The Power of the Dog ending explained – will Phil drive Rose insane?

December 1, 2021
M.N. Miller 4
Ending Explained, Film, Netflix
Loading JustWatch data...

This article discusses the ending of the Netflix film The Power of the Dog and will contain spoilers.

Ready Steady Cut film critic, M.N. Miller, said The Power of the Dog “…explores the duality of a man with striking results and a rousing visual narrative. “

The Power of the Dog is from championed director Jane Campion, who was only the second woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director in 1994 for The Piano. She takes source material from a Thomas Savage novel of the same name. A man who specialized in Westerns with a theme on oppression caused by toxic masculinity.

Here, she directs a film where the main character, Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), is a cattle driver who owns a ranch with his brother, George (Jesse Plemons). George is kind-hearted, warm, and has a capacity of empathy few men have. Phil is a portrait of male toxicity because we find out that he is a closeted homosexual in 1920s Montana. He is playing a cruel psychological game with his sister-in-law, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), and her son Peter (The Road’s Kodi Smit-McPhee), who Phil believes is gay because he is effeminate. He attempts to take him under his wing as Bronco Henry did for him.

Netflix film The Power of the Dog ending explained

When Peter finds Phil’s hidden getaway, a cave made out of branches and tree roots that form a natural barrier and access to a creek, he discovers leverage. Peter discovers Phil has a box full of smut magazines and clippings, all of naked men. It is now clear that toxic masculinity was born out of being oppressed by a society that would not accept him and using the cowboy way as bearded camouflage. Did Peter have an intimate relationship with Bronco Henry, or did he make him into a man not tormenting the “gay” out of him?

Either way, Phil is tormenting his mother. He can’t have that. So he plays a seductive, psychological game of his own, and Peter gives him a taste of his own medicine. He allows Phil to school him to build a bond, all while Peter, who is training to be a doctor, is viewed dissecting a dead bovine for reasons unknown. As Peter draws Phil in with friendship and seduction he allows him a drag of his cigarette. Phil has shortness of breath, fever, chills, dizziness, drenching sweats, and extreme nausea a few hours later. He dies a day or two later.

It was found out that Phil died of anthrax poisoning. But, we saw that he was an expert and very careful when protecting from anthrax when handling cattle. How could Phil be so careless? Well, that’s because Peter gave him a piece of hide he cut off from the cattle (I incorrectly attributed it to the cigarette he gave him- so even the use of that distracted not only Phil, but me as well) laced with the bacterial disease. Now that Phil has died, Rose can live happily with George (Jesse Plemmons) and continue his medical studies.

Netflix’s The Power of the Dog is a layered look at the duality of intolerance, sexual orientation, and male toxicity. The ending displays a firm grasp of being a fascinating character study on how societal oppression has the unintended consequence of turning the marginalized into oppressors. It’s a Western about a vicious cycle that never ends, and no one knows where it began.

What did you think of the ending of the Netflix film The Power of the Dog? Comment below!