Can the ‘Defending Jacob’ Book Ending Tell Us Anything About the Show Finale?

Apple TV+’s Defending Jacob — starring Chris Evans, Michelle Dockery, and Jaeden Martell — is based on the novel of the same name by William Landay. The show focuses on District Attorney Andy Barber and his wife Laurie Barber, as they come to terms with the accusation that their 14-year-old son, Jacob, is a murderer? 

Chris Evans of Defending Jacob
Chris Evans speaks on the screen with Morten Tyldum, Michelle Dockery, Jaeden Martell and Mark Bomback of ‘Defending Jacob’ | David Livingston/Getty Images

Did Jacob do it? Did he not? As multiple factors suggest guilt while others suggest innocence, the story takes fans, and the family involved on a rollercoaster of mystery, suspense, and emotion. With seven episodes down, and only one remaining, can the book ending help deduce what may happen at the end of the show? Let’s dive into what happens in Landay’s Defending Jacob, and what the show director has said about the show’s similarities and differences with the book. 

[‘Defending Jacob’ episode 7 and novel spoilers below]

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What happens at the end of the novel, ‘Defending Jacob?’

At the end of the seventh episode of Defending Jacob, Andy Barber’s initial prime suspect, Leonard Patz, is shown writing a suicide note. In the note, he confesses to murdering Ben Rifkin. Patz is a known child molester whose history of involvement with young boys, as well as his proximity to Ben’s murder scene fit the bill. 

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While this remains similar to the book, the last episode may have a few shocks in store that differ from the original plot. In the novel, Andy and Laurie assume that Patz confesses to prevent Jacob from going to prison — in an act of self-punishment, or an attempt to clear his conscience for acts he should have been sent to prison for a long time ago. However, they do not believe Patz is guilty. In the show, Andy seems convinced that his son is innocent; he refuses to accept otherwise, so a change of heart this late in the game seems unlikely for Andy. 

The book ends with the family going on a vacation to put the murder trial behind them. They head to the Caribbean, and Jacob befriends a girl named Hope while vacationing. Hope goes missing, her body turns up dead, and Laurie becomes 100% convinced that her son is a killer. She crashed her car with her son inside, killing Jacob and critically injuring herself. Yet, according to the writer and executive producer, Mark Bomback, such is not the plan for the show. 

The show’s ending for ‘Defending Jacob’ will reportedly differ from the book

As Bustle notes, Mark Bomback told Deadline a while back that the show will surprise fans who read the book as well. He said that the novel would “not tell the ultimate plot of the series.” 

While the show may not differ from the novel in its entirety, as several aspects have remained parallel up to this point, some big switches from the source material may be on the horizon.

The show seems to have two primary options for delivering on its promise to deviate from the novel. One: make Ben Rifkin the true killer. Two: imply that Jacob is the killer, but go about in a different way, leaving the truth undetermined.

Will Jacob survive to live another day, as Laurie battles with the conviction that her son is a killer? Does Jacob survive, die in a different fashion, or go on to live a normal life — never finding himself wrapped up in such a mess again? All remains to be seen when episode eight premieres.