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The Ending Of Bullet Train Explained

Spoiler alert! There are major spoilers in this article for "Bullet Train."

When assassin Ladybug (Brad Pitt) boards the title vehicle in the opening moments of "Bullet Train," all he wants is an easy first day back at work after an extended leave in which he found some much-needed inner peace. That is, as much inner peace as you can find when you make a living by killing and engaging in other violent activities. However, Ladybug, whose codename as the lucky insect is at odds with his perception of himself as perpetually unlucky, quickly discovers there's much more to the supposedly straightforward job he's been assigned.

Sure, it's simple enough to find and take the suitcase he was instructed to confiscate, but Ladybug soon reports to his handler Maria (Sandra Bullock) that there are several other assassins after the case. Not only are deadly "twins" Tangerine (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Lemon (Brian Tyree Henry) on board completing a mission for the notorious yakuza boss the White Death (Michael Shannon), another assassin, the Hornet (Zazie Beetz), has brought a highly venomous snake on the train. Meanwhile, Ladybug is confronted by an extremely angry assassin called the Wolf (Benito A. Martinez Ocasio), and a young woman called Prince (Joey King) is using her innocent looks to manipulate everyone else onboard — most of all the drunk assassin Kimura (Andrew Koji).

This improbable group of characters collide in often violent and always off-kilter ways throughout the movie. However, by the time it enters its third act, only a few are left to see the tale through to the end. This is how their story plays out as "Bullet Train" barrels to its conclusion.

As the third act starts, only key characters are left on the train

The third act of "Bullet Train" begins with Kimura's father, the Elder (Hiroyuki Sanada), boarding the train at the stop right before Kyoto. Except for a few key characters, there's no one left on the train, something the White Death ensured by buying out all the other seats. 

Somehow the Elder is aware of what's been happening there, so when Prince, the first person he meets in the now largely empty train, informs him his son has perished, he tells her she's mistaken. As Prince storms off, the Elder joins Ladybug to discover that Kimura is indeed alive. Surprisingly Lemon, who was also believed to have been murdered by Prince, is still ticking too. Nonetheless, the train contains an excessive number of bodies, including the Hornet, the Wolf, and Tangerine, not to mention the White Death's mysteriously murdered son (Logan Lerman). 

As they approach Kyoto station, the quartet of men forms an uneasy alliance in the hopes that they don't become the White Death's next victims. Of course, against the White Death's mass of goons, there's not all that much of a stand they can make, but they're determined to try. Lemon moves to the front of the train to see if he can take control of it, the Elder waits to confront the White Death after years of planning his revenge against the crime boss for murdering his wife, and, despite his terrible luck, Ladybug decides to put himself first in the line of fire as they reach the end of the line.

Ladybug distracts the White Death

As the train comes to a stop, Ladybug exits allowing both he and viewers to see the White Death for the first time on the station platform. Up until this point, the White Death is treated much like Bill from Quentin Tarantino's two-part film, "Kill Bill." He is often mentioned and his presence hangs like a shroud over the proceedings, yet when he's seen in flashbacks his face is obscured. In the White Death's case, that's because he's wearing a devil mask. Yet, just as the Bride (Uma Thurman) finally lays eyes on Bill (David Carradine) in the final act of "Kill Bill: Vol. 2," Ladybug finally lays eyes on the White Death in the final act of "Bullet Train." The White Death even looks a bit like Bill with his long hair, fancy suit, and world-weary demeanor.

On the other hand, Ladybug's connection to the White Death is much less personal than the Bride's to Bill. Unfortunately, the White Death doesn't know that because he believes Ladybug is actually a man named Carver, Ladybug's hated co-worker who bowed out of the job that Ladybug is currently trying to survive. Carver, who's played by Ryan Reynolds in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo, was responsible for staging the accident that killed the White Death's wife. Now, the White Death has gone out of his way to ensure that every assassin who had something to do with the incident is on the train so he can take them all out at once. He's happy to start with Ladybug, despite Ladybug's protests that he isn't the man the White Death thinks.

The White Death confronts Prince

Before the White Death dispatches Ladybug, the two henchmen who've been ordered to open the briefcase Ladybug was supposed to steal finally complete their task. However, earlier in the film, Prince got Kimura to crack the case's code and rigged it to blow when it was opened again. So as soon as the White Death's goons lift the case's lid, it explodes, blowing Ladybug back onto the unmoving train, followed by the White Death and several henchmen. This buys Ladybug enough time to escape the White Death's clutches.

At this point, the White Death is distracted by another issue — Prince, whose every move has been about assassinating the crime lord. When the White Death enters the train, he's confronted by Prince, and she makes it clear that the reason she's so determined to take him out is that he's her father. Yes, Prince has threatened Kimura's young son's life twice, manipulated, killed, and rigged a suitcase with explosives because she's a sociopath with Daddy issues.

Prince's grievance seems to be that the White Death never paid attention to her because she's a girl. While most people would seek therapy to cope with the rejection, Prince has gone another way, and even as she waves a gun in her father's face, she's still pursuing her endgame. The White Death is known for killing anyone who crosses him with the weapon they threatened him with, and Prince expects that's exactly what he'll do to her. She even hands him the gun. However, earlier in the movie, in anticipation of this exact moment, Prince rigs her gun to backfire, killing whoever pulls the trigger. 

Despite her tears, Prince is actually anticipating violently besting her father. Unfortunately, while the White Death accepts the gun, he declines to kill Prince — leaving her feeling slighted once again.

The White Death faces off with the Elder

The White Death next encounters the Elder, who the White Death recognizes as one of his predecessor's henchmen. Years ago, the Elder was suspicious of the White Death and warned his boss of his suspicions. Unfortunately, his boss didn't listen, resulting in the White Death taking over his entire operation and setting fire to the Elder's house, an event that killed the Elder's wife.

The irony now is that even though the two men hold deep grudges against one another, both are motivated by the demise of their spouses. While this adds "Bullet Train" to the long list of pop culture works that use the tired trope of killing a woman to move the story forward, it also means these two old enemies have a lot in common. In other circumstances, they might have been part of a great support system for one another, but neither character has any plans to hug it out now.

The pair begins a brutal brawl just as Lemon figures out how to get the train moving again. While Kyoto is the train's final stop, the track continues, and Lemon's goal is to get them away from the White Death and his goons. Of course, he's a bit late figuring out how to get the train going. However, since Lemon has made it clear that the kids' series "Thomas & Friends," which revolves around the anthropomorphized train Thomas the Tank Engine, is his personal guide to life, the opportunity to drive a train has to be a thrill for him.

The train manages to survive a head-on collision

Whatever thrill Lemon feels quickly wears off when he realizes he doesn't know how to control the train. It's traveling at breakneck speed and he can't slow it down. If that weren't bad enough, as Ladybug joins him, he points out that they're on a collision course with another train coming in the opposite direction on the same track. Lemon's trying to figure out how to throw the emergency brake with no success, so when a group of the White Death's goons appears, he volunteers to take them on, leaving Ladybug to the bigger challenge of stopping the train.

Each of them tries their best, but the trains still collide in a spectacular crash. Yet, against all odds, the train Ladybug, Lemon, and the others are on endures a substantial amount of damage but manages to stay on the tracks. Despite that small victory, the train is still hurtling down the tracks with no signs of stopping, so Ladybug continues to work on figuring out the emergency brake as Lemon fights the White Death's goons. 

Apparently, working with Ladybug instead of against him, as he has most of the train ride, makes Lemon feel a bit warm and fuzzy because as he punches and jabs at the nameless henchmen, he apologizes to Ladybug for shooting him — twice. Ladybug is touched, but the moment doesn't last because as the train speeds over a bridge, Lemon jumps out of the train with one of the White Death's men into the water below.

A lucky water bottle saves the day

Elsewhere on the train, the battle between the Elder and the White Death continues. The men initially seem well matched and the Elder's facility with his cane alone makes it seem like he may even have the upper hand. Unfortunately, the White Death quickly manages to turn things around. After all, you don't earn the nickname the White Death if you aren't accustomed to doling out a substantial amount of, well, death.

For a moment, it looks like the White Death is going to add the Elder to his undoubtedly lengthy list of victims. But then Kimura, who, between being shot in the gut and massively hung over, hasn't been especially useful until this point, picks up a water bottle rolling along the floor and tosses it at the White Death's head, stopping him before he can deal a final death blow to the Elder. 

As a flashback reveals, the water bottle has played a key role throughout the story. Not only did Lemon get the bottle of water for free while buying another beverage, but it was also the water that Ladybug filled with sleeping powder that Lemon drank just in time for it to kick in as Prince shot him, causing her to believe she'd killed him. Once again, the water bottle shows up just in the nick of time, ensuring Kimura can save his father's life.

The train comes to a very dramatic stop

In the front of the train, Ladybug has finally found the handbook with instructions in English, which includes information about how to deploy the emergency brake. Sadly, the wind proves to be his enemy — or maybe it's that bad luck he claims to have — because just as he reaches the right page, a huge gust carries the whole book away. Frustrated and with few options left, Ladybug simply pulls out the entire emergency brake mechanism, wires and all.

It gets the job done, but it isn't pretty. The screeching brakes bring the train to a stop way too fast, causing it to jump the tracks. As the train careens out of control, the momentum causes Ladybug to fall back through the cars, and while he's hit in the head with a coffee pot along the way, the bulbous costume of Momomon, an anime character with its own themed car on the train, breaks his fall. The vehicle finally comes to an inelegant stop in the middle of what appears to be an otherwise tranquil village.

Prince's plan comes to fruition

Ladybug, Kimura, and the Elder exit the train. They're all worse for wear but miraculously still alive. They're followed out by a furious White Death. The crime lord is enraged at everything he's had to endure to get his revenge against the people who took his wife from him. He once again goes after Ladybug, whom he still believes is Carver. However, his gun has run out of bullets, so he grabs the gun he took from Prince, which has been rigged to backfire. While the White Death refused to use it before on Prince, he's now more than willing to use it to take out Ladybug. This brings Prince's plan to fruition because, as soon as the White Death pulls the trigger, the gun explodes in his face and he sinks to the ground, dead and with half his head missing.

Immediately afterward, an extremely disheveled Prince appears in the doorway of one of the remaining train cars. It's unclear where she's been all this time or how exactly she managed to survive all of the destruction on the train. What is clear is that Prince is absolutely victorious in her father's death. She shoots a gun and crows triumphantly as Ladybug, Kimura, and the Elder look on. Who knows what her plans could be for the trio given her diabolical tendencies. Fortunately, neither they nor viewers have to find out because a truck runs Prince over, seemingly bringing her life to an end — or at least setting her up for a lengthy hospital stay.

Ladybug is touched by his handler's concerned gesture

As Ladybug, Kimura, and the Elder walk away from the destruction of the train following Prince's demise, Ladybug's handler pulls up in a car. While she tries to deny it, Ladybug knows Maria's intention was to rescue him. He's so touched that he gets teary-eyed. As they walk back towards Maria's car to leave, Ladybug informs her that he no longer believes in luck, especially his bad luck. Now he just believes in fate. 

Ladybug's change of heart makes sense and viewers may even feel it's a long time coming, especially since throughout the movie many of the things he's deemed bad luck could actually be seen as good if looked at from another perspective. For example, consider when he wasn't able to exit the train earlier in the film as planned because the Wolf was coming in the same door he was trying to go out. While the Wolf's violent attack on him was unexpected, Ladybug ultimately wasn't hurt badly and even managed to inadvertently take out the Wolf before things could spiral too out of control. Ultimately, it was a pretty positive result for Ladybug, even if the situation wasn't exactly ideal.

As Ladybug explains his new fate-based philosophy, a pole falls over, crushing Maria's car. While Ladybug might have previously chalked the incident up to his bad luck, now he wonders if it could actually be a good thing. That said, Maria may have her hands full if she has to hear Ladybug share this new attitude throughout whatever his next job is — especially since Ladybug's survival leaves an opening for a sequel.

The mid-credits fill in a small blank

Viewers may not spend too much time thinking about who was driving the truck that hit Prince. However, the movie uses a mid-credits scene to fill in that blank before the film officially wraps up. At first, it's not clear that's where things are headed. The movie flashes back to the moment after Lemon jumps from the train and lands in the water below. He takes out the White Death's henchman that fell with him, gets out of the water, and finds a road where he sees a small truck with a photo of lemons and tangerines on the side. Lemon doesn't miss the not-so-subtle symbolism and takes the truck as his own.

Now that his brother and long-time partner Tangerine is dead, it's not clear what could be next for Lemon, but at least his getaway seems to be going well. In perhaps what's supposed to be a final commentary on fate, he drives into the village where the train has crashed, and as he heads down the road, he sees Prince in front of him. Instead of hitting the brakes, he presses the accelerator, speeding into the young woman who tried to kill him. With that final violent act, another in a long string of violent acts throughout the movie, "Bullet Train" comes to an end.