The following article contains major spoilers for the finale of The Idol.
In the end, The Idol ended in one of the most expectedly unexpected ways possible. Tedros (Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye) and Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp) role-reversed, the latter having seemingly pulled off one hell of a heel turn. In short, it’s implied that Jocelyn always knew what she was doing: not the victim but the villain. It might’ve looked like she was enduring hairbrush beatings and the insidious creep of Tedros’ slimy gaslighting, but no no, she always had the rat by the tail.
This was first suggested at the end of episode four, when Jocelyn slept with her ex (a superhero movie actor now falsely accused of rape) to get back at Tedros. The implication then was that she had only just clocked on to his game, after discovering that Tedros had manipulated Dyanne (portrayed by Jennie of BLACKPINK) to meet Jocelyn at one of his club nights, kicking off the events of the show. That felt like an abrupt and obvious way of shifting towards an endgame — with Jocelyn reclaiming her agency from Tedros and his cultish disciples — but hey, with just an episode to go, they needed to finish it somehow. And why not with a bit of satisfying comeuppance?
So Jocelyn continues the cold-shoulder treatment through to the finale and, following the weirdest X-Factor bootcamp of all time, steals the Mansonites from under Tedros’ nose. “I’m gonna give you $500k to fuck off,” Hank Azaria’s Chaim essentially tells him; refusing that, Tedros gets character assassinated in Jocelyn’s Vanity Fair profile for his troubles.
Then comes the kicker. Six weeks later, on the opening leg of her sell-out tour, Tedros turns up backstage to reunite with Jocelyn. “I really missed you,” she says. “I don’t like being apart.” Tedros notices the brush Jocelyn’s mum allegedly used to beat her on the dressing table. Here’s the twist on the twist on the twist: she lied. It’s brand new, which Tedros seemingly didn’t notice that time he publicly paddled her with it. She’s been playing a game of 4-D chess all along. And we allll fell for it — Team Tedros, Jocelyn’s PR team, the viewers at home just waiting for the show to end.
“I think a lot of the audience will watch maybe the first few episodes and think that this guy is taking advantage of her,” Depp said in a behind-the-scenes segment for the episode. “By the end he realises that she knows exactly what he’s doing, and she knows exactly what she’s doing.” In the same clip, creator Sam Levinson went so far as to say Tedros has actually “become the victim” by the end, which is quite the stretch of a conniving cult-leader who stuck a guy in a shock collar for a laugh.
The Idol has always been a product of its messy parts: an allegedly manic production and major overhaul midway through filming. Characterisation is so empty as to leave a sparing few characters you want to root for, or feel more than ambivalent towards; for all of the online mockery directed towards The Weeknd, the guy wasn’t exactly served by a great script. This final duo of episodes, nevertheless, are no doubt the messiest. The last-gasp pivot towards “it was Jocelyn all along, guys” is so under-baked that it feels unearned and incongruous with everything we learned about Jocelyn and Tedros in the lead-up. And what was Jocelyn’s goal, here? To extract creative inspiration from an abusive relationship, echoing her mother (who wasn’t as abusive as we were led to believe, anyway)?
That’s what Depp and Levinson want us to think, at least. “Jocelyn is a very calculated and strategic person. She knows exactly what she wants and she’ll stop at nothing to get it,” Depp has explained. “Tedros was her muse and she got what she needed out of him.” Levinson, for his part, explained that Jocelyn “needs to devour those around her to feel like she has something to say,” which, in fairness, we see in her testy dynamic with Xander (Troye Sivan). Episode four implied Jocelyn’s narcissistic streak when she commanded Tedros to keep shocking Xander for “lying” about being forced to sign himself out of pop competition by Jocelyn’s mum, which was seemingly actually true. But that was one of very sparse crumbs suggestive of anything other than Tedros very obviously being the baddie.
A better show might’ve teased out more of this complex villainy rather than dropping it right at the end, but the resultant whiplash leaves you scratching your rattail. You’re telling us that we’ve just watched Jocelyn nakedly sob her way through a litany of humiliations — enduring the abuse of a sad sack cringe merchant not only whose favourite pastime is getting his rocks off on Valentino but, much more pertinently, looks like his armpits could double as chemical weapons — because that was her master plan the entire time? That’s what was going to rejuvenate her career? Has she ever thought about taking a nice walk? And sorry, we’re meant to have sympathy for Tedros “the queasiest fuckboy of all time” Tedros? Pull the other one.