anxious for episode 10. What a joke! There are ways to end a series and gratify the viewer while not knowing if there will be a 2nd season. You failed miserably! Showtime offers plenty of trash, American Rust was a quality drama (albeit a few flaws). It makes me question the wisdom of subscribing to your service in the future.

  7. I’m hoping for another season. I enjoyed the show. It definitely was a slow burn, in a depressed town, I think it was captured really well. Excellent acting and suspenseful. I think the story needed to be told in this flat, slow depressed way.

  8. Yes please a second season is absolutely necessary no matter which way the characters lives may flow. Confused, dumbfounded and possible thought I had fallen asleep having missed some important scene, when the ninth episode ended I presumed a possible break in the schedule to resume with episode 10 at a later date. For those of us who view film and tv series for actual content American Rust is a substantial winner.

  9. I got on here to find out what happened to the show. I didn’t know it was over.
    Short review: This whole idea sucked. A lousey ending for a waste of time. Who
    thinks this crap would be entertaining.

  10. Shit show, I haven’t watched since episode 6. Just couldn’t force myself and read the recaps instead hoping it was interesting enough to make myself finish watching. It’s not. Is there really going to be a season 2? Plz Jeff Daniels you can do so much better. Showtime officially cancelled!

  11. have the book on order–so dont know how closely the tv version follows it..

    love the show and the actors- tierney fr ‘The Affair’ is wonderful actress– jeff is an icon– plays his role perfectly..

    WE NEED SEASON 2– even 3 or 4 if it can be extended that long–


  12. I liked it, but hated the “Sopranos draw your own conclusions” ending. This was based on a book and there are some differences in the TV series. I’ve read nothing that indicates this is going to continue, so there will be no season 2. Sort of like “Your Honor”. People pining for a season 2 where basically the story has been told.

  13. There has to be another season to answer a key unanswered question. The county sheriff went back to the mill to look around. Perhaps he will find Billy’s varsity jacket, the one with Del’s bloody fingerprint, placed there when Del quickly hid it as other police arrive at the mill murder scene.

  14. Del is not a vigilante. He doesn’t enjoy killing, nor does he do it for profit. If he did, we probably wouldn’t like him. That’s why he couldn’t join his Pittsburgh ‘brothers’ in their vengeance killing. Their delayed victim had actually spent the 10 years becoming a better person; of course Del couldn’t kill him. By killing Bobby Jesus and the pharmacist he was not only saving Grace’s son from punishment for a crime he didn’t commit, he was saving the lives of future Fentanyl victims (a temporary fix to the local drug problem, but something). Grace is playing Del and now he knows it. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him, just that she loves her son more. She’s had a rough life and has become strong and self-reliant. There HAS TO BE a season 2. We need to find out if Del’s deputy will turn him in or find an honorable alternative. Will Del continue to love Grace in spite of her lies? I still think Lee’s ‘dedication’ to her Dad was more about her love for Billy Poe. Bring on Season 2!

  15. Definitely want to see a Season 2. I thought the show was quite enjoyable and we need to see some answers. I thought Jeff Daniels was outstanding as well as Maura Tierney . Bring it back .

  16. OMG..I didn’t realize that there might be another season..YES..bring it on!! Fabulous cast..I would love to see another season of American Rust!!

  17. The setting along the PA / WV border is compelling and any story about opioids (fentanyl) is going to be dark. This show certainly is. My question is: why is this story being told? I keep looking for the moral complexity or a pathway to redemption, or solace, or grace for these characters. Something.

  18. I did not like this show. It was depressing and unrealistic. It was antiquated. I do not want to see stories about stupid people.

  19. I really don’t care about any of these characters… they seem to have deserved their assumed fate. Love Jeff Daniels .. great actor but he is flawed as well as the rest of the characters.

  20. We need season leave us with too many questions unanswered is idiotic..they must be confident in getting a season 2 or they just disrespected a loyal audience

  21. Most definitely would like to see another season to tie up the loose ends of which you speak. But the ending must piece all the loose ends and stop there. How long can Del hide his wound to the arm, eh.

  22. Loved the series!!! Please bring a second season as there were too many loose ends in the finale!! Amazing cast!!!

  23. I too thought it had that Soprano ending
    Love to see season 2 and have the answers from season 1.
    Good acting.

  24. I still have so many questions! Crossing my fingers for season 2. Good show with excellent acting. Please tie up these loose ends-too many things going on.

  25. What a dud. I watched the entire series thinking it was leading to conclusions/endings for everyone…not. First no one is that loyal to take a prison sentence, beatings. Poe’s zipped lipped strategy didn’t help anyone, especially Isaac. Now he’s in a coma, great job! I don’t get the Henry storyline. What purpose did it serve? Lee is tiresome, trying to be the savior at home and infiltrator at PD’s office. wtf? There’s a deputy scurrying around the department looking answers he doesn’t want to know about Del. What the hell was the unionizing storyline for? I watched the series waiting for Yellowstone S4 to start. At least that starts next week. No to AR S2.

  26. Such a great cast with high expectations for viewers but then poorly executed and poorly written with depressing plot lines. Leaving lots of unanswered questions, perhaps someone else can take the lead and bring us as viewers a more interesting story if there is a season 2.

  27. It frustrated me. The showrunners opted for the “Sopranos” ending. Everything is so open ended if there is no season 2. Del left Pittsburgh so that his integrity would not be further compromised with vigilante justice to eventually mete out vigilante justice for a woman that may not even love him. The big question for me is “why?” Billy had been released from probation and was given a clean slate. Why did he follow Pete Novick into that building? If he is incapable of controlling his temper and unable to control fighting, isn’t jail where he belongs? Billy brought all of this on himself and everyone it affected. I just hate that Del got mixed up in all of it.

  28. I enjoyed this series and by all of the twists and turns it has taken. The ending of the finale, had me ask all those questions because so many things unravelled! I’ll cross my fingers for a Season 2.

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