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We Finally Understand The Ending Of Fallen

"I wanna tell you about the time I almost died." As far as opening lines go, "Fallen" sure does have a great one. Of course, it doesn't hurt that said bit of narration is delivered by one of the greatest actors of his generation — or any other, for that matter — in Denzel Washington. Full of intrigue and delivered with gravitas, the opening line of "Fallen" is also very much key to understanding the film's ending. The film tells the story of Detective John Hobbes (Washington) and his dealings with the supernatural after he visits condemned serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas) — who's dealing with his demons — prior to his scheduled execution. 

"Fallen" sports an ensemble cast, even outside of Washington and the under-appreciated Koteas. John Goodman plays the role of Hobbes' partner, Jonesy; Donald Sutherland appears as Lieutenant Stanton, Hobbes' superior; the late James Gandolfini has a memorable turn as fellow detective Lou; and Embeth Davidtz has a stellar turn as Gretta Milano, a woman whose family history becomes of particular interest.

Despite a solid premise and good acting from a talented cast, "Fallen" did not impress critics; it has a subpar 40% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. It fared far better with audiences, however, who rate it at 72%. Maybe that score represents a contingent of viewers who love The Rolling Stones as much as director Gregory Hoblit and writer Nicholas Kazan must; the band's hit "Time is on My Side" is referenced prominently throughout "Fallen" and "Sympathy for the Devil" plays during its end credits. Then again, anyone who's seen the film should recognize that the aforementioned tunes are thematically relevant. So perhaps its clever twist ending is what helps the film endear itself to audiences. Remember, that opening line is key to understanding the ending of "Fallen."

Wait, so who is telling the story in Fallen?

The key to understanding the ending of "Fallen" recognizing that John Hobbes is not the narrator; Azazel is. Viewers first encounter Denzel Washington's character as he's scrambling through the snow-filled woods outside the cabin belonging to Gretta Milano. "I never thought it would happen to me, not at this age; beaten, outsmarted. How did I get into this fix? How did it all begin? No, no, no; if I got back to the beginning, that'll take forever. So let's start more recently. Somewhere. Anywhere. Reese." Hobbes isn't rewinding the tape to tell his story with Edgar Reese; Azazel is. The movie flashes back to the execution, when Reese grabs ahold of Hobbes and — possessed by Azazel — goes off on him in Aramaic, failing to transfer its consciousness. Reese-Azazel later sings "Time Is On My Side" before the cyanide tablets are lowered into the acid, because time is indeed on its side; it's able to possess any being when its host body dies. "Something is always happening, but, when it happens, people don't always see it or understand it, or accept it," Azazel narrates. 

When everything comes to a head at the cabin in the final scene of "Fallen," Hobbes thinks he has a plan in place to defeat the demon, but he's not expecting Jonesy to be his enemy's host. Nevertheless, as Hobbes wounds Azazel-Jonesy, who plans to self-terminate in order to finally inhabit Hobbes, Hobbes smokes cigarettes laced with the same poison Azazel used to kill his brother. Hobbes thinks he has Azazel beat and, for a short while, Azazel believes it too; Jonesy is wounded and Hobbes has poisoned himself. The scramble we saw at the beginning of the film was Azazel in Hobbes' body fighting to stay alive. But, since time is on its side, it seems someone has sympathy for the devil, and Azazel inhabits a cat that's been taking refuge under the cabin. "I wanna tell you about the time I almost died," Azazel said at the beginning. Because it has found a new host body and is coming back to civilization to continue killing and wreaking havoc among humans. So, sleep well.