serenity ending

Right from the beginning, there is something off about Serenity. The sultry neo-noir thriller starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway seems to take place on a fictional fishing island that boasts a New England name but a tropical climate, while half the residents speak with a vague Southern twang. McConaughey’s character, Baker Dill, receives strange visions and omens — some of them seemingly supernatural in nature. And there’s the matter of Jeremy Strong‘s bespectacled businessman chasing after Baker Dill with urgent news about…something.

These all lay the grounds for a twist of sorts, or a revelation that some greater conspiracy is at work. But the Serenity ending has a twist that is so out of left field, it feels like you have fallen into some drug-fueled fever dream.

Major spoilers for Serenity follow, so do not read on if you want to see the movie…although these spoilers may convince you to actually see this movie.

It takes two-thirds of the movie for Jeremy Strong’s businessman, Reid Miller, to reach Baker. At this point, Baker has been slowly unraveling following the sudden appearance of his ex-wife Karen (Hathaway), who has tasked him with killing her abusive husband (Jason Clarke). Initially resistant to her pleas because of his obsession with catching an elusive giant tuna, Baker is worn down by the series of visions that he receives from his son with Karen, Patrick (Rafael Sayegh), with whom he seems to share a telepathic connection.

Serenity appears to be planting the seeds for a supernatural twist. But that premise is completely disrupted when Reid Miller finally catches up with Baker. Reid introduces himself as a representative of a fishing company that wants to give Baker a fish tracker free of charge. But he lets something slip as Baker tries to push him out of his house: “I am the rules,” Reid says. He continues to babble, revealing that he knows all about Baker’s obsession with the tuna called “Justice” and his intention to kill the man abusing his ex-wife. Is he an alien? A prophet? No, Reid is literally the “rules” of a video game.

Baker Dill is not a real person, but a character in a fishing video game that his son has been tampering with to play out his fantasies of killing a digital version of his abusive step-father. Baker is based on his father, who had died in the Iraq War. But Baker retains all those memories of his son and his time in the war, and for some reason, can hear his son as Patrick inputs the code that changes a mundane fishing game into a murder scenario. Naturally, Baker undergoes a crisis of identity and free will, but decides to obey his son anyway and go through with killing the abusive husband, despite the game’s various NPCs trying to thwart him — including at one point his first mate Duke (Djimon Hounsou) hiring a group of gangsters to break the husband’s hands so he can’t fish. “No one dies in the game,” Reid tells Baker.

Throughout the film, Patrick is shown in his room playing the game while step-father beats his mother in the next room over. The twist reveals that these weren’t flashbacks to different moments when Patrick fled to his game to escape his step-father’s violence, but one long scene that bookends the movie. And as video game Baker kills the digital step-father, Patrick picks up a knife in reality to kill the one next door. And that’s the happy ending.

Top that, anything else in 2019.

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