The Independent ending explained — why did one of the candidates steal money?

By Marc Miller
Published: November 2, 2022 (Last updated: March 6, 2023)

We discuss the ending of the Peacock film The Independent, which will contain spoilers and details of the ending. Be warned!

The Independent follows a presidential campaign with three candidates. You have your typical current Republican incumbent President (Victor Slezak) and a female candidate, Patricia Turnbull (Mass’s Ann Dowd), who has the best chance to become the first woman in the seat since Hillary Clinton. The other is the most viable independent candidate in history. That man is Nate Sterling (John Cena), a Yale graduate and former athlete beloved by both sides of the aisle. Some believe he is progressive enough to make actual change.

Covering the story is a young and ambitious reporter, Eli (Queen & Slim‘s Jodie Turner-Smith), who is under pressure to produce reports that pander to the elitist bunch. However, she wants to report a story about a school district in West Virginia. That’s because they are dropping to a four-day school week because of budget cuts and a community with a 90% minority population. Her boss (Stephen Lang) scolds her for the idea. Eli then panics by offering a source that Sterling will announce. This is something she heard from her boyfriend and member of the Sterling campaign, Lucas (Luke Kirby).

While the editor dismisses her, Nick Booker, a Bob Woodward type, is impressed by her standing up to the boss. While interviewing Turnbull, he wants to collaborate with her and sees a man named Mayfield, the state lottery commissioner, on her call sheet. Eli thinks she is scheming to undercut public funds and uncovers a story that the lottery goes up during every recession but has decreased by 8% this year, or almost $174,000 per draw.

Eli then stumbles upon invoices from Mayfield for Patriot Catering to his law firm. It is unusual for an assistant not to perform this lower-level duty. If the lottery is down 2.6 million for 34 weeks and two drawings per month, that comes to around the same loss of revenue. This angers Eli the most because communities, like the one in West Virginia, depend on this revenue for public establishments like education.

The editor also asks Booker to stay away from negative Sterling-related stories. Why? Because the new owner of their paper, Jack Hampton, gave the order. Everything comes together for Eli when at a Sterling fundraiser, she learns that Patriot Catering only works on Sterling-related events. Eli sees Sterling introduce her boyfriend to Mayfield, Hampton, and the catering company owner, a man they call “The Chef.” This all makes sense now, as the catering company is a front. Mayfield sends the money to the catering company, effectively washing it, and Hampton buys a paper to try and ensure good press for Sterling to be elected.

Since Turnbull is innocent, Eli asks her boyfriend to steal information from Sterling. He initially refuses. Eli steals his pass for the office, but Sterling finds her there. Cox and Lucas show up, the latter pretending to have Sterling’s back, and confront the politician. Cox is forced to dunk his cell in water, but Lucas has Eli’s phone in his pocket, taping everything. Sterling admits to the fraud, saying he doesn’t have a war chest like everyone else. He even attempts to offer her a bribe to get her sister honorably discharged from the military and get her father the best medical care.

The Independent ending explained

The ending of The Independent sees The Washington Chronicle kill the story on Jack Hampton’s orders. Eli convinces Booker they need to form their media outlet, The Independent, so it cannot be bought or bribed. Booker and Elisha publish the story on the older man’s website, which will later form The Independent. They leave the office and quit, telling him they are protecting the people out there.

What did you think of the ending of the Peacock film The Independent? Comment below.

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