The Clearing Episode 3: Recap & Ending Explained: Interestingly, “The Clearing” is not precisely what television watchers would expect. Structural analysis of the show would suggest that it is less about the analog of “The Family” and more about trauma survivors who were snatched out of a cult and are still responsible soldiers in the perpetuation of the ideology of the said cult because being around that traumatic environment or being loyal to the matriarch is the only symbol of love these damaged adults know how to show and the blanket to which these adults would like to retreat themselves.
The Clearing Episode 3 Recap:
Episode 3 – Suffer the Little Children
This episode opens with Freya in her car, trying to keep herself together, while her three-year-old daughter is screaming due to hunger or any other reason that the child is unable to articulate. Finally unable to keep it in, she screams at the child’s face in frustration and walks out of the car and behind the seven-eleven, where the car is parked. We are made to understand that she had been gone for at least an hour because we see Wayne reach that area and try to jimmy open the locked car, managing to break the window with a crowbar.
As an ambulance reaches the parking spot, we see Wayne cradling an unconscious Max as Freya returns from her walk, almost in a fugue state. As the paramedics take Max away, Wayne catches Freya looking at him and almost glares back with a look of disappointment. The question that strikes and immediately takes over the viewer’s foggy brain is whether Max is alive because, in the present timeline, we see her taking care of her son Billy. So was this incident with Max the reason why Freya is separated from Wayne? But it does prove Freya’s overly anxious nature is also compounded by her fear of being unable to look after her children.
For purposes of ease, instead of dividing this recap into the distinct timelines of past and present, we are dividing them according to the personalities of Amy and Freya to sufficiently distinguish the two aspects of our protagonist.
The term “the clearing” was used by Adrienne to denote the LSD trip, which she helped her “kids” undergo and which we had seen Amy go through in Episode 2. In this episode, we see her vomit and then steady herself while working out with the other kids. From Anton’s perspective, Amy hadn’t witnessed “The Clearing” yet, which Anton could visualize only after three sessions. It seems that “The Clearing” is a fancy term used by “The Family” to describe a hallucinatory trip due to LSD, and Anton experiencing it after three sessions could also be hooking him to the drug and making him more malleable to “Mother’s” cause.
We also realize that Amy is begging to show a streak of rebellion, refusing to eat the bland food cooked by the “Aunties” and reminding and inducing conversation with all the other kids so that they too could imagine a world beyond the four walls and the grounds of Brickmarsh. Even the aunties’ threats to take her away from their family didn’t make her feel guilty. She is desperate to run away. Now, after experiencing the clearing and her diary being snatched away from her due to Tasmin punishing her, it bothered Amy enough that she planned to run away. She gets the chance very soon.
We also get a scene between Adrienne and Tasmin Latham. Tasmin used to be Bryce Latham’s wife before Bryce left her for Adrienne, or “Maitreya,” and the cult of full servitude. Tasmin, on the other hand, had trouble conceiving, and her loyalty towards Maitreya stemmed from the fact that Maitreya had given her a chance to experience motherhood by becoming an “auntie” for the Kindred. The true reality is, however, starkly different and manipulative, as is the case with Adrienne throughout her life if the events in both timelines are any indication. Adrienne revises their history by stating that she was the one who taught Tasmin about financial independence.
In reality, Tasmin exploited her privileges as a midwife at the hospital to bring the babies to Maitreya. That proved fertile ground for Adrienne to blackmail Tasmin, threatening to have her arrested for the kidnapping of Sara as well as false adoption. Still, because she chooses not to, she effectively has Tasmin on a leash, and having Tasmin always scared and trying to stay on Maitreya’s good side effectively ensures that Maitreya’s power equation is maintained.
The biggest indication of that power equation is shown when Maitreya suddenly decides to go out on a picnic with the children. Both the aunties and the children are confused. The “aunties” are wary of Maitreya’s mood swings, while the “children” are much more ambivalent. While some are ignorant of what a picnic is, others are reticent to bring up any reason why the picnic should not occur because that change in pace or location is enough.
This reluctance from every subordinate of hers feels like the power equation Maitreya enjoys inhabiting. But it also brought in a sense of complacency within her, as we see her enjoying an opera recording. This was enough distraction for Amy, who ran back to Brickmarsh, took her diary from Adrienne’s office, and just began to run. As darkness falls, she is spotted by the groundskeeper, who takes pity on her and offers her food.
When the picnic party suddenly became aware that Amy was missing, the groundskeeper called the “blue devils” or the police. As she realizes that the “blue devils” have come to question her, she begins to run. She had been taught by her “mother” and “her aunties” to picture the police as almost a bogeyman, as the first episode had shown the kids hiding beneath the basement when the police had come to conduct the raid.
But as Amy runs, she collides with a tree and loses consciousness. When she comes, she meets Inspector Joe for the first time. He had gone through Amy’s diary, and after coaxing her without forcing her to answer anything directly, Joe infers the family’s operation and conducts a raid on Brickmarsh to arrest the adults and ensure the kids are put in protective homes. But the main culprits were not yet arrested because Colin, Joe’s partner, had been part of the investigation. We can surmise that he had informed the ringleaders of the police’s interest in the cult. The location was cleared of all significant records and videos. Nothing significant was left behind before the police arrived.
We learn along with Freya that her house might be on the verge of being sold because strangers arrive at her house early in the morning with tapes and instruments to measure the area and record the data. Angry and flustered, Freya reaches out to her “mother.” It is revealed that the house was gifted by her “mother” to Freya. As she pretends not to know these current changes in her living arrangements, it again drives home Adrienne’s manipulative nature and her instinct to always maintain the power equation with her on top and in control. We follow Freya as she drives to Dr. Bryce Latham’s house.
Like the real-life administrative structure of “The Family,” Bryce Latham’s character is the one who supplied the cult with the “Brickmarsh” estate, as well as giving the cult a cover of legitimacy. As she enters that old Brickmarsh estate, Freya is overwhelmed with memories of her past and of “Amy.” On going through his study, she finds an eerie message that signifies the cult getting “restarted” once more. Her discussion with Bryce, too, did not help her. He was too lost in admiration of Adrienne and pride in the experiment, having completely drunk the Kool-aid and even pointing out that having changed her name doesn’t make Freya any different from “Amy.”
Bryce also advises her to stop worrying about the materialistic path and look forward to a spiritual one because that would be the only way to save herself from the end of the world. Freya’s hesitation makes us realize that while her belief in the cult’s grand plan is shaky, it is ultimately irrelevant to her core competency as a mother, and she just wants her son to be safe. But as we learn, the house had been sold to acquire more funds, further signifying the cult is on the path of resurgence.
We start to realize that Freya’s loyalty towards her mother stems from the fact that her mother has helped one of her “favorite children” financially. While her loyalty to her mother is paramount, we still see her reeling with shock as she finds Adrienne watching old videos of the children in the cult. The cloak of denial is slowly starting to lift from Freya’s eyes.
As Freya drove home with Billy, we saw a car following her. Stopping, she walks up to confront the driver, and we realize that it’s Wayne. Having learned her location from the GPS tracker of her mother Christine’s car, Wayne had been following Freya because he wanted to inform her that Max was missing. We learn that Max is alive, but she is with Wayne, and apparently, Freya hasn’t been in contact with her for years.
As she tries to goad Wayne by mocking him about his inability to take care of their daughter, we realize through Teresa Palmer’s subtle acting that she is also worried about her daughter. However, her suspicions are finally resolved when she realizes that Max might be the one following Billy. We also learn that Wayne wasn’t aware of Billy’s existence, which signified that both of them had tried to rekindle their relationship after the Max incident but had failed as well. It is also interesting that Wayne called Freya “Amy,” hinting that Freya’s name change had come much later, possibly due to a late revelation about her true parentage.
As they reach home, we finally see Max, the sixteen-year-old eldest daughter of Wayne and Freya, who has finally succeeded in making contact with her mother. As we see the two kids bonding, Freya goes through Max’s backpack, finding the birthday letters she had tried to return but was unable to because there was no return address. Max confronts her mother, and she wonders why she left Max because, having watched her mother and Billy for the past couple of days, she knows that it isn’t because she is an incapable mother.
As Freya tries to gather her thoughts, she forces herself to answer the truth. She was trying to protect her daughter from herself and her trauma, and as we have seen in the last two episodes, we still don’t know whether she has fully recovered from the trauma.
Freya got in touch with Wayne and told him about Max. When Wayne realized he had a son, he insisted on meeting Billy and introducing himself, but Freya was reluctant, having been almost blindsided by both Wayne and Max’s presence. Max added that the cops had stolen her cousin’s van as she was leaving. When Freya questioned Max about how she got her whereabouts, Max remained silent. At the end of episode 2, we saw a woman trying to contact Adrienne to learn her whereabouts. The mystery of that woman’s identity seems to be resolved, but the story is still murky enough for us to wonder whether this plot thread is moving in a different direction.
The Clearing Episode 3 Ending Explained:
The episode ends with a montage segment jumping through both timelines. As police raid Brickmarsh, we see Tasmin walking away without being noticed by the ensuing “blue devils.” The question of whether she is involved in the revival of the cult in the future, as Adrienne had promised to call in favors when the time is right, will be explored in future episodes, we assume. Similarly, we see Adrienne leaving the city and buying tickets at the airport, presumably escaping for a while until she feels safe to return, presumably accompanied by Bryce.
In the future, we see a hooded man knock on the door, having arrived in a red van. As we see Adrienne open the door, her face almost beams with a joyous smile as she greets an elder Anton, who greets Adrienne by calling her “Mommy,” his face adorned by a manic grin. We realize with dread that the revival of the cult is fully underway, and unlike Freya, Anton doesn’t seem to be shaky in his loyalty towards Adrienne or to the cause.