Some truths are just too cold to uncover.


The new Netflix period crime mystery The Pale Blue Eye is based on the novel of the same name by Louis Bayard and examines a fictional series of murders at a military academy in West Point, New York in 1830.

Veteran investigator Augustus Landor (Christian Bale) is called upon to investigate a killing on the campus and soon comes to be aided in his investigations by a young cadet and poet, the real-life historical figure Edgar Allan Poe, played by former Harry Potter franchise star Harry Melling.

Along the way, Landor and Poe come across some interesting figures, not least the Marquis family led by Dr Daniel Marquis (Toby Jones) and his wife Julia (Gillian Anderson), whose son Artemus (Harry Lawtey) is entrenched in the complicated social web of the academy, while their beautiful and enigmatic daughter Lea (Lucy Boynton) becomes the focus of Poe's affections.

However, as the investigation progresses, many dark truths about all of the characters come to light.

Speaking to, actors Harry Melling and Lucy Boynton discussed the fraught relationships in the Scott Cooper film and the journeys they go on to reach that final twisty conclusion.

You've been warned: there are spoilers from here on out.

The Pale Blue Eye ending explained

Who is the killer in The Pale Blue Eye?

In a gob-smacking twist, the killer in The Pale Blue Eye is investigator Augustus Landor.

That's right, the apparent hero of the story and investigator of the killings at the West Point military academy was actually the one responsible for the crimes.

Landor, who had been devastated by the suicide of his daughter following her victimisation in a gang rape by cadets from the academy, was taking revenge on the three cadets who had raped her.

Christian Bale as Augustus Landor in The Pale Blue Eye
Christian Bale as Augustus Landor in The Pale Blue Eye. Scott Garfield/Netflix

The first he killed by leaving a note to lure him out, with the body being found by Lea and Artemus, who removed his heart from his body as part of a supernatural ritual.

After the first murder victim's body was found in this state, Landor copied these mutilations with the further two victims so as to frame the Marquis family for the murders.

Of course, Edgar Allan Poe finds evidence that his father figure/fellow investigator was actually the killer in the form of a letter, but still chooses to burn the evidence.

Why did Edgar Allan Poe burn the letter at the end of The Pale Blue Eye?

Christian Bale as Augustus Landor and Harry Melling as Edgar Allen Poe in The Pale Blue Eye.
Christian Bale as Augustus Landor and Harry Melling as Edgar Allen Poe in The Pale Blue Eye. Scott Garfield/Netflix

It seems that Edgar Allan Poe's connection to Augustus Landor saw him grant him mercy despite the guilt that the investigator clearly had.

Additionally, the loss of the Marquis siblings also means they are already gone and so the truth can die with them.

On Poe's journey in the film, actor Harry Melling explained to "Well, I think when we meet him early on, he's very young. I think he's putting on these different personas in order to try and fit in. By the end of the story, he's landed somewhere and there's a heaviness to him.

"I kept thinking that we should, by the end of the film, understand where he's going in terms of the Edgar Allan Poe that we often think of, you know; this heavier, this moodier, this sombre character.

"So the journey was very much going from this person who didn't quite fit in, it was awkward, a bit of a misfit, into someone who's landed somewhere and someone that perhaps we can identify as the Edgar Allan Poe that we think of when we mention The Raven or The Tell-Tale Heart. So that was the journey, I think, for me."

What was the Marquis family doing in The Pale Blue Eye?

Toby Jones as Dr. Marquis and Gillian Anderson as Julia in The Pale Blue Eye
Toby Jones as Dr Marquis and Gillian Anderson as Julia in The Pale Blue Eye. Scott Garfield/Netflix

Driven by a desire to help their Lea with her seizures, Artemus aided her in performing supernatural rituals in a bid to cure her of her ailment.

Lea became Poe's "muse" as Melling put it, and seduced him into helping her - ultimately leading him into a trap where he would become a ritual sacrifice and have his heart removed.

Ultimately, Edgar is saved by Augustus and the Marquis siblings are crushed by falling beams when the house catches on fire, to the devastation of their flamboyant mother Julia (Gillian Anderson).

Describing the dynamic within the Marquis family, actress Lucy Boyton explained to "I think what was interesting is that we all turned up on set with very similar ideas of like this strange level of intimacy that they all have with each other.

"And that takes the form of like really weird tech tactility and stuff and so it was really fun, just from an acting point of view, getting to play with that and playing to the like, lack of awareness or lack of care of the discomfort of those around them and there's like very tactile moments.

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"But I think they're just really fascinating because I think they live a quite intimate - at that time and that environment - quite an isolated life, or at least Lea does. So her family is such a vital touchstone for her and are the bedrock of her life. And, because of her illness, she's had to lean on them. And I think they've all become much closer because of it."

(L to R) Lucy Boynton as Lea, Fred Hechinger as Randolph Ballinger, Harry Melling as Edgar Allen Poe, Harry Lawtey as Artemus, Toby Jones as Dr. Marquis and Gillian Anderson as Julia in The Pale Blue Eye.
The cast of The Pale Blue Eye. Scott Garfield/Netflix

She continued: "So I think already there are elements that are just made more extreme and more intense, which were really interesting to try and work out how to physicalize that.

"And especially between Leia and Artemis, I think that relationship was really fun and fascinating and, again, he is her greatest and closest ally in life and she is someone who is physically incredibly vulnerable because of an illness and just in complete denial about it, and angry at it and in rejection of it.

"Artemis has been her kind of closest confidant and ally throughout that and someone who wants to fight as much as she does to make her okay and keep her alive. So I think that just having that as the anchoring of a relationship is incredibly intense. So it was fun to try and puzzle that together with Harry [Lawtey]."

Is Augustus Landor going to end his own life at the end of The Pale Blue Eye?

Christian Bale as Augustus Landor in The Pale Blue Eye
Christian Bale as Augustus Landor in The Pale Blue Eye. SCOTT GARFIELD/NETFLIX

In a scene that is purposefully left ambiguous, we see a broken Augustus Landor return to the clifftop where his daughter threw herself from following her rape ordeal.

We do not see what happens after he returns there, leaving it open to interpretation whether he has returned there to take his own life and 'join' his daughter in her fate, or whether he has gone there due to how much his life has been haunted by her memory and what he witnessed there.

Either way, the fate of Augustus Landor is as bleak as the aesthetics of the chilly Netflix drama.

The Pale Blue Eye is currently showing in select UK cinemas and will be available on Netflix from Friday 6th January 2023. Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

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