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The Ending Of The King's Man Explained

"The King's Man" is as standard and by the numbers as an action-adventure film can get, but that feels intentional. It lacks the innovation of the original film and even the heightened stakes of the sequel, but excels in other areas — such as its likable characters, all played by actors clearly having a great time, and its energetic action sequences. Much like the previous two films, the hand-to-hand combat sequences are a visual treat, elevated by stellar cinematography. Additionally, the soundtrack contains several quality tracks and uses several classical compositions for action-centered sequences and dramatic moments. The film utilizes the "Been There, Shaped History" trope that often combines fictitious circumstances with real world events.

The film centers on Orlando, Duke of Oxford — played by Ralph Fiennes — the originator of the Kingsman organization. We follow Orlando and his son Conrad as they become entangled in World War I and the conspiracies behind it. It's shown throughout the film that the events setting the war in motion are being masterminded by the elusive and villainous Shepherd. Now Orlando, Conrad, and their two associates Polly and Shola must fight back against the Shepherd's sinister flock. It's through these events we see what sparked the genesis for the Kingsman organization presented in the other films — and this is the ending of "The King's Man" explained. Spoilers follow!

Conrad dies for his country

The relationship between Orlando and his son/protege Conrad accounts for a sizable chunk of the film's drama. World War I is the film's backdrop, but it also factors into the narrative in several major ways. Not only are its main catalysts products of the Shepherd, but Conrad wants to fight alongside his fellow countrymen — something his father objects to, a reluctance that stems from Orlando's wife dying in front of him years prior when Conrad was only a young boy. Despite his objections — and even recruiting Conrad to join his proto-Kingsman organization — his son disobeys his orders and runs off to enlist.

Conrad is almost pulled from active duty, a final attempt from Orlando to save him, but to no avail. Conrad switches places with another soldier, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and is thrust into the heart of battle. In a spectacular sequence, Conrad makes his way across the infamous No Man's Land to save a soldier's life. The soldier in question is the recipient of vital information that in the right hands could help end the war. Despite risking life and limb to save the man's life, Conrad's false identity is discovered by another trigger-happy soldier. Before he can explain his situation, he's marked as a potential spy and shot to death.

Orlando gets his groove back

Losing his only son sends Orlando into a deep depression. No longer motivated to save the world, he sits alone in his study, unshaven and drinking himself into a stupor, until Polly (Gemma Arterton) gives him a pep talk that pulls him out of his miserable state. He marks this renewed vigor by requesting a cup of tea, as opposed to more alcohol, and shaving.

The timing couldn't be any better, as the United States President is ignoring advice to join the war. This is shown to be yet again another sinister machination of the mysterious Shepherd and his crony Mata Hari. Through Hari's infamous seductions, they have acquired footage of the President engaging in very lewd — and very blackmail-worthy — activities, all in an effort to have him removed and replaced with a president under the Shepherd's control. Orlando is quick to uncover this sinister plan and manages to defeat Hari in hand-to-hand combat. Recognizing her scarf, Orlando is quick to note that its fabric only comes from a specific kind of goat — a final revelation that allows Orlando and his allies to figure out the Shepherd's location and put their plan in motion.

A risky infiltration

With the Shepherd's endgame quickly approaching, Orlando and his team have to enact their plan right away. That plan that hinges on a then-new invention: The parachute, which will allow them to swoop down on enemy territory from above. After some comical deliberations as to who will actually jump out of the plane, Orlando opts to do it himself. In a tense sequence — reminiscent of Roxi's suspenseful descent from the first film — Orlando nearly meets his end during his airborne entrance. However, thanks to knives placed in his shoes, he's able to scale the cliff leading to the Shepherd's lair.

Polly and Shola quickly make their presence known as well by taking out various guards through gunfire and combat. Orlando himself has to contend with the Shepherd's largest guard — reminiscent of Bond villains like Jaws — in a fistfight. Shola makes his way up to the lair and is able to help Orlando subdue the unruly behemoth. It's here that they finally venture inside the lair to confront the Shepherd face to face.

Orlando vs. the Shepherd

Orlando and Shola make their way into the Shepherd's lair, where they finally see his face. Orlando is shocked to see that the Shepherd is none other than Captain Morton (Matthew Good), who had been masquerading as Herbert Kitchener's right-hand man. This reveal explains how the Shepherd was often two steps ahead, and how he was privy to certain top-secret information. His motivations are kept fairly vague, however, only including a brief backstory about his family's mill being closed as a child.

After some banter, Orlando and Morton agree to a sword duel which leads to the first utterance of "Manners maketh man" — a fixture of the original film. The two match each other in terms of skill and combat prowess until Morton tries to use his sword's hidden gun. Shola, ever the dependable friend, takes a bullet to his shoulder for Orlando, allowing him to continue the fight. Their battle reaches the cliff's edge of the lair, where it appears Morton has gotten the upper hand on Orlando until one of Morton's own goats — one he'd been partially cruel to — skewers him with its horn. Initially, Orlando attempts the honorable path and refuses to let him drop, but ultimately decides to let Morton fall to his doom. It's a cathartic moment: Orlando has saved the day, not to mention the world, and has become the man "that Conrad would have been."

The birth of the Kingsman

With the Shepherd dispatched, and the evidence of blackmail against the President disposed of, the United States officially joins the war. The film cuts ahead to the conclusion of World War I and we see England's exuberant post-war celebrations. Good has triumphed, and while his efforts will go unknown by the world, Orlando is content, having lived up to Conrad's hopes for him. But while this mission is over, it appears there is still work to be done for Orlando and his compatriots.

In the final moments of "The King's Man," Orlando gathers his allies — Polly, Shola, and the soldier who switched places with Conrad. He proceeds to sit them all down and give them new codenames, each based on the legend of King Arthur. He gives them the rundown as to what their job is and how they will be operating — officially forming the Kingsman. However, after the credits, we see that the Shepherd had one final trick up his sleeve — even in death. We are shown Erik Jan Hanussen (Daniel Brühl) conducting some business in some kind of subterranean lair. He introduces his associate to a new player in their sinister machinations — a young man by the name of Adolf Hitler — showing that just as the Kingsman are evolving, so are their enemies.