Netflix’s One Day Ending Explained: What Happened? How Was The Book Different?

16 February 2024, 14:22 | Updated: 19 February 2024, 15:33

One Day takes fans on an emotional rollercoaster
One Day takes fans on an emotional rollercoaster. Picture: Netflix

By Tiasha Debray

Netflix’s One Day ends in total tragedy, but what actually happened? Do Emma and Dexter have a baby? Was the ending the same in the book?

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It seems to be what all that the world is talking about right now. Netflix’s One Day has started our 2024 off on a romantically tragic note, and we can’t get enough.

*Spoilers ahead!*

The series is based on the best-selling novel by David Nicholls published in 2009. Fans of the novel or 2011 film adaptation were armed and ready for the ending of the Netflix version of One Day with the cast starring Leo Woodall as Dexter and Ambika Mod as Emma, but as for the rest of us? It was traumatising.

The show takes us on a journey through 1988 to 2007 following Dexter and Emma’s friendship to lovers relationship. We’re dropped into their lives every year on the 15th of July and we see our two characters age and grow through the years.

While a majority of the series is poignant yet light and romantic, the ending is as jarring for the audience as it is for what happens to Emma on screen. So what happened at the end of One Day? We're here to explain the ending.

The characters of Emma and Dexter in One Day are inspired by real people
The characters of Emma and Dexter in One Day are inspired by real people. Picture: Netflix

Netflix’s One Day ending explained

We’ll say this once and once only - there are some major spoilers ahead, if you haven’t finished the show yet and don’t want to know, then don’t read on. For the rest of you sick, twisted and broken hearted people, let’s cry together.

Just as you think Emma and Dexter have finally reached their happily ever after, it gets ripped away from you. In episode 13, on one fateful July 15th, Emma is out cycling to meet with Dexter and is horrifically hit by a car and killed.

When we say horrifically, we mean it. The show doesn’t hold back on the shock and trauma of the event, they really want you to feel it. You see Emma hit the windscreen of the car and the camera slowly zooms in on her laying on the road in the rain, the light slowly leaving her eyes, while Dexter waits for her to come meet him.

Who needs a heart anyway? The finale episode is tough to watch as Dexter deals with his grief through the bottom of a bottle. As he hits his lowest point and lets down the people in his life, his father tells him that he needs to start living his life as if Emma was still alive, with him.

Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod star as Dex and Emma in One Day
Leo Woodall and Ambika Mod star as Dex and Emma in One Day. Picture: Netflix

The next time we see him is one year later and Dex is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. With his life back on track, he has a vision of Emma telling him it’s okay to move on, to throw out her things -not the photos though!

Leo Woodall spoke to The Wrap about the grief his character works through, “Thankfully, his relationship with his daughter is in a really good place at that point. You’re left knowing that he’ll always be grieving and missing her, but that he’s kind of come out of the tough stages of it.”

In the final year of One Day, 2007 sees Dexter return to where he first met Emma at the University of Edinburgh. The episode slips in and out of the present day and past as Dexter relives his moments with Emma. They all culminate to one final kiss, the very first kiss they shared, and then it ends.

Do Emma and Dexter have a baby?

Emma and Dexter never get the chance to have a child of their own, however they do co-parent Jasmine, the daughter Dexter has with his ex-wife Sylvie in 1998.

After Emma and Dexter got married, they did try as a couple but in an emotional turn of events, Emma struggled to get pregnant. The possibility of not being able to have a child upset her and caused tension between them, but they managed to get over the hurdle and remain a strong couple… until the accident.

Watch Netflix's One Day trailer

Was Netflix’s One Day ending the same as the book?

Netflix’s One Day ending is not exactly the same as the book, a few things were slightly changed.

In the series, after the first anniversary of Emma’s death, her ex-boyfriend Ian takes Dexter aside to tell him how much Emma loved him. However in the book, Ian doesn’t say this in person, he writes Dexter a letter detailing how whilst he never liked him that much, he always knew how much Emma did.

The other major ending scene that changed between the book and the series is when Dexter returns to their old stomping ground in Edinburgh.

In the series, as we described earlier, Dexter relives his memories of Emma. But in the book, this is the point they insert a completely new scene from Dexter’s point-of-view, the morning after their first hook-up where he pretends to cancel plans with his parents and he and Emma climb Arthur’s Seat in Scotland. Whereas the Netflix version showed this scene outright, very early in the series.

Whilst the show ends with Dexter’s thoughts focussed entirely on his life with Emma, in the book the author takes his story further. Dexter actually moves on romantically with Maddy, the manager of the cafe they run in Paris. Secretly, we’re glad they decided to leave that detail out, we'd like to think Dexter took a little longer to move on from the love of his life.

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