Revealed: the shock alternate ending to The Replacement

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Kayleigh Dray
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Please be aware that this article contains spoilers for the final episode of BBC One’s The Replacement.

Last night, thousands of us tuned in to watch the third and final instalment of The Replacement – the BBC’s part-psychological thriller which focused on the uniquely female topic of maternity leave.

So far, we’ve watched architect Ellen Rooney (Morven Christie) reach dizzying heights of paranoia over the unblinking Paula Reece (Vicky McClure), as she convinced herself that her maternity cover was out to steal her job.

As it turns out, she was wrong; Paula wasn’t just trying to steal her job – as a matter of fact, she had designs on Ellen’s entire life, particularly her clueless husband and her newborn baby daughter.

Ellen confronted Paula with her accusations, only to discover that Paula has been pretending that her long-lost daughter was actually alive. Oh, and she’d murdered Ellen’s BFF and colleague, Kay Gilles (Neve McIntosh).

Surely, thought viewers, this was grounds for Paula to a) lose her job, and b) get her ass thrown in jail. Only, as it turned out, we were wrong. Nobody believed Ellen, so she wound up losing her job. Paula then headed out to successfully convince Ellen’s husband Ian that his wife had been embroiled in an illicit affair with her boss, David. And, when a naturally irate Ellen took her to task over all of this, Paula literally threw herself down a flight of stairs to frame her rival for assault – which led to Ellen being banned from seeing her own baby.


As if things couldn’t get more twisted, Paula kidnapped baby Leah (handily balanced on a windowsill) and forced Ellen to down a packet of pills, before locking her in a booby-trapped car.

Thankfully for everyone watching, Ellen fought off the effects of the drugs, escaped from the car, alerted the police, was reunited with her baby, and dumped her disbelieving husband to the kerb.

Which was… well, it was a little confusing for some viewers.

It’s safe to say that a lot of people have a lot of unanswered questions.

But, when it comes to parallel universes, we know exactly what would have happened if events had unfolded slightly differently.

Yup, we’re talking alternate endings.

Speaking to the Radio Times, show writer Joe Ahearne revealed: “In a very, very, very early version of the story, we flirted with Paula's daughter being the one who did the deed. 

“We discussed that a bit because we thought that could be fun. Then the explanation for Paula's behaviour would be she's trying to protect her child and she's fighting for her child.”

He added: “But, the more we thought about it we thought, well, really the drama is between these two women so it's really got to be Paula at the end because it's about the two of them. 

“And also Ellen is the heroine so I want Ellen to be right at the end of the day.”

And that wasn't the only plot twist the team behind the drama thought about pursuing, as Ahearne revealed: “Another fan theory we had toyed with and rejected was Paula being an ex-patient of Ian's.”

The writer went on to admit that he doesn’t know whether Ellen will ever take Ian back – and he was keen not to elaborate as to whether or not she would spark up a romance with David (Dougray Scott).

“There could be hope for them as friends,” he said. “I’m not saying that she’s going to end up with anybody because having a man is not the solution to the problem of this drama.”

The Replacement is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now. 

Images: BBC


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.