Defending Jacob: Differences Between The Show And Book Ending

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Defending Jacob on Apple TV+ is actually based on a book — and there are some major differences in the ending of the show versus the book. Here they are.

defending jacob ending compared

Apple TV+’s Defending Jacob has been a wild ride — that just came to an end. Sort of. If you have not read the Defending Jacob book, then you might not know the ending is quite different than how the final episode just went. How? Don’t worry, I will break it down for you. The big question is which ending do you like better? The book or the show? 

If you haven’t read my spoiler free Defending Jacob review, check it out.

WARNING: There are MAJOR spoilers ahead for the ending of Defending Jacob – both the Apple TV+ show and the book.

I cannot stress enough how many spoilers of the Defending Jacob ending I am going to get into here, so please be warned. If you do not want spoilers, stop reading now — but of course bookmark this article for a good read through later. If you have seen it already or don’t care about spoilers, enjoy!

defending jacob

Patz Death

At the end of episode 7 of Defending Jacob, we see Patz writing a confession for Ben’s death. He is distraught and it seems as though he is contemplating suicide. At the beginning of episode 8, we learn that he did in fact, die that night. The same thing happens in the book, but then, things play out a little differently.

The book version: Patz dies and Laurie and Andy assume he was tying to save Jacob from jail. They still think their son is likely guilty, but are happy to move on with their lives. It is then revealed that Andy’s father, who is in jail for murder, hired a hit man to kill Patz. 

The show version: When Patz confesses and kills himself, Laurie and Andy are validated in their feelings that their son is innocent of Ben’s murder. But when Andy gets a hold of the police file after hearing it took a while to close, he discovers that guy his father hired to watch out for him and his family, was seen near Patz’s apartment that night.

He visits his father in jail, and learns that he asked him to make sure Patz takes the fall for this. The way he sees it? Another creep off the streets. And his grandson is free.

defending jacob

What Happens After The Trial?

In both the Defending Jacob show and book, the Barber family takes a vacation after the trail ends. There has been a lot of stress, so why not go relax. In both cases, something happens to a young girl during the vacation. However, there are some major changes in the series. 

The book version: The Barbers head off to the Caribbean and Jacob becomes friends with a girl named Hope. Eventually she goes missing, which makes her parents start to wonder. When Jacob’s mother discovers a red stain on his swim shorts, she becomes even more suspicious. Weeks later, her body is found. She had been strangled to death.

The show version: After the trial is dismissed, The Barbers head off to Mexico, the trip they panned at the beginning of the show. Jacob becomes friends with a girl named Hope. On New Year’s Eve they head off to a party together and Jacob’s parents tell him to text when he is on his way back to the hotel. When Andy and Laurie come back from dinner, Jacob is already in the room, and with a different shirt on. He states that he got in a fight with Hope about something dumb and changed his mind about the party. As for the shirt? He must have left his white shirt at the beach.

Andy breaks down and tells Laurie about what his father did, and she is now totally convinced her son is a murderer. Andy is thinking it too. The Mexican police show up and detain the Barbers, however, shortly later Hope is found. She is alive and says another boy at the party drugged her and kidnapped her. Luckily, the boy’s roommate got scared and called the police. So Jacob was not involved at all.

defending jacob

The Accident

Both the Defending Jacob show and book have an accident that probably comes as a shock. However, the outcome of the accident is different.

The book version: Jacob’s mother just cannot deal with the thought that her son is a murderer any longer. While driving him, she purposefully wrecks her car — killing Jacob instantly and critically injuring herself. It is revealed that Andy has been testifying at a grand jury hearing this whole time. Why? To see if his wife should stand trial for the murder of their son.

The show version: Jacob’s mother is internally struggling with the fact that he may have killed Ben, even though she knows he did not do anything to Hope. While on the way to a haircut, she is yelling at him to answer if he killed Ben and starting to drive erratically. Jacob denies it, but also yells that he did it, stating he will say whatever she wants if she will slow down. She crashes, very much on purpose, into a cement wall.

It is then revealed that Andy has been testifying at a grand jury to see if his wife will be on trial for ATTEMPTED murder. Jacob is still alive, but in very critical condition at the hospital. Laurie is in the hospital as well, although she is awake and seemingly going to live without question. She mentions that the nurses are optimistic about Jacob’s recovery, and that she just wants her family back. She also says that she did not crash on purpose, but it doesn’t really seem like Andy believes her.

defending jacob

So Did Jacob Kill Ben?

That is the beauty of it all. We don’t know. This question is never answered in the show or the book. The audience is left to wonder and make their own assumptions. I don’t know why, but that is what I really love about this series. I’m a fan of cliffhangers so maybe that is why? I know, I am crazy. My friends all think I am nuts for loving this ending. But there is something to say about just not knowing, and having to make up your own mind about it. So what do I think? Well, he is totally guilty. Right?

So which Defending Jacob ending do you like best? The book? The series? Personally… I go with the series. Leaves me wondering more if Jacob killed Ben or not.

About Defending Jacob

After a shocking crime rocks a small town, an assistant district attorney finds himself torn between his sworn duty to uphold the law and his unconditional love for his son.

Watch all of Defending Jacob on Apple TV+ today!

22 Comments

  1. It ist possible, that Petz was forced to write the the letter and be killed after that – and still be guilty. Petz had pictures of the first victim on his phone – he erased them.

    • 5 stars
      Yes! that is so true. He really COULD have done it. That is why I love the ending so much. You just don’t know. It is open to speculation and interpretation.

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  3. Geraldine Mellon on

    I haven’t read the book but going by this I believe the series is far better!! This is an accurate representation of what happens when you get accused of something, it is very hard to claw your way back. In the series there is a much greater chance that he is innocent. If I had been on the jury I would have said not guilty there just isn’t enough evidence to prove he did it even without the confession.

    • I read the book and watched the show. While I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I thought the book was better. I think it all comes down to personal preference. The show definitely focuses on the ambiguity, but I preferred the book version. When Hope showed up safely at the resort, I was disappointed, as I thought her death and the uncertainty around it really added depth to the story.

      I definitely agree with the writer of this article though: Jacob is guilty in my mind. But i can see why that may be the reason people prefer the series. My boyfriend did not read the book and was convinced he was innocent until the final episode.

  4. Wendy Hanson on

    I preferred the book ending. In the book Laurie knew Jacob was the killer (because of the Hope thing) and she tried to kill them both. The show makes Jacob’s guilt questionable, so it’s harder to believe that Laurie would do such a thing.

    • In the book she “simply” decided he is killer, and she acted on it.
      The show makes you feel what she did, the craziness of not knowing, frustration with no end. She crashed to stop that, not to punish nor stop Jacob.
      If I would read the book, I would not understand why she crashed, it made her crazy in other way cause she could do other things to stop him.

    • Book version, by far. I watched the series with my son and had to explain the differences at the end. I wish they hadn’t changed it.

  5. Definitely felt the book ending was better, with Hope being dead there is little doubt for Laurie. I felt her reaction was extreme in the book even knowing, she could have just had Jacob committed to a psychiatric hospital. In the show her action is even more crazy because she doesn’t truly know, how could a mother do this? Very weak ending for the show, and honestly felt Laurie’s actions weren’t realistic even in the book.

    • I also think that Laurie seemed more crazy in the show because you really don’t know if Jacob was guilty or not because hope wasn’t dead. But I also think Lauries „craziness“ and ability to kill her son could also be an indicator to show that killing also runs in the family. Like the therapist said that the „killer gene“ is passed on by the mother.

        • Antony Mason on

          If you think about it, Laurie could have been the killer of Ben. Perhaps Ben said something to her about Jacob and it caused her to lose her temper. She had opportunity because she was jogging in the park the morning he died.

          • That’s true. But there is one thing I keep thinking about. Andy is working in the law court as a prosecutor as a wish to make justice between people, after growing up knowing he has a criminal father. Laurie is working with kids, so maybe in the childhood she had been witness of something horrible that happened to a kid or even she killed somebody and now she believed Jacob got the killer gene from her. I don’t remember her to blame Andy or his father for her son’s behavior, so that’s why she probably felt guilty of. I think that, if they will make a second season, the story will either be about her past or somebody else that killed Ben, not related to Jacob or Petz.

          • This was my guess from the very first episode. She had a sketchy reason for being late from her run. Before we even new about Ben’s death I felt like she was always hiding something.

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  7. I think the things they left out in the show (like that dying cat noise at night, hope being strangled to death, etc.) were the things that made me sure that jacob was the killer. But since they left those things out idek who i think the killer is in the show.. Patz really came on innocent to me since he actually never touched that other boy without consent, but he was also the one having pics of him (which wasn’t in the book?).. so i think the show reeeeally tried to show him as the guilty one where the book tried to show jacob as the guilty one.. so again i would be VERY confused of why laurie would do such a thing at the end, if i hadn’t read the book and knew there she was actually SURE that jacob killed ben AND hope..

  8. Everyone saying they prefer hope dying as opposed to living in the show I feel like says something about them. I get there saying that makes it seem more likely Jacob was a killer if hope and Ben were both dead but both stories are trying to leave it ambiguous. People who say they prefer the book almost all seem to think Jacob was guilty. They have a bus built in to the sub conscious to dislike anything
    Disturbing there belief. But it’s still
    Ambiguous in both versions and it seems even more ambiguous in the tv series because now you don’t have 2 dead bodies. If the creator was intent on ambiguity then the series does this better but if they were trying to lean the audience in the direction of guilt then the book is better. I have consumed both versions I like both but I prefer hope. Not the person but the feeling, pun intended I suppose. The book makes it seem like there’s no hope the series makes you feel like he really could be innocent. This also comes up separately with Laurie, in the book Jacob dies and though she says it was an accident it’s depicted more so as a purposeful act and one I dare say she doesn’t regret. In the series it truly seems like she has no recollection of the accident and wants to salvage her family. Hope prevails.

  9. I absolutely loved the book. It stayed with me for years and I’ve recommended it to lots of people. I didn’t like the series. I thought it was slow. And Hope has to die to really make you think that Jacob was responsible for both murders.
    Also, the book ending is a shock, but it makes sense given that Jacob probably killed both people.

  10. I believe you can only prefer one of the endings if you have experienced both stories, specifically the build up to the conclusion. I haven’t read the book so, although from reading comments above, I prefer the TV ending, if i went through the experience of fleshing out the characters in my imagination (especially now that I know events played differently in the book_ I might have chosen the “paper” ending.
    There is, in my mind, one key “information” somewhat hidden in the TV version that “points” at the killer. This being an Apple produced show, it’s an obvious Macs, Pros and iPhones galore. Everybody’s using them. Well, everybody but… Patz. Seeing him delete the photos off an outdated Android was just the equivalent of him confessing to the crime in broad daylight. Some might not know, but Apple has actually extremely strict stipulations for not linking their tech to any movie villain. It can be traced back to the show 24 and there are countless examples of it. Of course, this rules Laurie out too, although, as some posters above pointed out, she would be a fantastic twist.

  11. Sorry, not having an edit button is not great… The second phrase should read “I haven’t read the book so I prefer the TV ending, although from reading comments above, if i went through the experience of fleshing out the characters in my imagination (especially now that I know events played differently in the book) I might have chosen the “paper” ending.

    Sorry about that…

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