The Killer Ending Explained – Why does the Killer let Claybourne go?

By Lori Meek
Published: November 10, 2023
The Killer Ending Explained
The Killer | Image via Netflix

Now streaming on Netflix, The Killer follows the titular unnamed assassin for hire dealing with the aftermath of a botched hit in Paris. Through voiceovers, the protagonist justifies his life on the fringe of society with stats on the overall world population (his actions are hardly making a dent there). He is a successful assassin thanks to his lack of empathy or moral quandries. His highly disciplined mind helps him get through the boredom that comes with staking out his victims. Said boredom got the better of him in Paris, leading to a mistake, an attempt on his life, and revenge. At the very end, however, the titular Killer does something surprising. Let’s dive into the movie’s final act and unpack the reasons behind his unexpected decision.  

The Killer Ending Explained

After successfully disposing of everyone involved in the hit placed on him, including his handler, and fellow assassins The Brute and the overly chatty Expert, our titular Killer heads to Chicago in search of the billionaire client who put the hit on him, Claybourne. 

He expresses some hesitation about murdering a billionaire as police might take Claybourne’s disappearance seriously. Nevertheless, the protagonist uses cheap Amazon-bought tools to make himself a copy of Claybourne’s apartment keyfob and breaks into the client’s luxury home.

The Killer wants to know if he and Claybourne have “a problem.” At first, the billionaire has no idea who the man holding a gun inside his apartment is. 

Who was really behind the hit on the Killer?

But as soon as our Killer jogs his memory, Claybourne confesses the Paris hit was his first time using an assassin’s service. After the killer missed the target, it was Hodges who suggested they tie up loose ends, not him demanding our killer’s head on a platter. 

Claybourne goes as far as to claim he had no idea what “tie-up loose ends” meant and tries to reassure the protagonist he has absolutely no vendetta against him. 

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Interestingly enough, the Killer seems to believe the client’s story and lets him live. He does promise to come back and finish the job if Claybourne even thinks about putting another hit on him or his girlfriend. 

Why does the Killer let Claybourne go?

It would be easy to mistake the Killer’s choice not to murder Claybourne for an act of mercy. But based on everything we’ve seen so far from this character, his decision could be interpreted as a pragmatic one. 

After all, the protagonist had murdered an innocent taxi driver whose only sin was taking the wrong job at the wrong time. He killed the Hodges’s terrified and arguably harmless secretary without a second thought. And he went after The Brute and The Expert, even knowing they were just doing their jobs like he has done so many times. 

But Claybourne’s death would have instigated the kind of investigation that may have led to his capture. Even more importantly, he wanted this super-powerful billionaire in his debt, which fits in with one of his rules: “Ask yourself, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

Some fans on social media haven’t taken to the ending especially well.

While the film’s epilogue shows the Killer coming to terms with his retirement, the graphic novel series continues his story well past it. So it’s more than possible Claybourne will play a part in any potential sequels if David Fincher decides he’s not done with this character. 

What did you think of the ending of The Killer? Comment below.

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