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The entire It story finally explained

The 2017 film It was a sensation. The movie, based on the 1986 Stephen King novel of the same name, set records upon its release with the biggest-ever opening weekend for both a horror movie and for the month of September on its way to becoming the highest-grossing horror film of all time. But the movie only adapted half of King's wildly popular and notoriously long novel, meaning that a sequel to It was a sure thing. Now, that sequel — It: Chapter Two — is here, and the new film completes the epic story that began with its predecessor..

The novel It is told in a nonlinear fashion and describes a group of seven friends known as the Losers' Club who are tormented by a malevolent child-eating supernatural entity at two points in their lives: once as children, and again 27 years later as adults. The first It movie dealt only with the children's story, while the sequel tells the adults' tale while also weaving in some new information about their childhoods via flashbacks. It is a complex story in which a lot of things happen, and at times things get a bit confusing. But don't worry about getting lost in the story — we're here to explain everything you need to understand the full story of It.

In the beginning

In It: Chapter 2, Pennywise is revealed to have arrived in Derry millions of years ago on an asteroid, implying that It is an evil alien. No more details are given about its origins in the film, but that's what King's original novel is for. In the book, It is billions of years old, having originated in another dimension outside of our universe known as the Macroverse. In prehistoric times, It came to Earth on an asteroid, landing in the place that would millions of years later become Derry, Maine. It hibernated until humans appeared, and then began a cycle of awakening every 27 years to feed on them because it is driven only by its desire to consume. It can take on any form, but its favorite eventually became that of Pennywise the clown. Its true form, known as the Deadlights, cannot be fully comprehended by human beings — the closest we can get is a giant spider — and looking upon them will drive a person insane. Beverly Marsh managed to glimpse them in the first film and make it out with her sanity, though she was cursed with visions of the Losers' collective demise.

As strange as Pennywise is, its mortal enemy is even more bizarre: A giant turtle named Maturin who also hails from the Macroverse and who created our universe. The turtle is a being of creation rather than consumption, and acts as a guardian of reality. Given the turtle's strangeness and complexity, the It films opted to omit Maturin from their version of the story.

You'll float, too

The story of It picks up in 1988 (bumped up from 1958 in the novel) when 7-year-old Georgie Denbrough ventures out into a rainstorm to play with a paper sailboat that his older brother Bill made for him. The boat gets away from Georgie, and ends up journeying down the street until it ends up in a storm drain. After chasing it, Georgie attempts to fish the boat out, only to discover that there is a clown in the storm drain as well. Though Georgie doesn't know it, this clown is the evil entity Pennywise, who has just awoken from its most recent 27-year slumber.

Pennywise entices Georgie — whose name it mysteriously knows — to come into the sewer, promising not only to give him his boat back, but also by telling him that an entire circus is waiting for him in the sewer. Georgie gets a little suspicious, but he still wants his boat back, so when Pennywise offers it to him, the kid goes for it. And for his trouble? Georgie gets his arm bitten off and then he's dragged into the sewer to be consumed by Pennywise. No one in Derry knows what happened to Georgie, and the town eventually moves on, assuming that he simply drowned. Bill, however, becomes determined to find out what happened to his brother.

Meet the Losers

The Losers' Club is the name of Bill's group of friends, wherein he acts as their de facto leader. Along with Bill, the club's original members are Richie Tozier, Eddie Kaspbrak, and Stan Uris, with three more members added near the start of the first film: Ben Hanscom, Beverly Marsh, and Mike Hanlon. Everyone in the group is an outcast in their own way. Bill has a stutter, Beverly is rumored at school to be promiscuous, Ben is overweight, Mike is essentially the only black kid in town, Stan is a weakling, Richie is a loudmouth who wears thick glasses, and Eddie is sickly. The gang bonds over the fact that they're all "losers" — hence the group's name — and they spend the entire summer together following Georgie's disappearance the previous fall.

Though they aren't all aware of it initially, a number of the Losers' Club are also suffering from some sort of private trauma. Beverly's father is extremely abusive both physically and, it's strongly implied, sexually, which makes the bullying she receives for her nonexistent promiscuity all the more hurtful. Eddie has an extremely overprotective mother who refuses to let him do anything on his own, and makes him believe he's sick when he's not. Mike is an orphan whose parents burned alive — an event he witnessed firsthand. And Bill, of course, is still mourning the disappearance of his little brother, for which he feels guilty.

A love triangle

A few of the Losers are more than just friends. Or, at least, they hope to be. Over the course of the first film, both Ben and Bill develop feelings for Beverly. Ben is the first to develop a major crush, going so far as to write Beverly a love poem from a secret admirer in which he tells her that her "hair is winter fire." Beverly cherishes the poem and comes to believe Bill wrote it, and as a result, develops feelings for him — much to Ben's chagrin. Even after discovering that Ben was her mystery poet after he revives her from her Deadlights-induced coma with a kiss, Beverly is unable to dismiss her feelings for Bill, and at the conclusion of the first film, Beverly and Bill kiss.

In It: Chapter Two, this love triangle continues through adulthood. In the book, following the Losers' Club's initial defeat of Pennywise, the group all go their separate ways. In the ensuing 27 years until Pennywise returns, a number of them go through major changes, but none greater than Ben. He physically transforms from an overweight kid to a wealthy and attractive man, and Beverly certainly notices when the gang reunites as adults — but it's still Bill she pines for. In the book, this translates into Bill and Bev sleeping together (even though they're both married), but in It: Chapter 2, they only share a kiss. Then, during the final battle with Pennywise, Bev finally realizes her feelings for Ben, and the two end up together.

Not a good place to grow up

Following the disappearance of Georgie, other children go missing in Derry, such as Eddie Corcoran and Betty Ripsom. This leads the Losers to believe that something is amiss in their town, and they're right. Before becoming a Loser himself, Ben begins researching the town's history, and finds that that murders and disappearances seem to spike in the town every 27 years at a rate six times the national average — for adults. After joining the Losers' Club and learning how they're trying to find out what happened to Georgie, Ben tells his new friends that the murder and disappearance rate for children in the town is much, much worse than the already high rate for adults. But it's not always Pennywise who directly causes the killings. His evil influence infects the town whenever he awakes, causing violence and hate crimes to spike.

In the novel, the role of town historian belongs to Mike rather than Ben. Mike first learns of the town's sordid history from his father, who kept a photo album filled with pictures of Derry's history that consequently features a number of photos of Pennywise; some from many decades earlier. As an adult, Mike is the only Loser to stay behind in Derry after the rest of his friends part ways, becoming the town librarian and furthering his knowledge about the most messed up little town in New England.

Pennywise the Dancing Clown

One by one, the Losers draw the attention of Pennywise. It appears to each of them separately, first appearing as one of their worst fears before showing them its clown form. Bill sees Georgie in his basement, Mike sees burning bodies trying to escape a building, Eddie sees a grotesquely deformed leper, Stan sees a painting of a ghoulish flautist come to life, Beverly is sprayed by a geyser of blood from her bathroom sink, Ben is chased by a headless man in the library, and Richie sees a maggot-infested doll of his own corpse. They soon discover that each of their hallucinations have one thing in common: a terrifying clown. The Losers quickly deduce that this clown must be behind the child murders in Derry. Pennywise also appears to Henry Bowers, the vicious town bully who torments the Losers. But instead of eating him, Pennywise uses Henry as an agent of destruction.

Pennywise needs to eat humans to survive: the creature's only purpose is to consume. And while It does sometimes kill adults, It greatly prefers to devour children. It's reason for this is pretty simple: According to Pennywise, afraid flesh tastes better, and children are easier to scare than adults. That's it. That's why Pennywise shapeshifts into whatever its victims are most afraid of, and why it usually stalks them for a time before killing them. It wants them to be as scared as possible before making them its next meal. In the book, It compares this process to salting meat.

Sewer rescue

After researching Pennywise and even seeing it together as a group, the Losers decide to confront it head-on. They track Pennywise's dwelling to a well beneath an abandoned house, and have a terrifying confrontation with It in the house that results in Eddie breaking his arm. After this frightening encounter, most of the Losers lose interest in trying to fight Pennywise and just pretend like nothing ever happened. That changes after Beverly is abducted by the clown, which rallies the other Losers to come to her rescue. They follow her trail to the town's sewers, where they're confronted by Henry Bowers. Henry has just murdered his father under the influence of It, and he's looking to continue his killing spree by knocking off a few Losers. Instead, Mike gets the best of Henry and pushes him into the well at the sewer's entrance, seemingly killing him. The Losers then enter It's domain to search for Beverly.

In the book, there was no such rescue mission. The Losers do indeed head to the sewers for a final confrontation with Pennywise, but they do so together as a group. The filmmakers' decision to alter the story and put the lone female Loser in a situation where she needed to be saved led to criticism, with some accusing the film of perpetuating a damsel in distress trope when the source material had no such issue. But then again, there is at least one aspect of the book that pretty much everyone is glad didn't make it into the movie.

A blood oath

During her capture, Beverly is rendered comatose after viewing It's Deadlights. She is awoken by a kiss from Ben, and the Losers are then able to defeat Pennywise by proving they're not afraid of it. They hurl insults at It and physically attack it, causing It to retreat to an early hibernation. After this experience, the kids come to the realization that they'll likely go their separate ways as they get older, but they know no one will possibly ever be able to relate to them like they relate to each other due to the bond they now share. In the first film, after realizing the importance of what they've just gone through, Bill (Stan in the book) suggests the Losers make a blood oath to swear that if Pennywise ever returns to Derry, they'll return to defeat It again. He finds a piece of broken glass, cuts each of their palms, and then they all stand in a circle and hold hands. This scene essentially concludes the film.

In It: Chapter Two and in the novel, all of the Losers eventually move away from Derry except for Mike. Twenty-seven years pass, and all of those who left gradually forget the events of their childhood. But Mike, having remained in Derry, remembers everything. And when children start disappearing in the town once again, he calls upon each of his old friends to return to Derry and fulfill the oath they made 27 years earlier.

27 years later

The Losers all find success in their adult lives. Bill is a famous novelist who's married to an even more famous actress named Audra Phillips. Ben is a successful architect. Richie is a famous stand-up comic in Los Angeles (in the book, he's a celebrity DJ). Eddie owns a successful risk management company in New York City (in the book, he owns an elite limousine business). Beverly is a highly respected fashion designer. And Stan is a wealthy accountant in a loving marriage. But despite their professional successes, some are still feeling the effects of their childhood trauma. Beverly is married to a man named Tom Rogan, who is physically abusive to her, and Eddie ended up marrying a woman who is nearly identical in personality to his overbearing mother. 

But none are holding onto more trauma than Stan. After receiving Mike's call, Stan immediately remembers the harrowing events of his childhood. Not willing to face It again, he draws a bath and slits his wrists. In It: Chapter Two, he writes the other Losers explaining his actions, saying he knew he wouldn't be strong enough to face Pennywise again and would have gotten them all killed. 

The other six Losers reunite at a Chinese restaurant in Derry, the first time they've all been at the same place in 27 years. After Pennywise makes its presence known by taking on various disgusting forms in the group's fortune cookies and informing them of Stan's death, they all regain their horrifying childhood memories.

Richie's big secret

Pennywise returns from its 27-year hiatus, bringing evil back to Derry along with it. A gay man, Adrian Mellon, is walking with his partner from a festival in Derry when they are attacked by a group of homophobic young locals. The locals brutally beat the couple and then throw Adrian over a bridge, where he's pulled out of the water and consumed by Pennywise. This scene, pulled from the book, kicks off It: Chapter Two, but it's not the last instance of homophobia in the film.

In a flashback scene, Richie is shown to have been bullied when he was young for possibly being gay. The bullying continues to affect Richie as an adult, as the film strongly implies that he is living as a closeted gay man with Pennywise telling him that he knows his secret. It's also heavily implied that Richie is in love with Eddie. When Eddie is killed by It during the final battle, his death hits Richie the hardest. Richie refuses to leave Eddie's side and has to pretty much be pulled away by the other Losers. He later cries uncontrollably while the other Losers fondly remember Eddie, and needs to be consoled by them. At the end of the film, Richie revisits a secret "R+E" carving he made as a child and re-carves it, showing that he had loved Eddie since they were children. Although Richie's sexuality isn't explicitly addressed in the book, some believe it was hinted.

Is Henry really dead?

In the original film, Henry Bowers appeared to die after Mike shoved him down a well. This posed a potential problem for the sequel because in the book Henry goes on to play a key role as an adult. Well, fans of the book can rest easy, because Henry survived his fall in the movie, too. It: Chapter Two features a flashback where Henry is shown to wake up after being expelled from the sewer following Pennywise's defeat. He is then arrested for the murder of his father and spends the next 27 years in an insane asylum.

Pennywise breaks Henry out of the asylum after the Losers reunite as adults, doing so in the form of the corpse of Patrick Hockstetter, a member of Henry's gang It had killed in the first film (It appears as a different one of Henry's friends in the book). Pennywise then sends Henry after the Losers, telling him to kill Eddie first. Henry stabs Eddie in the cheek, but Eddie removes the knife and stabs Henry back. Henry then runs off to attack Mike in the library, but he is killed by Richie before he has a chance to really hurt Mike. 

In the book, Henry is far a more effective weapon. He attacks Mike first, putting him in the hospital for the remainder of the story. He then attacks Eddie and breaks his arm before Eddie manages to kill him in self-defense.

The Ritual of Chüd

In Stephen King's novel, the only way to defeat It is through something called the Ritual of Chüd — and it is, in a word, weird. It's a psychic battle of wills, fought on the astral plane, where one must use his or her power of imagination to defeat It, while also biting down on It's tongue to prevent it from escaping. The ritual is explained to Bill as a child by Maturin, and Bill uses it to defeat It during their first encounter. As an adult, Bill's imagination is too weak to defeat It, so he gets help in the ritual from the other Losers and they are able to kill It for good.

In the films, the Ritual of Chüd is entirely different. It's not mentioned at all in the first film, and in the second, Mike describes it as an ancient ritual used by the Native Americans who live outside of Derry to keep Pennywise at bay. The ritual requires all those who take part to sacrifice an item that is sacred to them and then burn the items in a ceremonial jar while chanting. Doing this summons It's true form, which can then be trapped in the jar. Pretty much the entire second act of It: Chapter Two consists of each of the Losers setting out on their own to locate their sacred items in Derry, with each of them remembering more from their pasts and having terrifying new encounters with Pennywise while doing so.

The final battle

In It: Chapter Two, all six surviving Losers head to Pennywise's lair in the sewer for their final confrontation. They perform the Ritual of Chüd and... it doesn't work. It turns out, the ritual didn't work for the Native Americans either. Mike secretly knew this, but he thought it didn't work for them because they didn't truly believe it would. Pennywise then turns into an enormous clown spider and battles the Losers, killing Eddie in the process. The rest are then able to defeat It after realizing they need to make it feel "small." They continually insult It like they did when they were younger, causing It to shrink to a tiny size. They are then able to pull out It's heart and crush it, destroying Pennywise for good. This causes It's lair to collapse, but the Losers all manage to escape. They again go their separate ways, with Ben and Beverly now a couple, but this time they keep in touch and don't lose their memories.

The ending of the book is very different. It involves Pennywise using Beverly's abusive husband Tom to kidnap Bill's wife Audra, which lures the Losers to its lair (except for Mike, who remains hospitalized after Henry's attack on him). The Losers are able to defeat It using the Ritual of Chüd, but after doing so, a massive storm destroys the town of Derry. The Losers again go their separate ways, and they collectively start to forget what happened to them once again.