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The Ending Of Emily The Criminal Explained

It might not be one of the streaming giant's original projects, but "Emily the Criminal" is one of the best additions to Netflix in 2022. It's the feature film debut of director and screenwriter John Patton Ford, and it's definitely a strong opening project. The film stars Aubrey Plaza as Emily, a young woman struggling to pay off $70,000 in student loans while running into one lackluster job after another. Eventually, Emily crosses paths with Youcef ("Sons of Anarchy" star Theo Rossi) who is recruiting people to steal high-priced items from stores with falsified credit cards.

Emily soon realizes she's a bit of a natural when it comes to running scams, but her newfound wealth comes with some costs. Her foray into Youcef's world ultimately changes both of their lives forever. Like all the best crime movies, "Emily the Criminal" presents its characters in a sympathetic light. Sure, what they're doing is wrong, but you can understand exactly what motivates them — up to a certain point.

"Emily the Criminal" is a whirlwind thrill ride that effortlessly keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. The plot moves quickly, and there's plenty that goes unspoken between the characters, but even though the movie leaves things a bit open-ended, there's no reason to be confused by this particular ending.

Khalil was lying about the money

Youcef has been working with his cousin Khalil (Jonathan Avigdori) for two years, running credit card scams in the hope of earning enough money to buy a four-unit condo development. After Khalil finds out that Youcef has been working with Emily, who's been breaking all the rules of their scam, he steals the money that they've been earning together and ices Youcef out of their organization. Emily convinces Youcef that the two of them can steal the money back, as long as they're willing to hurt Khalil badly enough that he's scared of them.

Emily's plan sounds pretty straightforward, but when she and Youcef break into Khalil's home, he insists that he doesn't have the money. After Emily stabs him and threatens to slice his throat with a box cutter, Khalil admits that there's cash hidden in his refrigerator, but that doesn't mean he was lying to Emily in the first place.

Khalil claimed that he couldn't simply cash out the business account he shared with Youcef, and that's probably true. Banks aren't usually willing to liquidate accounts that are extremely valuable. Khalil more than likely moved the money into a different bank account that didn't have Youcef's name attached to it, though in the real world, even that would likely be difficult to pull off without the bank contacting Youcef as well.

It was always about the money

Youcef introduces Emily to the world of credit card fraud when she shows up for his dummy shopper job. Emily is immediately infatuated with the idea of quickly earning a ton of money, but it's not until after the second job that she becomes interested in Youcef. Emily's tasked with falsely buying a car, but in the middle of the purchase, one of the salesmen discovers what she's doing and attacks her. Emily barely manages to get away, and she ends up with a busted nose in the process.

Youcef shows that he's concerned with more than just money when he offers to take Emily home and helps her with her broken nose. From there, a kind of romance develops between the two of them. Youcef is interested in Emily's art, and she listens to his dreams about one day owning rental units that can provide him with a legitimate source of income. One way or another, though, their relationship always comes back around to the money.

When Khalil finds out that Emily broke the rules of his credit card scam, he pulls Youcef out of their operation as punishment for letting her get involved. Emily uses her relationship with Youcef to convince him that they should attack Khalil and steal the money back, but when their plan goes south, Emily hardly hesitates before leaving an injured Youcef behind. For her, it was never about the relationship at all.

Khalil's organization probably collapsed

Emily and Youcef break into Khalil's home intending to threaten him into giving them all of his money. Instead of just dishing out threats, though, Emily stabs Khalil in the stomach with a box cutter. Before she and Youcef leave the house, Emily gives Khalil a phone and tells him to call an ambulance. As Emily makes her escape, the distant sound of sirens rings out through Khalil's neighborhood.

There's a good chance that Khalil's criminal organization doesn't end up surviving his encounter with Emily at the end of the film. He tells her about a stash of money hidden in his refrigerator, but it's hard to imagine that's the only stolen cash in his home. Because the film later shows the LAPD breaking into Emily's apartment, we know that the police get involved in everything that happened in Khalil's home.

It's hard to imagine that Khalil would be able to come up with a very convincing story about why Emily attacked him that night. Presumably, the police also found Youcef, and in the course of their investigation, they likely discovered what he and Khalil were up to, at least to a certain extent. Emily might not have killed Khalil when she attacked him, but she almost certainly destroyed his criminal enterprise.

Youcef is probably alive...

Khalil isn't the only person who gets severely injured when Emily decides to come after his money. When Khalil realizes that someone is invading his home, he hides, and when he sees an opportunity to strike, he smashes Youcef in the back of the head with an object from his bedroom. Emily and Youcef escape the house, but Youcef can barely walk and only seems to be half-conscious when the two of them make it back to their car.

Once they are safely away from Khalil, Youcef begs Emily to take him to a hospital. Judging by the amount of blood still gushing from his head, he needs some serious medical treatment, but Emily can't find his car keys, so she leaves him bleeding out while she runs off with all his money.

Emily may have left Youcef for dead, but there's a good chance he actually ends up surviving his injuries. Head wounds tend to cause plenty of bleeding, but one smack from his cousin likely isn't going to be fatal for Youcef. Instead, he has the same larger problem to deal with that Khalil does: the police are now involved in the whole situation.

If Youcef is alive, he's in jail

One way or another, if Youcef lives, he's going to jail. Most likely, the police rush to Khalil's house and later find Youcef in his car. From there, it won't take much effort to link Youcef to the home invasion, Khalil's stabbing, or the bodyguard who's been tied up and left in a trunk down the street. In a best-case scenario, Youcef ends up charged with all of those crimes.

It could be much worse, though. We've already discussed how it's likely that the police will uncover some of Khalil's criminal activity in the course of investigating his home. Khalil has no reason to cover for his cousin, and he probably has evidence of Youcef's involvement in the credit card scam. If Khalil is going down, he'll probably take Youcef with him.

In the absolute worst-case scenario, Khalil could find some way to pin his scam on Youcef. He probably wouldn't be able to fully hide the fact that he was involved, but he could try to make it look like that scam was completely organized and run by Youcef. No matter what happens, Youcef's future is looking much worse than it did before Emily got involved.

Emily never paid her loans

When the movie begins, Emily is in a terrible financial situation. She has a job as a food delivery driver, but that barely pays enough to cover her monthly expenses, and it doesn't help her chip away at her student loans at all. Emily owes $70,000, and the interest accruing on those loans exceeds what she's able to pay in a month.

Emily's overwhelming debt is her primary motivation for getting involved with Youcef and the credit card scam he is running with Khalil. The money she makes allows her to claw back some financial breathing room, and when she starts running scams on her own, the prospect of being debt-free hovers just on the horizon. When Khalil cuts Emily and Youcef out of the scam, she needs to retaliate or she'll end up right back where she started.

At least, it seems that way, but by the time Emily convinces Youcef to help her attack Khalil, her motivations have already shifted. She takes the money and runs after stabbing Khalil and leaving Youcef bleeding from the head in his car. Ultimately, Emily never pays off her loans because she needs to leave the country to avoid being arrested.

Emily couldn't keep all that money

Emily's betrayal of Youcef could be seen as a tragic turn for her character, but the change likely occurred long before she and Youcef make their move to Khalil's home. Somewhere along the line, Emily started caring more about the thrill of stealing money than anything else. What makes her betrayal truly devastating is that she likely couldn't even keep all the money for herself.

The end of the film sees the LAPD raid Emily's apartment the day after she attacks Khalil, but by the time they arrive, she's already gone. Presumably, after leaving Youcef behind, Emily gathered her belongings and hopped on a flight to South America. If that's the case, she had to abandon most of the money because a person can only take $10,000 across the United States border.

If she wanted to keep all the cash, Emily would need to make her way to South America illegally. As capable as the movie shows her to be, the likelihood of Emily planning that entire journey in a single night and then successfully making it seems pretty low. The sad truth is that Emily stabbed Khalil and basically left Youcef to die, all for $10,000.

The LAPD is still looking for Emily

It doesn't take long for the police to find out who Emily is. Khalil has a photocopy of her driver's license, and Youcef has been to her house. Neither man has any reason to try and protect her, so the LAPD is breaking down Emily's door shortly after she steals from Khalil and abandons Youcef.

The police don't capture Emily that morning, as she's likely well on her way to South America by that point, but that doesn't mean their investigation is over. With all the information that the LAPD has obtained from Khalil and Youcef, they have a serious case against Emily. There's clear evidence of her running credit card scams on multiple businesses, and over the course of the film, she likely stole more than enough money to earn herself a felony.

On top of that, the police have Emily on kidnapping one of Khalil's bodyguards, breaking into a home, stabbing a man, and stealing even more money out of Khalil's house, and they could add charges for things like failing to report a crime or stealing a car. The police might not have captured Emily by the end of the movie, but she's definitely high on their most-wanted list.

Emily feels guilty about what she did

One thing that "Emily the Criminal" does well is present characters with a certain amount of nuance. Youcef isn't just a scammer; he's a hopeful immigrant, dreaming of owning a legitimate business and providing his mom with a wonderful place to live. And Emily isn't just a thrill-seeking criminal; she's a woman with her back up against a wall thanks to rampant debt and terrible employment opportunities.

Almost all the characters have traits that the audience can sympathize with. In Emily's case, that sympathy might be running low by the end of the movie. She goes from being a woman in a tight place to being almost an outright villain who upends Youcef's life before completely abandoning him in a life-threatening situation.

Even at the end of the film, "Emily the Criminal" tries to provide some nuance to its protagonist. After Emily makes her way to South America, she needs to find a way to restart her life. Before the reveal that Emily has started a new credit card scam, the movie follows her to the beach where she sits alone for a while. It's a testament to Aubrey Plaza's talents that the briefest flash of guilt crosses Emily's face as she watches the waves. She knows what she did was wrong, but she might not yet realize that she had other options available to her.

Emily's new scam is a necessity

It'd be easy to think that Emily's traumatic criminal career back in the U.S. would encourage her to be on the straight and narrow when she makes her way to South America. If you made that assumption, you were probably caught off guard by the film's final reveal that Emily's recreated her old scam, putting herself in Youcef's original position as a sort of criminal organizer.

Emily's new credit card scam is the culmination of her journey through the movie. She begins as a reluctant accomplice, gains some genuine enthusiasm when she goes into business for herself and becomes a real mastermind when she convinces Youcef to help her steal from Khalil. Emily's transition to ringleader once in South America is thematically appropriate, and it emphasizes the fact that she's come to enjoy crime for crime's sake.

All of that is true, but Emily's new scam, like her old one, is at least partially driven by necessity. She may have legally traveled to South America, but she can't legally stay there forever. Unfortunately for Emily, she also can't go back to the United States without going to jail. She has to work in the margins if she wants to earn enough money to get by, and she already knows how to run a credit card scam like a pro.

Emily could easily get away with her crimes

We've already discussed how the police back in the United States haven't stopped looking for Emily. They've got more than a handful of charges ready and waiting for her, so the odds are that their investigation will carry them forward for quite a while. That doesn't mean that Emily is going to go to jail, though. In fact, it'd be pretty easy for her to get away with everything she's done.

If Emily left the country legally, which seems like the most likely option for her, then it won't take too long for the police to find out where she went. From there, though, Emily could travel below the radar with little to no effort at all. As long as she's willing to accept living illegally in whatever country she goes to, Emily could stay off the grid for years or even decades. Of course, she'll never be able to go home, but she didn't seem to have that many attachments back in the U.S. anyway. The police know everything Emily did, and they probably still won't be able to catch her.