What the ‘Monarch’ Ending Means for Susan Sarandon on the Show
The premiere of Monarch on Fox stuffed a lot of drama into 60 minutes before it ended with something no one saw coming. Here's what it all means.
Explaining the end of Ep. 1 of Monarch will require a bit of setup. A half-dozen plot lines started, some with only a single scene or a couple of lines of script that you may have missed if you returned late after a commercial break, or started late because of the unconventional start time (approx. 7:45). Warning: Big spoilers ahead.
First, some bonafides: Monarch follows the Roman family in Austin, Texas. Albie and Dottie Cantrell Roman (Trace Adkins and Susan Sarandon) are country music royalty, but their success has come with a few sacrifices — and victims. The dark nature of those they victimized is still very much unknown. An ominous flashback that finds a woman (perhaps Dottie) standing outside a burning barn is obviously going to play a big part in Season 1.
Albie and Dottie's children are Nicky (Anna Friel), Gigi (Beth Ditto) and Luke (Joshua Sasse), and respectively, they are a middle-tier country star, a working mother with untapped talent and the CEO of Monarch Records, home to Dottie, Albie, etc. ... Anna also has two kids with husband Clive (Adam Croasdell), who is a total dog.
Okay, here come the spoilers — but we'll drop in this Trace Adkins interview to give you time to bow out if you're not ready.
Dottie has terminal cancer. Viewers learn that in the opening sequence of the show, when a People article cites an unidentified source to make it public. We later learn it was Dottie herself who leaked the news, and she isn't going to let the cancer take her quietly.
We also learn that Albie once had an affair, but he finds the courage to tell his wife about it. The thing is, she already knew, and viewers are led to believe the barn burning scene has something to do with that illicit romance.
Speaking of illicit romances: Luke and Kayla Taylor-Roman (Meagan Holder) had a tryst that she very much regrets because she's married, but he's very interested in pursuing further. Did you catch her full name, however? Kayla (a competing record label executive) is a Roman and not Luke's stepsister or something like that.
No, while Monarch packed in plenty of tawdry plot twists, it didn't go there. Kayla is married to Gigi, meaning she is Luke's sister-in-law. Previews show viewers that the affair blows up spectacularly at some point, no doubt furthering the tension between Gigi and the rest of her family. This is the central plot point. Gigi vs. Nicky is what we'll come back to each week, with 100 different secrets informing the feud.
As for Nicky, her husband has also been unfaithful in the past and is likely cheating once again. She finds out when ... well, that's not totally important right now. A blink-and-you-missed-it scene between Dottie and her lawyer is much more informative. She's discussing regular payments made to cover up a scandal — payments which end when she dies. The family will then get the "documents" needed to bury this transgression for good. Once again, all signs are pointing us to the barn burning, and maybe to Albie shooting and burying someone in a scene unrelated to this action (it happens three months after what's described next).
At the end of Ep. 1, Nicky is at Dottie's bedside after agreeing to help her mother take her own life with sleeping pills. The daughter physically opens the bottle and hands her the pills, which mother washes down with whiskey. As her life slips away, Gigi opens the bedroom door to discover what has happened.
Yep, Susan Sarandon's Dottie Cantrell Roman dies at the end of the premiere of Monarch.
Don't worry though, her character will live on through flashbacks and other haunts. Variety spoke with Monarch executives who promise Sarandon in many more episodes of Monarch, although they stop short of describing her role as regular. Fox President of Entertainment Michael Thorn says:
It was always designed that the matriarch of the family was going to die at the end of the pilot. But it was also always designed that the matriarch would then come back in several of the episodes throughout the first season in flashback. There’s two things happening in the series. The first one is, as you know, there’s the succession story of who will inherit the crown of country music after Dottie Roman passes away. But the other part of it, which plays out, in part, in the flashback, is Trace Adkins’ character says, the Roman legacy is really built on lies.
"Heavy is the head that wears the crown," is a line that Dottie says through much of the promotion of Monarch and viewers are now learning what that means. It'll be another eight days before we learn more, however — the show won't settle in its regular Tuesday night time slot until Sept. 20.