18 January 2023
Donkerbos Episode 8 finale recap: Let Them Sleep
The discovery of seven dead children at an abandoned farm continues to mystify the townsfolk of Donkerbos, along with the detectives working the case who are chasing any lead they can find. We’ve met the killer, explored his motives, and now here is everything that happened in Episode 8, the final of the chilling Showmax Original thriller, Donkerbos.
Back to the present
Things have come full circle, almost, in the story of the seven children who were murdered in the small Limpopo town of Donkerbos. In Episode 7 we learned more about the person responsible for their deaths, the teacher Braam Pieterse (Edwin van der Walt) and why he did it. His actions were rooted in his backstory as the forgotten boy in the orphanage, a life filled with abuse and abandonment. We return to the present in the final episode of this dark series as the story picks up right after the events of Episode 6 in which Detective Fanie van Wyk (Erica Wessels) received a phone call from her colleague, Officer Wolf (Stian Bam), telling her Braam is the killer and Fanie looking Braam dead in the eyes.
Chaos erupts at the start of Episode 8 as Fanie keeps her gaze steady on Braam, who is staring back at her with dark eyes and his hand on the back of her son Kallie’s (Steph van der Merwe) chair. Kallie, like Braam’s brother, Sybrand (Wilhelm van der Walt), has no idea what is about to erupt as they enjoy their braai meat.
In a split second Braam takes his steak knife and holds it against Kallie’s throat. He says he doesn’t want to hurt Kallie, but it’s clear he will not go into custody willingly, while Sybrand battles to get a grip on the situation and understand what on Earth his brother is doing.
Sirens wail through the air as the police approach Sybrand and Braam’s house. Blood streams from Kallie’s throat after Braam nicks him in the struggle, then pushes him to the ground and starts running, with Sybrand hot on his heels. Fanie rushes to help Kallie, but as soon as he is safe with her police colleagues, he tells her to go get Braam.
Sybrand finds Braam at the abandoned building on their property, in a room that Braam has made up for a child, complete with a bed, toys and a couch. The walls are covered in painted eyes and sketches of the tree from the children’s book Der Mutterbaum (The Mother Tree) and decorated with shards of broken mirrors. This is where Sybrand’s worst nightmare becomes a reality: his brother, his Braampie, is the killer and is about to end his own life with a syringe filled with the same drug he gave to the children to make them “sleep”.
Before Braam can inject himself, Sybrand slaps the syringe from his hand and holds Braam down as Braam begs him to let him die. “Los my boetie, los my, hulle kan my nie kry nie,” (leave me, bother, leave me, they can’t get me.”) Just then Fanie and her partner, Detective Tsedza (Sanda Shandu), arrive, guns drawn. Sybrand tries to intervene, but as he shields Braam from Fanie, Fanie’s instincts take over and she shouts, “I’m sorry” as she shoots Sybrand in the arm. And the detectives take Sybrand and Braam into custody.
I plead guilty
In the next scene we see Captain Baleka (Thoko Ntshinga) again, as Wolf brings Sybrand to her. Wolf protests about protocol and how he can’t just leave Sybrand with her without booking him, but Baleka dismisses him. And as Sybrand takes his seat across from Baleka, the scene cuts to Braam in the interrogation room.
Tsedza reads the charges and places each of the seven victims’ pictures in front of Braam. Braam stares at the pictures and at first, he just whispers, “guilty”. When Tsedza prompts him to speak up, Braam says loudly and clearly, “I plead guilty.”
Tsedza asks whether there are any more children, but Braam shakes his head and says no. With the tension cranking up, the scene cuts to Captain Baleka, who sets her pet bird free from its cage at the back door to her office saying, “Deliver us from evil, Bettie,” – remember her granddaughter Bettie (Micheallah Marimbe) was one of Braam’s seven victims. Captain Baleka then gives Sybrand, who’s crying silent tears, the keys to his cuffs. She kisses him on the head and says, “goodbye my boy” and leaves her office, giving Sybrand the opportunity to run.
How did you know?
Back at Braam’s interrogation, Fanie asks how Braam knew which children needed his “help”. He reveals that he snooped through Sybrand’s police files that he left in his room when he worked from home, and insists that Sybrand had no idea what he was up to. Fanie points out it’s not going to stick: they lived together, they ate together, and no court would believe he knew nothing . . . until Braam admits, “Sleeping pills, you don’t taste it in beer . . . Sybrand knows nothing.” (Sjoe! He drugged his own brother and Kallie, too, as it is revealed!)
Braam tells Fanie how easy it is for adults to ignore the abuse of children. “Children like them, growing up without love, what happens to them, Fanie?” asks Braam. “They are full of pain, rage and hate and then you put them in cages (the orphanage) and then you expect the government to look after them? I never hurt one of them,” he insists, fitting in with his belief that death gave the children peace.
Tsedza says that additional charges will be laid against Braam for the murders of Spook Steenkamp (Eben Genis), the child molester who raped, battered and murdered his own niece in Episode 4, and Thomas (Caleb Payne), the boy who ran through the bush at the start of the season (read more here). But Braam insists that he didn’t kill Thomas, but also refuses to tell them where Thomas’s body is because he wants Thomas to rest in peace.
The next part is upsetting as Fanie gives Braam his book, Der Mutterbaum, which was given to him by the only woman who loved him, Renata (Rolanda Marias), his foster mother. They talk about the book and how Braam sees it as his calling. Fanie asks, “You know what happens next, Braam?” and Braam replies, “You’re going to put me in a cage,” as he weeps uncontrollably.
Later Fanie collects Kallie at the hospital again. His neck is stitched up and she gives him a big hug while he taps on her back in their secret morse code that he is okay (bless Kallie’s heart, always so understanding).
Back in the bullpen at the police station, Fanie thanks Wolf for cracking the case with his clue about Thomas and Captain Baleka promotes him to detective! (You go Wolf, you redeemed yourself!)
Various scenes follow as Tsedza tells Fanie to take Kallie home, adding that they will talk later (about her being investigated by internal affairs). They arrive home to Fanie’s husband, Jaco (Jacques Bessenger), missing again. Captain Baleka gives a statement to the media hailing Wolf as the hero who cracked the case, and we see the community come together at the church to pray, as Fanie stops at the side of the road to pick up Sybrand as the rain keeps on pouring.
Sybrand wants to know whether he can see Braam, and he pleads with Fanie to help him. “He didn’t mean to do what he did,” Sybrand tells Fanie, contrary to all the evidence that Braam absolutely carried out what he intended. Fanie consoles him and advises him to get out of town because no one will believe that he didn’t know what Braam was up to. Fanie assures him that she, at least, believes him. But just as Sybrand kisses Fanie goodbye and leaves, Fanie’s cell phone rings . . . it’s Marietjie (Nicole Holm).
The following scene is not for sensitive viewers. You have been warned!
Fanie and Sybrand arrive at Marietjie’s house, but Sybrand stays behind as Fanie and Marietjie enter her garage, where we find Jaco tied up and beaten. [For those who don’t know, Jaco has been having sex with Kallie’s best friend, Marietjie’s 15-year-old son, Francois (Marco Vorster, read more here). Marietjie found out about the statutory rape in Episode 6 and lured Jaco to her house posing as Francois].
Marietjie seems shocked by what she’s done, but her anger and disdain for Jaco are as scorching as Fanie’s. At first, Jaco tries to deny what he was doing to Francois, but Fanie slaps his face and reminds him that Francois is only 15! She tells him Kallie saw them, he knows what they did. She orders him to stay away from her and Kallie, climb in his f*** bakkie and leave town for good. Jaco tries to protest, but Fanie cuts him off and asks him whether there are more (other children he’s abused) or is it just Francois.
Jaco admits (finally!) that it’s just Francois. But as Jaco tries to explain that it’s not what Fanie or Marietjie thinks, and that they (he, a grown man, and Francois, a 15-year-old boy who cannot give any meaningful consent to sexual contact with an adult) love each other. The moment that he looks Marietjie in the eye and tells her this, she snaps. Marietjie pulls Fanie’s gun out of her holster, cocks it and without thinking twice, she shoots Jaco right between the eyes and he drops dead!
The cover up
Fanie, Marietjie and Sybrand, who are all in complete shock, race to cover up Jaco’s murder. Marietjie and Fanie clean up all the evidence, while Sybrand fetches Jaco’s bakkie, which is parked around the corner, and he speeds off into the night with Jaco’s corpse, disappearing from Donkerbos for good …
We see Fanie sobbing as she gets home, where she finds Kallie standing by a fire outside, burning all of his father’s pictures. Fanie tells him, “We can go look for your father or we can leave him,” to which Kallie answers, “We leave him.”
In the next scene, we see Tsedza back at the river outside his lodging, where he throws away the flash drive containing all the evidence that he has against Fanie as part of his internal investigation. Meanwhile, Fanie visits Braam in his jail cell and slips him a sharp piece of broken mirror before she assures him that Sybrand will be fine and that they did not find Thomas’s body, which is clearly a big relief to Braam. Fanie says goodbye to Braam, walks away, and the scene ends with blood pooling outside of his cell …
In the final scene, Fanie and Kallie arrive at Marietjie’s house for a visit. As Kallie heads upstairs to Francois, Koos (Mathys Roets), Marietjie’s husband and former Dominee of Donkerbos, asks whether everything is over. He can’t seem to believe Braam is the killer and asks where Jaco is, at which point Marietjie makes a beeline for the kitchen.
When Fanie and Koos are alone, he admits to her that Jaco came to him two months back with a confession. Koos knew Jaco had someone in his life, but he didn’t know that it was his son (another shocker, and also not much of a confession).
Meanwhile, in their own awkward way, Kallie and Francois make peace, eating koeksisters and watching a movie, while Fanie calms Marietjie in the kitchen, assuring her that what is done, is done, and nobody will find out what they did, so she can stop her worrying. Marietjie snaps out of her sobbing spell and tells Fanie, “Well, now I am going to teach you how to make banana bread.”
The series comes to an end with Thomas, as his skeletal remains rest peacefully at the foot of the Mother Tree.