If you've seen Jordan Peele's new horror-thriller movie Us, you probably have quite a few questions. If you haven't seen Us yet, then absolutely don't read this article yet, as it contians MAJOR SPOILERS that would ruin the viewing experience for you!
Seriously, this is your final warning that Major Spoilers about the ending of Us and its big twists follow! Stop reading now unless you relaly want to know!
Us Ending Spoilers
Jordan Peele's Us opens with the backstory of Wilson family matriarch Adelaide, who visited the Santa Cruz beach and boardwalk with her parents as a kid. During that trip, Adelaide wanders off from her father while he's distracted and ends up on the beach, entering a house of mirrors attraction located there. Inside that hall of reflections, Adelaide makes a horrific discovery when she encounters her own doppleganger, who reaches out and grabs Adelaide around the throat, before the screen cuts to black.
Much of Us follows the adult Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) and her family being attacked by the doppleganger from the past (who now has her own family). The finale of the film sees Adelaide descend into the subterranean tunnels beneath the Santa Cruz beach, in order to rescue her son Jason (Evan Alex) from "Red," Adelaide's doppleganger, who is the leader of the dark copies of humanity known as "The Tethered."
Adelaide and Red have a ferocious battle, with the two women mirroring one another with brutal precision. In the end, their connection allows Adelaide to sense when Red closes in from behind for a fatal strike: Adelaide impales her evil copy and then goes the extra length of slowly crushing her throat and breaking her neck. Adelaide returns to the surface world with Jason, who has observed his mother and Red's fight (and Red's ultimate confession) from where he was hidden.
The final scene of Us sees the Wilson family back on the road and on the move, as the country continues to be attacked by The Tethered. That serene family sequence is spliced together with the movie's final reveal that young Adelaide never actually made it out of that house of mirrors: her doppleganger strangled her until she went unconscious, then dragged Adelaide down to the tunnels of The Tethered, handcuffed her to the bed, took her clothing, and assumed her identity. In other words: "Red" has been the real Adelaide all along!
Us Ending Explained
The final shot of "Adelaide" sitting in the driver's seat, with Jason looking at her, is biggest cause of debate about Us, and how the reveal of Adelaide's true identity actually reframes the entire experience of viewing the film. The final shot of Jason Adelaide is what causes the alarm bells to go off, as Jason looks at his mother and realization of who and what she truly is (and subsequently why he's always felt like a "freak" who couldn't fit in with others). Sensing her son's scrutiny, Adelaide gives Jason a knowing (and very sinister) smile - one that echoes the grin we see young Adelaide/Red give, sitting in the backseat of the real Adelaide's parents' car, after they left the Santa Cruz boardwalk that fateful night.
Now there are two main schools of thought floating around, regarding what this final moment between Adelaide and Jason actually means:
- Adelaide suppressed the memory of her true origin, and over the course of the movie, her encounters with Red trigger the unconscious, then conscious, memories of who she truly is. Therefore, the ending of the film is "Adelaide" embracing her true nature, and imparting that self-confidence onto her son, who so desperately needed it.
- Adelaide has always known she's really "Red," and simply pulled off the deception in order to secure a better life for herself on the surface world. Therefore, the ending scene is Adeliade letting Jason see who she truly is, and letting him in on the secret. Rather than being afraid, Jason is strangely reassured by this truth.
Theory: Adeliade is the Villain
Personally speaking, I'm leaning toward the No. 2 option above. Not having seen Us more than once it's hard to be certain at this point, but I feel there are more clues to support the idea that Adeliade is complicit in the knowledge of her deception the whole time. Lupita Nyong'o's performance is so deft and masterful that it's hard to notice at first, but Adeliade never really crosses over to being human (remember, the entire point of The Tethered's backstory is that their government creators couldn't clone human souls, just the bodies), so much as she learned to mimic the behaviors and mannerisms of a human being.
This is hinted at early on during the film's mundane family vacation build up to the terror, through clues like Adelaide's struggle to girl talk with yuppie friend Kitty Tyler (Elisabeth Moss), or the various times her Tethered mannerisms break through, whenever she's been agitated by something. Finally, there's the awareness and calm that Adeliade has throughout the Tethered invasion. Yes, she's scared about her family's safety, but whereas husband Gabe (Wilson Duke) has a "WTF?!" attitude bout seeing the evil dopplegangers, Adeliade is oddly unfazed by the phenomenon. During the finale, when Jason is taken by Red, Adeliade is seen as being totally confidant in her immediate knowledge of where to go (the tunnels) and what awaits her there (a duel with Red). This, I argue, is because in Adeliade's point of view, the entire Tethered invasion isn't so much a surprise as it is karma she's tried to avoid for decades - a karma possibly teased by that Jeremiah 11:11 bible verse that is one of the film's other big motifs.
That's just my take, but regardless of how you personally feel, the two interpretations of Us' ending and Adelaide's complicity are no doubt going to be discussed and debated a long time after Us is out of theaters. And that may be Jordan Peele's greatest accomplishment with this film.
Us is now in theaters. You can read our official review HERE. Or watch it in the video above.
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