Netflix’s ‘One Day’ follows the romance of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley, tracing their journeys across two decades and giving the audience a deep insight into their complicated relationship by focusing on just one day each year. The story goes through many ups and downs, and all this while, the viewers root for the couple who always revolve around each other but never quite get together. Their long journey shows how far they have come, which is why the sudden death in the penultimate episode feels so much more tragic. While we know what happens, Emma, a question lingers about Dexter’s future. SPOILERS AHEAD
Dexter Learns to Live With the Grief of Losing Emma
Dexter Mayhew doesn’t die in the twenty years that the show covers in its fourteen episodes. He goes through quite a few ups and downs, especially in his twenties, and it takes a lot for him to get out of that cycle of self-destruction. However, he finds himself back in the same place after Emma’s sudden and tragic death in a road accident.
Dexter and Emma had always been in love with each other, but the circumstances never seemed to be in their favor. Emma was held back by her reluctance to come clean about her feelings, while Dexter was too wild and too much of a philanderer to give thought to his true feelings for Emma. Both of them were hesitant to let their friendship be affected by the risk of entertaining romantic feelings.
It takes more than a decade for them to finally accept that they love each other and explore the possibility of a relationship. By this time, Dexter had been on and off the bender, lost his mother, had years of brief (often meaningless) flings and relationships, cleaned up and gotten better, gotten married, had a child, and gotten a divorce. Getting together with Emma stabilizes him, and it looks like, finally, he has gotten a hold of his life, and there are only good things to look forward to. And then the accident happens.
Losing Emma pushes Dexter back to the point where he’d been after the death of his mother years ago. He didn’t just lose his wife. He also lost his best friend and the future they could have had together. In a sense, he loses his direction, his anchor, and floats around aimlessly, filling his days with alcohol, talking to strangers about his dead wife, and getting beat up in alleys behind bars. Her first death anniversary is particularly difficult for him, and it worries his loved ones, who show up for him however they can and help him through this difficult time.
The second year is not any good either, but at least, this time, Dexter is more in control of himself. He has an awkward, though supportive, afternoon with his friends and family, who didn’t want to leave him alone that day. He still drinks that night and finds himself drowned in grief and guilt, but he learns to live with it slowly. It takes three more years for Dexter to fully come to terms with the fact that he will have to move on. He might have lost her, but he still has things to live for, most of them being his daughter, Jasmine.
Five years after Emma’s death, and exactly two decades after the night they first met, Dexter returns to Edinburgh and takes the same path he and Emma did that day— from the university to her apartment building to hiking Arthur’s Seat. He returns to that day and its memories with fondness and a sense of longing, but he is no longer on the streak of self-destruction. Following his father’s advice, he is focused on having the life he would have wanted with Emma. So, despite his heartbreaking loss, he survives.