The Nest: 3 life lessons we learned from the Acorn TV drama

The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily, Mirren Mack as Kaya and Martin Compston © Studio Lambert and all3media international
The Nest on Acorn TV. Sophie Rundle as Emily, Mirren Mack as Kaya and Martin Compston © Studio Lambert and all3media international /

The Nest left TV crime drama fans with things to think about.

The Nest concluded this week as one of the most addictive TV crime dramas to come out of Scotland—while also leaving audiences with plenty to consider afterward.

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for the complete season of The Nest. If you’ve missed any episodes, you can stream all five now on Acorn TV.

While the series held viewers’ attention as Dan Docherty (Martin Compston) and his wife Emily (Sophie Rundle) embarked on a controversial journey to start a family by enlisting Kaya (Mirren Mack) as their surrogate, it unfolded as much more than a boilerplate thriller. And like the best TV dramas in any genre, it left an impact beyond just wanting to know how it would end.

Here are a few valuable lessons that TV crime drama viewers can take away from The Nest:

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1) Communication is key in any relationship

The premise of The Nest was complicated to begin with, but it got so much more complicated because of people either not telling people things or not looking at the full picture. At least some of the pitfalls could have been helped with some better lines of communication!

Dan was on to Kaya well before Emily was (to be fair, he was also the only one looking). But it took him too long to tell her, and holding onto that information not only made her angry at him, it cost him valuable time to do anything with it. You can’t fault him for struggling with it, knowing how it would affect his wife, but you also can’t help but wonder what would have happened if they had faced it together as a united front, instead of Dan carrying the weight and Emily feeling blindsided.

Every character had stories from their past revealed during The Nest, too, and the only one that viewers knew was public knowledge was Emily’s (she told Dan during an argument that he knew about her teenage drug experimentation). Was there a better time for Dan to have told her about how his business started than to have it dragged out by the press? Or did he just plan to let that lie for the rest of their lives? Especially since he owned his decision unapologetically, saying anything would have been an improvement over how it actually came out.

Again, there’s not necessarily a right answer. Not apologizing for what he did doesn’t mean that Dan wants to talk about it either, and he may have feared that bringing it up to Emily might mean losing her, especially if her story came up early in their relationship. But one would hope that the two of them learned to be much more honest with each other—after what they’ve just endured, there’s nothing they can’t work through as long as they’re on the same page.

And so much of Kaya’s struggles came from not being honest about her past, even with herself. She literally ran away from it, and if she’d been able to accept herself and come to terms with it earlier, she would have been better off personally and done much less damage in other people’s lives.

Plus, don’t forget Dan’s brother-in-law Callum (Bailey Patrick) not telling his wife Hilary (Fiona Bell) that he was selling Dan out. That’s not just lack of communication, that’s betrayal, and he got his well-deserved comeuppance for it.

2) Trust your instincts

If you’ve watched enough TV, you realize that shows often have to justify smart people doing stupid things, because otherwise there would be no jeopardy. TV crime dramas in particular have this issue, where the bad guys somehow get one over on the cops or get away on a technicality. It was something we saw in The Nest, too.

Dan knew utilizing Kaya as their surrogate was a terrible idea. No one asks someone they barely know to carry their child, especially an 18-year-old, even more especially one with some obvious issues. He said so, multiple times—watch the clip above to hear him fight Emily on the issue and remind her that she’s “not thinking straight.”

Emily ought to have listened to Dan, but if she had, it would’ve been a very short series. And heck, even Dan should have listened to Dan, and walked away rather than get pulled into something that ultimately cost him at least a large portion of his career. But he didn’t, because his instincts were overridden by his feelings for his wife, and his care and concern for her safety and happiness. And Emily was blind to so much while trying to get what she wanted for herself.

One’s instincts are not always right, but if you have a bad feeling about something, it’s for a reason. Dan’s spot-on when he mentions “due diligence”—at least take the time to figure out why you have misgivings. Maybe you work them out and then you can move ahead with a clear conscience. But if you ignore them, then you end up getting in over your head and you’re lucky to come out in a reasonable piece.

How did The Nest end on Acorn TV?. light. More

3) Never rely on someone else for validation

Perhaps the biggest lesson from The Nest is that we have to appreciate ourselves, and not pin our needs or hopes for happiness on someone else. Kaya is the best example of that; up until the very end of the series, she’s constantly attaching herself to one person or another, letting her decisions be driven by someone else—whether it’s what she believes they want, or what she thinks she can get out of them.

She is incapable of standing on her own, and she nearly destroys Dan and Emily’s lives because of her blind acceptance of the mother (Shirley Henderson) who never cared much for her in the first place and a manipulative reporter (Katie Leung) who doesn’t give a damn about her at all. But Kaya allows herself to be influenced by so many people without a single thought about how that affects the people around her.

Kaya isn’t the only one with that issue, though. Emily is desperate for a baby, feeling like she needs to have a child to be complete; she’s willing to go ahead with the surrogacy without Dan. Think about that for a second: she’s prioritizing a baby over the person she chose to spend the rest of her life with. She repeatedly rejects the notion that they can be a family on their own.

And Dan is so in love with Emily that he knowingly pushes past his better instincts and gets into several situations that cause him personal and professional harm. Emily doesn’t suffer anywhere near the fallout from the surrogacy scandal that he does. He bears the brunt of a decision that was hers—but that he went along with because of the strength of his feelings for her.

The good news is that The Nest sets all three characters on a path to move past this particular shortcoming. Kaya is last seen out on her own, looking for a new place to live, with the whole city in front of her. She doesn’t need or want anyone now.

Emily and Dan have the baby to focus on and are essentially starting over themselves; having fallen from grace will automatically prompt Dan to reevaluate himself, and without that pressing desire for a child over her head, Emily has some breathing room, too. Everyone has the chance to grow and get better; it’s just unfortunate that they had to go through so much adversity (a lot of it self-inflicted) to get there.

But that’s the lasting beauty of The Nest. It really isn’t about what happened, but the characters we got to know and love, and how they were affected by the journey. The mystery was solved, but the facts wound up being secondary to seeing these people evolve—and it’s hard not to smile when you think about where they’ll go next, even if we won’t get to see it.

Looking back at Line of Duty on its BBC One premiere. dark. Next

All five episodes of The Nest are available on Acorn TV. Start watching now with a 7-day free trial.