‘The Old Guard’ Ending Explained: What Do You Do With Forever?

     July 16, 2020

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[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Old Guard.]

The Netflix original movie The Old Guard has finally landed on Netflix. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Old Guard is adapted from the 2017 Image Comics release The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, drawn by Leandro Fernandez, and colored by Daniela Miwa, with Rucka adapting his work for the big screen.

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Image via Netflix

The Old Guard stars Charlize TheronMatthias SchoenaertsMarwan Kenzari, and Luca Marinelli as the titular team of immortals who have found one another throughout the centuries. Included in the Old Guard team is: Andy (Theron), short for “Andromache,” is around 6,000 years old and has spent lifetimes racking up more experience, knowledge, and grief than she cares to discuss; Joe (Kenzari) and Nicky (Marinelli) are partners who began their life together as soldiers fighting on opposite sides during The Crusades, killing each other repeatedly before falling in love; and Booker (Schoenaerts), a Frenchman who served in Napoleon’s army and still grapples with the weight of outliving his loved ones.

At the same time the Old Guard’s cover as immortals is blown during a botched rescue mission, an American soldier named Nile (KiKi Layne) survives a horrible incident which alerts the team to her existence as a possible new immortal. Andy brings the uneasy Nile into the fold, giving the newest immortal a front-row seat for the Old Guard’s battle against a pharmaceutical company looking to harness their immortality for its own profit.

What Happens at the End of The Old Guard?

The end of The Old Guard is an emotional ride, and if you survived it, you deserve a nice hug.

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Image via Netflix

Previous to the third act, which begins with Booker, Andy, and Nile preparing to confront Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the former FBI agent who set them up at the start of the movie in an effort to expose them as immortals to pharma-bro Merrick (Harry Melling), about what he’s done to them. Feeling unease about the impending confrontation and more concerned with saying good-bye to her family before going to live her immortal life, Nile take the team’s car and leaves Andy and Booker at Copley’s house. In a twist, Nile stops the car en route to the train station and decides to double-back. She discovers the gun Andy gave her for protection was the same gun Booker gave Andy, and that gun had no bullets. Realizing Booker was setting Andy up to be captured and examined at the Merrick laboratory alongside Nicky and Joe (taken by the Merrick team earlier in the movie), Nile heads to Copley’s house.

Andy and Booker attempt to confront Copley. Booker shoots Andy, giving her a potentially fatal wound to her side and exposing the truth: She can no longer heal, a sign her immortality has faded and she can actually die. Booker exposes himself as a traitor, allowing himself to be taken into custody by Merrick alongside Andy. Nile gets there too late, instead recruiting Copley to help her storm the Merrick labs.

The Merrick labs rescue is perhaps the most straight-forward part of The Old Guard‘s ending. Nile goes into the lab, prepared to finally put her immortality to the test by making her way through all of Merrick’s armed guards. She makes her way to free the team. As they strategize, Joe is none too pleased with Booker’s betrayal, which was revealed as all four sat, prepared to become test subjects. Andy makes a plea for the team to fight their way out of the lab before figuring out what to do about Booker. They pull it off, with Andy and Nile using an old trick shown earlier which allows Andy to sink her double-headed axe into Merrick’s shoulder before Nile tackles him out of the high rise and they plummet to Merrick’s death.

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Image via Netflix

After this, the Old Guard has to decide Booker’s fate. Even though he can’t die, what the team decides is somehow equally as tough. Andy delivers the news: Booker is exiled from his family, and will be able to rejoin the group after 100 years spent on his own. For a morose Frenchman who is still sorting through the grief of being the sole surviving member of his family, this is a particularly tough sentence. Andy, knowing chances are very good she will die before then now that she is (technically) mortal, shares an emotional good-bye with her longtime friend before the group sets off.

The Old Guard Ending Explained

Unlike most action or superhero movies, The Old Guard spends as much time showing of the team’s “superpower” of immortality while hunting down Copley and Merrick as it does allowing room to contemplate what it means to be immortal. What is the burden of immortality? What is the gift of immortality? What should you do when you know you will live for decades upon decades? What does it mean to watch those you love die while you get to live on? And, perhaps more importantly, The Old Guard asks whether living outside the mortal boundary is really worth it in the end.

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Image via Netflix

It’s clear from the very beginning that Andy, Booker, Joe, and Nicky take their lot in life very seriously. Yes, they are able to find moments of joy together — an even richer experience knowing they share a special, deep bond unlike anything shared by other people — but they take their immortality seriously. Rather than spend their extended lives partying or racking up wealth or doing something similarly outrageous, the Old Guard have adopted on a nomadic existence for the sake of taking on missions which allow them to help others. They are heroes who work under the cover of anonymity. They are the superheroes we all spend our days reading about or watching in movies, but we don’t know anything about. They do their work from an altruistic point of view. If they must live forever and have the ability to, say, build up a particular set of skills, why not put it to good use?

And so, The Old Guard asks us to consider our own relationship to the notion of immortality and legacy. What do we want to do with the time we’ve been given on this planet? How do we want to help others with the gifts we have, even if those gifts don’t include stellar hand-to-hand combat and weapons training? The Old Guard never preaches or demands you take a firm stance; it wants you to simply consider. The movie uses Andy, Booker, Joe, Nicky, and Nile as examples, showing them as they repeatedly process their grief, loss, anger, fear, and joy while living life on the fringes. It’s easy to assume every member of the Old Guard has found the answers to these big questions. But this movie shows you they don’t, because age doesn’t necessarily bestow wisdom (or the confidence that comes with wisdom) and growth in a lifelong process.

The Old Guard Sequel Possibilities

The Old Guard‘s final moments leave the path clear for another movie. As Andy, Nile, Nicky, and Joe look at Copley’s research and marvel at all of the ways in which their good acts have rippled out over time, Nile tells Andy, “Maybe this is the why, Andy.” And just like that, a decision is made. Andy charges Copley with the task of helping them stay on any imaginable grid, turning them into the ghosts they can’t actually be so they can continue to do good work they’ve been doing for centuries. Not only is Copley meant to keep them off the radar, but Andy also tasks him with finding “those jobs that are best suited to us.”

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Image via Netflix

Even though no official sequel to The Old Guard has been announced, it is very possible to continue this story. Despite Andy now very much living a mortal life, she is still the leader of the team and ready to fight it out until it’s her time to go. With Nicky, Joe, and Nile there to protect her, it’s very possible for the Old Guard to continue to do their work and remain a team. Now the door is wide open for Andy & Co. to go forth and figure out how they want to spend the remaining time they have and they have the narrative freedom to do it.

One final thing to remember and consider: The Old Guard never clearly ties up the loose end of Quynh, the second-oldest member of the team who fought alongside Andy for centuries. It is revealed Quynh and Andy were imprisoned and tried as witches in the 14th or 15th century. They were repeatedly tortured in attempts to kill them for their ability. Quynh was eventually separated from Andy and locked away in an iron maiden and thrown into the sea. Nile is still able to sense Quynh’s presence, which means Andy’s former comrade has been drowning and returning to life in an endless loop for hundreds of years, slowly going mad in the process and then, curiously, returning to land to meet with Book. With Quynh still alive and very much a wild card, there could still be a way to incorporate her into The Old Guard story — if that story does, in fact, continue.

The Old Guard is now available to stream on Netflix. For more, check out Matt Goldberg’s glowing review of the Netflix action movie.

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