Kaley Cuoco, the beloved television star, returns to the small screen with her latest series, ‘Based on a True Story.’ In this show, Cuoco portrays Ava Bartlett, a pregnant true crime enthusiast, alongside the underrated Chris Messina as her husband, Nathan. The story unfolds in Westside, Los Angeles, where Ava and Nathan lead a somewhat unfulfilling life. However, their lives take a dramatic turn when they discover that a notorious serial killer is someone they know. Rather than going to the police, they decide to offer the murderer a chance to tell his story on a podcast.
Despite its title, ‘Based on a True Story’ is a fictional work that satirizes the booming true crime media genre, which has gained immense popularity in recent years. For those curious about the ending of the first season, we have the details for you. Beware, spoilers lie ahead.
The series begins with a brutal murder, introducing a young woman named Chloe Lake (played by Natalia Dyer) who is gruesomely stabbed to death in her home. The story then shifts back two weeks earlier, revealing Nathan and Ava’s lives, which are far from perfect but relatively stable. Nathan used to be a talented tennis player, even defeating Roger Federer in a match. However, a severe knee injury cut his career short, and he now works as the tennis director at an affluent club. In a twist of fate, Nathan is demoted, and a younger man takes his place.
Ava, on the other hand, works as a realtor specializing in one-bedroom apartments. Frustrated with their professional lives, Nathan and Ava return home, only to find out their toilet is broken. They call a plumber named Matt Pierce (portrayed by Tom Bateman), who is, unbeknownst to them, the notorious Westside Ripper.
Ava is the first to suspect Matt’s true identity. As a true crime enthusiast, she is part of a group that obsessively discusses murder cases. After Chloe’s murder, Ava finds evidence linking Matt to the crimes. She discovers that he wears blue booties identical to those found at the crime scenes. As Matt becomes closer to Nathan, they frequent a pub where Chloe used to work. Nathan remembers seeing Matt leave the pub shortly after Chloe on the day she was murdered.
With mounting evidence against Matt, Nathan wants to involve the police. However, Ava proposes a different approach: creating a podcast and inviting Matt as a guest. Ava recognizes the huge following of true crime media and predicts that their experience could be monetized. Despite Nathan’s initial hesitation, he eventually meets Matt under the pretense of surfing and makes him the offer.
Initially denying his identity as the Westside Ripper, Matt eventually accepts his true self. He realizes that Nathan has been protecting Ava’s involvement in the podcast and demands that they change its name to ‘Based on a True Story.’ At first, their podcast receives little attention, prompting the trio to attend CrimeCon, a true crime convention in Las Vegas, to learn from successful figures in the industry.
In Las Vegas, they encounter Dahlia Stone, a woman who claims to be the sole survivor of an attack by the Westside Ripper. It soon becomes clear that Dahlia fabricated her story. Matt confronts her, leading to her accidental death when she falls from a building roof. In an effort to keep the podcast engaging, Matt claims responsibility for Dahlia’s murder during a live podcast session at the convention. This boosts the podcast’s popularity, but it also attracts backlash, with many condemning its exploitative nature.
To continue the podcast, Matt, Nathan, and Ava switch to a subscription-based format after social media cancels their show. Ruby, a friend of Ava’s and fellow true crime enthusiast, discovers the truth about the podcast and demands a front-row seat. In the season 1 finale, while celebrating their wedding anniversary, Nathan and Ava find themselves disposing of a body. Meanwhile, Matt identifies a new target.
As the collaboration between Matt, Nathan, and Ava intensifies, they make a pact with Matt to prevent him from killing again. However, they fail to realize the inherent danger in their plan. Matt is a killer by nature, and if they betray him, they will face severe consequences. Yet, they choose to create the podcast out of desperation for a better life.
In another intriguing twist, it is revealed that Matt and Tory, Ava’s younger sister, are in a secret relationship. The finale leaves viewers wondering if Matt will harm Tory, as she unknowingly fits his pattern. Nathan and Ava initially believed they could control Matt, but he quickly asserts his dominance, forcing them to become unwilling participants in his show. Tory finds herself caught between her family and a serial killer, making her a potential target in the future.
One unanswered question revolves around Simon, Ruby’s husband. Ava discovers early on that their friends and their spouses are having affairs, but she and Nathan remain faithful. In the finale, Simon unexpectedly appears at their anniversary party, seemingly trying to mend things. However, it remains unclear how Simon learns about Ava and Nathan’s new home and whether he knows about Ruby’s death. It is possible that Matt informed Simon to complicate matters for his collaborators and establish his control over them.
‘Based on a True Story’ blends reality and imagination, often presenting scenes that blur the line between what is happening and what the characters envision. The first season concludes with unresolved tensions and the characters’ entanglement with a serial killer, leaving viewers eagerly anticipating the next chapter.