‘Blade Runner 2049’: Let’s Talk about That Ending
With Blade Runner 2049 now in theaters, it’s a film that will have viewers eager to talk about its twists and turns. Director Denis Villeneuve listed out a specific set of requests when it came to avoiding certain character and plot points, and in my review, I adhered to those parameters, although I think dodging the meat of the narrative does it a disservice. If you’re hellbent on avoiding spoilers, don’t read a review that might contain spoilers. Wait until you see the movie, and then read the review.
But now that the movie has been released, it’s time to dive into some of those spoilers. If you haven’t seen Blade Runner 2049, STOP READING NOW. Come back after you see the movie.
Okay, if you’re still reading at this point, that’s on you.
So to recap, at the end of Blade Runner 2049, K (Ryan Gosling) has discovered that he has been caught up in a conspiracy, with one faction of replicants hoping that he’ll track down the child of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Rachel (Sean Young), thus ushering in a new age where replicants are respected on the same level as humanity, and the Wallace corporation, who want to dissect the child and use it as a template to breed a new workforce of replicants. In the end, K, after killing Niander Wallace’s top aide, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), rescues Deckard and tells him that he should be safe since the Wallace corporation will assume he died in an accident.
The two make their way to the memory-making facility where K has figured out that Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) is Deckard’s daughter. K made this realization after piecing together that his “memories” of the horse and fighting off bullies wasn’t his childhood but Ana’s. Because Deckard obscured the records, because of the blackout in 2022, and because of her auto-immune condition (which she may or may not actually have, but could have been an excuse to protect her) that kept her indoors, Ana has remained safe but also ignorant of her true parentage. K stays outside the facility and dies from his injuries while Deckard goes inside to meet his daughter.
It’s a bittersweet ending, but it comes to a definitive conclusion about its characters. K’s Pinocchio-like journey from replicant to human is defined by his actions, slowly moving away from being a trained killer to hunt down his own kind and instead discovering that there’s something out there worth fighting for. What’s more, the movie provides a worthwhile twist by leading you to believe that K might be Deckard’s son but then having K learn that it was a daughter who was hidden away. This changes the complexion of his story from one of destiny to one where he must actively choose to do the right thing and help Deckard even if it means dying. This also intertwines quite nicely with K’s love story where everything is rooted in sacrifice. K’s love for Joi (Ana de Armas) can’t be fully reconciled until it reaches a point where might actually lose her.
The ending also provides a powerful resolution to Deckard’s story. We learn that a hunter had become the hunted (the movie keeps it ambiguous as to whether or not he’s a replicant, but either way, his daughter is a “miracle”) and that he had gone into exile in order to keep Ana safe. Although he had to fake his death to meet his daughter, this meeting at least provides Deckard with some solace and hope, two things he had pretty much given up on.
Some people will look at the ending and see it as a cliffhanger—where do Deckard and Ana go from here? Will the replicant uprising begin? How will the Wallace corporation react? But those kinds of questions feel largely beside the point. The finer details of how the world of Blade Runner 2049 operates tend to be left by the wayside (how does a replicant kill a police lieutenant in her own office, and no one does an investigation?) in favor of themes and tone, and it largely pulls it off. I don’t know where the story goes from here, and to be honest, I’m not sure if I’d want a sequel. 2049 feels like such a delicate balancing act in terms of picking up the story from a beloved movie and carrying it forward that another sequel might feel like tempting fate.
Then again, as K’s story shows, fate dictates nothing. The power to choose is the most human thing of all.