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The Ending Of Inheritance Explained

Released in May 2020, Inheritance follows a principled district attorney working to establish her own legacy apart from her prominent and powerful family. But when her father dies suddenly and leaves her his darkest secret, she inherits a lifetime of deception and disturbing truths that threaten to upend her entire life.

Starring Lily Collins and Simon Pegg, Inheritance received mainly negative reviews from critics, but in a year when new films are few and far between and other new releases are coming with a steep rental fee of $20 or more, you may decide that Inheritance's relatively cheap $2.99 rental price tag is worth the gamble. But if you watched Inheritance and remain confused about some of the film's late stage twists and turns, never fear. Below, we'll dig into the surprising ending of Inheritance, including each of the secrets that were hidden away in that creepy bunker.

Be warned, major spoilers ahead.

In Inheritance, why did Archer tell Lauren about the bunker?

One of the biggest questions of Inheritance is why Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton) leaves his daughter, Lauren (Collins), the video telling her about his secret bunker in the first place. If he hadn't left her the video — which even tells her that "the truth must stay buried," implying that he doesn't want her to free the man he's kept locked up for the past 30 years, but he just wants her to know about him — then Carson (Pegg) would've eventually passed away down there, and Archer's secret would've died with him. For much of the film, the only explanation seems to be that while Archer was fine holding a man prisoner for decades, he drew the line at manslaughter.

However, by the end of the film, another couple possible explanations have presented themselves. The first is that Archer wanted someone to know what had really happened to the pedestrian he'd hit with his car 30 years before. After the promising young student — the real Morgan Warner — was killed and buried in the woods, Morgan was declared a missing person, and it's possible Archer's guilt wouldn't let him carry the secret of Morgan's fate to the grave. But the other reason Archer may have told Lauren is that he may have believed Carson was Lauren's biological father, and he thought he owed her the truth of her parentage. We'll never know Archer's motivation for sure, but both possibilities that present themselves toward the end of the film make a lot more sense than what's implied at the beginning.

Why was Lauren's inheritance so much less than her brother's?

At Archer Monroe's will-reading, her mother, Catherine (Connie Nielsen), and brother, William (Chace Crawford), are shocked when they each receive millions of dollars of Archer's fortune, while Lauren receives a comparatively paltry $1 million. Over and over throughout the film, characters reassure Lauren that her father loved her and that she shouldn't read too much into her reduced inheritance. Both Catherine and William even try to give her a chunk of their money, although Lauren insists she doesn't want it.

So if Archer loved Lauren so much and was proud of her — which he even reiterates in the video he left her — why would he communicate the opposite in his will? Lauren assumes it's because she became a district attorney, a career path that Archer disapproved of, but we later learn that he actually pulled strings to get her that job, so that explanation doesn't hold up. As with a lot of the questions raised in Inheritance, the movie never gives us an explicit answer about what was really going on, but we can make an educated guess. It's possible that because Archer knew (or at least suspected) that Lauren wasn't his biological daughter, he decided she was entitled to less of his fortune. But what seems more likely is that he left William a much bigger share because he was the one responsible for paying the bribes that would keep him and Lauren in their high-powered jobs — a task that Lauren knew nothing about.

Who was Morgan Warner?

For the vast majority of Inheritance, Simon Pegg's character goes by the name of Morgan Warner, Archer's former friend and business partner whose life took a sharp turn when Archer struck and killed a pedestrian with his car and insisted on burying him in the woods instead of going to the police. Morgan claims that he was determined to do the right thing, and that his principles cost him his freedom. He says that instead of allowing Morgan to go to the police, Archer locked him in the bunker for 30 years to cover up his crime.

But of course, by the end of the film, we've learned that this is all a lie. The prisoner's real name is Carson, and while he was indeed in the car the night that Archer hit a pedestrian, the actual events played out very differently. The real Morgan Warner was a young, bright student, and he was in fact the pedestrian that Archer hit with his car. But rather than being killed when the car hit him, Morgan survived, although he was gravely injured. The killing blow was delivered by Carson, who snapped Morgan's neck and then buried him in the woods. Morgan has been listed as a missing person ever since.

What did William and Archer do to get William re-elected?

At the beginning of Inheritance, Lauren is proud of her brother William's congressional career, thinking that he's a decent and honorable politician who has earned his way into office. As she balances her own prosecutorial caseload, Lauren even makes time to actively campaign for William's re-election, speaking at his rallies and giving glowing endorsements to the press. When rumors begin to swirl that William's campaign may have paid for votes, Lauren dismisses them out of hand as a dirty smear campaign without an ounce of truth to them.

But when Lauren learns of the existence of Carson (claiming to be Morgan), he reveals that many of the truths she thinks she knows aren't really as they appear. It turns out that although Archer was determined to punish Carson indefinitely by keeping him locked up in that bunker, he also couldn't resist having a confidante who wouldn't ever be able to reveal his secrets to anyone. For 30 years, Archer used Carson as a confessor, unburdening his conscience by revealing every immoral act and shady dealing he'd engaged in. Carson informed Lauren that, in fact, Archer had used a middleman to deliver bribes in exchange for votes in William's first election, gaining William his congressional seat. What's more, William knew about his father's actions, and he was an active participant in doing the same thing again to ensure his re-election.

What was the significance of Gypsy Rose, LLC?

If Archer had truly wanted to keep his family legacy intact, he probably shouldn't have willed all of the skeletons in his closet to his district attorney daughter. One of the subplots of Inheritance involves Lauren prosecuting a massive Bernie Madoff-like investment scandal, and she's determined to deliver justice to the countless people and businesses the defendant in her case had defrauded. But in court one day, as Lauren looks over the list of the defendant's investors, one name jumps out at her, Gypsy Rose, LLC, which she intuitively realizes is owned by her father.

How exactly Lauren makes the connection between Gypsy Rose, LLC, and her own family isn't ever explained, but her hunch turns out to be right. She confronts her father's attorney, Harold Thewlis (Michael Beach), asking if he'd known that her father had been an investor in the Ponzi scheme. He admits that he did, but he was trying to protect her father's secrets. Lauren is furious, explaining that her family being investors in the case she's prosecuting is a major conflict of interest. However, Lauren never tells anyone else about Gypsy Rose, LLC, indicating that as much as she claims she's on the side of the marginalized, she's got more of her father in her than she'd like to admit.

What really happened on the night Archer locked Carson in the bunker?

There are two versions of the events that led to Carson being locked in that bunker. The first paints Carson (then calling himself Morgan) as the tragic hero, who got himself imprisoned by his friend for the crime of trying to do the right thing. But eventually, we learn that while that version does contain elements of the truth, most of it's entirely fictitious, and that what really happened is even darker.

It turns out that 30 years prior to the events of Inheritance, Carson drugged and raped Lauren's mother, Catherine. When Archer found out, he forced Carson into his car and started driving toward the woods, presumably to kill him. But his plans of vengeance took a sharp turn when he hit a pedestrian, seriously wounding him. Carson finished the job and convinced Archer to bury the body in the woods, but while Carson was distracted with disposing of the body, Archer managed to knock him unconscious. When Carson came to, he was chained in Archer's bunker, where he was doomed to live out the next 30 years of his life.

How did Archer die in Inheritance?

At the beginning of the film, although Lauren is told that her father has died in an accident on the family estate, the audience knows through seeing flashes of Archer's final moments that there's more to his death than a simple car crash. Archer is shown stumbling through the woods, clearly fighting the effects of something that's making him severely ill. Looking like he's already at death's door, Archer gets in his car and drives, possibly to get help, but he never reaches his destination. When the car crashes, Archer is already dead.

Toward the end of the film, Carson reveals the mechanics of Archer's death. Apparently over the years, Archer toyed with the idea of killing Carson more than once, and he even brought bits of poison down into the bunker with the intent of finishing him off. It would seem that each time, Archer experienced a change of heart, but Carson managed to get his hands on some of this poison, hoarding it until he had enough to deliver a lethal dose. On the day Archer died, the two men were playing chess, and Carson was able to inject the poison into Archer's hand. Archer escaped the bunker, foiling any hopes Carson may have had to steal his keys and escape, but he wasn't ultimately able to outrun the poison itself.

Why was Carson locked in the bunker?

We only ever hear Carson's explanation for what led Archer to locking him in the bunker, but based on what we know of Archer, we can make a few assumptions about his motivations. Carson initially assumed Archer was driving him into the woods to kill him after Carson raped his wife, but then changed his mind and decided to lock him up for the rest of his life instead as a means of psychological torture, as penance for his crimes.

However, it's entirely possible that locking Carson in the bunker was always Archer's plan, even before hitting Morgan Warner with his car. (As for why Archer even had a secret bunker on his property in the first place, that's one question that will never be answered.) Carson was a killer, but we never got any evidence that Archer was. Archer was wrecked after the death of Morgan, and could never follow through on his plan to poison Carson, even though he had every reason to do so. Perhaps Archer didn't want to torture Carson. Maybe he couldn't kill him but also couldn't let him go, either.

There's also the added layer of Lauren's parentage, which Archer couldn't have known about on the night when he first put Carson in the bunker, but it would've become a question in his mind soon after. It's possible that Lauren's birth could've been what stayed Archer's hand all those years, not wanting to kill the man who might be her biological father.

How much of Carson's story was true?

The brilliance of Carson's lies are in how they weave in pieces of the truth. Carson made several large gambles up front — chief among them that Lauren wouldn't quickly be able to research the name Morgan Warner, which would've instantly alerted her that something was wrong — but was careful to always give Lauren enough facts to keep her engaged in the tale he was spinning. He told the truth about being her father's friend and being in the car with him on the night he accidentally hit a pedestrian. He gave her the correct location of where the body was buried, hoping that her desire to protect her family would outweigh her duty as a DA to report it.

He also told her the truth about many of her father's secrets, including the mistress he'd been having an affair with for many years and the son they shared, as well as the name of the man who brokered the bribes that had secured both Lauren's and William's jobs. He also knew plenty of details about Lauren's personal life and her family, thanks to Archer's compulsion to share the details of his life during his visits with Carson. Considering how many of Carson's tales turned out to be true, it's no wonder that Lauren completely bought into his story ... although it still would've been a good idea to wait on the fingerprint match before setting him free.

What's the deal with the key lime pie recipe?

Throughout Inheritance, whenever Carson is alone, he repeats the ingredients list of a Key lime pie recipe like it's a mantra. He even asks Lauren for a piece of Key lime pie as one of his requirements to get him to talk, but when he has it in front of him, he just repeats the ingredients to himself while staring at the piece of untouched pie. Later, once Lauren sets him free, he gives her a well-worn magazine page that has the recipe printed on it, saying that he'd always promised himself that whenever he got out, he'd treat himself to a piece of Key lime pie. He told her that, as simple as it was, the idea of his freedom pie was what kept him going all these years. That explains why he didn't eat the piece she brought him in the bunker. He wasn't free yet, so he hadn't earned the pie.

So much of what Carson tells Lauren turns out to be a carefully crafted ruse, but his explanation for the pie actually seems to be the truth. As much as Carson turns out to be a master manipulator and a devious liar, he wasn't lying about how much he yearned to be free or about how he latched onto the simple idea of a Key lime pie as the light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel.

What was Carson's plan at the ending of Inheritance?

You'd think that after spending 30 years locked in a bunker, the idea of taking a chartered jet to a tropical island where you'd be handed a $1 million bank account would be pretty tempting. But Carson's desire for revenge outweighs the temptation to spend the rest of his days in quiet comfort, leading him to kill Harold, Archer's attorney, and return to the Monroe family estate instead of departing on the jet. Once there, Carson abducts Catherine and uses her to lure in Lauren, whom he also subdues.

Once he's got them both captive in the bunker, Carson does a lot of maniacal monologuing, and he seems to change course a few times on what he ultimately intends to do. But it seems as though his actual long-term plan is to keep Catherine and Lauren as his prisoners in the bunker, subjecting them to the same sort of treatment Archer inflicted upon him. He also intends to kill William by slitting his throat, but that seems to be the only other murder Carson is plotting. As for Lauren's husband and daughter, he intends to leave them untouched, wondering why Lauren abandoned them for the rest of their lives. But where Carson plans to live or how he intends to provide for himself while keeping Catherine and Lauren locked up are never addressed, so for all of Carson's careful planning, it seems like he overlooked a few key details.

Was Carson really Lauren's biological father?

The very last claim Carson makes before he's shot and killed by Catherine is possibly the most earth-shattering of all for Lauren ... he says he's her biological father, implying that she was conceived on the night that he raped her mother. Whether this is true is never explicitly confirmed, and Catherine and Lauren burn the bunker, along with Carson's body, before any DNA tests can be performed. Catherine assures Lauren that she's a Monroe, and that's good enough for her daughter.

But there's a decent amount of evidence that Carson could've been Lauren's father, or at least that Archer suspected he was. There's the fact that Lauren always felt distant from Archer and that her monetary inheritance was much less than her brother's. There's the amount of information that Archer passed along to Carson about Lauren and her family, perhaps to allow him some glimpse into the life of the child he was never supposed to meet. Plus, there's the fact that Archer kept Carson alive, and that he thought it was important to tell Lauren that Carson existed. Maybe Carson wasn't her biological father, after all, but Archer's actions seemed to indicate that he hadn't ruled out the possibility, and he wanted to give Lauren the opportunity to know the truth, even if he never wanted her to reveal it.