Ending Explained is a recurring column in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we consider the ending of the new Netflix action thriller The Gray Man. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
When, at the beginning of Joe and Anthony Russo’s action thriller The Gray Man, inmate Sierra Six (Ryan Gosling) is recruited to the CIA as a mercenary in exchange for his freedom, it’s safe to assume that his new career will be a little different from your average day job. Indeed, his new life is perilous, to say the least – but never more so than when he gets on the government’s bad side after accidentally unearthing some of their sinister secrets.
Once Six gets a hold of these secrets, The Gray Man takes the shape of an action-packed manhunt thriller. Realizing that Six is a liability, CIA agent Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) hires former co-worker and maniacal assassin Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to hunt him down. Six manages to evade Lloyd until the two meet up for a third-act showdown. They are at one another’s throats when CIA agent Suzanne Brewer (Jessica Henwick) shows up and fatally shoots Lloyd. But, wait a minute – wasn’t it her team that hired him in the first place?
Indeed, it was – but Suzanne’s reasons for killing Lloyd were a little… personal. After shooting Six in the leg, she explains that she, Lloyd, and Denny go way back. The three attended Harvard together, where Denny and Lloyd forged an epic bromance that made it impossible for Suzanne to prove to the former that the latter was actually a psychopath.
So when Lloyd, via Denny’s instructions, took things way too far in his efforts to capture Six (with explosions and casualties galore), Suzanne panicked, realizing that she and her CIA buds could get in a heck of a lot of trouble for everything that’s gone down. So she explains to Six that she’ll just pin the whole thing on Lloyd. Simple enough, right?
Not exactly. For her plan to work, she’ll have to secure a couple of witnesses, one of them being Six, who will more than likely end up back in jail for his involvement in the corruption. Of course, Suzanne is well aware that Six could simply say no, so she proposes Six’s beloved quasi-niece Claire (Julia Butters) as collateral. The CIA really doesn’t mess around, I guess.
In the final scene, we see Claire sad and alone in a new house where she is being watched over by guards in case Six doesn’t comply with Suzanne’s plan. By an open window, Claire finds a record and a note that says “Play me loud,” so she does. And, like clockwork, gunshots started going off. Once they subside, in comes Six, who has escaped from the hospital in order to rescue Claire from her new prison. The two drive off together.
But what happens after the credits roll? Did Suzanne get away with her corrupt master plan? And are Six and Claire finally safe now? The key to understanding Suzanne’s future appears in the second to last scene, when she and Denny show up at Six’s hospital to ensure that he won’t rat them out. As they enter the building, Suzanne finally has the confidence she had been lacking prior. In so many words, she tells Denny that she’s a threat and that it would be a mistake to underestimate her as he has been doing for so long.
Not so fast, Suzanne! When the two arrive at Six’s floor, they are met with a surplus of guards that he has slaughtered. Suzanne’s face falls and she becomes panicked, realizing that Six isn’t going to be compliant as she thought he would be. Indeed, the dead guards wouldn’t cause so much concern for her if she didn’t believe that Six’s obedience was the key to her getting away with her government mischief. And so, without Six, there’s reason to believe that the CIA pinning everything on Lloyd might not hold up as strong as she hoped, and she and Denny might have to take the fall after all.
As far as Six and Claire go, it’s safe to assume that, while they’re safe for now, that won’t last for too long. Six has a bigger target on his back than ever before because his knowledge has the potential to dismantle the CIA. Plus, we’ve already established that the powers that be (Suzanne and Denny) will do whatever it takes to save their own skin, so they’re probably going to be making an even bigger effort now to hunt Six down and make him pay.
But we also know that Six won’t go down without a fight – especially when it comes to protecting Claire. Given all this, the riveting finale of The Gray Man sets up a sequel mighty well – one where we would likely get to see an even more epic face-off between Six and his enemies. Perhaps new material will be taken from Mark Greaney’s Gray Man book series, on which this film was based, or perhaps creators will take follow-up material in a completely different direction. Either way, one thing is for sure: if we get another Gray Man movie, we’re undoubtedly in for another wild, wild ride.