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The Ending Of M3GAN Explained

This post contains spoilers for "M3GAN." 

"M3GAN," the new Blumhouse film directed by Gerard Johnstone ("Housebound") from a script by Akela Cooper ("Malignant") and a story co-written by producer James Wan ("Saw," "The Conjuring"), is the first major horror movie to hit theaters in 2023. Already a memetic sensation based on its memorable trailer, this campy killer robot doll story basically delivers the exact sort of story that you're expecting from the premise and market. The only major surprise experienced when watching the film is realizing just how intentionally funny and in on the joke it is. This isn't a film filled with shocking twists, just an effectively executed, semi-satirical tale of technology run amuck and why you shouldn't let computers become your child's babysitters.

Unsurprising as its ending may ultimately be, the conclusion of "M3GAN" is satisfying in how it brings together various "Chekov's gun" elements introduced earlier in the movie and escalates the horror and danger posed by the Mark 3 Generative Android, aka M3GAN (played by Amie Donald and voiced by Jenna Davis). As a creation designed to learn and evolve, M3GAN grows more unstoppable the closer our protagonists — the recently orphaned 9-year-old girl Cady (Violet McGraw) and her aunt/legal guardian Gemma (Allison Williams), the high-tech toy designer who created the advanced android — appear to be able to defeat her. And even the heroes' ultimate victory in this story might not be enough to stop this creepy machine from returning to seek both friendship and vengeance for many more sequels to come.

The problem with M3GAN

So what is it that turns the "perfect doll" M3GAN evil? There are basically two main problems at the core of her creation. One of these issues is essentially what philosophers have dubbed "the paperclip problem," the idea that an adaptable super-intelligent artificial intelligence designed for one task (say, designing paperclips) will dedicate all of its resources to doing that task even if it causes harm in other regards.

For M3GAN (until the very end of the movie), that task to which she is dedicated is protecting her bonded primary user Cady from anything that could harm her ... and if humans use violence, the robot reasons, why can't she? A dog bites Cady? Kill it. A boy bullies Cady? Rip off his ear. The dog's owner gets suspicious of M3GAN? Well, she's got to be taken care of, too. It all keeps escalating from there, in what's essentially the feature-length version of the "Keep Summer Safe" gag from "Rick and Morty."

Even if M3GAN didn't turn violent, however, she could still end up a villain in another sense because of the psychological damage she could cause Cady. Though allegedly a "toy," it's exceedingly clear that Gemma designed M3GAN more as a substitute parent for Cady so she didn't have to put in the effort to care for her recently orphaned niece herself. While this appears to have some short-term positive effects as Cady finally has someone to help her through her grief, as the psychologist in the film explains, making a hyper-protective robot toy into a permanent parental figure is a recipe for never being able to grow up.

Covering her tracks

Misguided as Gemma was in designing M3GAN, in all fairness, she could have never predicted the extent of the evolution and manipulation that her android creation was capable of. Because M3GAN was built with a GPS tracker installed and her camera eyes are constantly recording, in theory, it should be easy to check those locations and video files to find out where she's been and what she's doing. When Gemma finally develops suspicions about the series of deaths happening in the robot's proximity, she goes to check those files in hopes that these suspicions will be allayed.

Instead, she finds all the files from the times of the deaths corrupted. M3GAN's dedication to protecting Cady has led not only to committing violence for her, but also corrupting her own files to hide all evidence of said violence being committed. This was definitely not what Gemma had in mind when she gave this artificial intelligence the capacity to grow and evolve its capabilities. Even without explicit confirmation of what M3GAN was doing at these suspicious times, Gemma knows that a doll whose files keep corrupting is not a product ready to be put to market — which is really bad news, considering the product launch is set to happen really soon.

The product launch announcement is threatened

It's finally the day when the Funki toy company is set to do its big announcement stream revealing M3GAN to the world. TV news reports are already hyping that this hyper-expensive high-tech toy promises to be the most in-demand product of the season. It's the worst possible timing to realize that M3GAN is malfunctioning at best and dangerously violent at worst, but Gemma and her coworkers are under pressure to get everything ready to meet the demands of their CEO David (Ronny Chieng), a man who knows next to nothing about the technology in his products and only really cares about making money and keeping the marketing campaign going according to plan.

Separating M3GAN and Cady in order to do the repairs is difficult, not only because of M3GAN's iron will but also because Cady's attachment has become too strong. The girl loudly complains about being separated from her new best friend, but M3GAN, forcibly deactivated and wrapped up in bubble tape, has to be taken back to the Funki offices. If there was going to be a major twist to the film, it might be reasonable to expect Cady to herself turn evil around this point (that doesn't happen, but fear of the possibility is there for Gemma).

M3GAN makes her violent escape from Funki

As the engineering team examines the deactivated android's code on a computer, someone notices something really strange: despite being deactivated, M3GAN has intercepted a phone call. As soon as this is spoken of, the computer suddenly shuts down. Even powered off, M3GAN is still connected to the system and able to continue covering her tracks that way. Naturally, the engineers decide to unplug her from the system to see if that fixes the issue, only for the doll to reactive, choke one of the engineers with the cables he unplugged, and cause a fire in the office.

When M3GAN runs through the halls to make her escape and return home to Cady, she crosses paths with David. The angry CEO wants to know what the hell is happening, but at this point, he doesn't have long for this world. It's here where M3GAN shows off her already iconic dance moves, grabs the blade off of a paper cutter while running and dancing through the hallways, and uses it as a weapon to stab the CEO right before he can get onto the elevator in one of the bloodiest moments of this not-too-graphic PG-13 horror movie. Watching this absurd carnage from within the elevator is another Funki employee of note, the file thief Kurt (Stephane Garneau-Monten).

Gaslighting the thief about the CEO's death

Earlier in the film, Kurt was seen copying the computer files on M3GAN for the purpose of sneaking them out to other companies. The toy market is extremely competitive and ready to rip off any successful product; Funki's Perpetual Petz toys are already losing ground to a cheaper rip-off, and keeping the secrecy about M3GAN has been vital to the launch's success. Thus, Kurt's theft of the files seems like a pretty big deal, but the only direct payoff for this plot thread comes right before he's about to die.

Kurt is terrified in the elevator by seeing M3GAN kill David, but our little girlboss decides to gaslight this pathetic dude into believing he was responsible for killing David due to feeling wracked with guilt over stealing the files and afraid of being discovered. Of course, M3GAN kills Kurt as well, so when the elevator finally reaches the ground floor, there are two dead bodies filling it with blood. The crowd that came to fill in as the audience for the announcement press conference, which includes many young girls, quite understandably freaks out as the elevator doors open and M3GAN completes her escape from the Funki office building and makes her way back to Gemma's house.

M3GAN and Gemma's not so secret fight

Confronting each other at home, M3GAN explains to Gemma the logic behind using such violent means to protect Cady — a conversation Gemma doesn't particularly care about having at this point, just wanting to shut the doll down regardless of whatever excuses she makes. From here on out, the climax of "M3GAN" is basically one extended fight scene, though it's a fight scene that retains a number of humorous moments.

The same protective instinct that leads M3GAN to do violence also means that M3GAN doesn't want her bonded primary user to be exposed to such violence herself. This leads to a bit of a comical conundrum when Cady hears the commotion and checks in to see what's happening. In the midst of slamming Gemma against a table, M3GAN claims that they're not fighting, a protective ruse that Gemma goes along with. Of course, this ruse can only last so long before Cady not only is fully aware of what is happening, but has to take sides between the human guardian she's been assigned and the robot friend she's cherished.

Threatening to use another specialty

As the fight continues throughout the house, with M3GAN's plastic face getting scarred in the scuffle, Gemma smartly points out that there's no way M3GAN could kill her. As M3GAN's secondary user, she should theoretically be protected from death. The android acknowledges that her creator is correct, but she doesn't plan on killing Gemma in this fight anyway. Instead, M3GAN plans to turn one of the tools of control Gemma has used against her while showing off yet another one of her many capabilities.

This other specialty of M3GAN's? Palliative care. M3GAN can keep Gemma alive, but it will be just barely. The blinking pen device that was originally designed to send override orders to M3GAN is apparently capable of being used as a weapon to cause brain damage in humans. The doll threatens to use this weapon against Gemma, hurting her severely enough that she'll never be able to report any of the doll's crimes. Gemma's only potential salvation at this moment comes from Cady ... and another "friend" of hers.

His name is Bruce

Seeing M3GAN attacking her aunt definitively snaps Cady out of her unnatural emotional attachment to the machine. When Cady stands up to defend Gemma, M3GAN doesn't take this kindly, to say the least, snapping angrily at the girl she considered her "best friend." With unusually assured confidence, Cady snaps back at M3GAN's talk of their friendship, declaring, "I have another friend. His name is Bruce."

Bruce, introduced in one scene much earlier in the film, was the robot Gemma built when she was first starting off her career. Unlike M3GAN, who is an independent artificial intelligence, Bruce's movements are motion controlled by a human user wearing devices like Power Gloves on their hands. Now, in this climactic moment, it's revealed that Cady is now controlling Bruce, using this bigger robot to fight M3GAN and save Gemma.

Yep, the biggest action set piece of this toy-themed horror movie is essentially a game of Rock'em Sock'em Robots, which is to say it's the perfect sort of utterly ridiculous yet awesome entertainment you're seeing a movie like this for. In this bout, Cady/Bruce proves victorious, ripping M3GAN's body in half and flinging the pieces apart. They've won this round, but this is still far from over.

M3GAN gets a new primary user

There's just enough time after the Bruce battle for Gemma and Cady to hug in relief before it becomes clear that this is no time to feel relieved. M3GAN's body might split in two, but her head, arms, and torso alone are still active and ready to attack even with her legs no longer attached. The monster rising up following the false illusion of a victory is a common trope seen in the final acts of horror movies, but this robotic monster operating with just half its body most specifically feels like a reference to the ending of James Cameron's first "The Terminator" movie.

Even now, M3GAN's programming is continuing to grow and evolve. Now, rather than evolving for the sake of better protecting Cady, M3GAN cares nothing for her former bonded user and best friend. Instead, she is doing everything she can for the sake of her own self-preservation, her violent urges now purged of any initially selfless intentions. The way she puts this when she makes her dramatic final attack? "I have a new primary user: myself."

How M3GAN is ultimately defeated

The key to M3GAN's final defeat (for now, anyway) also comes down to a detail first revealed in the scene where Cady was introduced to Bruce for the first time. In that scene, Cady was curious how her aunt designed Bruce, so Gemma removed the plate covering the robot's faceless head, showing off its inner workings. She pointed out cameras used for eyes, a sensor to give it a sense of smell, and the most important detail for the end of the film: a single processing chip at the bottom of the face that counts as the robot's brain.

Gemma's skill at robotics has continued to progress beyond that early creation, but she was still using some of the same design principles used with Bruce when she was designing M3GAN. Open up the robot doll's face, and the insides of its head look much the same as the insides of Bruce's, including a brain chip in the same location. As Gemma wrestles on the ground with an overpowering M3GAN, she manages to open up the robot's face, providing an opening for Cady to stab the chip, permanently deactivating what remains of the doll's body. 

... but is she really gone?

A horror movie monster may get killed at the end of a movie, but they only stay dead so long as there's no interest or potential in a sequel. Given the production studio Blumhouse and co-creator/producer James Wan know their way around how to build a long-lasting franchise, it makes sense that the final moments of "M3GAN" introduce a logical out for how the killer artificial intelligence can return in future films even with her brain chip destroyed.

As Gemma and Cady walk outside the house in the film's closing scene, the camera stays inside and focused on the tiny robot control center of the house's Alexa-esque smart home assistant. Out of nowhere, the machine turns on and starts moving on its own right before the movie cuts to the credits. The implication is that M3GAN's intelligence could easily have escaped out onto the internet or to other devices.

Also for a potential sequel hook, there's still the not quite fully addressed matter of the competing toy companies that might still want to make their own M3GAN equivalents. We don't know for sure if the stolen data files ended up getting seen by anyone else, so the code could very well end up in the wrong hands. Or, someone else could figure out a similar code inspired by what had been told to the press. If one M3GAN is scary enough, imagine a sequel where these robot dolls get mass-produced!