Gone Girl Ending Explained: She Wants You To Be Your Best

Adapted from Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel by the author herself, David Fincher's "Gone Girl" isn't a movie that screams "aspirational" in the way that a show like "Ted Lasso" does. However, for a certain breed of cinephile — someone who prefers dark dramas to rom-coms — "Gone Girl" might be the only date movie you'll ever need.

Fincher's previous film, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," marketed itself as "The Feel-Bad Movie of Christmas." Superficially, none of his movies are what a person might call uplifting, in the Lasso way by any other definition. Yet 2021 brought 10 Oscar nominations for "Mank," Fincher's long-awaited feature-film follow-up to "Gone Girl." It found a home on Netflix, where Fincher had kept busy with the series "Mindhunter" in the intervening years. The same streaming service hosted Rosamund Pike, the "gone girl" herself, for her return to thriller territory in 2021 with "I Care a Lot."

With her perfectly styled kitchen hair, Pike's "Gone Girl" character, Amy Dunne, does hold a warped yet weirdly aspirational view of marriage. She wants herself and her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), to be their best selves around each other. Nick doesn't understand or appreciate Amy's full depth, and the ending of "Gone Girl" might scan that way for some viewers.

Pick out the right clothes. Put on your best face. Make a commitment to your spouse or partner in crime, and make a commitment to "Gone Girl." If you've already made that commitment for 2.5 hours of your life, maybe you'll be willing to go a little further as we reassess the movie's ending.

'She Loves To Teach Lessons'

As "Gone Girl" rolls into its final hour, Nick and his sister, Go (Carrie Coon), deliver a helpful recap of the film's plot to Nick's attorney, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry, cast against type in a black-hearted Fincher film). Nick says Amy "loves to teach lessons" and she likes to play God — as in, "Old Testament God." He's given her good reason to be vengeful by his philandering with his student, Andie (Emily Ratajkowski). He tells Tanner:

"So she finds out I been cheating on her with Andie. Decides to teach me a lesson. Fakes her own death, frames me for it. Blood in the house, credit cards, life insurance ... Now the treasure hunt is critical. She's taking us on a tour of my infidelities. Rubbing my nose in it. And she leaves clue #1 for the police, which will lead them back to my office."

Tanner thinks their best strategy is to find Amy. Meanwhile, in the Ozarks, Amy's campground neighbors rob her of her money belt. With nowhere else to go, she turns to Doogie Howser, or at least the actor who played him: Neil Patrick Harris (also cast against comedy type).

Here, Harris embodies Amy's high school not-so-sweetheart, Desi Collins, who's still a pushover for her. In a riverboat casino, Amy gains Desi's sympathies by lying and saying she was pregnant but "lost the baby" due to Nick's abuse. She tells Desi, "Knowing you were out there was the only thing that's kept me going these past few years." He sets her up in his secluded lake house, where he will soon learn that Amy is not a damsel in distress, but a dragonness.

All the Right Words

In the lake house, Amy sheds the weight she gained to disguise herself, all the while plotting her escape. When she sees Nick on national TV he says all the right words, likening himself to "a con artist" who broke the vow that he made her and disrespected their marriage. Amy sits up on the couch next to Desi, paying rapt attention. TV Nick continues:

"I was this average guy from an average place with mediocre aspirations. And I met a woman who dazzled me. And I wanted her to love me, so I pretended to be better than I was. When we got married, I promised to be that guy, that guy who works harder."

Nick asks her to come back, delivering a coded message about taking himself to the woodshed ... and the game is on. Amy places an anonymous call, tipping the police off about Nick's man-cave. They arrest him after discovering a cornucopia of expensive goods that Amy bought to frame Nick, even as she affects her new plan: staging a fake crying bout for Desi's all-seeing surveillance cameras and making it look like he held her against her will and sexually assaulted her.

In a shocking scene, Amy becomes her own bloody savior on a Savoir bed while having intercourse with Desi. As the music throbs and Desi thrusts, Amy goes "Basic Instinct" on him, sliding a box cutter — one of Flynn's ever-present sharp objects — out from under the pillow and slitting his throat.

The ongoing media circus labels her dramatic return, "Miracle on the Mississippi." She gives them what Nick calls an "insane story about being held prisoner by a man with a history of mental problems." Only Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) presses Amy on the inconsistencies in her story.

'Undisciplined Love Is Disastrous'

It might be cheating a bit, but the last chapter of Flynn's novel helps illuminate the themes of both the book itself and her screenplay. It begins with "Amazing" Amy reflecting on the nature of love:

"I was told love should be unconditional. That's the rule, everyone says so. But if love has no boundaries, no limits, no conditions, why should anyone try to do the right thing ever? If I know I am loved no matter what, where is the challenge? I am supposed to love Nick despite all his shortcomings. And Nick is supposed to love me despite my quirks. But clearly, neither of us does. It makes me think that everyone is very wrong, that love should have many conditions. Love should require both partners to be their very best at all times. Unconditional love is an undisciplined love, and as we have all seen, undisciplined love is disastrous."

Fincher doesn't spell this out for the viewer the same way, because he relies more on subtext and is not known for making message movies. But the core of "Gone Girl" is Amy's desire to have back the man she married — who tried so hard to win her and then gave up trying after he won and the seven-year itch set in. She wants Nick to re-discipline himself and act the good husband, not only for the cameras outside their house, but also for her again.

When they come back to their McMansion from the hospital and are safely behind closed doors, Nick tells Amy, "You can stop pretending now." She replies, "I'm not pretending. You were perfect. The Nick I saw on TV, that's the Nick I fell in love with."

A Fighter and a Killer

In the shower — the only place where Amy can be sure that Nick's not wearing a wire, because it's the naked zone — Nick calls Amy a murderer. Still with Desi's blood on her, she retorts, "I'm a fighter. I fought my way back to you."

The trick of it is, they're both right. Amy is a brazen killer and Machiavellian manipulator, but going by her own twisted logic, she did it all for love. Within the movie's fictional hyper-reality, her actions actually make sense and are rather instructive thematically.

Amy encourages Nick not to make any rash decisions about leaving her, saying, "Give it the night. Sleep on it." In the morning, she's there to greet him with the words, "Hello, handsome," while making him a crepe, looking like the perfect wife. They've had a hell of a fight — a movie-length battle of wits — but love means never having to say you're sorry, and to Amy, it's as if none of it ever happened now.

"I can't believe that spider is America's sweetheart," Go laments. Tanner has the healthiest reaction: he throws up his hands and says of Amazing Amy and her humbled husband: "I swear, you two are the most f**ked up people I've ever known."

There's a perverse pleasure to seeing Amy tuck Nick in and tell him she would never, ever hurt him. She sees this as their second chance at love and wants him to participate in their marriage. They form a shaky truce even as Nick secretly plans to out her as "a calculated, murderous psychopath."

But before he can do that, Amy drops a bombshell on him: she's pregnant.

The Real Meaning of Commitment

Using Nick's semen, which they'd kept on ice at a fertility clinic, Amy has artificially inseminated herself. This gives her the leverage she needs to blackmail Nick into staying with her, because he doesn't want to let her raise the child alone and poison its mind.

The things Amy fabricated for her diary are presently coming true. There really is a baby now, and Nick really does push her. He shoves her up against the wall and calls her the worst thing imaginable. With her hair now tousled, she looks both him and us in the eye and replies:

"I'm the c**t you married. The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this c**t might like. I'm not a quitter. I'm that c**t. I've killed for you."

"Gone Girl" is a thriller in the vein of Fincher's "Panic Room," but it's not just a popcorn film. It's a movie with some meat to it, about a top-shelf antihero who demands nothing less than what she was promised when her husband first wooed her and they exchanged their wedding vows. In the way of a jealous goddess, Amy teaches both Nick and the audience a lesson.

It would be easy to think this film presents a dim view of marriage when it characterizes it in terms of resentment and pain. However, "Gone Girl" is a movie that interrogates the real meaning of commitment and suggests that being truly committed means putting forth one's best efforts even when the thrill is gone.

Snuggle up with your partner in your Savoir bed (of blood) and watch it again, why don't you?