Does the Dog Duke Die in Based on a True Story?

Created by Craig Rosenberg, ‘Based on a True Story’ is a comedy thriller series that follows Nathan and Ava Bartlett (Chris Messina and Kaley Cuoco), a couple living in Westside, Los Angeles. Although Nathan and Ava lead decent lives, they both feel that they haven’t actualized their full potential. Ava is obsessed with true crime media, and when she realizes that someone they know might be a serial killer, she convinces her husband that they should set up a podcast and invite the killer as a guest.

While the main narrative revolves around the dynamic between the killer, Ava, and Nathan, there is a subplot in the show that encapsulates their friends and families. Nathan used to have a dog named McEnroe, presumably named after his idol as a tennis player. He was forced to give him up because he didn’t have a backyard for the dog to play. It’s a decision he has regretted since. If the events depicted in the show have made you wonder whether McEnroe, whose new owners named Duke, is dead in ‘Based on a True Story,’ we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Duke’s Tragic End

When the series begins, a sense of unfulfillment has crept into the lives of Nathan and Ava. Nathan was a gifted young professional tennis player whose career abruptly ended following a knee injury, and he is now a coach to bored children and homemakers at a club. Meanwhile, as a realtor, Ava desires to represent Palisades mansions but is forced to deal in one-bedroom flats. In contrast, their friends are extremely well-off. Some inherited generational wealth, while others run successful businesses. It’s a point of frustration in Nathan and Ava’s marriage and is ultimately connected to what happens to the dog. Nathan was forced to give McEnroe to Simon (Aaron Staton), the husband of Ava’s friend Ruby. Every time Nathan visits their house, he desperately wishes to bring Duke/McEnroe home, but Ava, being the more practical between the two, stops him.

‘Based on a True Story’ employs this narrative technique in which characters envision certain scenarios. These scenes look extremely similar to the ones that are part of the main narrative and can’t be distinguished until the revelation is made. In episode 6, Duke/McEnroe has a scene like this, in which Nathan and Simon, standing on opposite sides, urge him to come toward them. He rushes toward the latter and bumps into him so hard that he falls into a fire. As Simon dies, the dog leaves with Nathan. It is revealed only afterward that all this is wishful thinking on the dog’s part.

Simon eventually kills Duke/McEnroe following an argument with his wife. During a party at their house, Simon tells Ruby’s lover that he will finance his business if he leaves Los Angeles now, and the other man does. As the situation escalates, Nathan grabs the dog and takes him to a room, hoping he will be safe there. But after Ruby complains about the dog’s barking, Simon grabs a gun and shoots Duke/McEnroe. He then comes out and points the gun at a shocked and horrified Nathan. This is when the killer, Matt Pierce, or the Westside Ripper, steps in between them and calms Simon down. Perhaps, it tells a lot about our psyche that we desperately want Matt to kill Simon at that moment. But that doesn’t happen. Nathan rushes to check on the dog, and his cries of anguish confirm that Duke/McEnroe is dead.

Read More: Based on a True Story Ending, Explained: Is Ruby Dead?