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Let’s Talk About the Ending of Split

James McAvoy in Split. Photo: Universal Pictures

This post discusses the ending of Split in detail.

Few filmmakers working in Hollywood are more famous for their endings than M. Night Shyamalan. For better or worse, Shyamalan has built his reputation on sucker-punch endings that have audiences recalibrating the movie they’ve just sat through, and his new multiple-personality thriller Split is no exception. It might be too simple to call the development in the movie’s final scene a “twist,” but — well, to discusses it in more detail, we’re going to jump to the next paragraph. Follow us, if you dare.

So: As rumored, the film turns out to be a stealth sequel to Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. Or at least, it takes place in the same M. Night Shyamalan cinematic universe as that 2000 classic. Here’s how it goes down:

After the Beast, the most vicious of James McAvoy’s identities, decides not to eat Anya Taylor-Joy’s character due to their similar histories of abuse, he goes on the lam, getting a big closing scene where all of the various personalities discuss how people with dissociative identity disorder are the real superheroes. It’s a bit of a bummer that Taylor-Joy didn’t get to finish him off herself, you may think, but hey, maybe that’s what Split 2 will be for.

Then we cut to a diner, where a bunch of humble Philadelphians are watching a news report about McAvoy, whom people are calling the Horde. “Hey,” says a lady, “wasn’t there some other bad guy 15 years ago who also had a funny name?” Yeah, says Bruce Willis, who’s sitting at the counter; his name was Mr. Glass. Boom, cut to black.

Some discussion questions:

1. Were you spoiled? I’d heard about the tie-in months ago, after the film’s initial screenings, but I’d fortunately forgotten all about it until Willis popped up on screen. My terrible memory meant that, for me, this was the most surprising M. Night Shyamalan ending since Unbreakable. (I had the endings of The Sixth Sense and The Village spoiled long before I ever saw them.)

2. Does this count as a “twist”? Sure, it’s a reveal that puts the entire film in a new light. Still, nothing is fundamentally changed by the news that the two movies are connected: Once the Beast started crawling across the ceiling, we knew that Split took place in a world where the supernatural was real.

3. If it is a twist, though, how do you rank it in the pantheon of M. Night Shyamalan twists? Not as good as The Sixth Sense, certainly, but definitely better than The Happening.

4. Did tying the films together work for you? For me, it did and it didn’t — I loved Unbreakable, so anything that reminds me of it is great, but it’s a very different movie, somber and chilly while Split is a campy delight. Plus, it’s hard not to feel the ending undercuts the new movie’s action just a bit, like the whole ordeal was just to throw McAvoy into Willis’s orbit.

5. Similarly, are you disappointed that a Split 2, if there is one, seems likely be about Willis and McAvoy, instead of Taylor-Joy?

6. Getting away from the Unbreakable thing, do you think the movie did Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula’s characters dirty? They disappear for a large part of the film, and then they’re killed off in a cutaway. I know it’s horror, but jeez, when it comes to ignoble onscreen deaths, this was almost as bad as Barb.

6. Also, in killing off those two girls, and having McAvoy keep Taylor-Joy alive, does the movie end up cosigning the Beast’s idea that only people who have suffered trauma are “pure” enough to deserve to live?

Talk among yourselves!

Let’s Talk About the Ending of Split