The Strays ending: What happened, why did Neve leave Dione and Carl in her past and *that* final scene that’ll haunt you

The Strays ending is seriously intense as Neve’s past catches up with her and it becomes clear she can’t go back to living her privileged life

The Strays ending explained. Seen here is Ashley Madekwe as Neve
(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

The Strays ending is intense and emotional in equal measure as Neve’s attempts to forget her past end in a dramatic confrontation. 

If you can’t help being drawn into the twists, turns and well-crafted suspense in thrillers like Apple TV’s Sharper and The Light in the Hall then Nathaniel Martello-White’s The Strays on Netflix might just be what you’ve been looking for. It stars Ashley Madekwe as Neve, a woman who reinvents herself and lives a meticulously crafted middle class life. Just when she thinks she’s got everything she ever wanted, two strangers begin to follow her around her picturesque town. 

Here we explain The Strays ending, what happened to Neve and why she left Dione and Carl as her perfect life unravels before her eyes…

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

Ashley Madekwe as Neve and Justin Salinger in The Strays.

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

The Strays ending explained: What happened to Neve and her children? 

From the beginning of The Strays it was clear that Neve was a woman with a past - in this case as Department Assistant Cheryl Blake. In the opening stages, viewers saw her abandon her former home, leaving a note that read, "Just popping to the hairdressers. Cx". A light-skinned Black woman, Cheryl had been struggling against racial and social inequalities, was in debt and had been pushed to breaking point. After declaring tearfully that she shouldn't be where she was and that she wanted "more", she'd had enough, leaving the note and her identity as Cheryl behind her. 

Just like Meghan in the Stay Close series and DCI Tom Brannick in Bloodlands season 2 Neve worked hard to conceal her other life. She started over in a beautiful Wiltshire suburb, was happily married to Ian, the devoted mother of Sebastian and Mary and a respected member of a predominantly white middle-class community.

But by The Strays ending her supposedly perfect new world had come crumbling down around her. Everything seemed to be going so well until Neve started to be unnerved by the appearance of a young man and woman everywhere she went, calling themselves Marvin and Abigail.

Ashley Madekwe as Neve in The Strays

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

By the time the credits roll after The Strays ending not only are their identities confirmed but you'll likely be left wondering exactly how you view Neve as a character. During the movie Marvin started to work as a janitor at Neve’s school, Abigail got a job working with Neve’s husband Ian. 

Integrating themselves ever more into the family, many thriller fans might have quickly figured out that Marvin and Abigail are none other than Carl and Dione, the children she left behind when she walked out on her old life. 

Jorden Myrie as Carl, Bukky Bakray as Dione in The Strays

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

Neve realizes this too but Ian, Sebastian and Mary know nothing of her past or the secrets that Carl and Dione bring with them. Eventually after a confrontation at her home in front of plenty of her friends, Neve decided enough was enough. She met Carl and Dione in a diner where they questioned why she’d changed her accent and whether she hated being Black.

Shocked, Neve responded that she was a “proud Black woman” and told them she wanted to apologize and that it hasn’t been a “straightforward journey” for her.

Bukky Bakray as Dione in The Strays

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

To which Carl pointed out that she had “never reached out” and that 18 years ago she’d said she was going to the hairdressers and never returned. Eventually, Neve admitted that she should’ve tried to get in touch in some way and had been thinking of how she could “make things right”. 

As it turned out this was to hand over a cheque for £20,000/$23,000 to Carl and Dione. This move was seen by them both as a bribe to stay away from her new family and though they seemed to accept it at the time, it sparked the intense final scenes of The Strays ending.

Justin Salinger, Samuel Paul Small, Tom Andrews, Lucy Liemann, Ashley Madekwe, Bukky Bakray in The Strays

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

After going home and admitting the truth to Ian, he insisted to her and their children that they would be keeping the family together. However, Carl and Dione weren’t prepared to let their mother off so easily and instead of heading back to London they broke into her home at night, locked the doors and turned on the kitchen tap.

Awakened by the sound of gushing water from the kitchen tab Neve, Sebastian, Ian and Mary came downstairs where a final confrontation began. It was here that Dione and Carl made Neve’s second family aware that her true name was Cheryl, just when they thought they’d already come to grips with her past. 

The break-in happened to be on Dione’s birthday so Carl insisted they order a Chinese takeout and play board games together to celebrate.

Jorden Myrie as Carl in The Strays

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

As the tension rose in the room he revealed the existence of the cheque to Ian who was genuinely horrified. All the while water continued to flood the pristine house and after threatening Ian, Carl took him into the home gym and began adding more and more weights for Ian to lift until he couldn’t hold it up anymore.

The entire time his ordeal was going on Neve moved around in a kind of trance. Answering the door and bringing in the takeout, she calmly went upstairs for her purse and prepared to take the tip out to the delivery driver.

Ashley Madekwe as Neve in The Strays

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

First she told her children, “I’m very sorry for how this has turned out. I hope one day you can forgive me.”

This was the last sentence Neve ever said in The Strays ending. To the astonishment of likely many fans at home, she took her purse and left the house before riding away on the delivery driver’s motorbike. Horrified and shocked, Dione, Carl, Mary and Sebastian were all left standing in the house staring at the door and processing her departure as the cycle of abandonment started all over again. 

Why did Neve leave Carl and Dione? 

Neve AKA Cheryl certainly had a lot of explaining to do when she sat down with Carl and Dione in the diner after they’d re-entered her life. She said that her decision to leave them was down to their father being a “dangerous man” and that she hasn’t completely abandoned them. Instead, Neve had left them with their auntie though this proved to be little comfort to Carl and Dione.

“She didn’t want us. She gave us away,” Carl countered her, his devastation at her leaving them behind without a word shining through. 

Jorden Myrie as Carl, Bukky Bakray as Dione in The Strays.

(Image credit: Cr. Chris Harris/Netflix © 2023)

The suggestion that Neve left Carl and Dione to escape their father didn’t seem to surprise her children and Carl simply said, “You weren’t exactly perfect either” in response. Neve also said the same thing about her former partner to Ian, Sebastian and Mary when she returned home.

“I was traumatized after the second birth,” she said and she seemed reluctant to even mention her elder daughter’s name as she continued, “I never even wanted her. Dione. I was forced.”

Neve added, “Who knows what would have happened if I’d stayed? If I’d be here now. If you’d be here, even.”

So it seems that Neve told Carl and Dione the truth about why she left them, even if she admitted there was no excuse for leaving them behind without any contact.

Did Ian die in The Strays ending? 

Unlike the death in the Happy Valley ending which was very much confirmed, Ian’s fate isn’t so clear-cut in The Strays ending. It’s heavily implied that he was killed by the staggering weight that Carl had forced him to bench press due to the noise heard from the room in the closing stages. Carl also leaves the gym to come back into the living room which it’s unlikely he would’ve done if Ian was still alive. 

Her husband being dead could also be seen as part of the reason Neve would choose to up and leave her younger two children as she no longer had the level of stability she once had. Ian is also never heard or seen again from that moment onward, again suggesting that he was killed by the weight.  

The Strays is available to watch on Netflix now.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!