Mr. Glass' Masterplan Explained
The big twist of Glass is, in its simplest form, the same as Unbreakable's: Mr. Glass was behind it all. His plan was never, as repeatedly teased, to lead a terrorist attack on Philadelphia's new tallest building. Instead, the entire showdown was a suicide mission, a literal show for the cameras and a final step in his bid to bring superheroes to the real world.
Awakened after years on medication, Elijah began to use the unfortunate circumstances he was in and manipulated them to his advantage. He switched his meds for aspirin, disassembled the lobotomy machine, approached The Horde and enacted an obvious escape plan. Then, taking advantage of the hundred cameras built around his cell, enacted a perfect showcase of superpowers that he live-streamed, unbeknownst to anybody else involved. After his death, he had these videos sent to Mrs. Price, Casey and Joseph, who together agreed to reveal it the world. Glass ends with them sat in 30th Street Station as the footage begins to go viral.
This is very much a payoff to the Mr. Glass' arc across the series. In Unbreakable, he committed three acts of terrorism in a bid to find a superhero and bring them to the attention of the world. He succeeded in the former with David Dunn (and, by proxy, The Horde), but was incarcerated before he could make it public. With his masterplan in Glass, he gets to finally achieve that, albeit in death. This final twist is established throughout the movie, with a lot of steps in what he's doing shown but not given full context; one particularly nice touch is the showdown being presented heavily in security camera footage, planting its importance to the audience well ahead of time.
The one wrinkle in all this is that Glass surely didn't know about the Clover organization, to which his entire scheme feels like a targeted rebuke. Ellie Staple is clued into this when overhearing two teenagers discussion the all-seeing genius of a mastermind and it comes as a personal affront to her, and indeed it reveals them to the world in a way they never have been before. An unexpected side-effect of Mr. Glass' plan may be the collapse of the anti-superhero Illuminati.
With Mr. Glass attaining victory and that portrayed in a positive light, it'd be easy to conclude that Glass exonerates or even sides with its villain, but it's more a case of the film trying to reblur the lines between good and evil; it's a case of truth against oppression. And nowhere is that seen better than in Elijah's - and Shyamalan's - concluding sentiment.
Glass Really Was An Origin Story
One of the most confusing moments in Glass is Elijah's final words. His mother asks him why the showdown didn't go as he'd long predicted from limited edition comics, to which he responds it wasn't a limited edition, but an origin story. Considering this is very much the payoff of the Unbreakable trilogy, such a claim can come across as a little confounding; surely this is the furthest thing from an origin story? But he's right: while Elijah is delivering his final breaths, Kevin has been shot and David is being drowned, the rest of humanity discovers superpowers and what people are truly capable; it's the origin story of a world aware of superpowers. As Mrs. Price says, "it is the beginning of a universe".
Faith plays a big part in M. Night Shyamalan's films, with conflicts of belief - be it religious, divined or otherwise - a common thread through his characters. In Glass, and indeed across the Unbreakable trilogy, this idea is raised in many ways: in how David Dunn struggles with his new-found powers that Elijah believes unquestioning and his son obsesses over; in Split with the existence of The Beast and Casey learning the confidence to stand against her uncle; and in the latest movie in Ellie Staple's deconstruction of their powers, David's returned doubt, Kevin's embracing of the light, of course Elijah's returned vision, and in the end, the drive of the trio's survivors to reveal the truth. All of this is channeled into Glass' ending, where the entire world is challenged to rethink what they believe.
The Future Of The Unbreakable-Split-Glass Universe
For all its killing of the three lead characters, Glass has a rather open ending. Its final moments mark a paradigm shift for the world as we've explored it thus far, with a myriad of opportunities on the horizon. The real world is now aware of the existence of superheroes, an "I am Iron Man" ground zero that will inevitably lead to more people discovering and opening up about their own powers. On the other side, the Clover organization is surely over; their efforts have failed and now the truth has too much momentum to be suppressed. Yet they would surely not take this lying down. They've been around for millennia, so have seen equally humanity-threatening events unfold. Attempts to curb the explosion of supers through government, public opinion or other secretive means are sure to happen.
However, while all this is to come for the world, don't expect to see it. Glass has always been positioned as the end of the Unbreakable trilogy, and Shyamalan repeatedly stated he wants to step away to tell original stories; there is unlikely to be a Glass 2 or Split 3 or Unbreakable 4 any time soon. And, considering how Glass' ending thoroughly paid off the core ideas of belief and bringing superheroes to the masses that have been part of the story since 2000, is there really anywhere else to go?
- Glass (2019) release date: Jan 18, 2019