You may be sure that everyone else is asking themselves the same question after seeing The Pale Blue Eye on Netflix. Based on Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name, the Gothic thriller stars Christian Bale as renowned detective Augustus Landor, who works with Edgar Allan Poe to look into a brutal cadet murder at the United States Military Academy (Harry Melling).
Before the writer-director Scott Cooper turns everything you thought you saw upside down with a shocking revelation, this chilling drama seems to have reached a clear end. It will probably make you desire a second watch, but if you don’t feel like getting another, we can still help. So let’s examine The Pale Blue Eye’s surprising conclusion and discuss why it’s not as unbelievable as it first seems.
Significant spoilers are coming, so if you haven’t seen the film, stop reading now. At first glance, Cadet Fry apparently committed suicide before having his heart removed after death. Landor quickly realizes that Fry was hit in the back of the skull, indicating that the same person may have killed and dismembered him.
According to Landor, Fry was holding a message in his hand when he died, but just a part of it is still there. Together with Poe, they decoded the fragment, which indicated that Fry might have been killed by being lured from the academy.
Landor believes Fry’s death may have been a ceremonial execution after discovering a cow and a sheep nearby that had had their hearts taken. Landor finds wax on the floor and a circle pattern with a triangle inside. He asks Poe to meet him at the ice house.
It’s probably a “magic circle,” says Landor’s buddy Jean Pepe (Robert Duvall), a “specialist in symbols and rituals.” It may have something to do with renowned witch hunter Henri Le Clerc, who left behind information about a process for “securing immortality.” All copies of his book that describes it, nevertheless, have either been lost or destroyed.
Before Landor can use Fry’s diary to figure out who might have killed him, Cadet Ballinger (Fred Hechinger) is slain and dismembered in the same fashion as Fry, with the extra castration on top. Fry’s mother delivers Landor Fry’s diary.
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Poe is suspected. He was seen publicly declaring that he had slain Ballinger, who had attacked him because he was spending time with Lea Marquis, the sister of fellow cadet Artemus Marquis (Lucy Boynton).
According to Fry’s notebook, Ballinger and Fry were close friends. Their other companion, Cadet Stoddard (Joey Brooks), has now vanished. However, the state of his empty chamber suggests he fled.
Daniel Marquis, a physician at the institution, and his family, including Toby Jones, are found to be the main perpetrators by Landor. Landor finds the officer’s jacket that a cadet had reportedly seen the night of Fry’s murder at supper at their home. He also notices a painting of Henri Le Clerc in Dr. Marquis’ office.
In addition to revealing that they own a copy of Le Clerc’s book and that Le Clerc had “visited” Lea, Dr. Marquis tells Landor that Le Clerc is his great-grandfather. She had seizures and was given three months to live, but after performing a ritual involving Fry’s heart, her terminal condition suddenly improved.
That’s unfortunate for the smitten Poe because he will soon become Lea’s next victim and give his life to prolong her life. Julia (Gillian Anderson), Artemus, and the rest of the family participate in the rite. Poe is saved, and Landor rescues Julia when a ritual candle is knocked over and ignites the room. But Lea and Artemus aren’t as fortunate, as the structure collapses and crushes them both.
Julia is not punished despite her involvement since it is decided that “she had suffered enough,” but Dr. Marquis leaves the academy. Stoppard fled to avoid being the next victim while Lea and Artemus presumably killed Fry and Ballinger for the ritual.
The Pale Blue Eye Ending Explained
After recovering from the bloodletting during the ceremony, Poe travels to see Landor to inform him of what he’s learned about Mattie, Landor’s daughter (Hadley Robinson). Throughout the film, it is implied that she fled, although this is untrue.
The reality is more tragic: Three unidentified attackers sexually assaulted Mattie on her way home from the Academy Ball two years prior. Despite Landor’s efforts, she could not recover from the stress of the incident, and she ultimately committed herself.
The writing was “nearly identical” when Poe compared the portion in Fry’s hand to a note Landor had earlier given him. Landor was responsible for luring Fry away from the academy and killing him. When Fry’s body was in the mortuary, Lea and Artemus took advantage of the situation and stole his heart.
Fry’s Dog Steal During The Assault
She managed to steal Fry’s dog tag during the assault, so Landor knew he was one of the three who had raped his daughter. Landor killed and dismembered the sheep and the cow to direct the investigation toward ritualistic explanations after learning that Fry’s heart had been removed from his body.
Landor learned that Ballinger was one of the attackers when he was given Fry’s diary. Stoddard did flee, and Landor could never catch up with him because he lacked “the strength or the will to hunt him down.”
“I only hope that he spends the rest of his miserable life looking over his shoulder,” Landor tells Poe. Poe is confused (as you might be) why Landor even asked for his help, knowing that the note could lead to the truth being uncovered. That, it turns out, was always the plan for Landor: “You were the one I was to deliver myself to all along. I knew that from the moment I first met you, and here we are.”
Poe decides to burn the evidence rather than accuse Landor of the murders and bids Landor farewell. Landor returns to the rock where Mattie perished in the film’s closing scene and let her ribbon fall, declaring his search for vengeance over.
Landor’s Activities During The Probe
Despite this explanation, you could still have questions about Landor’s activities during the probe. After all, Landor discovered the note in Fry’s palm and showed that Fry didn’t commit suicide. For instance, the knowledge that Landor is the murderer reveals that he is doing it to determine whether the witness saw him when he questions the witness who found Fry’s body early on.
He likely only spotted a chance to divert the investigation’s attention when he says that Fry was murdered. Landor undoubtedly exhibits behaviors that suggest he’s attempting to avoid being discovered, such as when he dismembers Ballinger’s body or employs Poe to interpret the note to cast suspicion on a female.
The Pale Blue Eye is worth your time. It’s slow at times, the end twist isn’t a huge surprise, but the atmosphere, cinematography & performances are top-notch. Christian Bale is always a compelling watch, and Harry Melling gives an exquisite, Oscar-worthy turn as Edgar Allen Poe. pic.twitter.com/KPnoMkWHgn
— Brian Rowe (@mrbrianrowe) January 7, 2023
But given the efforts he goes to cover up Ballinger’s murder, Landor’s admission that he always intended to turn himself into Poe doesn’t make sense. Perhaps he wanted to remain free long enough to inflict revenge on all three of Mattie’s rapists, knowing that Poe would ultimately have the intelligence to piece everything together.
Landor virtually gives up that hope when Stoppard flees, and it’s possible that he went to the hangman voluntarily. This would have taken longer if Poe’s life had been in immediate danger since Landor would never have allowed the Marquis family to assassinate Poe.
Poe’s safety allowed Landor to allow Poe to reveal his misdeeds, clearing Lea and Artemus of the murder of Ballinger even though they were both already dead. Whatever judgment you make, The Pale Blue Eye certainly raises many interesting points for discussion after the credits have rolled.
Edgar Allan Poe did enroll at West Point’s American Military Academy. Poe claimed to be 22 years old when he joined the American Army in 1827, but he was just 18. In March 1830, he enrolled at West Point but left in January 1831. Poe received a formal firing notice in March 1831.