Tommy Lee Jones' Western drama, The Homesman, has a shocking ending that leaves fans wondering exactly what just took place.
The movie, which was released in 2014, features a star-studded cast led by Jones and Hillary Swank. Joining them are Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, Jesse Plemons, and James Spader.
The Homesman's plot follows George Briggs (Jones) and Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank) in a male-dominated wild west where women and their societal roles are significantly downplayed.
What Happens at the End of The Homesman?
After traversing through the grueling aspects of winter, Arabella Sours, Theoline Belknap, and Gro Svendsen show signs of mental illness. Reverend Dowd assigns Theoline's husband to take them east to Iowa for help, but he refuses, so Mary Bee Cuddy picks up the reins and performs the task herself.
Along the way, Mary Bee meets George Briggs and enlists his help transporting the three women east.
In the middle of the exhausting trip around two-thirds of the way through The Homesman, Mary Bee proposes that she and George get married, but he turns her down (as have many other men before).
They do, however, sleep together that night, but George wakes up the following morning to find that Mary Bee committed suicide by hanging herself.
George blames the three women for their illnesses but elects to complete their journey. Before they continue, he buries Mary Bee.
After making it to Hebron, Iowa, George gives the women over to Altha Carter, the wife of the Hebron church's reverend.
Due to guilt, George has Mary Bee's name engraved into a piece of wood and decides to travel back west to mark her grave.
On his way back during the movie's ending, George catches a ferry and begins to sing with two musicians onboard.
However, some men on the pier complain about the noise they are making, and in a shocking twist of events, George flies into a raging frenzy, yelling and shooting his gun at them.
This causes one of the bargemen on the ferry to accidentally kick Mary Bee's grave marker overboard, where it falls into the water.
Not aware of what has happened, George continues to sing and dance with Mary Bee's headstone lost forever.
What Does The Homesman's Ending Mean?
At its core, The Homesman portrays the patriarchal nature of the American Wild West but also the hardships and sufferings that many women still have to endure today.
The movie is centered around Mary Bee for most of the runtime, but it is only after her suicide that viewers can see not only how living in such a society affected her so drastically but also how much of an impact she made on George.
After Mary Bee's death, George becomes more conscious of helping women around him and treating them properly. Getting to know her caused him to have a much greater respect for women and realize how they were viewed in society was wrong.
George ultimately comes a long way from when he is first introduced in the movie, but his actions at the end symbolize that he is returning to his old ways and the ways of the men surrounding him.
The fact that George traveled from west to east with Mary Bee symbolized that he was going against the norm as well, so his going back west at the end of the movie is yet another tidbit proving that all of his progress as a character was undone.
Mary Bee's headstone being knocked into the water and forgotten about is another blatant use of symbolism, showing the viewer that women in that time period were often not even regarded as being worth anyone's time.
The fact that Mary Bee was buried and will forever rest in an unmarked grave also proves this, showcasing that she wasn't even important enough in the eyes of other people for anyone to care about her.
The point in the movie when Mary Bee proposes to George and he turns her down also echoes this theme, since that is when the viewers learn that she has been constantly rejected by men over the years.
While most of The Homesman's ending does sadly showcase how women were portrayed in that time period, it also provides a bit of hope.
How Mary Bee affected George proves that she served as a martyr for feminism. However, she unfortunately had to die before George could truly realize the atrocities that women faced in the Wild West.
This also indicates that the men of the film were so blinded and set in their ways that something extremely drastic had to happen in order for their views to change.
The viewer could also see Mary Bee's headstone falling into the water during The Homesman's ending as a symbol of the birth of feminism.
Even though George was trying to respect Mary Bee, he still had her headstone in his possession, further indicating how she was still under the control of a man.
After the piece of wood fell into the water, it was finally free from the clutches of a man, drifting and traveling on its own path and direction.
The Homesman is streaming on Freevee, PlutoTV, and the Roku Channel.