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The Biggest Unanswered Questions From The Equalizer Movies

Denzel Washington has a stellar filmography that includes modern classics like "Flight" and "Training Day," intense thrillers like "Fallen" and "The Pelican Brief," historical epics like "Malcolm X" and "Glory," and even different adaptations of Shakespeare. Of course, that isn't even mentioning his own directorial work, or his start in television back in the 1980s. After years of exciting films like "Man on Fire" and "The Book of Eli," it's no wonder that Washington would end up headlining his own action franchise — one that has gotten a bit bigger than anyone may have expected at first.

Based on the 1980s television series of the same name, "The Equalizer" reunited Washington with "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua. Playing the reimagined role of vigilante Robert McCall, Washington showed that he can still be a frightening force to be reckoned with. Soon after came "The Equalizer 2," and a third film is also on the way, making McCall the only role that Washington has ever reprised in a feature film.

The "Equalizer" movies have done so well that a multi-season TV reboot starring Queen Latifah has also made its way to television in the time between Washington's second and third outings on the big screen. Whether or not an "Equalizer" crossover between them could happen remains to be seen, but there are plenty of other unanswered questions we have from just the first two "Equalizer" features — questions we hope may be answered in the next installment. Let's dive in.

How did Robert fake his own death?

When we first meet Robert McCall in "The Equalizer," he's a very regimented man with OCD who generally sticks to the same routine. He interacts with and supports those around him and has made connections with various co-workers and other Boston locals. By the time we learn of his history with the U.S. Marines and the Defence Intelligence Agency, it's clear that Robert has a past that he's running from — one he's fought tooth and nail to escape.

In the first "Equalizer" film, his friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) notes that she didn't believe Robert died in a car explosion. In fact, Robert himself even alludes to the fact that he faked his own death because he "wasn't that person anymore." Yet, in "The Equalizer 2," Robert's former partner David York (Pedro Pascal) says that he was there when Robert "died," and further explains that they were in a hotel lobby. So which is it? Did Robert "die" in a car bomb incident, or inside a hotel explosion?

While the answer to this question remains unclear, it's possible that Robert faked his death not once, but twice. It may be that Robert faked his death to get out of the Marines, and thus was with York when it happened, only to later do the same to get out of his work with the DIA. Though we don't know for sure, we do know that Robert McCall did fake his death, and that very few know he's still alive and kicking.

How did Vivienne McCall die?

We know from the first few minutes of "The Equalizer" that Robert McCall is a widower. While his wife's story is explored a bit more in the sequel, the first film reveals that Vivienne McCall — played by Enku Guabie via photographs — died years prior, which is what sparked Robert's desire to help others whenever he could. Unable to see his life in the same way, or even see himself as the same person without her, he abandoned his former home, took up residence in Boston, and began working simple jobs to keep his skills sharp.

Before her death, Vivienne was working her way through a list of "100 Books Everyone Should Read," but sadly, she only got to 96. By the start of "The Equalizer," Robert has read through 91 books on the list, hoping to read all 100 before his death so that he has "something to talk about" with Vivienne on the other side. It's a touching moment for sure. Though "The Equalizer 2" shows us Robert and Vivienne's old home and reveals that Robert is nearly done with the books on his list, we still don't know what exactly happened to her.

Much like the mysterious explanations behind Robert's own faked death, we know next to nothing about how Vivienne actually passed. Before the events of "The Equalizer," they were happy, but with her death, Robert found a new calling in helping those who can't help themselves. There's no doubt that she would be proud of him.

How did Robert and Alina meet?

The bedrock of the first "Equalizer" film clearly lies in the relationship between Robert McCall and the teenage sex worker Terri, better known by her real name Alina (Chloë Grace Moretz). From the first moment these two appear on the screen together, they have an unmistakable rapport. Alina is always interested in whatever story Robert's currently reading, and he in turn seems forever hopeful that she'll make it out of the vocation she's currently found herself in. They care about each other deeply, which is a big part of why the film works so well.

Unfortunately, though, we never learn how these two actually met. Sure, Robert puts his life, job, and status on the line to take vengeance on those who nearly kill Alina, and yes, he gives her — in a roundabout way — an obscene amount of money to help her start her "new life" by the end of the film. But despite all that, we still don't know much about how they got to know one another. Did Robert initiate the conversation, taking compassion on the young girl? Or did Alina, hoping to make a real friend, reach out first? We're left without an answer.

In fact, though the first "Equalizer" film ends with the promise that Alina would "see Robert around," she's nowhere to be found by the time of the second movie. Some of this could be explained by the fact that Robert moved to another part of town, but nevertheless, we still don't know how this unlikely pair became such tight-knit friends in the first place.

Are Robert and Ralphie still friends?

One of the most enduring bits in the "Equalizer" movies is the down-to-earth relationships that Robert McCall has with the people around him. Be they co-workers, customers, or even fellow diner patrons, Robert is an incredibly friendly and well-rounded guy for someone who used to work in government espionage. In the first film, his relationship with his fellow Home Mart co-worker Ralphie (Johnny Skourtis) is particularly sweet, and it ends up being crucial to the climax of the film.

Throughout the movie, Robert helps Ralphie train his body to get himself in the right shape to become a security guard, a job he's clearly wanted for a while. Though there are a few speed bumps along the way — including the sabotaging of Ralphie's mother's restaurant by some crooked cops — Ralphie eventually gets the job. When Robert's rivalry with Russian mafia enforcer Nicolai Itchenko (Marton Csokas) finally comes to a head, Ralphie gets caught in the crossfire, and though he ultimately proves invaluable to Robert's success, he nearly dies in the process.

After the first film, Robert no longer works at Home Mart, and given that he's moved to another part of Boston entirely, it stands to reason that he wouldn't see Ralphie all that much anymore. Like his friendship with Alina, Robert's relationship with Ralphie goes unmentioned in the sequel, and we've yet to hear from his unofficial sidekick since. Hopefully, all the bullets didn't scare him out of working as a security guard.

Why hasn't the Russian Mafia come after Robert?

Possibly one of the biggest plot holes in the "Equalizer" movies is that for some reason, the Russian mafia doesn't send legions of assassins to take out Robert McCall. Throughout the first film, we learn that the human trafficking ring that Nicholai is sent to get back on its feet — after the deaths of the men who beat Alina — is actually led by a Russian man named Vladimir Pushkin (Vladimir Kulich). Pushkin himself has deep mafia connections, and while he isn't the head of the entire Russian mob, he is the "top man" when it comes to the New England operations.

At the end of "The Equalizer," after Robert has successfully dismantled the mafia's prostitution and drug-running operations in Boston, he takes a trip abroad to meet with Pushkin himself. Of course, this meeting is more of an execution. After taking out all of his guards in quick fashion, Robert kills Pushkin as well via electrocution — not a fun way to go. After taking him out, Robert returns home to check on Alina, and he hardly seems to have any fear at all for his safety moving forward.

What doesn't make sense is that, if Pushkin were so high up in the Russian mafia, how does his death go unnoticed and unavenged? Sure, it's possible that his compatriots had a hard time tracing the assassination back to Robert McCall, but chances are they would have found him eventually. It's also possible that Pushkin's rivals were simply happy to see their competition taken out.

Did Miles finish art school?

Denzel Washington seems to love meaty roles where he gets to play a father figure to a young teen who needs to be put back on the right path. His work as both an actor and director on "Fences" largely revolves around the strained relationship between a father and son. Other Washington films such as "John Q," "Man on Fire," and "Remember The Titans" all feature Washington as a would-be father to those who barely ever had their own. Needless to say, the star seems to have a soft spot for the father-figure dynamic, and the "Equalizer" films are no exception.

In "The Equalizer 2," Robert McCall befriends a boy who lives in his apartment complex named Miles Whittaker (Ashton Sanders). Miles is an extremely talented artist who works it out with Robert to re-paint a mural on the building's wall and paint the interior of Robert's apartment. Unfortunately, Miles has some more troublesome friends who nearly get him into a bit of life-threatening, world-ending trouble, only for Robert to pull him out and set him straight. Part of setting Miles straight includes putting him back on the path of art school, where he can continue pursuing his passions.

By the end of "The Equalizer 2," after Robert has saved Miles' life yet again, the young man is seen on the path to bettering himself, returning to his classes and even publically correcting his own profanity, all because of Robert's influence. Though we don't know for sure whether or not Miles will finish his degree, the chances seem pretty high.

What happened to Brian Plummer?

When Robert McCall reveals himself to his former DIA supervisor and friend Susan Plummer, it's a shock to both her and her husband Brian Plummer (Bill Pullman), as they believed their friend was dead. In the time between the first two films, Robert spends more time with Susan and Brian, and Susan even helps him on some of his quests to help those who can't help themselves. Sadly, while contracting for the U.S. government on an assignment overseas, Susan is murdered in her hotel room, devastating both Robert and Brian.

Brian is an accomplished author, and though he isn't a government agent himself, he was always well aware of the dangers that his wife and friend both dealt with in their line of work. Since Brian is a possible witness to his crimes, David York has assassins sent to kill him after having already taken out his wife personally. In an effort to protect his friend, Robert helps Brian escape, but he's never seen or heard from again in "The Equalizer 2." Even in the final scene that closes out each unfinished thread, Brian is nowhere to be found.

While it hasn't been confirmed whether or not Bill Pullman will return in future "Equalizer" films, it's possible that Brian's whereabouts will be discovered in the next installment. Though Susan won't be by his side, hopefully Brian — who will no doubt continue writing — can continue her work to help aid their longtime friend Robert, no matter what dangers he encounters along the way.

How does Robert not get caught?

Perhaps the biggest question that the "Equalizer" movies leave unanswered is how Robert McCall gets away with all his violent activities. As he avenges those who can't find justice for themselves and fights to reunite loved ones, protect families, and keep people on the "straight and narrow," Robert leaves plenty of bodies and lots of blood in his wake. And that's not even to mention the fact that his fingerprints are likely everywhere. While the first film is all about how the Russian mafia tracks him down, there are plenty of other notable events that seem to go unnoticed.

For one, the drug house that Robert infiltrates to rescue Miles in "The Equalizer 2" is filled with dozens of gangbangers, and yet no one ever follows up. Likewise, Robert gets involved in international affairs and even avenges the death of his friend and government contractor Susan Plummer, without so much as a cop showing up at his doorstep. Sure, Robert faked his death long ago and is no stranger to covering his tracks, but most of his "equalizing" would easily have brought some attention to his unofficial business.

Naturally, we have to have some sort of suspension of belief when watching movies like "The Equalizer," but even so, it's a wonder that Robert never gets caught, be it by law enforcement or by angry cartels. He certainly makes enough enemies and leaves plenty of bodies. The only real explanation is that he's simply that good.

What's next for Robert McCall?

The first two "Equalizer" films are set primarily in Boston, Massachusetts, where Robert McCall answers the call of those who need help outside the law. As a vigilante, Robert has brought justice and reconciliation to many, and he continues to use his specific set of skills to aid and defend the less fortunate. While the original 1980s TV series and the recent 2021 reboot both take place in New York City, the "Equalizer" films take Robert all over the globe, following him as he rescues kids in Istanbul and takes out Russian crime lords, among other things.

At this point, Robert has handled pretty much everything a man in his occupation could imagine. He's taken on the mafia as well as the ghosts of his past, which leaves us with one big question: What's next for Robert McCall? While we don't know any of the major details for the third film in the franchise yet, "The Equalizer 2" leaves Robert at the home he once shared with his wife in a seaside beach town on the East Coast. What that means for the story of "The Equalizer 3" remains to be seen, but if it's any indication, it could mean that Robert is finally becoming the man he once was yet again.

Though the plot of the next film remains a mystery, we do know that Denzel Washington will be reuniting with his former "Man on Fire" co-star Dakota Fanning for the production, which should be exciting for fans of Washington's greater filmography (per Deadline). Whatever happens to Robert McCall next, there's no doubt that it will be an action-packed thrill ride.