'Based On A True Story' Recap And Ending, Explained: Is Matt The Westside Reaper?
So much happens over the course of just eight episodes of Based on a True Story. Peacock's latest comedic thriller oscillates between its two genres, and I have to say that it delivers on both fronts. While it initially suggests a neat wrap-up by the end of the season, it actually leaves you with a humongous cliffhanger. I would be simultaneously surprised and disappointed if we didn't get another season of this after that ending. Time will tell whether that is happening or not, but for now, let us get into what happens in Season 1.
Pregnant realtor Ava and washed-up tennis star Nathan have a marriage that lacks passion, a mortgage they are struggling to pay, and tons of regrets. Ava's only source of real happiness is her unadulterated passion for murder mysteries. Her rich socialite friends, especially Ruby, also share the same passion. They all get together every now and then to discuss the odd world of blood and gore. The latest obsession of the group happens to be a very specific serial killer who goes by the name "The Westside Reaper" (TWR is what I say from now on). The killer only kills young women around Los Angeles, which is particularly appealing for Ava and her friends, as that makes TWR literally their friendly neighborhood serial killer.
Life gets even worse for Ava and Nathan when both of them get demoted from their jobs. Ava goes from showing swanky houses to tiny apartments. Nathan is reduced to coaching five-year-olds as he gets replaced by a younger tennis coach at the club where he works. And if that was not enough, their toilet had to malfunction in a dire time like this. Unable to buy a new, shiny toilet, the couple calls a plumber to fix the older one. The plumber, Matt, manages to fix it and also recognizes Nathan from his glory days. However, trouble doesn't seem to leave the couple along as Matt spots a mold problem under the kitchen sink that needs to be taken care of immediately. Seeing that the cost of that is difficult for them to manage, Nathan offers Matt three months of free tennis lessons with him. Fortunately, the plumber wholeheartedly accepted the offer.
An unexpected friendship blossoms between Matt and Nathan, who soon become drinking and dirt buddies. Matt also gets friendly with Ava, and even Tori, the couple's young adult adopted daughter, seems to dig his vibe. On one of their guys’ nights, Nathan has an accidental collision with the bartender, a young woman with whom he had one forgettable interaction previously. The woman, Chloe, gets violently murdered on the same night by none other than TWR.
Yes, we all saw it coming. TWR might have been a pro, but he can't get away from a crime nerd like Ava. All she needed was to establish the connection between the bloody blue shoe covers the police found at the crime scene, and the squeaky-clean blue shoe cover the plumber uses while working. Throw in the scratches in his hands, which can never be "cat scratches" because the cat is imaginary, and voila, the plumber is TWR. While an anxious Nathan picks up his phone and dials the usual 911, Ava interrupts because she has a better idea.
Is there anything better than doing a podcast with the legendary TWR? Absolutely not, according to Ava, who manages to convince Nathan to take Matt to a very secure location—a secluded beach—and table make the proposal. Upon getting confronted, Matt initially blows off the ludicrous notion of him being the killer, but Nathan is adamant enough not to believe that. However, after a little bit of "Is he or is he not," Matt comes on board. He agrees to do the podcast, with Nathan running the show. Nathan picks an abandoned warehouse space following Ava's suggestion and waits for Matt to show up for the first episode. The idea is to keep his pregnant wife and daughter away from TWR. But instead of going to the warehouse, Matt shows up at the couple's house. Alone at home, a scared-to-death Ava confesses to being the "brain" behind the whole idea. Matt gloats about figuring it out all by himself, saying Nathan doesn't have it in him to come up with all these. He does agree to do the podcast with the two of them but on his own terms and, most essentially, in his choice of location. Given that the location turned out to be a high-end garage with all the coolest recording equipment, Ava and Nathan have nothing to complain about. Matt also gives the couple burner phones for communication, implying he means business.
Even with all the plans and precisions, the podcast, titled Based on a True Story by Matt, aka TWR himself, doesn't quite take off. With the first episode being downloaded by only 113 people, the disheartened couple lands at the LA Crime Con to observe everything, but most essentially, a super-successful rival podcast called "The Crime Sister." The couple's plan to have a rather quiet outing and come back with enough ammunition to make their thing better gets disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Matt. The unpleasant surprise only doubles down when they also bump into Ruby and her boyfriend, Carlos.
It becomes truly chaotic when "The Crime Sisters" duo introduce a woman called Dahlia Stone, a TWR survivor turned best-selling author. Matt tells the couple that he doesn't even know the woman, and she is clearly a fake trying to cash in on his popularity. Matt takes it personally and confronts Dahlia, and then warns her about her impending doom. While Ruby, Carlos, Ava, and Nathan are having a night of letting loose, Dahlia Stones jumps on a huge spear and dies. Ava and Nathan suspect Matt, but he denies murdering her, although he does mention the earlier confrontation. To take things to another level, Matt does a live podcast (of course, with him being invisible) where he proudly celebrates taking care of Dahlia Stones, who was a phony and an insult to the TWR's legacy. This time around, the podcast's fortune takes a one-eighty-degree turn, and it becomes the new talk of the town in no time. However, in the middle of all the drama at the crime convention, Ava accidentally loses her burner, which gets picked up by none other than Ruby.
I should clarify here that the whole point of doing a recap is to summarize the major events of a narrative in order to make some sense of it by the end. That's why I have purposely left out certain things, but given you are here after watching the whole thing, it shouldn't be a problem for you.
At a lavish party thrown by Ruby and her strange husband, Simon, a chain of events goes down. Ruby, who has also invited Matt, confronts Ava regarding the burner phone. Ava tries to salvage the situation by telling her that Matt is just pretending to be TWR and the reason behind the podcast is them being secretly broke and Matt being a crime-enthusiast. But she rejects Ruby's request to let her in on it. Meanwhile, Simon literally buys off Carlos with money and takes him away from Ruby, just like that. This frustrates Ruby further, and she has a huge fight with her husband in front of everyone. Ruby tries again to board the podcast train, but Ava shuns her. It doesn't take much for Ruby to figure out that Matt is not faking it, and she threatens Ava to reveal the secret. But Ava appears to be surprisingly unbothered—until a random tweet from Jessica Alba regarding "how inhuman the podcast is and why it should be canceled" disrupts everything. Standing on the brink of a cancellation thanks to a celebrity Twitter campaign headed by Alba, which potentially puts their upcoming Spotify deal in danger, Ava now tries to bring Ruby into the fold. But Ruby is too far gone, and she publicly blows Ava off. In a fit of extreme rage and supreme confusion, Simon shoots their dog, Duke. This enrages Nathan, as Duke was originally their dog McEnroe, and he was given to Simon and Ruby so that he could grow up in a big house with a big backyard. Matt manages to calm Simon down and also saves Nathan and the other guests from getting shot by the madman. At the same time, he gets a notification that Spotify is dissociating itself from the Podcast after a celebrity outrage.
We do see Matt stabbing the life out of Chloe, the bartender. But with the show's extreme indulgence in fantasy sequences, there is no guarantee whether that was real or just something he was imagining. My initial theory was that he was just a plumber with a bad marriage and a little kid whom we did get to see. And all he wanted was to hitch his wagon to the podcast and be rich anonymously. That theory kind of takes a hit when Nathan and Ava discover Ruby's bloody dead body with a pierced dirt-piece at her neck right outside their backyard, an anniversary present left by Matt. Nonetheless, we don't get to see Matt killing Ruby or anybody else other than Chloe, which again might be a figment of imagination.
A lot goes down before Ruby meets her tragic fate. Nathan comes up with the idea of saving the podcast by creating their own platform and luring the loyal TWR fans into subscribing. Matt, who's now dating Nathan's colleague, Mitchell, talks about his intention to make her his next victim to Nathan. Obviously not happy with the idea of any more killing, Nathan literally punches Matt in order to make him not do that. Matt does agree eventually, and all he does is abruptly break up with Mitchell without further explanation. To save their failing marriage and bring back the lost mojo of it, Nathan buys a beach house with sentimental connections for Ava. But that backfires as Ava, who keeps having erotic fantasies about one of her clients, a very attractive young man, has now come to the realization that a marriage can't be saved with materialistic things. The couple has an inevitable fight until they discover Ruby's dead body at their door.
Given they absolutely have no idea about "how to dispose of a body," the couple calls Matt for help. Matt asks them to come home with the body in the trunk of their car. Fearing Matt might do something to Tori, who is alone at home, Nathan and Ava rush to their home, only to find out a surprise anniversary party is waiting for them. There is no prize for guessing who is behind the surprise, of course. Already in a state of supreme panic with Ruby's dead body in their car, the couple gets further stressed when Simon crashes the party. Nick takes him outside, and at the same moment, Ruby's phone rings. Nathan somehow manages to stop Simon from seeing what he absolutely shouldn't see. When the party is done, Matt asks the couple to take care of the body because Ruby is their responsibility. While the couple is away, Matt gets intimate with Tori, hinting that there is already something going on between the two. After conveniently burying Ruby under the kid's tennis court at the club, which is a no-cctv zone according to Nathan, the couple returns to the beach house to scrub the blood off and clear anything that may implicate them. While they are at it, Simon suddenly barges in, gets shocked for a moment, and then ends up asking about the source of the blood.
With an ending like that, a second season is inevitable. It will be interesting to see how the makers of the show approach that. All we have for now is Nathan and Ava getting caught red-handed by Simon and Matt is claiming to be TWR. The show has intentionally left us here so that we can keep pondering whether or not Matt is the real killer. For all we know, it might as well be someone like Simon or even Ava's client.