The Nest episode 5: Life at the breaking point

The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily and Martin Compston as Dan © Studio Lambert and all3media international
The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily and Martin Compston as Dan © Studio Lambert and all3media international /

The Nest comes to a sharp and introspective end.

It’s time to leave The Nest, and TV crime drama fans won’t be disappointed by how the Acorn TV drama winds down its incredibly emotional journey.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the latest and finalThe Nest episode, including the ending. If you haven’t seen it, you can stream now on Acorn TV.

“Best Interests” is the final movement of the series, in which Dan and Emily (Martin Compston and Sophie Rundle) battle Kaya (Mirren Mack) over the baby. While Dan is willing to do anything to fight for the child’s future, his past comes back to haunt him—and he’s not the only one.

Kaya has fallen in with her mother Siobhan (Shirley Henderson), and The Nest reveals what actually led up to Kaya facing a murder charge and changing her identity. And in no small footnote, multiple people get their comeuppance over this triangle that has become much bigger than ever thought possible.

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Dan Docherty finally gets off his emotional rollercoaster in “Best Practices,” but not until he rides it one more time first. Down to the end, he’s a really interesting character, because he continues to live his life in extremes.

Initially Dan is back to full badass mode, as he’s devastated and infuriated at having to fight Kaya for the baby he’s already come to think of as his daughter. When he decides to take legal action, Emily refers to it as declaring war, and that’s exactly how Dan is in the first half of this episode. This is a war to him and we get to see that fierce, uncompromising side come back out again. Dan’s at his best when he’s fighting, having a sense of purpose and the courage of his convictions.

Unfortunately for him, the bridges are burning. Thanks in large part to Kaya, the local paper runs two damning stories—one about the surrogacy and the other about how Dan start his business laundering money for drug dealers. As Souter (David Hayman) puts it so eloquently, the editor has decided that the value of this devastating scoop is worth more than Dan’s friendship.

Just like that, Dan’s world crashes and The Nest takes us back to that scared young man who’s sort of frozen in place. Kicked out of the house by his wife, Dan crashes on his sister Hilary’s (Fiona Bell) couch and stares off into space again, and you can’t help but wish that Hilary would literally slap some sense into him. It’s interesting how Dan, who is this strong and shrewd businessman, can so easily fall within himself when things get tough. You’d think that he would be standing on the gas, but it’s like he’s thinking about where he used to be and afraid of going back there.

There’s a pitch-perfect scene where Dan, tipped off by Souter, reads the stories that have come out about him. It’s sold entirely on Martin Compston’s reaction shots, and you can see everything come across his face in a matter of seconds. There’s shock, but then there’s also fear and sadness and it ends with him just numb. He knows that whatever happens, there are long-term implications and they’re not good, and it’s watching him try to process all of that emotionally. There are very few actors who not only have that kind of range but can convey it so eloquently, and Compston is one of them.

It’s a gutsy move in Taylor’s script, too, that Dan doesn’t apologize for the choices he made in the past. He’s not proud of taking drug money, but he’s not ashamed of it. It’d be way too easy for him to make a mea culpa and break down in tears, but a much tougher choice (in the writing and for the character) for him to own his decisions and explain why he made them. Dan’s a realist, as we have seen time and again, and the show gives him the maturity to understand the error of his ways but also doesn’t backpedal on his character either.

Ultimately, everything that Dan feared in the first episode comes true. He loses everything he’d worked for in order to gain a family. The Nest concludes with him and Emily having custody of the baby (although their lawyer cautions that it’s “not permanent,” so make of that what you will). But it also shows that they’ve moved to a new, smaller house with different cars, so presumably he wasn’t able to salvage his business, or at least all of it.

But that essentially turns the tables for him. Dan started out on the cautious side while Emily was desperate for a family; he ended up being the one more emotionally connected to the baby and now their family is his priority. That has to change who he is fundamentally. How will it affect his self-perception? He was proud of what he’d built and the man he became, and while the former isn’t there anymore, does that really have much to do with the latter? He’s still a great husband and he’s going to be a wonderful father. He still has purpose; it’s just a different one.

That being said, you’d like to see him build his way up again just because it’s also crushing to see him lose what he earned. The baby doesn’t solve all Dan and Emily’s problems; is his reputation still tainted? What is he doing now? He obviously needs some new friends. The Nest leaves all that up to interpretation. Hopefully, with his wife and the baby and his sister, he can start again.

One must also give a shoutout to Fiona Bell, who has some of the best scenes in The Nest finale even though she’s in a supporting role. Not only does Hilary say to Emily what is well overdue, but it’s a shocker to discover that her husband was so disgruntled about Dan’s influence in their lives that he betrayed him. Bell is brilliant as Hilary tearfully tells her spouse that he’s “destroyed” her brother—not his business, his marriage.

And the fact that she doesn’t take him back at the end is another huge plus. It would also have been easy to patch that back up, but who wants to be with someone who has no loyalty? So good on Hilary, and bravo to Bell for being the unsung heroine of this show.

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What’s interesting about “Best Interests” from Emily’s perspective is that she gets a bit of what for from both Dan and Hilary. Both of them point out that she lives in a bit of a fantasy world that favors her, where everything’s supposed to work out and she gets what she wants. They’re not wrong; it’s Emily who really pushed play on this whole nightmare scenario by telling Dan that she valued having a baby more than their marriage. He followed her down the rabbit hole.

It’s no shocker that Emily didn’t know about Dan’s history, and that The Nest has her throw him out over it. Based on what we just learned in the previous episode about her past and the way she reacted to the other things he omitted, there was no way she wasn’t going to be upset. But it’s refreshing that she ultimately finds her way back to him; a lesser script would have gone for the shock value of burning their marriage to the ground. Yet given Dan’s truly unconditional love for his wife, going well past his better judgment, it wouldn’t feel right if she hadn’t returned the loyalty.

Loyalty is a big theme in this episode, as The Nest sees people close to both Dan and Kaya be the people who ultimately stab them in the back. It shows that those who really care about you will be there for you at your absolute worst. The scene where Emily finds Dan drinking in the literal wreck of his restaurant is beautiful and poignant; it shows why their marriage works. They complement each other; each one has something that the other one doesn’t. And just like Dan was there for her as she struggled through wanting to have a child, as Dan goes to pieces now, Emily is there to hold him together.

She now has what she wanted—only time will tell if it’s really worth it, since we don’t know what they lost in the six months that elapsed before their taking custody of the baby or much about where they ended up afterward. But Emily seems to be more aware of her own self-image, and her husband’s point of view and his needs, too. She was increasingly self-centered, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not, at the start of the series. Learning to live for others is not only part of a marriage, but it’s even bigger part of being a parent, so the realizations that Emily has come to are exactly what she needed to be on the path that she chose for herself.

And what about the relationship between her and Kaya? Though Emily walked away from her in the last scene they shared together, The Nest also has them talking cordially later on. But are they just talking because they should (because of the baby), or is that friendship going to be salvagable someday? (And if so, what’s Dan going to say about it?)


It finally happened: Kaya started living for herself and told everyone else to take a hike by the conclusion of The Nest. Granted, that took place only after she did irreparable damage to Dan’s life, but it did happen.

“Best Interests” started in that weird grey area again, where we were supposed to care about Kaya but watched her demonstrate that she either didn’t care or didn’t know any better. She got angry at her mother for bringing reporter Eleanor (Katie Leung) to their doorstep and making her a public spectacle—but still let them both in the door anyway. And for a large part of this episode, she was still caught up in her mother’s whims, despite all their bad history.

However, she got a clue and so did the audience. In flashbacks, The Nest revealed that Kaya had not intentionally killed anyone; she had taken the knife off her mother to keep Siobhan from using it on Siobhan’s pregnant sister. But in the ensuing scuffle, the sister got stabbed anyway, and Siobhan was happy for Kaya to take the blame both then and now. Realizing the gravity of what she had done to the Dochertys and her mother’s ruthlessness, Kaya cut ties.

She also came back around to where she’d been originally on this whole concept: she didn’t want to be a mother. Her closing scenes have her telling Emily that she’s looking at apartments, and then looking out at the whole city laid out in front of her. Clearly, she’s off to live the rest of her own life somewhere. It’s not entirely clear if that includes keeping in contact with the child, but honestly, this is a rare case where it doesn’t necessarily matter. Given how little sense of self Kaya seems to have, the best thing she can do is live for herself, define herself, and then try to build (or rebuild) relationships with others. You can’t do well for others unless you’re well yourself.

Final thoughts

Kudos must be given to Nicole Taylor for the entire series, but particularly for hitting the absolute right note with the ending, which many other writers would have missed by a mile. The Nest is so good that you want to know what happens next for these characters (where is Kaya going? Is Dan set on a new career track?) but you’re also satisfied with where it lands. You know enough to give closure to the specific issues that the miniseries raised, but you also can’t help but look forward to the future for everyone involved—which is also what the characters are doing. When we leave them, our protagonists and the audience are on exactly the same page.

There are so many cliched ways this could have dovetailed, and Taylor avoids every single one of them. She also avoids making any heavy-handed statement, trying to force a particular point of view on the audience. Surely viewers will have one—the best TV shows leave us talking—but her script isn’t making a grand social proclamation about surrogacy or parenthood. She’s telling a tale about these specific people, and while she ripped all their lives to shreds over five episodes, she also left them in a place where we feel good about them and not like we wasted our time caring. Every series should be an experience, and with The Nest, you walk away with a sense of hope. It took the wrong way round, but there’s now a right way ahead.

The term “psychological drama” is so overused; most of the time it just means a writer is using it to try and make things seem deeper than they are. But in this case, Nicole Taylor and an incredible cast did give us legitimate insight into the hearts and minds of these three characters. The script gave room for Dan, Emily and Kaya to breathe, and Compston, Rundle and Mack are actors who can take those intangibles and make them palpable. They brought the emotion that this script needed to succeed, and they did it with dignity and grace.

We want another series just because the performances were so good and these characters have become so fascinating, but at the same time, we don’t need it. The Nest might have started out as a TV crime drama, but it actually ended up being about what makes these people tick, how they make each other better, and how they’ve all got room to fly.

Next. The Nest interview with Martin Compston. dark

All five episodes of The Nest are now streaming on Acorn TV. Watch the complete series now with a 7-day free trial.