The Girls at the Back sees five girls in their thirties embark on another one of their annual week-long vacations, with several caveats and conditions this time around that will change their lives drastically.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
Carol, Olga, Alma, Sara, and Leo — five girls in their thirties that have been best friends since the sixth grade, travel from Madrid to Cadiz to spend a vacation spending all their time doing what they’ve always wanted to do.
It’s a bit different this time, though, as one of the girls has recently been diagnosed with cancer. To stand in solidarity with the girl with cancer (the show doesn’t reveal her, nor do the girls mention her, until the final episode), the rest decide to shave their heads clean.
The main caveat with this trip is that the girls have to finish some challenges ranging from risky to criminal to life-altering.
The girls had all created some paper chits and each one of them scribbled onto their respective ones, a challenge they thought they should complete. The twist is that all of them have to do each of those challenges irrespective of who wrote it. They also can’t ask who wrote it.
The first challenge is to have a lesbian experience; the second one to get high on drugs together; the third one to commit a crime; the fourth one to resolve an unfinished business; the fifth and the last one to tell the truth.
Each one of the challenges unravels another facet of the girls’ psyche and pulls forward one or another feeling, want, desire, hurt, or question out of them.
A lot of buried feelings are put into the spotlight, and a lot of repressed emotions, anger, and frustrations are expressed as a result of this whiplash of a vacation trip.
What at first seems to be one last fun vacation before tragedy strikes the group, soon develops into a journey of self-discovery and liberation, with the bonds of friendship and beyond becoming stronger than they were ever before.
The Girls at the Back ending explained in detail:
Who among the girls had cancer?
It is Leo who suffers from cancer in The Girls at the Back. She has always kept her sufferings buried within jokes and distractions, whether it be the life-threatening disease or her father who’s an Alzheimer’s patient, or the painful relationship she has with her estranged mother.
It is made clear from the very beginning that one of the girls has cancer. So deep runs the bond between the girls that they all shave their hair despite the heavy ask that it is.
Throughout their trip and until the very final moments of the show, the girls don’t mention the name of the one among them who has cancer. It is in the final episode that the viewer learns the identity of the cancer patient, leading to a heart-wrenching sequence of a beautiful friendship.
Why do the girls not talk about cancer?
It is one of the prime rules the girls have set for the entirety of the trip. No one is to reveal the identity of the cancer patient among them, nor shall they talk about it in any capacity during their time together or outside the group.
The reason why they don’t talk about cancer during their trip is not to ignore it, as Alma tells her online followers at the end of the series, but to face it and befriend it. Since the girls will now have to live with it, they must learn to perceive it as part of their daily lives.
It’s understandable why they don’t want to ruin a chance for collective self-discovery and a good old fun hang by dwelling on the moroseness of it all. Instead, the girls focus only on the vacation for the time they’ve allotted for it, they already do a lot of crying at other times in their life.
Not being stuck on cancer also allows the girls to devote their time entirely to sorting all the mess that their lives are, or at least recognizing the mess and acknowledging it so that they can embark on the tougher journey that awaits them with Leo’s first chemotherapy.
Who is Palo?
Palo is an old member of the friend group who had a falling out with the rest following a conflict (borne out of what Olga calls “breaking a cardinal rule).
Palo was one of the besties from the school days but later on, she got together with Jon, the guy that Olga broke up with. She had upset Olga but eventually, they met up and fixed things.
However, Palo left and took off somewhere after that, dissociating with the group and never really resuming her contact with any of them, that is until the group decides to visit Palo at her doorstep, as part of their collective unfinished business.
Palo wants to continue not being a part of the group, though. She wants to lead a life of her own, away from the chaos of the friend group, although she respects their efforts to resolve unfinished businesses and discover themselves.
Do Alma and Sara love each other?
From the beginning, Alma and Sara are evidently close to each other in a more than platonic sense. They are the best of friends inside an already tightly knitted friend group.
Throughout the episodes, The Girls at the Back includes many moments of the two trying to confess to each other without confessing. They reminisce, many times, about how they always had each other’s backs and how they found comfort, ease, and fun in each other’s company from the start — things they don’t exactly have the luxury of in their current relationships.
Alma and Sara finally confess how much they love each other. Years of suppressing the mutual feelings and keeping them buried is a case no more, they’re free from the suffocation of keeping it within themselves.
However, the confession is still not enough for the two to finally be together. While Alma may not have much to lose, Sara has a family now, with a loving husband and an adorable daughter, and she can’t ruin this family to start a new one.
Do the girls at the back all resolve their issues?
Netflix’s The Girls at the Back is not so much about the definite resolution to the central characters’ issues as it is about the journey they take to acknowledge them.
Years of repressed emotions, guilt, regrets, love, and insecurities can’t be resolved after a week-long trip, no matter the profundity the travelers encounter and contend with.
However, that’s not what the vacation is about at all in The Girls at the Back. It is about recognizing and acknowledging their problems and issues and expressing them, not just to themselves but to their friends as well.
A close group of friends like that faces what may come, head-on, but years of keeping their individual, sexual, social, and familial issues from the rest of the friends have also allowed the girls to keep them away from their own minds as well.
If the girls had to contend with the unprecedented challenge that is cancer, they had to be ready to face the mortality with a clearer conscience. They can’t go on with the probability of one of them passing away before they can ever have some semblance of peace in their lives.
The girls achieve that, even if the road ahead might be the same as before. At least they now have the arsenal to begin resolving their issues and work on the independence and liberation they deserve.