An account of everything that engulfed the urban youth in the 1980s, Dirty Lines is a fictionalized retelling of the rise and fall of Holland’s first-ever phone sex line. It is the second Dutch series made exclusively for Netflix, following Ares.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Marly is a psychology student with overly strict parents who haven’t allowed to her move out and live independently yet. She never stays late at parties and identifies as a “prude”. Her friends ask her to find a job and move into their apartment but her parents, unsurprisingly, do not permit so.
Meanwhile, Frank and Ramon Stigter, already rich owing to the success of the Teledutch 06 phone line are filming an interview and showing the inner workings of the company.
Marly, hoping to get a job, gets recorded in the film. Frank uses the film to advertise and Marly’s parents, shocked, ask her to leave.
Janna, Marly’s best friend, works at a shop, at the back of which, Mischa is planning to open the club RoXY. Frank and his wife, Anouk are trying for a baby, Ramon is already a family man. Leon is the new sexology professor, a course Marly and her friends are taking.
Janna and Mischa begin to date. At a house party, Marly convinces Frank to give her a job, Ramon reveals his homosexuality to viewers, and the next day, the Stigter business expands from about 30 phone lines to 300.
Marly gets a job as a writer and content developer. Soon popular as the “sexpert” among her colleagues, she begins to climb the social ladder and lets go of her insecurities.
As the business grows, marital problems escalate for Frank, Anouk leaves him, and Frank resorts to drugs. Leon starts having an affair with Marly.
Marly is appointed in charge of a new project, Chatterbox, where multiple people can talk and connect. An English engineer is called to work on the technicalities of it. As it turns out, they have a rival at Rotterdam.
To delay him, the Stigters take him to an entertainment club where he gets drunk and on the next day meets an accident. Frank and Roman’s wife, rekindle their old relationship.
With socio-cultural upheavals gaining ground, and personal drama finding its way to the boardroom, Teledutch begins its new era.
If you have any doubts about the ending, here’s a complete breakdown.
Dirty Lines ending explained in detail:
Of walls and foils
The Berlin Wall is going to be torn down, change is in the air but for Marly, it is suffocating. She is unwilling to continue the relationship with Leon, who has left his family to be with her. Mischa has cheated on Janna by kissing Marly and the latter allows it.
Anouk wishes for a divorce and Frank does not want to pay alimony. Frank and Ramon throw questions of masculinity at each other which escalates into a fight.
Tax evasion notices hit the business and directs the company towards a major setback. Frank is bound to sell his property. Ramon’s wife, Natas breaks the news of their third baby together and Ramon cannot come out to her as gay.
Marly comes clean to Janna, the latter happily breaks up with Mischa. Marly calls off the relationship with Leon and decides to get a new PhD supervisor. Janna, as promised, brings Marly a piece of the Wall. They discuss the growing distance between them and resolve their issues.
The culprit for tax evasion was Uncle Jaap, the person overseeing their accounts. He had siphoned millions to the “Bhagwan movement”. Frank congratulates Ramon on Natas’ third baby, and they think of new ways to expand the business.
A new era
Ramon fires Uncle Jaap. Marly is appointed the head of The Netherlands branch of Teledutch. Frank takes charge of overseas business. Marley’s PhD thesis becomes a breakthrough in the research of female sexual arousal.
On 1990 new year’s eve, Marly reflects on the previous decade and comments on the optimism of the upcoming one. The entire team party at RoXy, which has become a niche club for house music.
As they usher in new hopes for the company, Marly, soon to become a world-renowned sexologist, takes an ecstasy pill for the first time. She wakes up next to Frank and Janna.