Nineteen years after Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass finally concludes the director’s Eastrail 177 trilogy. Continuing the story of 2016’s Split, the new film reveals the full breadth of the director’s imagining of a world in which people with superhuman powers live among us.
Glass picks up with Bruce Willis’ David Dunn, a strong and durable man with a sixth sense for crime; James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb, a disturbed young man with 24 distinct “personalities,” one of which is immensely strong and bloodthirsty; and Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price, an unnervingly intelligent mass murderer who is obsessed with proving that superhuman people walk among us, their powers unknown even to themselves.
Glass throws these three characters together, alongside Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple, to decide the future of their world.
Shyamalan’s film actually has a number of late-game plot reveals, each of which could be considered a decent twist, and all of them have big implications for the trilogy’s setting. So let’s unpack them, one by one.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Glass.]
Twist #1: It’s all about the origin story
As you probably know by now, a large portion of Glass takes place within a mental institution, where Dr. Staple is attempting to convince David Dunn, Kevin Wendell Crumb, and Elijah Price that they are normal — if delusional — baseline human beings. Eventually, Elijah’s genius gets the better of the security measures.
He breaks Kevin, aka The Horde, out of incarceration and encourages him to wreak destruction in a public way. He wants the world to have irrefutable evidence that superhumans exist — and unleashing Kevin’s super-powered personality, the Beast, on the highly public opening of a new office building will do it. Mr. Glass also frees David, dubbed The Overseer by press and public, in the hopes that the two will provide a thrilling good-vs.-evil clash that no one could ignore.
But David winds up confronting the Beast just outside the mental institution instead. As the Overseer and the Beast are egged on by Mr. Glass, all the secondary human characters watch in horror. But one of those characters, Dunn’s son Joseph, has discovered a vital link between all three men.
Kevin’s father didn’t abandon him, leaving him with a mother who abused him so badly that his psyche shattered. His father was killed in the wreck of Eastrail 177, the train derailment at the opening of Unbreakable, of which David Dunn was the only survivor. Thought to be an accident, the twist ending of Unbreakable revealed that it was actually one of innumerable deadly disasters caused by Elijah Price in his search of an unbreakable man.
Twist! Mr. Glass created both The Overseer and The Horde.
Joseph screams the revelation at Kevin, and The Horde turns on his “bad guy” partner.
Twist #2: Everything is a conspiracy
That’s only revelation number one. The second comes swiftly after, as a heavily armored police force arrives on the scene of the fight. As Elijah lies dying of his wounds, gunmen shoot Kevin through the heart, killing him. And just when we think David Dunn might get his due, another armed man presses the water-phobic hero’s face into a rain-filled pothole, until he drowns.
The gunmen all have the same tattoo of a three-leafed clover on the inside of their wrists, and so does Dr. Staple.
This leads into our second major reveal: This whole time, Dr. Staple has been working for a anti-superhuman conspiracy that is thousands of years old. Superhumans are real, and there’s a multi-generational conspiracy to make sure nobody knows that they are real.
When superhumans crop up, it is this secret society’s practice to try to gaslight them into believing their superpowers are figments of their imagination, or very clever but not supernatural mental tricks. If that fails, as it did with The Overseer, The Horde, and Mr. Glass, the organization simply kills them.
It’s like a dystopian Incredibles.
Twist #3: Wake up, super-sheeple
All our heroes are dead. The bad guys won. Game over, man, game over.
But wait! There’s one more endgame reveal!
It turns out that Mr. Glass was using the mental institution’s own security cameras to record The Overseer and The Horde duking it out, and stream it to a secure, untraceable location. Each of Glass’ secondary, non-super characters now have a copy: David’s son, Elijah’s mother, and Kevin’s only escaped victim, who has a soft spot for him.
In the final scene of the movie, the three gather in Philadelphia’s Penn Station approximately two hours after they made the footage publicly available online. As they watch, all over the station, people pick up their phones, like the world’s most Bruce-Willis-iest game of Pokémon Go!, and marvel at the sight of one shirtless man throwing a guy in a poncho into a car.
As Dr. Staple rages, Samuel L. Jackson’s narration takes us out of the film, as he explains to the world that an organization of unexceptional people conspired to blind the world to the existence of exceptional people. Superpowers are a real phenomenon, and the only thing that kept people like David Dunn from reaching their true potential was the belief that superpowers only existed in comic books.
Shyamalan takes the old adage that we can do great things if we only believe in ourselves and makes it literal in his setting. Mr. Glass tells the people of the world that if they believe in themselves hard enough, they just might discover their own superpowers.
The clear implication is that a new dawn of superhuman empowerment has begun.