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Pearl Ending Explained: How X’s Murderous Maiden Became Who She Is

Mia Goth theatrically holds a pitchfork over her head in the barn in Pearl.
(Image credit: A24/Christopher Moss)

Warning: spoilers for the Pearl ending are about to be projected across your screen. If you haven’t experienced this movie magic, as well as the wonder of Ti West’s X for yourself, you’ve been warned. 

Earlier in 2022, the world was rocked by writer/director Ti West’s surprise horror hit X. A porno slasher that took its cues from grindhouse movies and ‘70s porn, the end result was a beautifully demented ride that introduced the world to the woman that would become the center of her own prequel: the new movie release Pearl. As if the reception to X wasn’t enough of an unexpected pleasure, knowing we’d soon learn how this murderous maiden became who she is was even more of a treat.

Now the tale has been told, and Mia Goth’s killer would-be starlet has come to life in brilliant Technicolor! Which means that, much as X’s ending was explained, it’s time to get into Pearl’s grand finale and see how past, present, and future all connect. Consider this the last stop on the line before we steam ahead, as we shouldn’t keep Pearl waiting for too long. We all know how she can get if she’s kept waiting. 

Mia Goth stares straight ahead with smudged makeup at the dinner table in Pearl.

(Image credit: A24)

What Happened At The End Of Pearl?

Throughout an unspecified period of time in 1918, we see the young farmer’s daughter known as Pearl (Mia Goth) transform before our very eyes. Turning from wide-eyed Hollywood hopeful to a murderous, insecure woman, we see our still sympathetic protagonist welcoming her husband Howard (Alistair Sewell) home from World War I. 

After a journey that saw her graduate from killing farm animals and smashing eggs to taking out actual humans, Pearl leaves us with a credits sequence that sees its focal character smiling until she’s crying. It’s not like our titular starlet didn’t go mad without a good reason either. We could see that much in the details revealed by the Pearl’s masterfully cut trailer

The circumstances we see her wade through during the film have a lot to do with the end result that still reverberates in X’s chain of events. What started as a melodramatic quest for fame turned a young girl who was already a bit disturbed into a full-on maniac. After seeing that journey unfold, you kind of can’t blame her.

Mia Goth in Pearl

(Image credit: A24)

How Pearl’s Quest For Fame Drove Her Mad

Like anyone in the early days of the movie industry, Pearl is a huge fan of the moving pictures. Palace Follies is one of her favorites, and it inspires her to want to become a singing and dancing spectacle that can be loved by as many people as possible. However, Pearl puts those dreams through the wringer, putting this perky and peppy prospect on the path to madness.

For starters, Pearl’s mother Ruth (Tandi Wright) constantly doubts her chances at stardom, encouraging her to focus on helping care for her ill father (Matthew Sunderland) instead. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the big audition for the Texas Christmas Chorus Line saw Pearl’s shining star knocked back down to Earth, as she failed to have “that X factor.” Who did have that elusive quality so many in entertainment are looking for? Her sister-in-law Mitzy (Emma Jenkins-Purro).

Slowly becoming more unhinged with every setback and piece of negative feedback, Pearl murders every family member mentioned above. It starts with the accidental burning of her mother Ruth, which leaves the family matriarch to eventually die from her wounds. Once that act has been committed, it’s not hard for Pearl to ramp things up into homicides spurred by jealous rage. 

Even The Projectionist (David Cornswet), the one person who believed in Pearl’s abilities, finds himself on the wrong end of a pitchfork. Those killings lead to Pearl’s ending, with Mia Goth’s potential horror icon ready to forsake her aspirations in the services of keeping her husband happy by her side. 

Tandi Wright comforts Mia Goth in her arms, as they lie on the stairs in Pearl.

(Image credit: A24/Christopher Moss)

Could We See Pearl Again?

Don’t worry, Pearl doesn’t change what we know about X’s lead slasher in charge, nor does it retcon her death. However, that being said, there’s a pretty large gap between this 1917 prequel and its follow up, set in the year of 1979. Looking at the threads woven between both films, we know for a fact that Howard doesn’t leave his murderous wife. In fact, he literally loves her to death. 

There’s still a lot of room for further stories that sprout from Pearl’s sad but scary finale. Most importantly, Ti West and Mia Goth could explore just how Pearl and Howard’s marriage evolved into an arrangement where keeping captive sex slaves in the root cellar became the key to a happy home life. 

However, that’s not where the immediate future of the X franchise is headed, as West dropped another surprise, similar to the announcement that revealed Pearl was on the way to its eventual theatrical release.  

MaXXXine's very '80s looking title card, complete with chrome letters.

(Image credit: A24)

How Pearl Could Be Hinting At MaXXXine’s Secretive Plot

Ti West previously talked up a potential third movie when laying out Pearl’s existence to the world, set in the home video driven era of the 1980s. Sure enough, when he premiered Pearl at the Toronto International Film Festival, MaXXXine was revealed to the world. Just as he’d done with Pearl, West unleashed the following trailer to an unsuspecting festival audience, after the credits had concluded: 

All we have at the moment is a trailer that teases how MaXXXine is probably taking place in 1985 Los Angeles, and following the continued adventures of X final girl Maxine Minx (Mia Goth). Chasing nothing short of the life she deserves, her own dream of becoming a star is about to continue. Looking at the story for Pearl, there’s a pretty distinct possibility of what we should expect.

Maxine was presented to us as a sort of mirror image for Pearl in X, which basically sent the now older and more regretful farmer’s daughter into yet another tailspin. Winning her freedom by running over Pearl with her own pickup truck, Maxine Minx escaped through murder. If Pearl is any indication, that first act of bloodshed, and a potential future of even more struggles to break into stardom, are going to turn this runaway into another movie maniac.

Then again, we might see MaXXXine show us a woman on the precipice of slasherdom, while wrestling with her better angels. Closing out the trilogy that started with X, this next entry in the world of upcoming horror movies may smash the cycle of madness we’ve seen formed between these first two chapters. For now, we’ll have to just revel in the fact that Pearl is in theaters, with X available for rental and purchase (opens in new tab), and MaXXXine being in the pipeline for its future release. Perhaps there’s more clues we haven’t picked up on throughout Ti West’s current duology that tell even more of the story that lies ahead.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.