American Rust Ending, Explained

Created by Dan Futterman and based on the 2009 namesake novel by Philipp Meyer, ‘American Rust’ is set in a fictional town in the Rust Belt, where the economy is on the verge of collapse and almost all unnatural deaths happen because of a drug overdose. However, when the police officer turned drug dealer Pete Novick is killed, Police Chief Del Harris’ (Jeff Daniels) investigation leads him to Billy Poe (Alex Neustaedter). As Harris is in love with Billy’s mother, Grace (Maura Tierney), his commitment to justice is tested. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘American Rust’ season 1. SPOILERS AHEAD.

American Rust Finale Recap

While Harris attempts to navigate between his personal and professional life, Isaac (David Alvarez), Billy’s friend and the one who killed Novick while trying to protect Billy, runs away from home, hoping to reach California and start school as he had always planned, but decides to go back. Isaac’s sister, Lee (Julia Mayorga), returns to Buell to take care of her father after Isaac’s departure. Her marriage falls apart when her husband discovers that she has slept with Billy, her high school sweetheart, since coming back to the town. Grace leads her co-workers at Gelsey Dressmakers in a bid to form a union, but the workers, fearful of the changes, vote against the unionization. This prompts Grace to decide that she is done playing by the rules.

In the season finale, titled ‘Denmark,’ Bobby Jesus, the drug dealer who was with Novick when the latter was killed and has since been on the run, kills one of his dealers, hoping to cut off the intermediate link between himself and the drug dealer who was arrested after Buell’s young football star overdosed. Billy is told that he will soon have to go back to the general population and face the Aryans. He later tells one of the guards to give a message to Lee if something happens to him: he has kept his promise.

Harris steals a car that originally belonged to one of the entries in the list that Jackson uses to source Fentanyl.  He then catches the other man as he leaves his pharmacy and takes him out for a drink. Grace calls at a designated time, and Harris pretends that the authorities have gotten permission to cross the state border into West Virginia. Harris leaves the bar, and predictably, Jackson follows. When Harris reaches the cabin where Bobby is hiding, there is a shootout.

Lee tells her father that she will stay in Buell from now on and take care of him. Henry doesn’t want this for his daughter, and perhaps for the first time in his life, he opens up about what happened to his wife. Isaac comes back to Buell with the wrench in his pocket. Virgil (Mark Pellegrino), Billy’s father and Grace’s estranged husband, pays a visit to Harris’ office to let him know that he has found his son’s old gym bag with photos inside in the tool shed in the Poe family’s property, along with an empty can of kerosene.

 American Rust Season 1 Ending: Are Bobby Jesus and Jackson Dead?

Yes, Bobby and Jackson are both dead. When Harris sneaks into the West Virginian cabin, Bobby tries to kill him with a cord in the same way he killed the dealer earlier. However, Harris shoots him through the head. He then kills Jackson, who arrives shortly after. As he tries to clean up the scene, Bobby’s 87-year-old second cousin appears and shoots him with a shotgun. Having no other choice, Harris puts a bullet in her. He then continues to methodically clean the scene to make it look like Harris and Jackson killed each other, and one of their stray bullets hit the elderly woman.

What Does Harris Tell Isaac to do in American Rust Season 1 Finale? Why?

Past seems to catch up with Del Harris in the season 1 finale. Just as he thought he had put Pittsburgh behind him, two detectives from the city show up, asking him questions about Chuck. Harris does his best to avoid these questions, but it quickly becomes apparent that the detectives know something they haven’t told Harris yet; something that places him at the scene where Chuck killed the former gangster before shooting himself.

Suddenly, out on the street, Harris spots Isaac walking towards the police station and realizes that all his carefully constructed and methodically executed plans are about to be undone. He rushes out, leaving the two detectives in the office. Isaac approaches and places the wrench with which he murdered Novick on the desk. Knowing exactly what it is, Harris tells Isaac to put the wrench back into his pocket and not show it to anybody.

From what Harris knows, Billy is about to be released from police custody as the sole witness in his case, Bobby Jesus, has turned up dead. If Harris takes Isaac into custody now, investigators will once more look into Billy’s involvement in the matter and perhaps even in the circumstances involving the deaths at the cabin, which can potentially lead to his doorsteps. So, Harris tries to put a lock on that particular Pandora’s Box before it’s too late. Unbeknownst to him, there are things already at play that can potentially bring both Billy and him down.

Harris has sacrificed his personal ethics and much more for Grace. He has done the very things for her that he didn’t do for Chuck and the other colleagues. Now, after his conversation with Virgil, he knows that Grace manipulated him into killing Bobby and Jackson so her son can be free. But Harris realizes that there is no going back for him, not anymore.

Is Billy Dead? Do He and Lee End Up Together? Is Billy Going to Be Released?

No, Billy isn’t dead. After he is released into the general population, he is severely beaten up by several members of the Aryan gang. He is subsequently taken to a hospital, where he is placed in a medically-induced coma. Grace later comes to visit him and promises him that he is going to get out soon.

No, Billy and Lee don’t end up together, at least not yet. When Lee receives the message that Billy left for her, she knows something is horribly wrong. But before she can find more about it, she returns home to discover that her father has taken too many of his pills and is now dead. Henry felt immense remorse for what his presence and actions had done to his family. His wife killed herself while his son ran away. Now, with his daughter staying with him, he was afraid that she was bound for a similar tragic fate. So, he decided to free her from the responsibilities that are keeping her in Buell.

With Bobby’s death, both the D.A. and the Sheriff know that they don’t have a case against Billy and will have to release him soon. Feeling frustrated and embarrassed, Sheriff Deluca decides to go back to the mill to see if he had missed something earlier. Billy’s jacket that Harris hid is still there. Deluca might find it and reopen the case against Billy, this time with evidence placing him at the scene of the crime.

Meanwhile, Deputy Steve Park figures out that Harris took certain equipment from the armory. Seeing that the police chief can’t move one of his arms, he has likely connected the dots and realized that Haris might be the shooter who killed Bobby, Jackson, and the elderly woman. Unlike Harris, Steve’s ethics aren’t compromised. He will most likely reach out to the D.A. and Deluca with this information.

Read More: Is American Rust a True Story?