Reality (2023) Ending Explained – Who is Reality Winner, and Where is She Now?

By Marc Miller
Published: June 7, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
HBO film Reality Ending Explained
Reality (2023) (Credit - HBO)

The story follows Reality, a translator whom the government contacts, who is later questioned by two federal agents at her home. While Reality appears to be a typical twenty-something who enjoys traveling, loves her pets, owns a Pikachu bedspread, and frequently posts on social media, she is suspected of leaking government secrets to the news website The Intercept. I break down the ending and discuss the main plot points in this article.

Why did the FBI question Reality Winner?

Reality Winner was under suspicion of leaking classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to a sleuth website called The Intercept. She was one of only a handful with access to the report/article, and even fewer printed out the file. Although she did not fit the psychological profile of someone anti-government, Reality was a subscriber to The Intercept.

Reality (2023) (Credit – HBO)

During the questioning of Reality, federal agents failed to read her rights and neglected to provide a proper Miranda rights statement. In fact, she asked the agents twice if she would be arrested. Additionally, the agents searched her phone, but according to the film, the warrant only authorized the search of her home, car, and computer.

Why did Reality Winner leak classified documents to The Intercept?

During the interview, it remains unclear why Reality initially leaked the report. Reality explicitly states that she is not a “Snowden of anything,” alluding to Edward Snowden, the most notorious whistleblower. However, towards the film’s end, Reality reveals to Agent Garrick and Taylor that they “saw the article and couldn’t believe it wasn’t a thing.”

Furthermore, Reality expresses that it made her angry. As shown in the pre-credits scene, she states, “I knew it was a secret. But I also knew I had pledged my service to the American people.”

What was the classified article that Reality Winner leaked?

According to the film, Reality leaked an NSA report titled, “Russia/Cybersecurity: Main Intelligence Directors Cuber Actors, (REDACTED) Target U.S. Companies and Local U.S. Government Officials Using Voter Registration-Themed Emails, Spoof Election-Related Products and Services, Research Absentee Ballot Email Addresses; August to November 2016.”

How did Reality Winner sneak the classified document out of the secured NSA facility?

Agent Garrick successfully gets Reality to confess that she smuggled the secret government document out of the secure NSA facility by folding the paper in half and concealing it inside her pantyhose. According to Reality, the website openly encouraged individuals to submit evidence of Russia’s involvement in hacking the 2016 election. In exchange, the website guarantees to protect the whistleblower’s identity.

Reality sent the envelope containing the document to The Intercept‘s offices, which she discovered on the website. She placed it in an unmarked envelope and utilized the mailbox near her second job, where she worked as a yoga instructor.

How many years did Reality Winner serve in prison?

According to the pre-credit information, Reality Winner served four years in federal prison. This was unprecedented at the time and represented the longest sentence ever given to a whistleblower in United States history. Ms. Winner was questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on June 3rd, 2017.

As portrayed in the film, the American military veteran and former National Security Agency (NSA) translator is currently on supervised release until 2024.

What is the movie Reality based on?

Reality is based on the FBI interrogation of 25-year-old Air Force veteran Reality Winner on June 3rd, 2017, at her home in Augusta, Georgia. During the interrogation, FBI agents questioned Reality about whether she leaked a classified document regarding Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Who is Reality Winner, and where is she now?

Born on December 4th, 1991, Reality Winner is an American U.S. Air Force veteran and former translator for the NSA. Reality was sentenced to five years in prison after being charged with espionage for leaking classified NSA documents to the news website The Intercept. Reality was never pardoned, but she had hoped President Donald Trump would pardon her, which never came.

After serving four years in prison, she was released to a transitional facility on June 2nd, 2021, almost four years from the day she was arrested. It was announced this was not a compassionate COVID-19 release but one for good behavior. According to her Instagram page, Reality now lives in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her probation will end in November 2024.

What did you think of the ending of Reality? Any theories? Comment below. 

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