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The Power of the Dog Ending Explained

Jane Campion, one of our generation’s greatest filmmakers, explores the multiple dimensions of masculinity in ‘The Power of the Dog.’ Initially, Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch), his brother George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), and George’s new stepson Peter Gordon (Kodi Smit-McPhee) represent three very contrasting elements of end-of-the-Frontier era masculinity in the 1920s. However, as the film develops and their personalities are revealed, the distinction quickly fades and positions begin to swap like a game of musical chairs. Among them, George takes a back seat, playing a more submissive position, not only to his dominant brother but also to his little stepson.

Phil and Peter’s complicated friendship becomes an unspoken battlefield after his departure. Peter is determined to protect his mother, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), from what Phil has become for her. Meanwhile, Phil’s actions are motivated by his unrelenting anguish over the loss of his default relationship with his brother. Phil’s death brings the conflict to a close. This is all you need to know if you’re wondering how he dies and if Peter has anything to do with it. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

How Does Phil Pass Away?

Phil and George break wild horses and rear cattle in a vast valley surrounded by distant jagged mountains in 1925 Montana. It’s the conclusion of the Frontier era, and Phil, more than anybody else in the film, seems to exemplify that raw machismo of a bygone era. He is surrounded by cowhands who almost worship him. And it appears that he happily feeds their expectations by armoring himself inside an unduly nasty and imposing attitude.

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Phil and George inhabit a large home, which, like Phil’s rage and the film’s environment, is limitless and bleak. Despite this, the brothers have confined themselves to a room with twin beds. And it’s not to demonstrate how close they are, but to express how cripplingly — and yet unknowingly — co-dependent they are. Despite the fact that Phil frequently disparages his brother.

In his times of alone, the spectator sees the real Phil reminiscing about “Bronco” Henry, who was Phil’s mentor in more ways than one. He has effectively buried his sexuality beneath layers of misogyny, demonstrating that the world hasn’t altered all that much after all this time.

Meanwhile, while Phil is mostly pleased with their lives, George isn’t. He is longing for connection and affection, which he finds in Rose, a widow with a teenage son. Phil is suddenly thrown to the side by his own brother as George marries her and brings her home. As a result, he lashes out, driving Rose to alcoholism. Phil is dangerously brilliant and educated, despite the dirt and grime he proudly wears. His deeds are lethal, cruel, and inventively wicked. Rose’s previous marriage was unhappy, and it ended with her first husband committing suicide. Phil doesn’t have to work much to entice her to her ex-habit husband’s – alcohol.

Her rescue eventually comes from an unlikely source: her son. Peter is so skinny that the current world may classify him as anorexic. Everyone, including his mother and the audience, underestimates him for the majority of the film. And it isn’t until the end of the film that his actual character emerges. He aspires to be a doctor and, at one point, surgically dissects a rabbit. The film makes it clear that this version of Peter does not have psychopathic tendencies. He is still sensitive, as evidenced by the scene in which he is alone in the bush with Phil and kills another rabbit with extraordinary gentleness.

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Phil’s attitude toward Peter alters dramatically after witnessing his casual response to sexual remarks from cowhands. It’s no surprise that Cumberbatch and Smit-McPhee were cast as these two characters. Both have a tall and lanky build. Granted, Cumberbatch is more sinewy these days, but it adds to the overall narrative of the picture. Phil begins to recognize his younger self in Peter, and he probably imagines himself performing the same role for Peter as Bronco did for him.

Earlier in the film, it is revealed how Phil avoids livestock infected with anthrax almost religiously. In yet another instance of deliberate irony, Phil dies while attempting to fashion a rope out of cowhide from a cow that died of the same ailment. Phil’s desire to make the ropes is once again related to his relationship with Bronco. That’s why he erupts when he discovers Rose has sold all of the cowhides.

Is Peter responsible for Phil’s death?

Yes, Peter murders Phil. What happens between them is a type of subtle seduction on Peter’s part, which he brilliantly accomplishes. Phil, like everyone else, does not know it until it is too late. Peter dons gloves and takes a cowhide from a dead anthrax-infected cow, which he then chops into thin pieces. When Phil explodes after learning what Rose has done, Peter approaches him and offers him the strips, claiming that he wants to be like the older guy, thus reminding Peter of his relationship with Bronco.

Phil had previously had a hand injury. He dips the gushing wound hand into the water in which the cowhide strips have been placed for soaking, exposing himself to the disease and sealing his doom. Rose has gotten sober by the end of the film, following Phil’s death. She and George can look forward to a happy future together in Phil’s absence.

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The film takes its title from Psalm 22: “Deliver my life from the sword, my darling from the power of the hounds.” In one of the film’s final sequences, Peter is shown reading the same passage. Peter is shown to be his mother’s savior. He purges the evil from her life, the leader of the group of dogs who tormented her.

The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained
The Power of the Dog Ending Explained

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