The Stranger ending explained – what is Henry Teague’s secret?

October 20, 2022
M.N. Miller 3
Ending Explained, Film, Netflix, Streaming Service
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This article discusses the ending of the Netflix film The Stranger (2022) and will contain spoilers. What is Henry Teague’s secret? We discuss and answer that question.

The Stranger, a simmering Australian crime drama that slowly moves to an overwhelming emotional boil, follows the story of a fascinating undercover operation. The script follows a down-on-his-luck, sad sack of a man named Henry Teague. He runs across incredible luck, meeting Paul, a man who has connections to a job that looks pretty shady. Paul calls Henry and has him meet a man named Mark (Joel Egerton). Henry seems remarkably incompetent to be part of this crime organization — especially since he tells Mark immediately he doesn’t do violence — but he needs to do his job. Why? Because Henry Teague is not this man’s real name. Henry is Peter Morley, a man with a history and suspected of killing a seven-year-old boy named James Liston eight years prior.

However, don’t blame Henry for lying because Mark and Paul are undercover cops as well. What is their objective? They are pretending to be part of organized crime because they demonstrate as long as you are honest with them, they take care of their own. Paul, with whom Henry formed a bond, is given a new name and passport to hide when a cover story is developed when there is heard from the authorities.

Before Paul leaves, he tells Henry intensely to trust Mark. Some might question if this is all too good to be true for Henry, and it is, but he is a man living in constant fear of being arrested for crimes. Desperate men can talk themselves into anything. The scene with Paul ensures the police’s undercover story tells Henry that these men can protect him if needed and that Mark is a man to be trusted.

After a few months, the story needs to be accelerated, and the crime boss John, another detective, confronts Henry that there is a new inquest out on him for the 2002 murder. They convince Henry that he must tell them everything so they can bring in a fixer (another undercover cop) to tie up all loose ends, or it will endanger the organization. This goes on while the authorities watch from another room and get him on tape admitting to the murder, how he did it, and where he put the body. (It should be mentioned that behind the scenes, back at headquarters, the team disproved Henry’s alibi from a family member).

As they travel to the area, Henry admits he parked his car behind the church. Henry then shows him where he dumped the body, now covered in water from the Queensland floods. At that point, you can hear twigs breaking and cops descending on the three men. Henry is arrested for murder.

The Stranger ending explained – what is Henry Teague’s secret?

Henry is taken back to the police station. He denies (to what I believe to be his lawyer) he didn’t have anything to do with the murder. Henry is then given a cigarette. He lights it and leans against a cement pole in the parking garage. While there, he is seen lifting his right leg, sole, against the cement. We see his silhouette as the camera pans out. He has one knee sticking out. This is exactly like the drawing of a man a passenger on a bus saw that afternoon James went missing.

Mark walks around the trails where the CSI team is searching for remnants of the body. He walks a half-mile away, where he begins to be overcome with emotion from the toll of the case. Mark is most likely connecting the search for the body of a missing boy and his son. He can’t imagine anyone going through that pain. A few moments later, a row of volunteers slowly digs through the mud. All inch by inch, one of them stops. He is frozen and slowly lifts his arm. This is an indication he has found something.

The final scenes show Mark doing dishes with his son. Later that night, the police officer is seen sitting outside his home smoking a cigarette. His son watches him from the window, practicing a breathing exercise.

Food for thought — does anyone think the child’s body in question was Mark’s son? Yes, placing the father as the undercover to catch his son’s killer does defy logic. However, most scenes can be set explicitly in the linear narrative, and the handful of dream sequences could be considered disconnected from the story. Why couldn’t these be flashbacks? In one dream sequence, he is helping his son “calm” down with the same breathing exercise. He then wakes up, and his son is not there.

Yet, two key scenes appear to explain Mark’s stress level that the case makes him fear for his son’s safety. When Mark yells at his son about being unable to find him while hiding outside, he becomes triggered by the case. The fear is inside him, and he fears someone can take his son at any moment. The other is where Mark is told he will have to leave for a couple of days, and he won’t be able to see him for a few days. This does fit the timeline of the story.

Of course, if you know the real story, The Stranger is based on a real-life case of the disappearance of a Queensland schoolboy Daniel Morcombe. He was killed by the murderous pedophile Brett Peter Cowan. Yes, if you thought what I said above was accurate about how Henry does not question his good fortune and the overwhelming empathy from a notorious crime organization, you would be wrong. The film is based on Australia’s most famous undercover operation. The source material is based on Kate Kyriacou’s nonfiction best seller, The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer.

What did you think of the ending of the Netflix film The Stranger (2022)? What did you think of Henry Teague’s secret? Comment below.

Additional Reading for The Stranger

3 thoughts on “The Stranger ending explained – what is Henry Teague’s secret?

  • October 22, 2022 at 2:26 am

    I like Joel Egerton and I think he does a phenomenal job in this role. However, I thought the film was awful. Putting aside for a moment the excruciating slow pace, the Henry character isn’t credible. He’s just way too weird. I also had a number of questions that are never answered, but that is just something annoying. In and of itself, it isn’t sufficient for me to pan the film. Apparently, the film is based on a true story. Is it? Is it accurate. I’m American and not Australian, so perhaps things are different there. But I find it very hard to believe that the police were committed to such a HUGE undercover operation spanning so many years when the target is someone suspected of kidnapping and killing ONE CHILD. That is not to minimize the life of a child, but police departments have budgets and therefore, there are always limitations on how long and how deep an investigation goes. With all of that said, the film as a whole was just incredibly boring. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

    • October 22, 2022 at 11:17 pm

      So, I had the exact same thoughts that you did, but after some research (and watching the trailer) it is based on a true story. It’s based on the nonfiction book The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer.

  • November 9, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    To slow and a confusing ending, not sure if that was done on purpose to get us talking about it . Also unless Henry is a complete fool , when they were asking him to show how he kill the boy that should have brought his attention up a litte and ask why ? . i would not recommend it.

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