‘The Pale Blue Eye’ Ending Explained and All Your Questions Answered
by Netflix The Pale Blue Eye is a rollercoaster of a murder mystery, not least because it involves American poet Edgar Allan Poe.
Christian Bale stars as ex-detective Augustus Landor, who is drafted into West Point Military Academy in 1830 to investigate a gruesome murder. Who does he meet there if not a young cadet and poet (Harry Melling), a curious mind and a helpful confidant. Did this experience influence the real historical figure’s fascination with the macabre?
Is The Pale Blue Eye based on a true story?
Short answer: No. Edgar Allan Poe wasn’t really involved in solving a series of gruesome murders. The grizzled detective Landor is a fictional creation. But there are a few truth-inspired elements of The Pale Blue Eye.
Based on Louis Bayard’s historical fiction crime novel of the same name, The Pale Blue Eye is set when the real Poe spent six months at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. What shortened his stay? He wanted to write poetry, not take classes or do exercises. After choosing to neglect his duties, he was court-martialed and expelled.
Author Bayard “filled in” the details of what happened at West Point, a kind of origin story. He tied Poe’s true penchant for the macabre with the fictional storyline incorporating themes of death.
What does “The Pale Blue Eye” refer to?
This title was taken from Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart. In the story, the narrator describes the murder of an old man with pale blue eyes. It is one of Poe’s best-known short stories and considered a classic of the gothic fiction genre.
Netflix’s The Pale Blue Eye Ending, Explained
The Pale Blue Eye begins when alcoholic former New York detective Augustus Landor is drafted into the West Point Military Academy to investigate the hanging of cadet Leroy Fry. Mysteriously, her heart was removed and a torn note is found clutched in her hand.
Another cadet, Edgar A. Poe, approaches Landor and tells him that the murderer must be a poet, due to the symbolic nature of the removed heart. The pair analyze the torn note and deduce that someone had summoned Fry to a secret meeting. When a cow and a sheep are found slaughtered with their hearts removed, military officers suspect satanic practices are at play.
A second cadet, Ballinger, was later found hanged, with his heart and genitals removed. Later, a third cadet, Stoddard, disappears. Landor links Stoddard to Ballinger and Fry through Fry’s diary. He suspects that Stoddard ran away because he thinks he will be the next victim.
Landor is suspicious of the Marquis family – “They act like people guilty of something”, he says. While visiting their beautiful home for dinner, he takes the opportunity to poke around upstairs and discovers an old officer’s uniform. Whoever mutilated Fry’s body was posing as an officer.
Dr. Marquis admits that his sick daughter Lea, whose seizures he failed to cure, once told him that she was communicating with her late grandfather, a witch hunter. Dr. Marquis turned a blind eye to Lea, her brother Artemus, and her mother Julia performing blood rituals, as they seemed to improve Lea’s condition. However, they claim never to have killed anyone.
In love with Lea, Poe finds himself drugged in a basement room where Lea and Artemus are about to rip out his heart. Landor arrives and rescues Poe, along with Julia, but Lea and Artemus are killed in the fire.
There is one more twist in the story. Poe connects Landor’s writing style to the ripped note writing and realizes he must be the real killer. Poe learns from Patsy, Landor’s lover, that three men—Fry, Ballinger, and Stoddard—raped Landor’s daughter, Mathilde. She didn’t run away, like Landor said. Years later, still traumatized, Mattie committed suicide by jumping off a cliff.
Landor avenged his daughter by killing Fry, but was unable to remove the body before a cadet approached on patrol. Later, Lea and Artemus stole Fry’s heart. Landor mauled Ballinger to make it look like the same occultists were behind it, also planting the dismembered cow and sheep.
Does Poe deliver Landor? Unsurprisingly, no. After forming a father-son bond and befriending Landor over Mattie, Poe burns the two notes – the only proof that Landor is guilty. Feeling somewhat at peace, Landor returns to the cliff where Mattie died and releases her hair ribbon saying, “Rest, my love.”
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