Prisoners: the crime thriller’s ending, explained

By okaybliss — ON Jan 06, 2023
Warner Bros. Pictures

Prisoners is a 2013 movie where two girls disappear in broad daylight. An RV driver is suspected, but is he really the kidnapper? Let’s find out.

Spoilers Ahead!

Thanksgiving turns bitter for Birch and Dover family

Keller and Grace Dover visit friends Franklin and Nancy Birch nearby for Thanksgiving. Their children are friends too; young- Anna and Joy and elder- Ralph and Eliza. Grace carves the deer while children go out. Ralph sees and stops the youngers hitting and trying to climb on an RV parked in the neighbourhood, with someone inside.

After dinner, Anna wishes to find her emergency red whistle and asks if she can take Joy to her house. The parents agree and tells them to take their elder siblings with them.

But apparently, both of them left without telling their siblings and are nowhere to be found. Things turn panicked with no trace of them when Ralph tells Keller about the RV- which is not there anymore. Detective Loki reaches to the scene where the RV is last spotted. The idle RV suddenly turns and hits the tree.

Suspect captured and the mystery continues

The suspect, Alex Jones, is captured by the police but he fails to respond due to low IQ. Keller believes he’s the kidnapper and presses for him to be held but he’s let go. As he’s out of the police station, Keller grabs him and Alex whispers, “they didn’t cry until I left them.” Keller is enraged but there’s no evidence of this.

Meanwhile, while searching the house of a sex offender former priest Patrick, Loki comes across a basement with an old dead body tied to a chair. The victim is wearing a maze-like necklace. Patrick reveals that the guy was a confessor whom he killed after he confessed, he’d murdered 16 children.

Kellen starts a diverging investigation when he sees Alex abuse his dog and sing the song Anna and Joy were singing. He keeps him held in his father’s old apartment, even bringing Franklin with him.

Connected cases and another suspect

Loki visits a mother whose son Barry Millard was kidnapped 26 years ago without a trace. On the night of the missing girls’ vigil, Loki sees a suspect running away from him. He’s identified as Bob Taylor who used to shop for children’s clothes at a supermarket.

Meanwhile, Keller is torturing Alex for information. Franklin tells his wife about it and although she is somewhat sympathetic to Alex’s badly bruised body, she decides to do nothing. That night, Bob visits the girl’s house and Grace notifies Loki. He becomes suspicious and follows Keller to the old apartment, leaving soon when Bob is located.

Bob is apprehended in his house which has maze designs on the walls. Loki finds crates kept near a heater. All except one contains children’s bloodied cloths with some having snakes in it. One last box holds a book with mazes. He’s bought for questioning or solving the maze but Loki’s frustrated slip up leads Bob to commit suicide with an officer’s gun.

Parents are called in to identify clothes of Anna and Joy, and they do. Keller visits Holly to apologize for grabbing Alex the other day. He is told by Holly that they were devout until their son died of cancer, leading them to adopt Alex.

A maze filled with questions and possibilities

Loki becomes obsessed with Bob’s maze design. In a fit of rage, he finds resemblance of it with the maze on the necklace of the Priest’s victim. The clothes at Bob’s house were store brought and covered with pig’s blood. Chasing a fine thread, he investigates Dover residence and finds a sock of Anna under their window with footprints- similar to one identified.

Joy is found and is in hospital. When asked by Keller where she was, we see what happened to her hazily- her escape- and says she saw him there. Keller, realizing he’d been to Holly’s, runs from there. Loki goes after him and in his old apartment, rescuing Alex.

A climactic face off

Keller goes to Holly’s but she holds him at gunpoint. She and her husband ‘waged a war against God’ by abducting and torturing children to make faiths of parents shake. Alex- Barry Millard- was abducted first and Bob next. His obsession with snakes and mazes was because of her husband. Alex is in trauma from captivity.

She drugs Keller and shows him a pit under a car, telling him to get there. When he resists, she shoots his leg and he goes in, the impact fracturing it. He sees bottles and children’s clothes there. Meanwhile, Loki is sent to Holly’s house to notify about Alex but as he reaches there, he feels something off. In a room, he sees her bent over Anna trying to inject something. She shoots at him and is killed in an encounter. Loki rushes Anna to the hospital in a frenzy with an injured head and storm.

The final ending of the movie- is Keller rescued?

At the hospital, Anna is recovering and comes to see Loki. Grace breaks down because she hasn’t heard from Keller and he might go to prison if found. A couple days later, Loki is at Holly’s house with the forensic as they dig the property.

Later, standing there alone, Loki hears a whistle, but shrugs it off. He hears it again and again, finally realizing the direction it’s coming from. This is where the movie ends. It’s Keller using Anna’s whistle in the pit to call for help.

Talking to Buzzfeed, scriptwriter Aaron Guzikowski explains that and alternate ending was made- just in case. That, “They move the car. They see he’s down there. You know he’s going to be taken out of the hole. I like it much better being ambiguous.” However, ending it this way keeps up the mysterious air and creepy ‘what if’ scenario going.