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The Ending Of Birds Of Prey Explained

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is finally out in the world, which means DC Comics fans and newcomers alike can now dig into the film's massive ensemble, twisted set pieces, and inventive action. It also means we get to talk about all the twists and turns of the plot and how they all reached such a satisfying and thrilling conclusion with a lot of loose ends left dangling for a sequel.

Birds of Prey is not just a sequel to Suicide Squad. In fact, it goes out of its way to get that stuff over with pretty quickly in favor of a rollicking good time with a group of amazing women as they start to realize their only way through Gotham City's vicious underworld might be sticking together. As they all learn that lesson, each major character changes in some pretty interesting ways, and Gotham City changes right along with them. With that in mind, it's time to talk about the ending of Birds of Prey, and what it sets up for the future of the franchise. 

SPOILERS AHEAD for Birds of Prey.

Harley's independence

The subtitle of Birds of Prey touts the film as the story of Harley Quinn's "fantabulous emancipation," and over the course of the story we certainly see that. In the beginning of the film Harley is an emotional wreck prone to binge drinking, crying, and making rash decisions even outside the normal realm of what she does as a chaotic criminal. That all changes when she gains a chance to earn her freedom from her bad Gotham reputation and bonds with the rest of the Birds of Prey team. By the end of the film she's got a new protege in Cassandra Cain, a new group of friends she can turn to whenever she needs them, and a reputation as someone who can get things done.

That said, the death of Roman Sionis doesn't necessarily mean all of Harley's trouble is about to go away. After all, this is a woman who used to roll with the Joker, and no matter how far she gets from that relationship there's someone, somewhere, who's not afraid to cross her and cause her pain for her past sins. Despite her newfound independence, Harley is smart enough to know this, and she'll no doubt be looking over her shoulder for the next great threat — perhaps even another Gotham City supervillain — waiting to strike.

Cassandra's next steps

All the major characters in Birds of Prey have their lives changed in a big way by the time the film is over, but perhaps no one goes through as many changes as Cassandra Cain. When we first meet her in the film, she's a low-level pickpocket who wanders the streets of Gotham trying to avoid going back to the crappy apartment where her parents are constantly fighting, and she doesn't seem to have any real friends. Over the course of the film she goes on a massive adventure, becomes the focus of a manhunt conducted by Gotham's most ruthless mob boss, and finds a new big sister figure in the form of Harley Quinn, who at the start of the film seemed like she couldn't take on such a role at all.

So Cassandra's got a whole new life ahead of her as Harley's protege. What does she do now? The possibilities seem endless considering who she's hanging out with, but there's one vital possibility that's worth considering given the likelihood of a sequel here. While the film version of Cassandra is very different from the comics, we do know that the version of Cassandra on the page does manage to become Batgirl at some point. It would take a few years and a little fight training, but perhaps movie Cassandra could also pull that off someday.

Renee Montoya, badge-less

When we first meet her in Birds of Prey, Detective Renee Montoya is a rough-edged, determined, smart Gotham City cop with a tendency toward alcoholism and a building resentment toward the colleagues who keep getting the promotions she deserves. By the end of the film, she's not exactly a new woman, but she does seem to have found renewed purpose. The Birds of Prey might not make Renee any softer, but she does come to the realization that the vigilante life will allow her to do the kind of good in Gotham that she never could with a badge.

So Renee becomes a founding member of the Birds of Prey alongside her new friends Helena Bertinelli and Dinah Lance, cementing her place as a crimefighter outside the realm of the law. Her old cop connections will no doubt make her very good at that job, but it's not necessarily the end of Renee's evolution. Longtime DC Comics readers will know that, after years as a detective, Renee eventually became the new incarnation of masked vigilante the Question, and that's a transition we could still see on the big screen someday.

Black Canary's gifts

Black Canary is a particularly interesting part of Birds of Prey as a story, because even though she's a major player in the film and a founding member of the team by the end of it, we actually seem to know less about her than any of the other main characters. When we meet her she's a lounge singer just doing whatever she can to get by, but then she displays tremendous fighting abilities as well as her supersonic "Canary Cry," which lets us all know that she's got gifts she's been keeping under wraps for quite some time. What the film doesn't tell us is how and why Canary is so gifted, which means her backstory is ripe for exploration in future films.

Speaking of future films, Canary is now placed as one of Gotham City's most visible vigilantes, and there's nowhere to go but up. In terms of sequels, we could certainly see her comic book love interest Green Arrow one day, though a version of the Canary/Arrow dynamic did just recently play out on the small screen for several years.

Huntress's new family

For most of the runtime of Birds of Prey, Helena Bertinelli seems like the most straightforward character to be a part of the title team, because she seems to have only one real motivation. Helena is driven by tragedy, and out to avenge the murder of her family by killing everyone tied to it. For her, that's what life is, but when she finally kills the last person she believes to be involved in her family's deaths, Helena has to find something else to live for. It takes handing a toy car to a scared girl for her to realize that the next thing worth pursuing in her life might be right in front of her.

By the end of the film, Helena may not have shed any of the leftover awkwardness from the days of her single-minded pursuits, but she has gained a broader perspective of the world. As Renee Montoya pointed out to her, she's fooling herself if she thinks the symptoms of the problem that killed her family stopped with the last name on her list. Now, as the member of the Birds of Prey known as Huntress, she has a new outlet for making the world a better place, and stopping the deaths of other families in the process. She also, perhaps for the first time, has friends.

More birds in the flock

Though the film bears their name, the DC Comics team known as the Birds of Prey doesn't fully assemble until the very end. They spend most of the movie separated by differing motivations and methods, but the final fight against Sionis and his men galvanizes them. Harley might not want to be part of the team, but Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya are happy to launch something together, and that means there's a good chance we'll be seeing them fighting crime together again very soon.

If the Birds of Prey are indeed here to stay, then that begs the question: Who else stands to join them in the near future? Anyone familiar with the team's DC Comics roots knows that there are two key characters who make up the foundation of Birds of Prey on the page: Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl and Oracle, and Zinda Blake, a.k.a. Lady Blackhawk. A Batgirl movie's been talked about for some time now, but it might be just as welcome to see Barbara Gordon as Gotham City's resident master hacker and eye in the sky. And then there's Lady Blackhawk, a time-displaced World War II veteran who's also an expert pilot. Who doesn't want to see that movie?

Gotham PD picks up the pieces

Thanks to the presence of Renee Montoya in the film, as well as Harley Quinn's own infiltration of one of their precincts, we get to see a good bit of the Gotham City Police Department in Birds of Prey, and what we see isn't pretty. Commissioner Gordon doesn't seem to be around, and the department is a mass of incompetence and sexism that Montoya ultimately can't rise above, so she quits to get things done on her own.

Now that Montoya has not only quit GCPD, but also joined a superhero team in at least a semi-ostentatious way, it's worth wondering what happens to the Gotham PD in a world that's changing thanks to Harley Quinn. They've already had to deal with Batman at various points in the past, but now they've got a new vigilante team and Harley herself running around doing her own thing, plus there's a good chance Montoya's newfound independence will cost them in terms of their reputation. How does the GCPD pick up the pieces, and could a Gotham Central story help show what the remaining good detectives are up to?

An underworld power vacuum

Birds of Prey goes through a lot of trouble to set up Roman Sionis, a.k.a. Black Mask, as a true Big Bad worthy of Harley's fear, and it's pretty effective in achieving that goal. Roman is a truly terrifying, unhinged mob boss who seems to have bought and killed his way to the top to the point that by the end of the film he basically has an army at his beck and call. Plus, thanks to Huntress' backstory, we know that a lot of what he's done in the past means very few mob leaders are fit to challenge him, and those that do find themselves without faces.

By the end of the film, though, Black Mask is no more. Gotham's most powerful mob boss is blown to bits on Founders Pier, his right hand man is also dead, and there's suddenly a very prominent power vacuum in Gotham's underworld. So, who's going to rise up and fill that void? There are a lot of candidates who could step up, particularly with the Joker seemingly out of the picture. Perhaps it's time for the Penguin to become the big-screen crime lord we've all been waiting to see.

Harley and Bruce?

Much like the Joker, Batman doesn't appear in Birds of Prey, but he certainly has a presence of some kind. Harley references him as part of her origin story, noting he arrested her after she helped Joker break out of Arkham Asylum, and at various points in the film he's brought up again as either the butt of a joke or as a reminder that Harley still remembers her encounters with him. While none of this is discussed in any real detail, it's worth noting because of two key details that the film is quick to point out.

For one thing, Harley Quinn's pet hyena is named Bruce, and she's so proud of that name that she wears it on a chain around her neck. Is the hyena named after billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, and if so, does Harley know that Bruce Wayne is Batman? Then there's the post-credits scene, which really just consists of a little parting audio in which Harley promises to tell us a secret. She gets as far as saying "Batman F-" before the audio cuts out, but that plus the presence of the hyena and her references to the Caped Crusader are enough to raise eyebrows. Is Harley sweet on the Batman? We may never know, but it's fun to think about.