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The Favourite Ending Explained: A Tragic Irony

The Favourite Analysis Anne and Sarah

The Favourite is a period comedy/drama directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, which explores the inner workings of Queen Anne’s court in the early 18th century.

Read on as I explore The Favourite ending and how it provides a final insight into the tragic irony created through the story’s shifting power structures.

The Favourite: The Story So Far

The movie is primarily about the relationship between Queen Anne and her two closest confidantes, Lady Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham.

Whilst Lady Sarah, the queen’s closest friend and adviser, holds significant political power, Abigail is a newcomer to the palace who seeks to improve her position in society by gaining the queen’s favour.

As the story progresses, the power dynamics shift between the three women as they engage in a battle for the queen’s attention and affection.

The Favourite Ending Explained Queen Anne

The Favourite Ending: The Build Up & The Climax

During the second act, Abigail poisons Lady Sarah’s tea, which results in Sarah waking in a brothel after she falls off her horse. 

As the final act turns, Lady Sarah attempts to regain her political power by requesting that Abigail be exiled from the palace.

However, Queen Anne, who is suspicious of Lady Sarah’s motives, refuses to do so.

This decision is a well-crafted pay-off to what has previously been established about Anne’s character. In other words, she is driven by her fear of loss and sense of spite.

In response, Sarah chooses to blackmail the queen, which briefly cements the idea that their romantic involvement is no more than a political tool for Sarah to enact what she believes is best for the country.

Because the trauma of her past twists Anne’s perception, she perceives Sarah’s blackmail as an act of betrayal.

Anne refuses Sarah’s request to raise the land tax, denying her overarching political agenda, before Sarah is removed from the palace.

The Favourite Ending Explained Anne Sarah

The Favourite Ending: The Resolution – One Month Later

A month after Sarah is exiled, Abigail enjoys her new position in the palace, though, of course, she is still tied to the duties of tending to the queen.

Abigail intercepts a letter that the queen is expecting to receive from Sarah and fabricates a lie that she was stealing money from the treasury.

Expecting to receive a final letter to arrive, Anne is outraged that she hasn’t heard from Sarah. This causes Anne to believe that Sarah has abandoned her, and she chooses to banish Sarah and her husband from the country.

At this moment, the writers lean into the tragic irony that Queen Anne has created for herself.

In other words, the manifestations of her character flaw have pushed away the woman she loves. Instead, she’s chosen Abigail, who has always been motivated by fickle desires.

The Favourite Ending Explained Abigail

The Favourite Ending: The Final Image

The final image of the movie carries a morsel of justice as the abhorrent way that Anne treats Abigail suddenly reframes the destination of her ascension into power.

In other words, the final image depicting Abigail’s fate is loaded with a sense of tragic irony.

For a deep dive into The Favourite ending, and to learn how this is contextualised by the script’s relationship between character and theme, click the button below to watch my video essay on the screenplay.

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Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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