Anatomy of a Scandal summary and ending explained

Anatomy of a Scandal is a British drama series about a minister of parliament who gets hit by a serious allegation and how it affects his entire life and all the people around him. The series is now streaming on Netflix.

Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers

Plot summary

Kate Woodcroft (Michelle Dockery) is a talented prosecutor of the courts who often buries herself in her work leaving no time for little else. Her employees and friends have accepted this fact about her and do not push back much.

Sophie (Sienna Miller) and James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) are a well-respected family in London as James is a minister of Parliament and close friends with the prime minister. Their lives are turned upside down when the news of James’ affair with one of his employees hits the papers.

With the help of the prime minister’s comms officer, Chris Clarke (Joshua McGuire), they manage to weather the initial storm and James’ image comes out of it barely tarnished. His relationship with his wife undergoes some turbulence but seems to have found steady ground.

It is at that point that things go from bad to worse, as James is visited by the police because the woman he had an affair with, Olivia Lytton (Naomi Scott), has accused him of rape for which he will have to stand trial for.

Back in the past, Sophie and James meet each other at university and fell in love with each other. Sophie has a friend named Holly Berry (Nancy Farino) who is more of a bookworm and also finds James quite attractive.

Kate is handed the prosecution of the case against James Whitehouse and she gets to work on it in full earnest. James is stripped of his ministry but prime minister Tom Southern (Geoffrey Streatfeild) is forced to deal with the blowback for being friends with an accused rapist.

After opening statements on the first day of trial, Kate questions Olivia on the stand, going over the events of the particular day that the rape occurred. She gives her recollection of the incident while talking about their relationship but she also admits that she was in love with James.

The next day it is defence counsellor Angela Reagan’s (Josette Simon) turn to question Olivia and she attempts to paint the picture of a consensual tryst with her line of questioning and more or less succeeds.

Another glimpse into their college days shows James and Tom partying with members of their club called the ‘Libertines’. Tom is seen doing heroin with a friend of theirs when James pulls him away, but when that friend jumps to death from the roof after getting high, Tom and James decide to bury the fact that it was Tom who had procured the drugs on that day.

Chris is flustered because there are rumblings of another rape allegation against James, with the victim’s name stated as Holly Berry. When Sophie recognizes the name, her mind is thrown into more chaos as she begins to wonder whether her husband is telling the truth.

Kate seems to be struggling with some emotional burden as the case goes on longer and she reaches out to her best friend as well as her mentor for advice.

Things between Sophie and James tend to get even more frosty as she tries to remember what happened with Holly back in university. She looks back at the big party which took place the same night James helped Tom and remembers Holly partying hard and getting drunk but not much else.

It continues with Holly’s recollection, as James bumps into her while running away from the scene of Alec’s death. He then proceeds to have sex with her and leaves her in a distressed state. The reveal is then made that Kate Woodcroft is Holly Berry.

The day has come for James to take the stand, and it is a momentous day indeed. While he is questioned by Miss Reagan, he manages to construe the events that took place differently than when told by Olivia. It starts positively.

When it is Kate’s turn, she starts hard and fast and the whole ordeal turns quite heated, like a game of tennis where each biting question of hers is met with an equally sturdy answer from him. Somewhere along the way, he begins to realize that she might be the same girl that he bumped into all those years ago.

At this same time, even Sophie’s doubts begin to be cleared as to the real identity of Kate Woodcroft. At the end of the day, she goes to visit Kate at her office and makes allusions toward Holly but Kate claims she does not know who that is.

Things seem precariously in the balance and all that’s left is the verdict.

IF you have any doubts about the ending, here is a complete breakdown.

Anatomy of a Scandal ending explained in detail (Episode 6):

Laying it bare

Sophie leaves Kate’s office, more convinced that she is the very same Holly. Kate rushes to her best friend’s place and is stressed out because if she has been found out, she will lose the case and her career.

When Sophie gets back home, James decides to come clean about sleeping with Holly because he does remember it more clearly now. He insists that it was consensual but there is a sliver of doubt in his mind that he could be wrong.

The next day, both the counsellors give their closing statements before the jury as to the guilt or innocence of James Whitehouse in the rape of Olivia.

The crucial verdict

Kate and Angela get a moment to appreciate that the case is finally over. They praise each other for their work and the techniques used in their closing arguments.

Sophie is also experiencing a wave of emotions now that this ordeal is so close to the end. She goes back home and treats herself to smoke, something that signifies how the stress has been affecting her.

The jury reaches a verdict within 4 hours and it turns out to be ‘Not Guilty’. Kate is taken aback by this ruling and even Sophie feels some discomfort while James feels vindicated and elated that his life is back.

Omerta broken

Back home, Sophie and James have a real conversation about what they’ve been through and James admits that he used the filthy phrase that came out during the trial and has no regrets about lying in court. They end up arguing right there.

She goes to Kate’s friend’s house to confirm whether Kate is Holly and while she does not get a conclusive answer, her doubts are wiped more or less. Kate is really worried that she will be exposed and looks to her mentor for emotional support.

Sophie tells James that she is leaving him because she is finally aware of his true character. She gives it to him straight, she’s taking the kids and she’ll let them know what kind of a man their father is.

A while later, Sophie and Kate meet and Sophie tries to make amends. She tells her that she’s informed the press about the incident with Tom and James and the heroin and wants Kate to know that she’s doing this for the greater good, which is better late than never.


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