Does Christian Bale’s Augustus Landor Die in The Pale Blue Eye?

Image Credit: Scott Garfield/Netflix

Directed by Scott Cooper, Netflix’s murder mystery film ‘The Pale Blue Eye’ depicts the engrossing tale of Detective Augustus Landor, one of the most renowned investigators in the state of New York. When the death of a young cadet named Leroy Fry startles the United States Military Academy, the officials of the place seek the service of Landor. He teams up with a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe to unravel the mystery behind Fry’s death, only for the latter to bring out the truth behind the detective’s involvement in the crime. After startling revelations, Landor thinks about his future, making the viewers alarmed about the fate of the distressed father. Well, let us share our take on the same! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Landor’s Uncertain Fate at the Cliff’s Edge

After getting assigned to investigate the death of Leroy Fry, the first discovery Landor makes is finding a piece of paper the death cadet holds inside one of his hands. Landor and Poe start their investigation using the information from the piece of paper, which leads them to Fry and Randolph Ballinger’s deaths’ connection to mysterious occult practices. Soon, Landor discovers that Lea and Artemus Marquis killed the two cadets and removed their hearts for a satanic ritual for the sick girl to become immortal. Lea’s attempts to kill Poe for his heart further enhance the authenticity of Landor’s discovery.

Image Credit: Scott Garfield/Netflix

However, Poe’s attention to detail makes him compare the piece of paper Fry held in his hand with a note Landor left for him, only to find out that both were written by the same person. Landor eventually confesses to killing Fry and Ballinger for raping his daughter Mattie, which infuriates Poe. The young poet realizes that his idol and mentor is nothing but a cold-blooded murderer who framed two innocent children, although they nearly kills Poe, as the murderers for him to escape from the gallows. After Poe leaves Landor for good, the detective arrives at the same cliff from where Mattie falls to kill herself.

As far as Landor’s intentions are concerned, it will not be a surprise if he really wants to kill himself. After Mattie’s death, Landor has been living to exact his vengeance on the rapists who destroyed his daughter’s life and pushed her to death. By killing both Fry and Ballinger, he honors the memories of his daughter, which continue to haunt him. After taking his revenge on the perpetrators, Landor has nothing to live for. He may have already realized that there isn’t any way he can make peace with the thoughts and dreams concerning Mattie. Rather than living with the hurt of her death, the father in distress may choose death to reunite with Mattie in the afterlife.

Landor never wanted to become a murderer. All his life, he has tried to bring out the truth rather than hide the same as a perpetrator. By killing Fry and Ballinger, Landor kills a part of his himself as well. If Landor is able to tolerate himself as a murderer, he would have hunted down Stoddard, who raped Mattie along with Fry and Ballinger, to kill him as well. Rather, he reveals to Poe that he doesn’t have the strength or will to kill again, which indicates that he cannot accept himself as a killer. Landor may fall from the cliff to die rather than live as a murderer.

Image Credit: Scott Garfield/Netflix

After Mattie’s death, Landor gets connected to Poe, who quickly becomes someone much more than an assistant to him. As they investigate the case together, the detective forms a father-son relationship with Poe, which gives him immense relief. Their relationship and the warmth they share get terminated when Poe realizes that Landor is a murderer. As the young poet leaves the detective’s house after a final goodbye, the latter doesn’t have anyone or anything to live for, which makes death a suitable resort for Landor.

In the closing shots of the film, Landor releases a piece of cloth that belonged to Mattie and asks her to rest as he avenged her death. If he doesn’t intend to die, the detective may have faced the vastness beyond the cliff to talk to his daughter. Since he stands at the edge of the cliff, facing the woods, the same way Mattie stood before killing herself by falling from the cliff, we believe that the detective chooses to die the same way.

Read More: Is The Pale Blue Eye Based on a True Story?