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The Ending Of Coffee & Kareem Explained

Coffee & Kareem is the latest Netflix original comedy to land on the streaming platform with an all-star cast and a well-trod premise.

The odd couple spin on the buddy cop motif stars Ed Helms as Officer James Coffee and rising star Terrence Little Gardenhigh as his reluctant 12-year-old partner Kareem. Kareem ends up riding shotgun in Coffee's squad car after a failed attempt to scare the mustachioed law enforcement official away from dating his mother, Vanessa Manning (Taraji P. Henson). After Kareem's devious plan goes awry, both he and Officer Coffee get dragged into a vast criminal underworld populated by drug cartels and dirty cops. This exposure forces the two into an uneasy partnership that becomes essential to protecting their family-in-the-making.

The story of Coffee & Kareem takes quite a few twists and turns on its way to an ending that brings the whole cast together for a grand crime-fighting finale. It all comes in pretty hot and fast, so you'd be forgiven for missing some of the details; fortunately, we're here to break them down for you.

Showdown at the old steel mill in Coffee & Kareem

Much of the drama throughout Coffee & Kareem stems from Coffee's earnest attempt to redeem his tainted career by bringing local gangster Orlando Johnson (Ronreaco Lee) to justice. The climax of the film is ultimately set in motion when Officer Coffee flips Johnson in an effort to rescue Vanessa and Kareem from the dirty clutches of Detective Watts (played to scene-stealing effect by GLOW alum Betty Gilpin). Johnson reveals that Watts is planning a major Canadian (really) drug deal set to go down — where else? — at the old abandoned mill.

Coffee speeds across town to the mill and offers to trade himself for the release of Vanessa and Kareem. While the two former police colleagues haggle over the details of the exchange, Coffee steps out of his car holding two live grenades. Coffee threatens to blow them both to smithereens if Watts doesn't liberate Vanessa and Kareem. Instead of negotiating, the dirty detective shoots Coffee in the shoulder, causing him to drop the grenades. In a fit of bravery, Coffee kicks one of the grenades toward Watts and her men, destroying her stockpile of drugs.

Coffee & Kareem's great escape

Coffee, Vanessa and Kareem make a break for it amidst the ensuing chaos caused by the explosion, and Watts sends Orlando after them. It doesn't take much cajoling from Vanessa to flip him back to the good guys' side, however. Aided by Orlando, the team flees the steel mill only to run straight into the French-Canadian drug dealers, who are arriving to complete their promised transaction. Obviously, the Canucks aren't too pleased to find their drug cache burnt to a crisp. Watts offers a 25% discount, but the Detroit police arrive on the scene before they can discuss the deal any further. The arrival of the drug dealers initiates a requisite final shootout.

Coffee and Orlando dash into the firefight to create cover for Vanessa and Kareem to escape. They're in the middle of the action when one of the French-Canadian drug dealers sets off a grenade vest, blowing up the entire mill. Coffee and Watts both miraculously survive the explosion; Watts is the first one to recover, and when she realizes that Coffee has also survived, she trains her gun on him to finish the job. Enter Vanessa, gun in hand, ready to save the day. She shoots Detective Watts, and rescues her beau in a nice subversion of the damsel in distress device.

The ending of Coffee & Kareem may be setting up a sequel

After his heroic efforts to save Vanessa and Kareem, the boy finally grants his explicit approval for the wounded Coffee to continue dating his mom. The whole family comes together for a happy ending, and it only took a series of fiery near-deaths in the midst of an international drug deal to get it done. Love really does find a way!

By the end of the film, the dirty cops led by Watts have all been killed or foiled, and the good guys all survive — with Officer Coffee restored to a prestigious position within the force he just upended. Only one loose end really remains: Orlando's henchman Rodney (Andrew Bachelor), who escaped the epic shootout at the old steel mill with a couple bags of blow and some Canadian dollars. Could that be enough seed capital for him to start up his own criminal enterprise? It's certainly possible. Since Orlando has now turned away from a life of crime, he could provide an interesting teammate for Coffee and Kareem in any potential sequel — especially one that implicates his former protege. 

Until we get official word from Netflix, this all remains idle speculation, and there's really no need to get greedy. Even without a sequel, the ending of Coffee & Kareem ties up the storyline pretty nicely.