M. Night Shyamalan's cameo in Glass avoids a plot hole in the previous movies in his Eastrail 177 trilogy. Though it’s not uncommon for directors to cast themselves in minor roles, Shyamalan’s cameos in Unbreakable and Split are anything but random, as he plays the same character, Jai, in those films as well as this year's Glass, thus connecting the trilogy's narrative threads.
Establishing a continuity between all three movies - Unbreakable, Split, and Glass - was almost the entire purpose of the final film, as the first two installments were practically standalone movies. That is, until the ending of Split revealed Bruce Willis' David Dunn, which effectively turned the thematic sequel into Unbreakable 2.
While Shyamalan went to great lengths to connect all three movies, even imbuing Glass with multiple twists to get the job done, one narrative through-line that many people may be ignoring is Shyamalan's role; he reprises the same character for the third time. While it's not much more than a cameo, the role itself is enough to provide yet another connection to Unbreakable.
Shyamalan's Unbreakable Cameo Establishes An Original Character
In Unbreakable, David Dunn realizes that his natural instincts could be something much more, based on numerous conversations with Mr. Glass. So, he decides to test them at a Philadelphia stadium, where he’s working as a security guard for a college football game. As people pass by, David touches them, and he doesn’t just sense criminal activity, he sees it. One of the men David touches is none other than Shyamalan, a football fan who appears to have a drug problem. The same sequence shows David making contact with a young boy, who - in retrospect - now appears to be a young Kevin Wendell Crumb, at least given the multitude of voices that David subsequently hears.
Shyamalan's Split Cameo Is The Same From Unbreakable
Because audiences didn’t initially experience Split with the understanding that it’s connected to Unbreakable, Shyamalan’s appearance felt like just another cameo. As Jai, he works for Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), the ill-fated psychologist who meets with Kevin Wendell Crumb to treat his disassociate identity disorder. While Jai and Dr. Fletcher examine security footage, they discuss the restaurant chain Hooters, and also discover that Crumb walks directly through trash on the street. Dr. Fletcher later meets “The Beast” upon arriving at Crumb’s home, thus resulting in her death.
How Shyamalan's Glass Cameo Avoids An Unbreakable Plot Hole
Early in Glass’ first act, Shyamalan makes his usual cameo. This time, he’s a character who visits David Dunn’s security store. The scene initially feels like another wink-of-the-eye moment, a way for Shyamalan to engage with the audience. But this cameo is connected to both Unbreakable and Split, evidenced by when Jai recognizes David and references Unbreakable’s stadium sequence, noting that he used to hang out with “shady characters.” In addition, Jai states that he needs better security equipment in Glass because one of his tenants had been murdered. Because Glass picks up after Split's narrative, the tenant in question would be Dr. Fletcher. Everything is connected. It's subtle, and general audiences may not pick up on it, but it goes to show the lengths Shyamalan has taken to connect all three movies in his Eastrail 177 trilogy.