Damián Szifron’s ‘To Catch a Killer’ is a crime drama film about an FBI investigation against a trained sniper killer in Baltimore. Starring Shailene Woodley and Ben Mendelsohn as the central duo, the film revolves around a beat cop Eleanor, and FBI Special Agent Lammark. Following a mass shooting on New Year’s Eve, Agent Lammark works with the police department to catch their killer and comes across Eleanor, a talented but troubled cop with great instincts. As the duo teams up, Eleanor tries to tap into the shooter’s psyche while Lammark deals with immense departmental pressure.
If you’re curious to find out more about the shooter and where this investigation leads Eleanor and Lammark, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘To Catch a Killer.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!
To Catch a Killer Plot Synopsis
As fireworks go off over Baltimore City, marking a new year, a shooter randomly kills 29 people across rooftops, buildings, and ice-skating rinks with expert marksmanship. As the cops figure out the sniper’s location, the apartment blows up, leaving little to no evidence behind. Later, Lammark, assigned to the case, debriefs the local police department about the crime, instating his belief that the shooting was not an act of terrorism.
Shortly afterward, Lammark notices Eleanor and hires her as his liaison from the BPD. While Lammark fruitlessly tries to convince the mayor to shut down the city’s highway, his team figures out the make and model of the sniper used during the shooting. Upon Eleanor’s suggestion, the team looks into the military’s arsenal keepers due to the gun’s vintage status.
Soon, Lammark gets an alert that Frank Graber, another detective hungry for recognition and credit, has seemingly found a lead suspect, Hasna Rahmani. Once Lammark and his team arrive on the scene, he protests the mission since all of Graber’s evidence is flimsy and circumstantial. Nevertheless, Graber gives his orders, and armed cops storm Rahmani’s apartment, leading to his death after he jumps out of the window.
Afterward, Lammark’s investigation progresses, and he continues to pick Eleanor’s brain about the case by inviting her to dinner with his husband, Gavin. Meanwhile, much to Lammark’s agitation, the public speculates and theorizes about the killer’s identity applying just about every stereotype in the book, from terrorist sleeper cells to Jewish plots.
Eventually, the shooter strikes again in a mall, leaving multiple dead bodies behind. Due to the same, Lammark’s superiors put added pressure on him. While Lammark deals with the mayor, Eleanor recovers crucial evidence with Agent McKenzie’s help. Nevertheless, Mayor Bowen coerces Lammark into releasing the mall security footage to the public to maintain his image. As a result, several people call the police station, including a racist guy who claims to be a part of a dangerous invisible army.
Due to department pressure, Lammark and his team track down the caller, moving into an operation against him. In the end, the mission results in several casualties and no progression with the case. The department uses Lammark as their scapegoat to assign blame, firing him and transferring the case to another agent. As such, Eleanor goes into a spiral, contemplating resorting to her previous self-harm habits. However, Eleanor soon has an epiphany about the case that might just lead them straight to the killer.
To Catch a Killer Ending: Who is the Killer?
Earlier in the investigation, Lammark brings in three guys who painted the apartment that the sniper first attacked from for questioning since they could have all had access to the location. Although everyone has an alibi, Eleanor suspects one of them, Rodney Lang, of hiding something. Eventually, Eleanor deciphers that Lang outsourced the painting job from somewhere else. Following the revelation, Eleanor goes to Lammark, and the pair revisit their investigation regardless of their lack of jurisdiction.
The thread leads Eleanor and Lammark to Dean Possey. From Possey’s mother, the duo learns about Dean’s traumatic past, where his father, a shooting instructor turned arsenal keeper, accidentally shot him when he was a kid. After the accident, Dean’s father trained him as a shooter with hopes of him enlisting in the army. However, due to his stunted social skills, the Army rejected Dean’s application deeming him unfit for service.
Afterward, Dean starts picking up odd jobs for low pay. Eventually, after a grueling job at the slaughterhouse, Dean starts detesting the world. He’s unable to fit inside a modern society with its fundamental capitalist and consumerist systems. The constant isolation Dean feels, added to social rejection, makes him feel like he’s trapped inside a neverending prison. As a result, first on new year’s Eve, when the outside world gets too loud with its fireworks, Dean snaps, going on a rampage until he vents out his frustration through bloodthirst. Similarly, Dean, prone to violence, impulsively shoots down multiple people at the mall.
Does Lammark Die?
After Lammark and Eleanor discover Dean Possey’s identity, they visit his mother’s house to apprehend him. Throughout the film, Lammark isn’t worried about getting credit for his work like his peers are. Instead, he’s only focused on finding the killer. Unlike the other detectives and media, who are intent on pinning a narrative on the killer of terrorism, conspiracy, or otherwise, Lammark looks at the case objectively.
Due to the same, he recognizes the potential in Eleanor and incorporates her into his team regardless of her past. However, after his wrongful termination from the Beureu, Lammark wants to bring in the killer himself to get back at the department. Therefore, he asks Eleanor not to involve McKenzie, who’s working with the FBI and enters the scene without backup.
While talking to Dean’s mother, Eleanor notices an eerie shed on the property and realizes Dean is hiding out there. Nevertheless, the realization comes too late, and Dean shoots Lammark through the window. An excellent marksman, Dean gets a clean shot, leaving Lammark to bleed out and die inside the house.
What Happens to Dean Possey?
Shortly after Lammark’s death, Dean’s mother exits the house and tries to talk to Dean on Eleanor’s instruction. However, his mother commits suicide after a lack of response from him. By doing so, she hopes to make him see the error of his ways and repent. Still, when Dean comes out to talk to Eleanor, he’s persistent and stubborn in his need for retribution.
Dean feels wronged by the world and can only deal with his anger through mindless killing. Eleanor, who faces similar demons that manifest as self-harm, tries to persuade Dean to turn himself in and get medical help. Nevertheless, Dean’s isolation and helplessness have pushed him too far, and he can’t return from it. As such, he asks Eleanor to put an end to his actions by killing him after he falls asleep next to his mother’s dead body.
However, before Eleanor can do the same, police, alerted by gunshot noise, arrive at the scene, startling Dean. As a result, he drags Eleanor to his shed and handcuffs her inside. Later, he goes out and shoots down the officers as several others, including the FBI, show up. Eleanor keeps trying to talk Dean out of fighting back to convince him that she can still help him.
Eleanor even resorts to asking Dean to kill himself since he seems prepared to embrace his death moments ago. Although Dean starts to calm down a bit, he still activates his bomb, killing several officers. As a result, Eleanor attacks him, biting his neck and drawing blood. Dean, profusely bleeding, stumbles out of the shed, but the police catch up to him. Ultimately, Dean tries to fight back during his last moments, but the officers shoot him down.
Does The FBI Hire Eleanor?
After the Baltimore shooter case closes, the mayor and his team discuss the situation with Eleanor. They try to get her to sign an official statement and agree to keep the case’s details classified. They want Eleanor to pretend she approached Dean Possey’s house as a part of the official investigation so that their own incompetence does not get exposed.
Additionally, they want Eleanor to keep her past with drug abuse a secret, to maintain a clean profile. In return, they offer to hire her as an Intelligence Analyst for the FBI. At the start of her career, Eleanor tried to apply for the same position, but the FBI rejected her after she failed her psych eval. As such, Eleanor knows their offer to promote her is an incentive for her compliance.
Although Eleanor would have swiftly turned such an offer down at the film’s start due to her principles, her time with Lammark has taught her better. She knows sometimes she must play by someone else’s rules in order to stay in the game. Since her investigation was illegal, Eleanor knows her future in law enforcement will be destroyed if she doesn’t cooperate.
Therefore, Eleanor agrees to the official statement with a few demands of her own. She asks the mayor to award Lammark a posthumous Medal of Valor and for Gavin to receive Lammark’s full pension. Moreover, she also asks for the position of Special Agent. The mayor agrees to her terms, and Eleanor goes on to start a new chapter of her life.
Read More: Is To Catch a Killer Based on a True Story?