SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains absolutely massive spoilers for the end of M. Night Shyamalan's Split. If you have not yet seen the film, and don't wish to know any details about the movie, please bookmark this link and return to this feature after your screening!
Since breaking out in 1999 with The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has become notorious (if not somewhat infamous) for his use of big twists. Whether it's Bruce Willis being dead the whole time or water being the cure for alien invasions, the writer/director has repeatedly found ways to upend expectations and surprise audiences. His latest movie, Split, is yet another excellent example of this, and actually one of the best orchestrated of his career to date.
In this feature, we are going to dive deep into the details of Split's ending; explain what's actually going on; dive into what it means; and then use what we know to speculate about possibilities for the future. There's a lot to discuss, so dig in!
What Happens At The End Of The Film
The beginning of the end of Split can be marked by the moment when things start really and truly spinning out of control. With all of his kidnapping victims -- Casey (Anya-Taylor Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) -- locked away in separate rooms, Kevin (James McAvoy) makes his way to the train station. As we learned earlier in the film, this is where the personalities Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig believe The Beast lives, and Patricia purchases a bouquet of flowers to place on the platform as a welcoming present for the 24th identity. Dennis "takes The Light" again and boards an empty train... which is where his transformation begins. Covered in dark veins and appearing much more physically imposing than in any other sequence in the film, The Beast climbs to the top of the carriage, leaps off, and makes his way back to his home base.
While The Beast runs through the streets of Philadelphia, Casey, Claire and Marcia all try and individually escape. In adjoining rooms, Claire and Marcia look for items that can help them get out -- and Marcia winds up trying to catch the slide lock on the outside of her door with a wire coat hanger. Casey has the most success of the girls, breaking out of her room with the help of a nail she discovers, but she still finds herself behind another locked exit. Looking for a solution, she accesses Kevin's computer, and finds video files featuring all of her captor's individual personalities.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fletcher wakes up and begins writing something on a piece of paper with a pencil. This effort doesn't wind up saving her life, unfortunately, as it's at this time that The Beast appears in the doorway. The therapist is shocked into silence, unable to say Kevin's full name and save herself -- and she instead grabs a knife off of the table. The Beast thanks Dr. Fletcher for all of her help and wraps his arms around her chest. She tries to stab the monster with her acquired blade, but it turns out Dennis wasn't lying about The Beast's rhinoceros-like skin, and the knife shatters in her hand. The Beast tightens his grip harder and harder until Dr. Fletcher's spine audibly snaps, and then she crumples to the floor.
While watching a video of Kevin as the fashion-obsessed personality Barry, Casey discovers the keys to the room are on the coat rack, and she manages to get out. Her first instinct is to go after the other girls, but it's too late. Casey finds Marcia dead, her stomach ripped open and intestines hanging out, and while Claire looks like she's still alive in her closet, The Beast is actually right in the midst of killing her. Casey tries to trap Kevin in with the slide lock (which doesn't work at all) and winds up running to the room where Dr. Fletcher's body lies on the floor. She finds the piece of paper with scrawled handwriting, which reads "Say His Name. Kevin Wendell Crumb." As The Beast climbs on the walls, our heroine repeatedly calls the moniker, and it not only successfully slows the monster down, but it allows us to meet Kevin for the first time.
It turns out that Kevin is completely horrified by what Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig have done, and begs Casey to do the humane thing: kill him. He tells her where she can find a shotgun and ammunition, but before she can really act, Kevin disappears. Jade, Orwell and Barry all start fighting for The Light, but get trounced by Hedwig -- who we know has the ability to take The Light whenever he wants. He lets Dennis and Patricia get back into control, and they subsequently bring back The Beast, who gleefully notes that this is all just the start of his monstrous existence.
Thanks to the handkerchief that Dr. Fletcher stuffed in the door's latch hole, Casey is able to escape the room with Kevin's shotgun, and races to his locker to get the shells. This is a successful mission, but The Beast catches up with Casey, tears at her clothes, and slices her leg badly. She is able to get away and into a locked cage -- which triggers a flashback of her father dying and guardianship being transferred over to her sexually abusive uncle (Brad William Henke). The Beast smashes lights in the hallway until he is totally hidden in the dark, preaching loudly how greatness can only be achieved through pain. As he gets closer to the cage, Casey is still able to hit him with a couple shotgun blasts, but these don't prove as effective as they do on normal humans. Before long, she is out of ammo, and knowing Casey is helpless, The Beast approaches the bars and begins to bend them with his extreme strength. It's at this moment, though, that he notices Casey's many scars from years of abusive, and rejoices that her heart is pure. It's for this reason that he ceases his attack, and disappears.
Some time later, Casey is discovered, and it's revealed that Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig have been hiding out at Kevin's place of work: the Philadelphia Zoo. The police show up and investigate the scene, but sadly, it's hardly a happy ending, as Casey is notified that her uncle has arrived to pick her up. Meanwhile, Kevin is across town in an abandoned house, where Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig investigate the damage done by the shotgun blasts during The Beast's rampage. The young Hedwig is stunned that the shots didn't penetrate his skin, and Dennis and Patricia formulate a plan for the future: to follow The Beast and let him show the world how powerful they can be.
ANOTHER SPOILER WARNING: Seriously, folks. If you don't want to know the big reveal at the end of Split, this is where you need to stop reading!
After Split's title card, the movie cuts to a diner where the television news is discussing the kidnapping case. The reporter notes that the suspect in the case has Dissociative Identity Disorder, and that sources close to the case are referring to him as The Horde. Speaking to a friend, a woman at the counter notes that the situation reminds her of the case from 15 years ago with a guy in a wheelchair -- a man who the media also gave a special name. It's at this time we see David Dunn (Bruce Willis) -- the hero of Unbreakable -- also sitting at the counter, and he finishes the woman's thought, saying "Mr. Glass."
Even for M. Night Shyamalan, this twist was a big shocker. But what does it mean? Read on, because we're digging deep into the details!