NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy

October 30, 1969 – Somewhere in North Carolina, two boys are riding their bikes through the woods. They come across a marsh where they find the body of a young man named Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson). The boys call the police and are met by Sheriff Jackson (Bill Kelly) and Deputy Perdue (Jayson Warner Smith). The two observe that Chase fell from a high tower, either due to falling through a broken hatch door or because someone may have pushed him.

People in town learn of Chase’s death and suspect the “Marsh Girl”, a young woman named Catherine Danielle Clark/”Kya” (Daisy Edgar-Jones). Kya learns that people are looking for her, and she attempts to make her escape, but Jackson and other officers ride by the swamp and apprehend her.

Kya is taken into custody, where she is met by a lawyer, Tom Milton (David Straithairn). He tells her that in order to help her, he needs to get an idea of who she is. Kya is quiet but begins talking and telling her story before Tom leaves.

1952 – As a child, Kya (here played by JoJo Regina) lived with her Ma (Ahna O’Reilly), older siblings Murph (Toby Nichols), Mandy (Adeleine Whittle), Missy (Emma Willoughby), and Jodie (Will Bundon), and their abusive Pa (Garrett Dillahunt). After being unable to endure him any longer, the family slowly starts running away from home. Ma goes first, with Kya chasing after her. Murph, Mandy, and Missy follow suit later, and Jodie eventually leaves. He tells Kya to go “where the crawdads sing” if she needs to get away, but Kya insists on staying in the hopes that Ma might come back.

Kya spends time with her father fishing, the few times where he is not cruel to her. He gives her a knapsack so she starts collecting seashells and feathers. Near the marsh is a boy named Tate Walker (Luke David Blumm), who is kind to Kya and becomes her friend. Kya goes into town, where the only people who are kind to her and don’t judge her dirty, unkempt appearance is shop keeper Jimmy Madison (Sterling Macer, Jr) and his wife Mabel (Michael Hyatt). Mabel encourages Kya to go to school after giving her new clothes. She runs into Tom, who directs her toward the school. While Kya attempts to be educated, the other kids are nasty to her over her appearance, so she runs away and never goes back. Back at home, she finds a letter in the mail from Ma, but Pa takes it and reads it before burning it so Kya cannot see what it says. Pa goes back to drinking and essentially abandons Kya, leaving her all alone in the house.

Back in the present, the lawyer for the Andrews family does his best to condemn Kya, which most people already have done due to public opinion and the persistent rumors of her nature. Tom does his best to keep Kya calm and to prove that there is no justifiable evidence to prove that Kya was at fault for Chase’s death.

1962 – As Kya got older, she began drawing shells and other things she would find in the marsh. She is met by an older Tate (now played by Taylor John Smith). He helps her read and write so she can document her findings better, and he encourages her to send her drawings and writings to publishers. The two get closer, with Tate telling her his own backstory involving his mother and sister. Kya and Tate fall in love and almost make love for the first time by the river, but Tate changes his mind for fear that he might ruin Kya’s life more.

Tate is accepted into college, meaning he will be leaving Kya for an undetermined amount of time. Although she is upset, she allows him to spend one more night with her. Eventually, Kya comes to resent Tate for leaving her.

1965 – Kya meets Chase as he is with his friends near the water. He approaches her and is friendly with her. Kya and Chase begin their own relationship, and Chase takes Kya’s virginity, even though it is short and unsatisfying for her. He takes her to the same tower where he is later found dead. She later gives him a seashell necklace, which is brought up later in the court case because the necklace was not found on Chase’s body at the time of his death.

Meanwhile, Kya also has to deal with developers trying to take her home unless she comes up with a deed. Kya sends her work to publishers, and she has an official book on her drawings of seashells and feathers published, which earns her some money that allows her to keep and renovate her house. She is visited by Jodie (now played by Logan Macrae). He had enlisted in the army and tracked Kya down after finding her book. He says he lost all contact with their other siblings and would not recognize them if he saw them. Jodie also tells Kya that their mother had tried to reunite with her children, but Pa threatened to beat them all if she came back. She eventually died of leukemia.

Sometime later, Tate returns home from college and overhears Chase speaking vulgarly of Kya. They nearly fight until Jimmy breaks them up. Tate tries to go to Kya’s home, but she reacts angrily and throws rocks at him until he apologizes and explains himself for his long absence. She comes to forgive him.

While out in town, Kya finds Chase and wants to invite him over, but he discovers that he is with another woman and is engaged to her. Chase confronts her at her home after a bad encounter at the shop, and he attempts to beat her. After she strikes him back, Chase attempts to rape Kya until she hits him in the face with a rock. As she runs away, she yells out that she will kill him if he goes near her again, which is heard by a witness who later testifies to this in court. Kya returns home to find that Chase got there first and trashed the place.

Around the time of Chase’s death, Kya is invited to meet with publishers over dinner. This is brought up again in court, as Tom argues that while the hotel where Kya stayed was close to the bus station where she could have theoretically snuck out to lure Chase to the tower and kill him and come back, it doesn’t make much sense that she would do so.

Before the jury makes up their mind, Tom and the Andrews’ lawyer give their final statements. Tate, Jodie, and the Madisons are the only ones there in support of Kya. In her cell, just before the verdict is reached, Kya insists to Tom that while the people in town were cruel to her, she never harbored any bad feelings toward them. She also tells Tom she remembers him from her childhood and how he was one of the few people kind to her.

A verdict is reached, and the jury finds Kya not guilty of Chase’s death due to lack of sufficient evidence. While Mrs. Andrews weeps, Kya’s supporters cheer for her, and the judge tells Kya he is sorry for the accusations.

Kya goes on to continue her romance with Tate, declaring themselves married. Time goes on, and they have a family, Kya writes more books, and they attend Jimmy’s funeral together. Kya and Tate grow old together, and in her final moments, Kya rides her boat out into the marsh where she appears to see the spirit of her mother, as if to welcome her in death. Tate later finds Kya dead in the boat. After going through her belongings, he finds a book with a poem in which she writes that “sometimes for the prey to survive, the predator must die”, along with a drawing of Chase and the seashell necklace, stained with his blood, confirming that Kya really did kill him. Tate throws the seashell into the marsh to keep Kya’s legacy untarnished.

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A young woman named Catherine Danielle Clark/"Kya" is on trial for the murder of Chase Andrews, a man that she had briefly had a relationship with. While the rest of the town already believes she is guilty, knowing her as the "Marsh Girl" through countless rumors and stories, her lawyer, Tom Milton, is determined to prove that she is innocent.

Flashbacks show Kya's childhood, where her mother and older siblings ran away from home to escape Kya's abusive father, who eventually abandons her as well. Kya's only friend is Tate Walker, who is kind to her and later helps her read and write when they get older. They fall in love, but Tate leaves for college. Kya meets and befriends Chase, later falling in love with him, but he proves to be abusive as well. Chase is later found dead at the bottom of a tower, where it is believed that Kya lured him there and pushed him off.

After Tom proves that there is insufficient evidence to condemn Kya, the jury finds her not guilty of Chase's death. She goes on to have books of her drawings and marsh findings published, and she spends the rest of her life with Tate. After Kya's death, Tate finds a book of Kya's poetry, as well as a blood-stained seashell necklace that once belonged to Chase, confirming that Kya really did kill him in order to protect herself. Tate disposes of the seashell so that nobody will ever find out Kya's secret.