Mission: Impossible - Has Ethan Hunt Been Secretly Fighting The Syndicate His Whole Career?

Tom Cruise dressed in a suit, walking during the day in Mission: Impossible - Fallout.

Over 25 years of explosive covert operations, the Mission: Impossible series has seen Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt battling against terrorists and bureaucrats alike. Always running between evils like the shadowy organization known as “The Syndicate” and agents of his own government looking to shut him down, some recurring threads keep popping up in Ethan’s continuing adventures. But could Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 be working towards the ultimate truth that The Syndicate has been the author of his pain throughout his entire career?

If we take a careful look at The Syndicate, as well as some developments that have occurred throughout the Mission: Impossible’s recent sequels, a pattern does begin to emerge. Much as Ethan Hunt did while trying to prove the existence of that very terrorist organization, we’ve looked through the clues and put together a theory. Should this be true, The Syndicate may be a greater threat than even Ethan could have ever imagined.

Sean Harris talking to Rebecca Ferguson in a graveyard in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

What Is The Syndicate In Mission: Impossible?

In Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, we learn of a black book project dreamed up by MI:6 agent Atlee (Simon McBurney) known as “The Syndicate.” It was supposed to be an elite program that allowed its agents to operate outside of the rules of typical espionage, but the Prime Minister of England (Tom Hollander) rejected the project outright. However, Atlee pulled the trigger on the proposal anyway, with MI:6 agent Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) as its leader.

Naturally, Lane defected from MI:6 and The Syndicate became an international force of terror. Recruiting intelligence agents who were “missing or dead” from around the world, this “Rogue Nation” struck without a trace. At least, that was the case until Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation saw the group personally target Ethan Hunt and his IMF team.

Henry Cavill fires off a gatling gun from a helicopter in Mission: Impossible - Fallout

A Brief History Of The Syndicate’s Actions In Mission: Impossible

Ethan Hunt is first clued into the existence of The Syndicate at the very end of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, as he listens to the details of his next mission. Since then, The Syndicate has been pegged as a specific nuisance threatening Ethan Hunt and the IMF, in various forms. However, it starts to get personal in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, as Solomon Lane tries to kill Ethan in London.

Through the plot of intrigue that sees Ethan and his IMF team eventually capturing Solomon Lane, The Syndicate isn’t quite destroyed. Forced to reorganize as The Apostles before the events of Mission: Impossible - Fallout, we learn that yet again, an intelligence operative has been working to bring down the IMF from the inside. This time, it’s thanks to CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavill), who tries to do what many others in the past have done: frame Ethan Hunt. Is this starting to sound a bit familiar to anyone else?

Jon Voight, Dougray Scott, Billy Crudup, and Michael Nyqvist lined up in their Mission: Impossible appearances.

How Past Mission: Impossible Villains Could Tie Into The Syndicate

The Syndicate is bent on undermining the intelligence community, causing chaos through extreme operational blowback. In other words, its members love to infiltrate spy agencies, turn various members in their ranks into radicals and bring the system to its knees. We’ve seen it throughout the last two Mission: Impossible entries, but what if it started a lot sooner than we thought?

It’s a fact that the Impossible Mission Force has consistently had a problem with past members becoming traitors. Mission: Impossible saw the Phelpses (Jon Voight and Emmanuelle Beart) and disavowed operative Krieger (Jean Reno) almost release the NOC List onto the open market, while its direct sequel, Mission: Impossible 2, literally saw Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) defecting mid-mission. Rounding out the rogue’s gallery pre-Rogue Nation is Mission Impossible 3’s IMF Assistant Director John Musgrave (Billy Crudup) and Ghost Protocol’s Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyquist), both of whom compromised IMF operations on the behalf of their sinister deeds.

Much like the modern era of James Bond films, serialization has come into the game, so ground has to be gained for the story to tie together. Which is why it can be assumed that the villains in the first four films have secretly been working for The Syndicate, much like how Quantum eventually became Spectre. And one specific piece of casting for Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 seems like the key to putting it all together.

Henry Czerny sitting in a restaurant, looking concerned, in Mission: Impossible.

The Key Casting That Could Confirm This Mission: Impossible Theory

It used to be the cast in a Mission: Impossible movie went through heavy turnover, with new mission directors and teammates coming along for the ride. But over time, a stable of staples started to form, as Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickell became the first lynchpin in the IMF team. However, even in an era where Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson have eventually become fixtures in the Mission: Impossible world, one returning figure feels like the connective tissue to wrap the entire franchise together in a gigantic bow of continuity: Eugene Kittridge.

Played by Henry Czerny in the first Mission: Impossible movie, Kittridge was a functional adversary to Ethan Hunt, as he presumed Tom Cruise’s IMF agent was a mole. Eventually, Jim Phelps and his wife, Claire, are outed as the moles, and Eugene Kittridge’s mole hunt comes to a satisfying end. So why bring him back now, in an era where the Mission: Impossible past seems loosely connected at best?

Well, there’s a possibility that writer/director Christopher McQuarrie’s two-part story throughout the next two Mission: Impossible sequels is tying together all the loose ends. Just as McQuarrie’s work in Mission: Impossible - Fallout brought Ethan Hunt’s ex-wife Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan) back into the series, it feels like the most recent era of this story is intent on reconciling the past with the present. Which means the return of Eugene Kittridge might signal The Syndicate has been behind every plot Ethan Hunt has ever faced, leading to one hell of a showdown in Mission: Impossible 7 and 8.

If the Mission: Impossible franchise series is following the path that’s suggested above, it looks like Eugene Kittridge and Ethan Hunt are about to team up on the ultimate quest to shut down The Syndicate, and all off-shoots, once and for all. Then again, this is a legendary brand that is known for pulling the wool over the world’s eyes, with a greater truth awaiting us all with Mission: Impossible 7’s debut on November 19. Theories like this will make the wait worth it, especially with the promise of more breadcrumbs dropping between now and then.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.