The Pale Blue Eye: Ending Explained (Who Is The Killer?)

The Pale Blue Eye: What it is about – it’s a film that follows a detective trying to solve a series of gruesome murders, one that starts off with a hung corpse with its heart cut out. The tale is set in 1830 and comes with great characters and plot twists. The crime drama is written and directed by Scott Cooper, starring Christian Bale in the lead role. Without further ado, here’s the plot and ending of The Pale Blue Eye explained in the form of FAQs; spoilers ahead.

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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

Let’s go through all the events linearly, which means the first thing we need to address is…

The Pale Blue Eye: Ending Explained: Who is the killer?

The ending of The Pale Blue Eye reveals that Augustus Landor is the killer taking revenge on the cadets responsible for the death of his daughter. However, the secondary crime of ripping out the heart by another group enables Landor to conceal his murders flawlessly.

With that out of the way, let’s go through the plot…

The Pale Blue Eye: Plot Explained

What happened to his daughter, Mattie?

Mattie was sexually assaulted by Cadets Fry, Ballinger, and Stoddard while she was returning from her first ball. Unable to live with this, Mattie commits suicide by falling off a cliff right in front of Landor’s eyes. The very people who were to protect civilians commit this brutal crime, and Landor takes matters into his own hands and decides to avenge his daughter.

The Pale Blue Eye: What is wrong with Lea and who are the Marquis?

the marquis family pale blue eye

Lea is suffering from some sort of epilepsy that has constantly been worsening since her childhood. When medicines fail, Lea takes to the occult and believes she can hear her ancestor talk to her. She’s not alone in her quest.

Julia: Lea’s mother who partakes in the cult rituals.
Artemus: Lea’s brother, a cadet, who aids Lea.
Dr Daniel: The father in charge of analyzing corpses for the case. He is aware of what his family is up to but turns a blind eye.

The Pale Blue Eye: Who killed Leroy Fry and cut out his heart?

As revenge, Landor lures Fry with a love letter to a desolate spot where he strikes and hangs him to death. The Marquis family discovers the body a while later and cuts out Fry’s heart for their cult ritual. Landor narrows down on Fry because his locket remains with Mattie that night of the assault.

Is Patsy involved in the murders?

No, Patsy is unaware of Landor’s murder plans though she lives with him. Leroy Fry only assumes that the love letter is from Patsy and even calls out to her before getting struck. Besides, if Patsy was in on it, she would never have told Allan Poe anything about Landor’s daughter.

The Pale Blue Eye: Who is Allan Poe?

landor and poe

Poe is another cadet whose character is based on the real-life poet Edgar Allan Poe. Poe enjoys a good puzzle and volunteers to help Landor solve the mystery of the brutal murders. He stealthily gets information from other cadets about Artemus’ involvement in the occult. After that, he fakes illness to take a day off and wins Artemus’ appreciation to get into the inner circle. Poe meets Lea and falls for her, but the Marquis family targets him for their final sacrifice.

Who killed Randolph Ballinger and cut out his heart?

Landor kills Ballinger as revenge for what he did to his daughter and rips out Ballinger’s heart to make it look like this murder was also occult-related. Landor confirms Ballinger’s involvement in Mattie’s assault from Fry’s secret diary handed to him by Fry’s mother. Ballinger is shown to be attracted to Lea, and because Poe is in the way, he ends up attacking him. Once Landor kills Ballinger, Poe, who has had altercations with both Fry and Ballinger in the past, becomes a suspect in both murders.

What happened to Stoddard?

When both Fry and Ballinger are found dead, Stoddard understands that his two friends were killed for what they did to Mattie and that he is next. Stoddard makes a run for it and goes missing. He is not dead, as Landor could never get to him. But Landor hopes Stoddard lives the rest of his life constantly looking over his shoulder, expecting death at any time.

How do Poe and Landor deduce the Marquis family tore out Fry’s heart?

Poe gains access to some rumours about Artemus’ cult activities. 

They find out that Le Clerc, Lea’s great-great-grandfather, one who once killed 700 women accusing them of being witches, has left behind a book with instructions to secure immortality. One of the ‘ingredients’ of this instruction is the heart of a hanged man.

Landor discovers an old officer’s uniform in the house at their dinner party. This correlates with what Landor finds out from a Private who was relieved from duty by a mysterious man in an officer’s uniform on the night Fry’s heart was torn out. This was Artemus in the uniform that belonged to his uncle.

Finally, Landor confronts Dr Daniel Marquis about Lea talking to her dead great-great-grandfather, and the doctor admits to his kids mutilating Fry’s body.

Saving Allan Poe

Despite Poe’s sincere love for Lea, the Marquis family (Lea, Artemus and Julia) marks him as their final sacrifice. Landor reaches just in time to save him. The place goes up in flames, and Lea and Artemus are killed by falling debris while Julia is saved by Landor.

The Pale Blue Eye: How did Poe find out Augustus Landor is the killer?

How did Poe find out Augustus Landor is the killer?

The piece of the letter retrieved from Fry’s hands remains with Poe. Later Landor writes a note to Poe to ask for a meeting. Poe matches the handwriting in both letters and confirms that the Landor lured Fry for the kill. Upon talking with Patsy, Poe learns what really happened to Mattie, revealing Landor’s motive for murder. 

When Landor killed Fry, he is coincidentally called back the next day to investigate a dead body missing a heart. Landor gets the perfect cover for his murder which is why he tears out Ballinger’s heart after killing him. Before Landor can get to his third target, Stoddard, he makes a run for it.

Why does Poe not report Landor?

Landor saves Poe’s life. Although Poe loved Lea, she would have killed him to save her own life based on the writings of her misinformed and brutal great-great-grandfather. Poe understands Landor’s pain and his need for vengeance. He spares Landor by burning the note, which is the only evidence that could incriminate him.

And that’s that. What were your thoughts on the plot and ending of The Pale Blue Eye? Drop your comments and questions in the comment section below.