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What Happened To Duncan In Saltburn? - We Have An Idea

The ending of "Saltburn" takes viewers on a wild ride. It's revealed how Oliver (Barry Keoghan) orchestrated a series of events to ultimately wind up in control of the country house, Saltburn, including killing Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). By the film's conclusion, Felix's sister, Venetia (Alison Oliver), and mother, Elspeth (Rosamund Pike), have also died, and Oliver celebrates his new home by dancing around naked. However, that doesn't account for everyone who was at the abode, particularly the butler, Duncan (Paul Rhys). What happened to Duncan in "Saltburn"?

The movie doesn't really directly state what transpires with Duncan, so his future feels like an afterthought. Greater insight can be gleaned from the screenplay, which was uploaded online by Deadline. The script's finale does address Duncan with the following bit of scene direction: "[Oliver] looks up to see Duncan's silhouette staring down at him from the hill above. He can deal with that later." It appears Duncan is still the butler at Saltburn even as ownership has passed to Oliver, and the direction suggests Oliver has twisted machinations in mind to ensure Duncan doesn't ruin his sinister plan.

As the butler, Duncan can be seen as a steward of sorts to the estate. He may not be on the same socioeconomic plane as the Cattons, but he knows who does and doesn't belong. This is seen throughout the film as Duncan maintains a watchful eye over the proceedings, so perhaps he knows more about what Oliver did than he's letting on. And even if Oliver tries to "deal with" Duncan later, he may not be entirely successful. 

We have an idea of who wins between Duncan vs. Oliver in Saltburn

Duncan's fate in "Saltburn" might get people talking more than the infamous bathtub scene. The movie almost seems to forget him, even if the screenplay suggests Oliver may try to kill him at some point. But getting rid of Duncan likely won't be as easy as the Cattons. To understand this, one must consider the symbolism the butler plays within "Saltburn." Consider this rumination from Redditor u/constnt: "Duncan is the spiritual manifestation of the House. Of Saltburn [itself]. And Saltburn is more than a house, but a place in society. The highest tier in the social hierarchy." 

Evidence of Duncan representing Saltburn itself is seen in the film. For example, there's the breakfast scene where Oliver doesn't know the etiquette of getting his own breakfast sans the eggs, which are prepared for him. Oliver doesn't belong there, and even though Duncan isn't rich like the Cattons, he still adheres to the social etiquette exemplified by the highest echelons of society. Oliver may own the house by the end, but he doesn't belong in this specific social stratification.

Oliver uses his perceived "poor" upbringing to get Felix and the Cattons to like him. They're taken in by his sob story. One surmises Duncan was never fooled and always assumed Oliver planned on manipulating the Cattons. In the event Oliver tries to manipulate Duncan, he likely wouldn't be successful. The ending of "Saltburn" may make it seem as though Oliver wins in the end, but it could be temporary. Oliver may not control Saltburn for long, and when he goes, Duncan will remain. Oliver should dance while he can because Duncan's lying in wait.