Knives Out: Let’s Talk about That Ending

Pop Culture

This post contains spoilers for Knives Out.

Buckle in, because this is a long, winding journey. In Knives Out, writer-director Rian Johnson’s fun, carefully plotted whodunnit, the mystery changes halfway through the film. At the start, the rich, spoiled Thrombey family gathers together after the death of patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a successful whodunnit author who committed suicide. However, private eye Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) comes along to sniff out the truth, in disbelief that Thrombey took his own life. After all, the author has several vindictive, potentially murderous family members, from his creepy son Walt (Michael Shannon), to his rebellious grandson Ransom (Chris Evans in a perfect sweater), whom Harlan decides to cut out of his will. But midway through the film, it’s revealed that Harlan did commit suicide, and a new mystery emerges: who hired Benoit Blanc? And why?

Johnson’s story is a clever bait and switch, revealing that Harlan died after his beloved nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), accidentally injected him with a lethal dose of morphine during his usual nighttime medical routine. The dose is so high that Harlan will be dead in just 10 minutes. He thinks quickly, staging the scene to make it look like a suicide and giving Marta very specific instructions so as not to incriminate herself. Why? Because he loves Marta like his own daughter and has decided to leave everything in his will to her. Then, he slits his own throat. It’s a bloody twist, but Johnson’s decision to show the death early on is the first of many surprising turns, plunging the viewer into a fresh mystery.

As the story progresses, it’s revealed that Ransom is the one who hired Benoit. Why? Because he got cut out of the will, of course, and wants to frame Marta for his grandfather’s death, forcing her to forfeit the fortune. So, he secretly switches the labels on Harlan’s medicine, prompting the lethal injection. However, as Benoit later discovers, Marta is so good at her job that she instinctively gave Harlan the right injection because she can tell the difference between the extremely similar looking medications. Sadly, this means that when Harlan died, he had actually been given the right medicine. If they’d waited out that 10 minutes, they would have realized he was going to be fine. However, it also means the autopsy won’t show any foul play, which is great for Marta.

Ransom’s second plan is foiled by Fran (Edi Patterson), the housekeeper, who sees him messing around with Marta’s medical bag. She’s gotta go, so he hatches a plan to kill her by injecting her with a lethal dose of morphine, then blackmailing Marta into going to the scene of the crime. Marta finds Fran and calls 911, narrowly saving Fran’s life (and thus foiling Ransom’s plan again, because he thought Marta would flee the scene, thus making herself look guilty).

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