John Logan’s directorial debut horror movie, They/Them, could be explained as a straightforward thriller differentiated by its empowering ending message - here's that ending explained. They/Them undoubtedly tackles one of the darkest topics of LGBTQ+ treatment with a stellar cast that has been praised by critics. However, while They/Them's ending is uplifting, it narratively leaves some key lingering questions that need to be answered.
They/Them follows a cast of several LGBTQ+ characters at Whistler Camp, a conversion camp with a dark past. The camp is run by Owen (Kevin Bacon) and staffed by two counselors, a manipulative therapist, and a camp nurse, Molly (Anna Chlumsky). Despite promises that the camp won’t force the attendees to change who they are, Owen quickly begins to torment the attendees, including Alexandra (Quei Tann), a transgender woman; and Jordan (Theo Germaine), a transgender non-binary person; until a mysterious killer begins murdering the staff.
As the staff’s torment of the campers mounts in They/Them, so do the deaths, leading to a final confrontation in the third act. While They/Them is an elevated slasher horror film that can be interpreted in many ways, it is primarily a film based on revenge and resistance. Here's They/Them's ending explained in detail.
At the end of They/Them, most of the staff have been killed save for Owen and Molly. Alexandra leads the campers to safety while Jordan stays behind to make sure Owen doesn’t prevent Molly from calling the police and discovering both the killer’s victims and the camp’s illegal activities. While there, Jordan learns that Molly is the masked killer, and a struggle ensues between Molly, Owen, and Jordan. Jordan saves Molly but also refuses to kill Owen themselves – nor do they agree to hide Molly’s murders and help her escape. Instead, Molly is arrested, and Jordan, Alexandra, and the other campers are free to depart Camp Whistler and live their lives.
Ranking highly among Kevin Bacon's horror movie shocks, Molly’s revelation as the masked killer in They/Them comes as a surprise, as the movie had been hinting that it must be one of the campers taking their revenge against the staff. However, this is only partially true. The movie reveals that Molly was a Camp whistler attendee in her youth and was subjected to the same torture as the present-day campers, leading to suicide attempts, loneliness, and institutionalization from the experience. As a result, Molly decided that she would close every conversion camp in the country by killing those that ran them, revealing the barbarity that occurred within their walls to the world. She even extends this revenge to other LGBTQ+ people at the camp who joined Whistler’s staff to survive, including several prominent They/Them characters.
In They/Them’s final confrontation between Jordan, Owen, and Molly, Molly eggs Jordan on to kill the camp director. But Jordan refuses, saying that they’re strong enough not to do the deed, even though they are well aware of the pain Owen has inflicted on others, including Molly and themselves. When Jordan does this, they reject the "killer instinct" that Owen attempted to elicit earlier from the boys. They prove both to themselves and Owen that they don’t need to conform to Owen’s perceptions of a man to be strong, nor that the violence so often equated with masculinity equates to strength.
Molly’s motives to shut down conversion camps are some of the most relatable in They/Them, particularly as many shows and artists, such as Key & Peele, have poignantly tackled homophobia in their work. But Jordan still doesn’t join her, saying that they want to go back to their friends and their life, and, ultimately, that they don’t need to be saved. Although Jordan would be well within their rights to take revenge against the many institutions that harmed them, their decision to choose their freedom and life over a cyclical cycle of revenge shows that they are ready to grow beyond their trauma. While Molly is stuck in the pain of her past, Jordan is ready to move forward and become who they want to be. They don’t need Molly to save them or to become an avenging vigilante - what Jordan wants and needs is the freedom to truly be themselves.
Jordan’s pronouns are featured as the title for They/Them for several reasons beyond their role as the protagonist. From the very beginning of the movie, when Owen tries to divide the campers into gendered cabins, Jordan acts as a rejection of dichotomy. As a non-binary person, they’re one of the campers who particularly resist the manipulation of the camp, both when they switch clothes with Alexandra when Owen forces her into the boys' cabin and later when they prove to Owen that they’re also an expert marksperson. Even at the climax of the film, they still refuse to fall into Molly’s dichotomy of victim and killer, perpetrator and avenger. Instead, they choose forgiveness and progress, once again bucking expected tradition and epitomizing the meaning behind They/Them.
Jordan acting as an agent of resistance and nonconformity ensures the real meaning behind They/Them isn’t one of vengeance, as it might seem with the deaths of Kevin Bacon's Owen and Camp Whistler’s cruel staff. Instead, the end of They/Them frames the film's story as one of hope, with the last scenes depicting Jordan with their friends, who have also come into their own and accepted who they are and who they want to be with. Even more so, the present campers escape Camp Whistler without resorting to violence and instead help each other, exemplified by how Alexandra leads the younger campers to safety. In this way, all the campers, and especially Jordan, refuse to let Owen or Molly change who they are.
When They/Them leans into this freedom of choice for Jordan and the other campers, it’s depicting the end of a cycle of trauma and lies from generations of conversion camps. The film suggests that true freedom does not come from retribution against those who wronged you but from the ability to leave them behind. This ultimately gives They/Them its hopeful conclusion despite its initial structure as a chilling horror story.