WARNING: Spoilers for Serenity.
Serenity begins with a close-up on the eyes of a young boy, a window into his soul, it seems. From there, the focus immediately shifts to Matthew McConaughey’s Baker Dill, a fishing guide who sabotages a client’s trip when he spots a giant tuna fish he’s named “Justice.” During Serenity's first half, a mysterious gentleman (Jeremy Strong) attempts to speak with Baker, but the fisherman is consistently on the go throughout Plymouth Island. Meanwhile, Baker's ex-wife Karen (Anne Hathaway) shows up and makes an offer he can’t quite refuse. For $10 million, she wants Baker to kill her abusive husband Frank (Jason Clarke) during a scheduled fishing clip. For Baker, he’s more interested in being a good father to his son, and speaking with him through telepathic means.
Given Serenity’s traditional noir elements, the narrative suggests that Baker's free-will will likely determine the final outcome. However, the major twist is that Baker is being controlled by somebody else, and that Plymouth Island is a computer simulation. In this world, Serenity isn’t just a boat, and Justice isn’t merely a fish.
- This Page: What Happens In Serenity's Twist Ending?
- Page 2: How Serenity Set Up The Twist (& What The Ending Means)
SERENITY IS ABOUT A FISHING VIDEO GAME RE-CODED FOR REVENGE
Throughout Serenity, Baker speaks to his absent son, suggesting there’s a strong bond in place and that they will ultimately be reunited; a surrealistic image of Baker meeting with a boy underwater aligns with his story. Meanwhile, Baker's nemesis Frank speaks about his step-son, and how he likes to play video games, with the film repeatedly cutting away to an adolescent creating code in his room (while adults fight nearby). Two distinctly different men with two different sons, right?
Serenity’s wildcard comes in the form of Strong’s mysterious businessman, Reid Miller. During a night of heavy rain, he catches up with Baker and reveals a crucial bit of information after drinking some alcohol. His primary goal is to sell Baker a new piece of fishing equipment, but he’s first offering a free trial. When Baker presses Reid about his actual intentions, the businessman exclaims that “I am the rules.” Ultimately, Baker discovers that he’s living in a video game world created by Patrick (Rafael Sayegh), and that the primary objective is being changed. Baker's compulsion for fishing is merely a character trait, a piece of computer code. Patrick decides to drastically change “the rules,” in order to live out a fantasy of killing his abusive, real-life step-father. In the simulation, the now self-aware protagonist, Baker, is destabilized by the ever-changing code, unaware if he should fish or kill. Once Patrick completes the new code, Baker follows through with the command, in part aided by a new character who appears to be a simulated version of the video game creator - Patrick! On Serenity, Baker finds Justice. And Frank - the simulated version of Patrick's step-father - takes a final journey towards Justice.
But that’s not Serenity's final reveal: Baker's real-life inspiration, Patrick's father, is deceased. He was killed during military service in Iraq. Baker represents an idealized version of what might’ve been.
PATRICK KILLS HIS STEP-FATHER FOR REAL AT THE END OF SERENITY
For the majority of Serenity, Patrick uses free will in a world of his own creation. To the viewer, he may seem like a powerless kid, one forced to endure the violence taking place in the next room. Like many kids in similar situations, Patrick retreats into his personal "compulsion," thus transferring energy to the simulated version of his dead father. Through Baker, Patrick may watch his mother and father reunite. He may infuse his creative influences to manipulate a customized world.
But as the wiring of Patrick’s brain changes in Serenity, his creative concepts become a dark and twisted fantasy. Giving Baker free will to kill Frank isn’t enough. Instead, Patrick transfers Baker's power back to himself, in the real world, and the game's creator ultimately leaves his computer to find real-life justice. Serenity doesn’t end with Patrick’s real-life freedom, though he does experience salvation in his own mind (more on that later).
- Serenity (2019) release date: Jan 25, 2019