Netflix’s neo-noir crime film ‘Reptile,’ directed by Grant Singer, takes the audience on an intriguing journey through the case of Summer Elswick’s murder. After a young real estate agent dies, Tom Nichols, a seasoned homicide detective, investigates her death. Will Grady, Summer’s boyfriend, comes out on top as the obvious suspect, yet as the case unfolds, Tom realizes the truth is much more convoluted than he could begin to imagine.
The film tentatively unfolds Summer’s case, with the audience accompanying Tom in his investigation. By doing so, the narrative provides the same information to the audience as it does to Tom and encourages the former to solve the crime alongside the leading detective. Therefore, the film’s ending likely threw some viewers in for a loop with its complex conclusion. If so, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Reptile.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!
Reptile Plot Synopsis
Summer Elswick and her boyfriend, Will Grady, are both in the real estate industry, with ups and downs in their relationship like any other. However, one night, Will finds his girlfriend dead at Whitcomb, an open house, with multiple stab wounds and a knife deeply jammed in her pelvis. Afterward, Captain Robert Allen arrives at the scene with Tom Nichols, who is heading the investigation alongside Officer Dan Cleary. Although Will cooperates with the police with his statements and interrogation, Tom remains suspicious of the man.
Afterward, forensics find that Summer’s body displays signs of recent intercourse prior to her death with semen on her person. Furthermore, they find an old Calcimine paint imprint on her palm, blonde hair strands, and CCTV footage of a Chrysler Imperial car. Tom also learns that Summer has a husband, Sam Gifford, whom she’s separated from but not divorced. The information comes from Will, who also clears up that the repeated lack of commissions on Summer’s estate sales is only a tax avoidance tactic.
As such, even though it appears Summer didn’t make much money on numerous houses, she actually has 70 grand to her name on paper. Meanwhile, a strange man tries to make trouble for Will and his mother, Camille. Consequently, at Summer’s funeral, Will shares the story about the stranger Eli Phillips’ lifelong grudge against the Gradys with the detective. When Tom follows up on it, he discovers that Eli visited Whitcomb the night of Summer’s murder and claims to have done so to take Will down, asserting that he’s a crook and a murderer.
Simultaneously, one of Summer’s friends, Renee, reveals that Summer was still seeing her husband, Sam, before she died. However, Renee withheld the information because her ex was in business with Sam, dealing heroin and coke, and didn’t want her to talk to the cops about his business partner. Just in time, the DNA results return from Summer’s corpse, confirming the semen to be Sam’s, further incriminating him.
As a result, the police surround Sam’s place of residence, with Cleary and Tom entering his house. Although they attempt to keep the interaction calm and collected, once Sam realizes he’s getting arrested, he makes a run for it with Cleary’s weapon, open firing. As such, when Tom follows after him with his own gun, the ensuing confrontation ends with Tom accidentally killing Sam.
Nevertheless, the police find large amounts of heroin at Sam’s place, closing Summer’s death case, with Sam as the murderer. Even though the same sets Tom on course for receiving a medal of valor for saving Cleary’s life, the detective can’t shake off the feeling of something being wrong. Consequently, Tom continues investigating the case, with Allen’s permission, but to no avail. That is, until his paths cross with Eli again, changing his entire perspective on the case.
Reptile Ending: Who Killed Summer?
When Summer Elswick’s murder seemingly gets solved halfway through the movie, the audience, like Tom Nichols, remains suspicious. Therefore, when Eli re-enters the narrative in his own weird way, it brings new information to the table. After learning about a young man, Rudi Rackozy, getting arrested for drug trafficking on the news, Eli makes an unexpected connection that puts everything in perspective.
Instead of reaching Tom a regular way, Eli snoops around his house and finds himself face-to-face with Tom’s wife, Judy, and her gun. Afterward, Tom returns home after checking out a breaking and entering call from the Gradys’ business— likely done by Eli to confirm Rackozy’s employment with them. The detective sends Eli to the police for putting his wife in danger, unwilling to listen to the strange man’s claims. Yet, Eli manages to covertly leave a thumb drive behind.
On the thumb drive, Tom finds numerous documents and sheets about Summer detailing her house listings and dealings. As a result, Tom learns that the government seized multiple properties that Summer sold as civil asset forfeiture following their involvement in drug busts. Later, White Fish Assets, a strange company, bought those houses, orchestrating a perfect money laundering scheme. Worse yet, the company, now dormant, shares a PO box with a private security company: Active Duty Consulting, owned by Wally, Tom’s friend and fellow cop.
As such, Tom checks out the department’s evidence lock-up to confirm Wally’s involvement. Earlier at Sam’s house, a brick of heroin had to be sealed using Christmas tape after a bullet went through it. The same heroin brick has been logged in as the evidence confiscated from Rackozy, with their system entry occurring after Wally sent the drugs from Sam’s arrest for disposal. Thus, the entire picture becomes clear to Tom.
Will and Camille Grady were scamming Summer by using her to launder money without the woman seeing any profit from her house sales. In order to do so, they employed Wally’s help, who planted drugs at houses for them to ensure the government seized the properties. Nonetheless, the mother-son duo could only keep up the charade for so long before Summer figured out the truth and started snooping into their matters. However, she put a target on her back by doing so, and Will soon caught on to her. On the night of her murder, Summer met with Eli, with whom she shared information about White Fish Assets.
Later, Will dropped by Whitcomb in a Chrysler and killed his girlfriend. After fleeing the scene, the realtor returned and reported Summer’s murder. The multiple stab wounds were because of Will’s anger over Summer, not only for her continued affair with Sam but also for her insistent snooping that ruined his scam. Yet, this revelation brings the reality of Wally’s corruption out in the open to Tom, which carries its own implications.
How Were The Police Involved With Will Grady?
Once Tom realizes Wally’s corrupt involvement in Summer’s murder, he decides to share the information with his boss, Allen. Since Allen is Judy’s uncle, Tom believes he can have faith in the man and trust him to do what is right. Nevertheless, at Allen’s birthday party, Tom makes a discovery that changes everything for him.
At first, after recognizing the car at Whitcomb as a Chryler, Allen had brushed off the idea of putting out an ABP on the car. Therefore, it’s at once surprising and not when Tom finds a Chrysler in Allen’s garage. Although the Chrysler bears a different color than the one found in Whitcomb, a little investigation reveals that the car got repainted. Turns out, Wally is not the only one involved in covering up Will’s crimes.
After the Captain finds Tom with his car, a tense atmosphere takes over, with the former subtly threatening Tom and insisting he’s keeping the car for a friend. So far, the only connection the police had to Will Grady was through Wally’s partnership in helping the former with money laundering. Nonetheless, with the revelation that Allen is storing the Chrysler Will used on the night of Summer’s murder comes the revelation that while investigating Summer’s murder, the police were actively trying to cover it up.
Tom shares the new discoveries with Judy the following night and decides to go to Chief Marty Graeber to disclose the scam. Earlier in his career, Tom kept his partner Corzano’s continued corruption through drugs, gambling, and bribery a secret. However, this time, Tom realizes he must stand up against his department, even if it means hurting those he considered friends.
Yet the next day, when the Chief and Tom arrive at Allen’s house, Tom learns that the Chief is also in on the plan. Allen tries to warn Tom to run away but is shot by Wally, who’s waiting for them upstairs. Likewise, when Graeber refuses to back down, Tom shoots him. A showdown ensues between Tom and Wally. Although Wally catches Tom’s hand in the shootout, Tom renders the other man immobile by shooting at his legs.
Ultimately, Tom deliberates calling the cops, torn between serving justice and maintaining the false integrity of his friends’ names. Since Wally, Allen, and Graeber were all in on the scheme, Tom’s entire department would face suspicion. Moreover, Tom himself will face a precarious future, having to battle out the truth to justify the death of three officers at his hand.
Toward the film’s end, we see the police coming for Will, putting him in custody. Therefore, we can conclude that Tom did report the entire incident and revealed the truth about his department and Will’s involvement in Summer’s murder.