After a season of uneven, largely expositional storytelling, we have reached the end.
The series set out to do something ambitious: Tell the story of an illicit student-teacher affair as the focal point of a show through a modern lens.
And while we didn't get a nuanced portrayal of this highly topical issue, we did get some closure, courtesy of A Teacher Season 1 Episode 10, so for that, we should be thankful.
Following A Teacher Season 1 Episode 9, Claire and Eric were both in pretty dark places before they separately realized they needed help.
However, instead of seeing how things progressed in their lives, we jumped ahead 10 years to when a chance encounter between Claire and Eric allowed them to say their peace finally.
While the show has used time jumps to its advantage previously, fast-forwarding a decade to 2024 felt like taking the easy way out.
The post-high school installments have been some of the show's strongest, partly because they delved into the direct aftermath and fallout from the affair.
Watching Claire and Eric struggle to put their lives back together and try to make sense of everything that happened until this point was a show worth watching.
But jumping ahead to the end, when both characters had seemingly clawed their way out of their dark hole of despair, felt like cheating.
Claire: Now being a mother, knowing I did that, I cannot understand it myself. It’s taken me so long to figure out how to live with that. Every day I think about what I should have done differently. I just want you to be OK.
Eric: You’re kidding, right? You called me here today because you’re sick of feeling guilty. I’ve seen you. I’ve seen your photos, your perfect family, your big house.
Claire: My life is not perfect. Yeah, sure, I got lucky. I found a husband for reasons I will never understand doesn’t judge me the way other people do, but like I can’t get a job. I can’t go to PTA meetings. The way other parents look at me. It’s a google search away. I am one click away from ruin. It’s hell.
Eric: You’re still making this about you.
Claire: No, wait, Eric, please.
Eric: I will never be just one click away from this, Claire. I have to live with this forever. So do you.
Those 10 years are when the most interesting character development would have taken place, yet we skip past all of that progress and growth and evolution to the place where Claire and Eric find themselves in the "present."
It's a wasted opportunity but somewhat necessary given the confines of the 10-episode order.
So, here we are in 2024, and life seems to have turned out decently enough for Claire and Eric.
The former is now a married mother of two, while the latter leads therapeutic wilderness trips for troubled youth.
Maybe not the life either dreamed of but certainly nothing to cry about until a chance run-in at the grocery store begins to show the cracks in their new lives.
Claire carries around a lot of residual guilt about their affair and how it threw both of their lives off course, but until she runs into Eric in the supermarket, it doesn't seem to be something that keeps her up at night.
Despite all of his blustering for most of the series, for Eric, the trauma of their affair is still fresh in his mind, always lingering beneath the surface.
His chance encounter with Claire nearly sent him over the edge, and even engaging in sex with someone as familiar as Alison was almost too much to handle.
Eric: I am sorry about what happened senior year.
Alison: Oh jeezus.
Eric: Oh, come on.
Eric: I’m just… I’m being serious.
Alison: But that was like a whole lifetime ago. Yeah.
His entire life was turned upside down after things ended with Claire, and while he has had to move on with his life, he's nearly been able to get past what happened between them.
Even his job choice shows how heavily the past 10 years weigh on him, choosing a profession where he can help troubled teenagers, much like he was.
Everything in Eric's life has been a direct result of this illicit student-teacher relationship. In contrast, Claire has gotten to move on with her life, only sometimes inconvenienced by her past.
And while their "chance encounter" was convenient, it led to a much-needed sitdown between the former lovers that had been 10 years in the making, though it was less than a month for us.
What the 10-year time jump managed to accomplish was for Claire to get off that high horse of hers and realize why their relationship was so wrong, at least in some respects.
She finally voiced what we've all been yelling at her to say for months, as she admitted to Eric that she abused her position as a teacher when they started seeing each other.
She also took responsibility for not stopping things after Eric kissed her, which was music to my ears.
Everything we had wanted Claire to say was happening until she put her foot in her mouth when she tried to place some of the blame on Eric for the affair.
Nothing that happened was Eric's fault, but once Claire got going, she couldn't help but try to play the victim once again.
Eric: Why did you text me?
Claire: I have been… I’ve been wanting to for years. I feel like such a coward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about reaching out to apologize, and I know that I should have, but I just wanted both of us to move on. And I was so happy you were able to go to UT and move forward with your life. I just didn’t want to pull you back.
Eric: I didn’t move forward with my life. Our relationship fucking destroyed me.
Claire: I’m so sorry. My marriage wasn’t working, and so I blew it up because it was the only way I knew how to end it. That’s not an excuse. You were the victim of that, and I shouldn’t have let it happen. I violated my role as an educator, and I should have never betrayed those boundaries. I should have… I should have stopped you. I shouldn’t have let you kiss me. I should have… I should have just turned you down.
Eric: Is that what you think happened?
Claire: You came into the classroom and kissed me, but I should have ended it.
Eric: You agreed to tutor me. You took me to UT. You insisted I call you Claire. You took me away from that dance, and you told me to get into the backseat of the car.
Claire: I never wanted you to do anything you didn’t want to do.
Eric: You’re in denial. Do you realize how long it took me to realize I wasn’t responsible? That you were the one creating those moments. Do you know how long I hated myself because I thought that I hurt you? I lost years, Claire. I saw my brother the other day. He’s 17 now. Same age I was. He looks so fucking young. I was just a kid, Claire.
Claire: I know. I know.
Her woes about how she's just one click away from her life being ruined felt false, especially after seeing how happy and picturesque things seem to be.
She has two beautiful daughters and a loving husband who found a way not to judge her for her mistakes.
She's even managed to make amends with Nate and Wyatt. Overall, life seems pretty good for Claire.
As for Eric, well, he's still traumatized by what happened all those years ago and is hanging on by a thread.
He hasn't been able to move on with his life, not like Claire, and Eric telling her off was a great moment.
He finally got to say everything that had been boiling beneath the surface, and hopefully, this confrontation will let Eric move on in a way he wasn't able to previously.
Saying all of this to Claire must have been freeing, and it was about time that Claire grasped the amount of pain her actions had caused.
Just because his social media presence suggested that Eric's life may be OK doesn't mean that's how things turned out.
Claire may have been able to lull herself into a false sense of relief that what she and Eric did had no long-lasting consequences, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Eric: So you’re married now? You have a kid?
Claire: Well, two actually.
Eric: You guys live in Houston? I googled you.
Claire: I’ve googled you too.
Everything we do in this life affects someone, one way or another, and it's up to us to make the most of what we've been given.
If you take anything away from this series, let it be that.
Some stray thoughts:
I agreed with most of what Eric said during his lunch with Claire, but I don't believe she was creating moments to get close and seduce, at least not at first. Claire crossed a line, but it's unlikely she set out to bed her 17-year-old student. She should have to carry what she did as an educator but not that.
The 10-year high school reunion was a good reason for Eric to return home and "run" into Claire, but I either wanted to see more of it or have him skip it altogether. The scene with his former best friends was too brief and barely provided any context for how they fell out of touch.
Eric's scenes with Alison were much better, especially when Alison mentioned that everything that happened in high school was such a long time ago. That may be true for her but not Eric and was a great line to show that dichotomy.
So what did you think, TV Fanatics?
Are you happy with where the show ended?
What are your feelings on the time jump?
Did all sympathy vanish for Claire after this episode?
Don't forget to hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts.
Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.