Blade Runner 2049's Ending Explained

The Deckard Replicant Question - Resolved?

Blade Runner's ultimate unanswered question is whether Deckard is a replicant. In fact, the original movie is so ambiguous and subtle in its handling that the prospect is not even treated as some seismic twist, but a slow wearing away of expectations. There are explicit parallels between Deckard and the artificial humans he's hunting, an obsession with photos (ones that are too old to be of real significance), the dangling question of if he's ever taken the Voight-Kampff test and a shot where his eyes appear to glow replicant red. In later cuts of the film, Scott added in a dream/vision sequence of a unicorn, making the final origami piece a strong hint that it was an implant. Still, the debate has raged for 35 years. Some, like Ford, believe Deckard is human. Others, like Scott, are firm he's a replicant.

Blade Runner 2049 purposely doesn't provide an explicit answer. In the sequel's narrative, it doesn't really matter; the miracle lies in Rachael reproducing, not Deckard. Gaff clearly believes he is, maintaining the integrity of the original ending (he placed the unicorn), while Deckard seems to be conflicted; when we reunite with him, he's leaning towards believing it, yet remains ultimately unsure (mirrored in his passive care about if his dog is real or not). The Resistance are the same, fitting of how much of their purpose is the literal not knowing.

Related: Blade Runner 2049 Has One Strange Plot Hole

The film actually uses this debate for an emotional climax. Wallace posits a popular theory that Deckard was created - or brought to life - by Tyrell for the events of the original movie. That's traditionally been taken by fans as being to hunt down Batty, but the focus on love makes it more linked to Rachael; it's suggested Deckard was inserted to provide someone to fall for her. Regardless of truth (it doesn't appear that Niander actually believes this, he just wants to pacify Deckard and find the child), the important thing is that Deckard rejects that and the recreation of Rachael to maintain his line. It's the answer that we've known since 1982 made into a key thematic point: Deckard's state of being doesn't matter as much as his actions - something the ending hammers home.

The Ending Makes Deckard Human

In the film's climactic battle, K saves Deckard from drowning at the last minute, finally freeing him from the 35 years of running and hiding; he's presumed dead and so now can finally live. In Vegas, Deckard essentially made himself a replicant regardless of the truth - he lived the life of the hunted - but once you remove that stigma, any classification washes away. And as we now know there is no discernible biological distinction between humans and replicants (except for the eye code), when you delete that classification, they become indistinguishable human.

This is the movie's evolution of Batty's proof of life: K's sacrifice, as we've discussed, has him find meaning in love and duty; Deckard gets a similar freedom, only with a happy ending. He's "dead" and so becomes reborn and able to live on. And it's all for his daughter. Being a descendant of Rachael yet biologically conceived, Stelline blurs the line between human and replicant in a literalizing of what the questions around him did figuratively (something made more pertinent by her shared memories with K).

It's meta-textually powerful too. As Deckard meets Stelline, the plot device a person. All the Wallace and Resistance ephemera falls away as he finally gets to see her, highlighting the individual. And with it, the movie's true meaning.

Blade Runner 2049 Is About Life Coming From Personal Belief and Love

K and Joi in Blade Runner 2049

Deckard's ending brings together the two key themes we've talked about throughout: belief and love, and how these are the key to living. They unfold together, brought in by outside aspects but given body by K's arc. And, in applying them to the hero of the original, 2049 is answering the original's fundamental question.

Read More: Blade Runner 2049 Changes The Original Movie

Now, belief and its associated allegory isn't as restrictive or conceited as in other recent films exploring the topic like mother! or Alien: Covenant. Although the Resistance has religious parallels, the "belief" they open up is broader; it's about having a sense of purpose and awareness of yourself. This makes it go hand-in-hand with love as a personal and selfless emotion that powers good.

K's arc completes this by itself in a tragic way - he finds solace in it - but with Deckard being the culmination of these themes, the film ends on a moment of pure optimism - now and for the past 30 years. We see that his real arc in the original was the romance with Rachael; the positive influence that had him, not the emotional breaking of killing near-human beings.

In 1982, Blade Runner asked what it is to be human. In 2017, Blade Runner 2049 answered what it is to live.

Next: The Original Blade Runner is Not Overrated

Key Release Dates
  • Blade Runner 2049 (2017) release date: Oct 06, 2017
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