The ending of Logan explained

It's not often that an actor gets to say goodbye to a character on his own terms, especially when it comes to big-budget superhero action-fests. More often than not, an actor's movie flops, or he decides not to come back for the sequel, or merciless producers kill characters off to make room for more exciting heroes. But in the case of Wolverine, Hugh Jackman got the chance to go out with a bang in 2017's Logan. And while the ending was pretty straightforward in a lot of ways, there's definitely some lingering questions both within the story and in the real world that are worth discussing. Pop your claws, light a cigar, and watch out for spoilers while we test out some theories to try to explain the ending of Logan.

What was across the border?

Throughout the film, Logan's on a quest to deliver Laura to Eden, a hidden spot in North Dakota that promises sanctuary for her and every other mutant kid who escaped the X-23 program run by Doctor Rice. He's skeptical, and rightly so—Eden's coordinates are copied out of an old X-Men comic, after all. Fortunately for Laura, Eden turns out to be a real place—and a way station for the kids to meet before trekking a few miles through the woods and across the Canadian border to safety. We never quite find out just what was across that border, though. Obviously something was waiting for them up there, and it was powerful and important enough that Rice, Pierce, and the Reavers had to nab the kids before they crossed. If you're a longtime X-Men fan, you may already know what…or who…we're obliquely referring to. Canada, powerful, mutants…

Alpha Flight

That's right, it's Canada's premiere super-team of mutants. Alpha Flight was sort of a combination of the X-Men and the Avengers, but covered in maple syrup and always carrying hockey sticks. In short, there's plenty of reason to believe that some adaptation of Alpha Flight was waiting to receive and rescue the kids across the northern border. And because the team has usually been depicted as working as part of the Canadian government, it makes sense that they wouldn't legally be allowed to cross into American territory to rescue the X-23 kids directly. But once they're in Canadian jurisdiction, they'd be able to blast any Reaver stupid enough to follow.

And there's plenty of real-world evidence that Alpha Flight was waiting. For starters, 20th Century Fox has still only barely scratched the surface in terms of the characters it can use to build its comic book cinematic universe: the studio owns the movie rights to pretty much every character associated with the X-Men. That clearly includes Alpha Flight, which debuted as a partial explanation of Wolverine's then-mysterious backstory in X-Men #120, back in 1979. To this point, the franchise has made only very oblique references to Alpha Flight, most notably in an on-screen easter egg in X2: X-Men United. But in February 2017, producer Simon Kinberg told Comicbook.com that there are potential plans to develop an "X-Flight" movie. That's likely either a slip of the tongue, and that he meant to say "Alpha Flight," or the franchise is being changed to brand it closer to the rest of the films in the franchise. Either way, don't be surprised to hear that the follow-up to Logan is the start of an Alpha Flight-related franchise. Unless…

Generation X?

We don't know anything about the woman on the other end of the radio during Rictor's chat with whoever was in Canada waiting for the kids. Maybe it was one of the members of Alpha Flight—or maybe it was another famous X-Men character who's long been associated with Wolverine: Jubilee. In the '90s, the Generation X series offered a more modern take on the New Mutants team that had morphed into X-Force by that point. Jubilee, who at times has been kind of an unofficial sidekick for Wolverine in the comics, was a main component of the team, as was the White Queen, Emma Frost. Both characters have been established in the X-Men films in different ways, and the franchise's murky timelines make it entirely possible that the woman could've been either one. While this isn't as fun as the Alpha Flight theory, it's just as possible that the end of Logan could be setting up a possible Generation X film, with a whole batch of young mutants to learn under the instruction of these veteran characters.

The eulogy

After Laura buries Logan in the woods of North Dakota, she delivers a eulogy that, while meaningful, might have left some viewers confused. Don't feel bad—it was easy to get distracted by the delightful mayhem throughout the movie, so you may have missed this. Laura was quoting the closing monologue from Shane, which she watched in the hotel room with Xavier. And it wasn't just a random reference, of course: Shane is a Western about a gunslinger putting his spurs on again for one final fight. Sound familiar?

X marks the spot

Interesting bit of symbolism in the very last shot of the film, right? After all the kids have left, Laura picks up the little wooden cross that marked Logan's grave and tilts it on its side, making an X. That's a pretty obvious nod to, well, the X-Men. But it's also a pretty beautiful, quiet statement about the kind of guy Wolverine was throughout all these movies. The cross at a gravesite is meant to reflect a person's faith in God, in something higher than them. Obviously Logan wasn't much of a Christian—but he was an X-Man, and he spent his life fighting for the betterment of mutantkind and the ideals of Charles Xavier. The fact that he devoted the final years of his life to taking care of Xavier shows that, despite his insistence that he didn't care about much, he believed in Xavier and his dream of peace and prosperity more than he might have admitted.

Resurrection?

Now, you can't keep a good hero down. Hugh Jackman has clearly said goodbye to the role that made him famous with Logan, so chances are pretty slim that he'll put the claws on again. But this is Wolverine. He's on par with Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man in terms of recognizability and popularity. He's an incredibly valuable brand to Fox, and you'd be crazy if you thought a little thing like Hugh Jackman's retirement might stop them from putting Wolverine in more movies. This is definitely not the last time we'll see Wolverine on film—and frankly, we don't even believe that Jackman's as done as he says he is. They always come back, man. If an old dude like Spock can come back to life, Wolverine—a super mutant with a super healing factor—certainly can.

Big R-rated movies are officially back

In the '80s and '90s, Hollywood studios weren't afraid to put a lot of money and marketing into big, bloody, R-rated movies. Legendary flicks like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Terminator were all rated R, and tremendous hits. But as the years went on, Hollywood found it more profitable to shoot for PG-13, so as to rake in more ticket sales from younger kids eager to hear movie stars say the F-word no more than once, if that. And maybe see a boob. Even the Expendables franchise went from R ratings in its first two installments to PG-13 in the third go-round. In other words, movies and franchises that should've been rated R were frequently watered down in the name of higher box office, and both the films and their audiences have suffered as a result.

Deadpool changed all that in 2016, reminding executives of the the potential for R-rated films to be huge successes. That gave Fox enough nerve to make Logan an R-rated affair as well…and the movie's incredible reviews are proof that director James Mangold used that freedom to the film's benefit. That's confirmation that an R rating isn't something to shy away from. After these two tremendous successes for Fox using big-name Marvel superheroes, the floodgates could open back up. Hollywood execs will likely start to greenlight more big-budget action films that give filmmakers more freedom to take more risks and make movies worth seeing again. Maybe that means Warner Bros. will finally greenlight the long-awaited follow-up to Dredd. And it's only a matter of time before Disney and Marvel Studios gets in on the action and makes an R-rated super-film of its own. Someone want to give Jon Bernthal a call and see if he wants to bring his Punisher to the big screen?