‘Ripley’ explained: How much does Marge know?
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'Ripley' explained: How much does Marge know?

Fleabag’s Andrew Scott gives a scintillating performance as one of cinema’s most talented conmen in one of Netflix’s flagship shows for 2024, Ripley. And he’s brilliantly supported in his role as the titular Tom Ripley by the even more impressive Dakota Fanning, who plays Marge, the fiancée of the man whose identity Ripley steals.

Fanning’s Marge runs rings around her counterpart from the earlier film version The Talented Mr Ripley played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Much as she seems to run rings around Ripley himself, too, by walking the finest of lines between suspicion and accusation, coldness and hostility.

As Italian police detective Pietro Ravini tells her in the show’s seventh episode, “Clearly you don’t like Thomas Ripley.” But she never shows it to Ripley directly, only ever hinting at the idea she suspects him of the crimes he has committed.

She appears to be wary of his alibi for the disappearance of her husband-to-be Dickie, whom he’s murdered, from the beginning. In a lengthy interrogation upon finding him alone at their beachside house in Atrani, she catches Ripley out when he contradicts himself by claiming that Dickie said he wants to be alone while also going to stay with him in Rome.

In ‘Episode VI’, she confronts Ripley about the boat Dickie has allegedly sold via “some broker” his boatkeeper, “couldn’t remember the name of, supposedly.” Every time she talks to him, Marge watches Ripley closely with her eyes narrowed, pausing the conversation occasionally as if to study him for clues. She later tells Ravini that it wouldn’t surprise her if Ripley were involved in the death of another man he has killed, Freddie Miles.

“Seriously, who died?”

In the last episode, she finally trips Ripley up at the house he is renting in Venice with Dickie’s money. She asks him out of the blue, “Seriously, who died?” as a joke about how lavish the accommodation is. He’s caught off guard, takes her remark seriously, and then answers it with a lie that could only arouse further suspicion.

He seems to completely give the game away when he accidentally says he hasn’t been “with Tom” in the third person, confusing his false identity as Dickie with his own real identity. Marge’s eyes widen with a mixture of horror and exhilaration, as though she realises she’s just caught her husband’s killer.

And yet, later in the episode, at the very moment the coup de grâce should arrive, there’s another unexpected twist. “Oh, Tom,” Marge cries as the jigsaw puzzle appears to be completed in her mind. Ripley turns and gives her a piercing glare with a glass ashtray in his hand. Ominous music intensifies as he approaches her, ready to strike.

“He knew he wasn’t coming back,” Marge clarifies, suddenly convinced that Dickie had left her after all. That he was responsible for Freddie’s death and had decided to kill himself. That Tom Ripley was in no way responsible for any of it.

Still, there’s a strange moment at the very end of the series, as Marge and Tom say goodbye to each other at the train station. Their hug is awkward, and Marge shows the coldness she retains towards Ripley, looking over his shoulder with a vacant gaze as their bodies brush briefly.

Is she just traumatised and grieving for Dickie? Or does she, on some level, still have a hunch that she’s hugging his murderer?