The Pale Blue Eye Ending Explained: Who Actually Committed The Murders?

The Pale Blue Eye Ending Explained: The Pale Blue Eye, a gothic murder mystery starring Edgar Allen Poe as one of the detectives on the case, first premiered in select theatres on December 23 and is now available to stream on Netflix. It’s a killer of a mystery, that’s for sure.

The Pale Blue Eye, adapted from Louis Bayard’s novel of the same name, takes place in snowy upstate New York in the year 1830. Christian Bale stars as veteran detective Augustus Landor in this Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Hostiles)-directed period thriller about the brutal murder of a cadet at the young United States Military Academy at West Point.

When the body of cadet Leroy Fry (Steven Meier) was discovered in the university hospital, his heart had been removed and was missing.

With only a fragment of a note from the victim’s hand to go on, Landor (Harry Melling) recruits his fellow cadet Poe (Harry Melling) to help him find the killer. Even though Poe’s time at West Point is fictionalized in The Pale Blue Eye, the author spent time there before being expelled in January 1831, just seven months after enrolling.

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How Do Landor And Poe Solve The Mystery?

Another cadet, Randolph Ballinger (Fred Hechinger), is murdered and disfigured in the same manner as Fry after Fry’s mother gives Landor her son’s diary. Fry and Ballinger were revealed to be close friends in the diary, and it was soon learned that their other friend, Cadet Stoddard (Joey Brooks), had disappeared.

Lea Marquis (Lucy Boynton), sister of Cadet Artemus Marquis (Harry Lawtey), and daughter of the school physician, Dr. Marquis, has been mysteriously ill for some time, and Poe has begun spending time with her and falling in love with her (Toby Jones). Seizure disorder is terminal, and Lea has been given only months to live.

Landor discovers that the Marquis family sacrificed a human heart in an occult ritual meant to extend Lea’s life after discovering an officer’s jacket at the scene of Fry’s abduction. Unfortunately, Lea’s effects have worn off and she needs a new victim. Poe steps in.

Lea poisons Poe and plans to cut out his heart and sacrifice him with the help of Artemus and their mother Julia (Gillian Anderson). Thankfully, Landor shows up at the perfect time to throw a wrench in the proceedings.

Landor and Artemus get into a scuffle, during which a candle is knocked over and the room catches fire. While Landor saves Poe and Julia from the falling debris, Lea and Artemus perish at the hands of the same force.

Who Actually Committed The Murders?

After the Marquis siblings are falsely accused of the murders, life at West Point goes back to normal. However, that’s not the end of the plot twists. The truth of Landor’s past is revealed in a fateful encounter between the detective and Poe, after it is established early in the film that Landor is a widower whose only daughter ran off (or so he claims).

Poe confronts Landor about his involvement in the murders after realizing that the handwriting on the note found in Fry’s hand and a note Landor later left for him are the same. After two years of silence, Landor finally admits that his daughter Mattie (Hadley Robinson) didn’t run away but was raped by three men on her way home from the academy ball.

After the attack, Mattie was left with Fry’s dog tag, prompting Landor to seek vengeance on Fry after Mattie’s suicide. The Marquis family didn’t steal Fry’s heart until after Landor murdered Fry.

Who Actually Committed The Murders?
Who Actually Committed The Murders?

From Fry’s diary, Landor learned that Ballinger was involved, so he murdered and dismembered him in the same manner to give the impression that the killings were ritualistic. Stoddard, the third assailant, assumed he was next and fled in fear.

You were the one who I was to deliver myself to all along,” Landor tells Poe, revealing that he always intended for Poe to find out that it was him. As I told you when we first met, “I knew that from the moment I first met you, and here we are.”

The Pale Blue Eye’s Killer is Landor

Letters the killer wrote and those left to him by Landor in their secret partnership are reconciled as a revived Poe confront a damaged Landor (a nod to Bale’s role as a broken man in Equilibrium). After his daughter Mattie was raped by three cadets, Landor says he killed Fry and Ballinger to protect her from further trauma.

To prove that he had killed Fry, he had to have her give him the dog tag he had lost; however, he never did. The Marquis siblings used the mortuary body, so Landor had to steer the investigation in a corrupt direction to find the third killer. Using information from Fry’s diary, he injured Ballinger, but he’s now done with the chase.

Because of this, he lacks the motivation to go after the third, Stoddard, who ran away from the academy in fear of being the next victim. The fact that his partner didn’t trust him and that he was used as a pawn upsets Poe deeply. Poe, however, feels sorry for Landor and burns his confession letter while wishing him well.

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