The Pale Blue Eye Ending Explained – who is behind the cadet murders?

By Marc Miller
Published: January 6, 2023 (Last updated: January 10, 2024)
The Pale Blue Eye Ending Explained – who is behind the cadet murders?

We discuss the ending of the Netflix film The Pale Blue Eye, which will contain spoilers.

The Pale Blue Eye follows Augustus Landor (Christian Bale), a detective of some renown from New York City. It was a cold October day in 1830. Landor is sent for by Captain Hitchcock (Simon McBurney) and West Point Superintendent Thayer (Timothy Spall) after grizzly murder on the grounds of the West Point United States Military Academy near the Hudson river. A young cadet was found murdered and hanging from a tree from a frozen rope. But that’s not the most shocking thing about the crime. The coroner, Dr. Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones), reports that someone snuck into the facility and cut out the deceased’s heart the following day.

Landor deputized a young Southern cadet who doubles as a wordsmith. The odd Southern duck goes by the name of Poe (Harry Melling). Yes, before the famous poet wrote about The Raven, he was a cadet at West Point. Landor orders Edgar to befriend multiple cadets, infiltrating areas of the college where he would stick out like a sore thumb. From there, Poe takes a shining to a woman with fainting spells and a constant cough that will not go away. Her name is Lea (Lucy Boynton), and she is one of a few nefarious characters on the West Point grounds. Like an expert on the occult, Jean-Pepe (Robert Duvall) and Lea’s mother, Julia (played by Gillian Anderson), can speak to family members beyond the grave. So, guess what she teaches her children?

Another cadet is killed, who was left hanging in the woods and had his heart ripped out, but not surgically like the first. This was relatively crude. A third cadet runs for his life and is never found. Landor and Poe notice this pattern and assume he ran because he would be next. Poe and Landor figure out that Lea, her mother, and her brother Artemus are speaking to their great-great-grandfather Henri LeClerc beyond the grave. He was sentenced to death for practicing sorcery, but the doctor tells Landor that he was misunderstood.

Earlier, Poe was taken to a private area where Lea has tied Poe, performing a sacred ritual, and is about to cut out his heart. Why? To cure Lea of her seizures. Landor arrives, and a fire starts when Artemus tackles him. Soon, the fire causes a beam to fall from the rook and kill Lea. As her brother hold her, Landor can save Poe and Julia, but while Artemus is holding his sister, the entire roof caves in on them.

The Pale Blue Eye ending explained – who killed the cadets?

The military wants to cover up the murders and dismisses Julia, but the case is solved, and the powers that be thank Landor for his time. However, it turns out that the Marquis family was not behind the murders. Who was behind the murder of cadets? Poe sees that the first note in the hand of the dead cadet is Landor’s handwriting. It turns out the detective is the murderer of the cadets. Why did Landor commit the murders? His daughter was raped by the three in question. Landor sought his revenge.

He completed the task, but in flashbacks, we see his daughter commit suicide by jumping off a cliff. How does this tie in with the Marquis family? Lea and her brother walked by the body and ripped the heart for the sake of the ritual. So, when Landor killed the second cadet, he made it look like the body was part of the ritual. (I’ll admit, this was unclear during the first viewing). While Poe has the note that can link Landor to the murder, he burns it before he leaves Landor’s home.

Landor knew it was these three cadets because his daughter ripped one of their identification tags. Landor then tortured the first cadet, who told them the two other names. After Poe left, Landor walked to the same cliff that his daughter leaped from. He is now finally ready to join her. He turns his back to the cliff’s edge, holds out his arms, and lets go of a piece of cloth that his daughter used to tie her hair.

We can presume his letting go of this prized possession means he is letting go of the hate and anger. Landor is now ready to join his daughter in the afterlife, a running theme in the film. While Poe can talk to his dead mother, Lea can take to her deceased relative, and Landor cannot speak to his daughter. By killing himself, he can now be with her again.

What did you think of the ending of the Netflix film The Pale Blue Eye? Comment below.

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