The Sympathizer – Episode 7 Recap, Review & Ending Explained

Endings Are Hard, Aren’t They?

In episode 7 of The Sympathizer, the Captain and Bon arrive in Bangkok, where Claude introduces them to the “suicide squad.” He takes them to a local bar, saying, “Let’s get funky,” as a sort of last farewell before their seemingly inevitable deaths.

“The end,” says the Captain. “Endings are hard, aren’t they?” smirks the commandant. He urges the Captain to revisit his draft and come up with an appropriate ending that would please the commissar. It is revealed that the Captain has been working on his confession for over a year in solitary confinement.

The scene shifts back to the group in Thailand. At the bar, Claude reveals a tape to the Captain, containing a recording of his confession about being a spy. It turns out that the CIA had bugged Sonny’s apartment. Claude offers the Captain a “f*cking out” in exchange for a confession, but the Captain, looking at Bon, decides against it. “It’s your funeral, pal,” Claude concludes

Later, only the Captain and Bon survive the fighting. After the Captain’s pleas for Bon to live, they are captured and taken to a detention camp. “You’re not a prisoner, you’re an educatee,” they are told. Bon is quickly punished for his open transgressions against party ideology. The Captain requests a meeting with the commissar of the camp, an eerily masked figure who orders him to write his confession and be kept in solitary confinement, lest the other prisoners try to kill him. “Write truthfully, for what proves favourable or unfavourable to your fortune might be different than you think. Write precisely, for we have nothing but time,” he adds.

More than a year later, the Captain is finally released from solitary confinement and joins Bon and the other “educatees” for their meal. The commissar begins his speech about the party ideology when Bon interrupts and is promptly taken for his punishment. The Captain asks the commissar for permission to say something and ends up singing a song. “All for one, and one for all,” he says, showing his palm in the three friends’ musketeer pledge.

When the commissar allows the Captain to visit him, it is revealed that the commissar is actually Man. Man had been exposed to napalm on Liberation Day and now lives with a disfigured face, dependent on morphine. This is why he was “slow to respond” at times to the Captain’s letters. “I told you not to return,” says Man, the commissar, as the Captain is dragged away for torture by the commandant.

“We don’t think you lied in your confession; it’s what you failed to confess,” the commandant says as they proceed to torture the Captain to help him remember what he forgot. The Captain hallucinates Sonny and the Major. After a series of electric shocks, the Captain asks Man why they are doing this to him. Man explains that he did everything in his power to keep the Captain alive. Through the solitary confinement and confession, Man had made sure the Captain would stay alive and away from the torture that was in store for him. “But there are limits to my powers. The Party is watching.” He explains that the commandant can report Man for shirking his duty.

Man leaves the Captain to be electrocuted some more, but the Captain is left alive by a power outage due to excessive usage. Here, the Captain hallucinates the ghosts of Sonny and the Major. He conjures a scene where he watches Niko’s film with Man. These hallucinations help him remember certain nuances that he had left out in his confession. It is revealed that the Captain was complicit in the rape and torture of a fellow comrade from the initial few episodes. The show dwells on the disjuncture between the Captain’s recollection, where he tried to stop the heinous crime, and the woman’s recollection, where it is revealed that he had done no such thing as Man asks the two to trade each other’s confessions.

“She’s not as good a writer as you, but she’s a better spy,” says Man. Despite being a better spy, the woman is still in the education camp. When the Captain questions her presence in the camp, she answers, “I’ve been searching for an answer for the past two years,” adding that nothing can disappoint her now.

Later, it is revealed that Man had hidden a picture of the Captain and Bon inside his mask. Not only the female spy but Man himself has been disillusioned post-revolution, where for him, “Nothing” becomes “more precious than independence and freedom.” But the Captain is unable to accept this nihilism, and so, they decide to take “positive action” where the Captain disguises himself as the commissar, frees Bon, and the two escape the camp with Man’s cooperation. They board a ship to “who knows where? Away from home, that’s all I know,” as they drift farther away from the coast of what was once their homeland.

The Episode Review

Endings are certainly hard, as The Sympathizer finale rushes to gather all the loose ends and fit in as much material as possible. Although the symbolism, dialogues, and events defend the status of the book as a Pulitzer Prize winner, such dense material was certainly difficult to fit into a seven-episode miniseries, and it reflected in the lack of space in the show for tension and pathos to develop. All the events in the episode, and for that matter, in the series, seem more like a to-do list to tick off at times due to the lack of time for the show to truly portray the sensitivity of the subject matter and the character of the original book.

Despite this, however, the show has been introspective more often than not, and similarly, this episode reflects on profound ideas such as the transformation of communism into a party dictatorship, evoking the ethos of Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. For instance, when the Captain corrected that the commissar’s quotation belonged not to Uncle Ho but Stalin, and when Man comments, “The Party is watching.”

The episode also discusses the disillusionment with the revolution, where “There’s always something more to confess, that’s the nature of confession.” If the best spy, who had sacrificed her honour for the revolutionary cause, is still treated as a prisoner and a threat where she cannot be anything but disappointed, what’s the future for the Captain? The future for all revolutionaries in the detention camp is only adopting a nihilistic philosophy like Man, where “Nothing” becomes “more precious than independence and freedom.”

Overall, the episode was dense with substance, but the show’s folly has been, throughout the series, its inability to evoke emotions in the viewers and the disjuncture between the viewers and the Captain’s first-person persona, due to which we are never really able to gauge and feel the Captain’s psychological despair and empathize with him and his circumstances.

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