Why The Split season 4 was never going to happen according to the hit legal drama’s creator

Sadly the Defoe sisters won't return in The Split season 4 as creator Abi Morgan revealed her intention for the show...

The Split season 4 sadly won't happen, Nicola Walker seen here as Hannah Defoe
(Image credit: BBC)

The Split season 4 might not be in the works but according to the legal drama’s creator, the much-loved show was always intended to end this way.

Whether or not you’ve already binge-watched your way through the latest series to reach The Split season 3 ending, fans went into the new episodes knowing this was the beginning of the end. It was announced that The Split would be drawing to a close, meaning that the matter of whether lawyers Hannah Defoe and Nathan Stern would actually end up divorcing a huge question for the third season. 

And they’re not the only ones whose futures many fans were likely left wondering about after receiving a The Split season 2 recap, with Hannah’s sisters’ lives also reaching difficult points. With so much to wrap up, it's perhaps a surprise for some that there won't be a The Split season 4.

But why won’t there be The Split season 4 and how can you enjoy the best moments from seasons 1 and 2?

*Warning: spoilers for The Split season 3 ahead!*

The Split season 2 recap as Nicola Walker returns for season 3 of the BBC drama

(Image credit: BBC)

Why won't there be a The Split season 4?

Though we might hope they’d go on forever, all brilliant dramas have to end sometime and very sadly, it was confirmed last year that there would be no The Split season 4. Instead, season 3 was to be the last hurrah for the Defoe family, much to the sadness of many fans. 

Though it wasn’t a decision made lightly and The Split’s creator, writer and director Abi Morgan has revealed she actually always intended the show to reach a natural end rather than stretching it to The Split season 4.

The Split season 3 ending features Deborah Findlay, Annabel Scholey, Nicola Walker and Fiona Button

(Image credit: BBC)

Opening up to the BBC, Abi revealed that the “three-arc structure” was key in The Split, particularly when it comes to Hannah Defoe’s story.  

“I always intended it to be this three-arc structure, that was about the legacy of a marital split that permeates Hannah’s life, and then that triggers her own split within her own relationship, and then subsequent split in her marriage,” the creator explained. “Now it comes to it though, the hardest thing is letting go of the characters and the alchemy of that collaboration of actors.”

Despite this, the decision not to move forward with a potential The Split season 4 was not without its challenges, most noticeably the sadness Abi felt at having to let go of her brilliantly-realized characters and The Split cast.

She shared, “They’re very inspiring to write for and Nicola at the helm in the role of Hannah really sets the tone, so I feel really sad to let go of those characters!”

But regardless of the emotion involved, Abi decided to focus on telling Hannah’s story in just three well-rounded seasons. For her, it was important that The Split season 3 truly explored the idea of a “good divorce”, realizing that there were only so many ways she could break apart and reunite the characters. 

“In many ways I think there’s more story to be told, but because it’s a relationship drama, I mean how many times can Hannah get married and divorced?!” she said. 

“I guess it came back to that really, which was that this was always about wanting to take the sting out of divorce and look at what it means in our modern society now, how one can survive and come through the other side, and can you have a good divorce?”

Nicola Walker in BBC One's The Split

(Image credit: BBC)

“Ultimately this show, though it’s complex and conflicted at times, it’s about the fact that divorce is manageable and possible and shouldn’t be taboo or a sign of failure,” she added.

And according to Abi, there was very nearly another ending before The Split’s highly-anticipated return. She revealed that they filmed two possible endings for the hit legal drama as she explored exactly what Hannah’s “happy ending” could look like.

“Well, we’ve shot two endings! There was a lot of debate and a lot of discussion, and I think we’ll end up sharing (the other ending) eventually when we’ve decided which one we’re going for!” she told the BBC before the show’s release.

Stephen Mangan and Nicola Walker in BBC One's The Split

(Image credit: BBC)

“The most important thing for us was to show Hannah in a place that was hopeful and powerful and that there was a level of optimism, if not anticipation and trepidation for the future. We wanted to play around with it for Hannah, what would be a happy ending? And I’m always thinking about the audience, and I hope that we’re giving an ending that is both realistic and romantic,” Abi declared. 

Meanwhile, as reported by Hello!, The Split star Nicola Walker also addressed the ending at a press event for the final season, describing it as a “proper” finale.

"It's a proper ending, we've all been watching lots of telly in lockdown and I can't tell you how many dramas I've watched and thought 'I can't get those six hours back, that's a really disappointing ending,'" she said before adding: "I really don't think you'll be disappointed, it's a very, very good, satisfying one."

Cast members Nicola Walker (L), Fiona Button (C) and Annabel Scholey (R) photographed during BBC One's 'The Split' photocall

(Image credit: Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Although many fans will no doubt have been eagerly hoping for The Split season 4, the season 3 finale is, just as Abi promised, both realistic and romantic. Sadly, unlike what’s seen in so many of the best romance books, Hannah and Nathan don’t find their way back to each other and the divorce goes ahead.

Not only that, but Nathan finds love with a new girlfriend, Kate, and is preparing to welcome their first child together. Whilst Nina was betrayed by her former lover (and Noble, Hale and Defoe Director Zander’s ex-husband) Tyler after he tricked her into handing over £250,000 for a new house together before heading for the airport.

But by the final episode, she’s accepted the time has come to change her life-long pattern of affairs and lies and focus on herself and her baby daughter Cora and what makes them happy. Meanwhile, Rose has also achieved a sense of peace and found the purpose after negotiating the depths of her grief for late husband James. 

The Split starring Annabel Scholey and Fiona Button

(Image credit: BBC)

And who could forget the formidable family matriarch Ruth Defoe? The sisters’ mother might have been running away from marrying again despite her obvious feelings for long-time friend and love interest Ronnie, but romance caught up with her in the end. The two eventually tied the knot, bringing the family together for a wonderful celebration that showcased how truly wonderful their family unit is, whatever its flaws.

It’s shown that whilst Hannah and Nathan’s lives will be forever intertwined, there is such a thing as a “good divorce” after all. Ultimately, whilst many of us would’ve loved the story to go on in The Split season 4, the final episode is the perfect way to round off the long-running series in style. 

Where to watch The Split seasons 1 and 2 

Eager fans might well have already binge-watched their way through The Split season 3 on BBC iPlayer, as just like with ITV’s Holding and the recent Our House episodes, all of the final installment is available to watch now, as well as airing on a weekly basis. 

And it’s not just the third season you can make your way through there as The Split seasons 1 and 2 are also ready and waiting to be re-watched, bringing you the Defoe family’s journey from the very beginning. 

For anyone living in the US looking to remind themselves of some of their favorite moments from the previous seasons, they’re available to watch in several different ways. If you have a Hulu subscription then that’s the place to head to check out the rollercoaster of highs and lows of The Split seasons 1-2. But if you’d rather enjoy them via your Amazon Prime account then these early episodes can also be watched via this streaming service.

Whilst sadly there won't be a The Split season 4, the twists and turns of season 3 ensured that the much-loved BBC drama has gone out on a high as it brings the Defoe family's dramatic story to a satisfying close.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with seven years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.