'It: Chapter 2' Spoilers, Ending Explained: How It Changed From the Book
Let's break down the complex ending to this nightmare.
A large part of Stephen King’s literary legacy has to do with the way he’s crafted a staggeringly complex universe to house his motley collection of horrors. Anyone could make an argument that every King story takes place in the same multiverse, at the very least, even with the time loops of The Dark Tower and concepts like the Shining. Understanding at least a little bit of all this can help make sense of the ending to It: Chapter Two, especially in how the new film deviates from King’s 1986 novel.
Released September 6, It: Chapter Two is the much-anticipated sequel and conclusion to 2017’s It, picking up 27 years later and focusing on the same character played by older actors. Numerous flashbacks featuring the younger actors are sprinkled throughout. At some point after their first battle with the creature, the entire Losers’ Club parted ways with only Mike Hanlon remaining in Derry, Maine. Most others found fame, fortune, and love. Everyone else lost all memory of Derry and It. But after the creature resurfaces and children begin to disappear, Mike calls everyone back to Derry for a more mature adventure that’s more cerebral, less scary, and totally weird.
Inverse spoke with It: Chapter Two screenwriter Gary Dauberman for a few insights about the ending, Stephen King’s approach to stories, and why the film left out a certain cosmic turtle god. Here’s everything you might need to know to make sense of that ending.
Full spoilers follow for It: Chapter Two.
The Ritual of Chud
Early in It: Chapter Two, we learn that Mike took some drugs with a local tribe of Native Americans had a vision of It’s arrival on Earth via a meteor that struck near present-day Derry. We often see It assume the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but It’s natural form is comprised of three Deadlights orbiting around each other. In traditional King mythology, Deadlights are a form of Eldritch energy vaguely connected to a pseudo-Lovecraftian horror trope, but in It: Chapter Two, the nature of this cosmic being is simplified into what’s ostensibly an alien made of evil energy that assumes the shape of your greatest fear.
The local Natives performed a ritual using a mystical jar to try and trap it by sacrificing personal artifacts of great value, which is why the entire middle part of the movie follows each individual Loser on a trip down memory lane to retrieve something of sentimental value. They’re supposed to burn the items, chant some words, and seal It into a jar. Game over, right?
What Mike doesn’t tell anybody is that the Ritual of Chud didn’t work for the Natives, and it doesn’t work for the Losers either.
In the original novel, when they confront It as kids, Bill Denborough encounters a mystical cosmic being on par with It that’s good instead of evil. He’s a giant turtle that created the universe, and his name is Maturin. This little guy didn’t pop up in the 2017 film, and sadly he’s sidelined yet again in Chapter Two to streamline the story.
“I was trying to wrap my head around a giant turtle floating through space and then Bill standing in front of it,” It: Chapter Two screenwriter Gary Dauberman tells Inverse. “From a cinematic standpoint, I had a hard time.”
There’s no love for the cosmic turtle, but maybe that’s for the best.
How Do They Kill It?
The final act of It: Chapter Two is utter chaos and confusion as the Losers infiltrate It’s lair and he transforms into a monstrous giant spider with Pennywise’s face. After the Ritual of Chud fails, all hope seems lost. There’s a brief moment where it looks like Eddie might use a fire poker to kill It if he believes hard enough, but even that doesn’t work. (There’s a precedent in the book for this where just like how It’s illusion magic can hurt you if you’re afraid enough, willfully believing in the positive power of an object can prove effective.)
The gang also hatches a plan to run away, forcing It to shrink down to a more manageable size so they can kill it. This silly plan is abandoned almost immediately in favor of an alternate idea: They realize that by verbally abusing Pennywise, they can bully It into transforming into a meek little clown made of pudding. Together they extract It’s heart and squish it in their hands.
Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Their Story?
When Mike is making his round of phone calls to all the Losers in the first act, Stanley Uris realizes that he doesn’t have the courage to go back to Derry so he commits suicide. His twisted rationale works in the end because they do defeat It, and he leaves heartfelt letters to all his friends.
During the final confrontation, Eddie spears It in the mouth with the aforementioned fire poker with an excellent toss. Contrary to Beverly’s promise, however, it does not kill monsters if you believe hard enough. It responds by impaling Eddie with a barbed tentacle of some kind, and he dies a few minutes later. RIP. The details of this conflict and Eddie’s death are different in the novel, but the end result is the same.
Mike, Richie, Bill, Beverly, and Ben are the only ones who make it out alive. Mike finally leaves Derry, potentially to visit Florida like he talked about as a kid. Richie goes back to his life as a famous comedian. Beverly and Ben get together to live happily ever after. Bill writes a book seemingly inspired by their experiences that just might have a decent ending.
One running motif in It: Chapter Two involves Bill’s reputation as a famed horror/mystery author who can’t write a good ending to his books, and as Stephen King’s stand-in protagonist, you can’t help but sense a feeling of resonant insecurity there — especially when King himself appears in a lengthy cameo midway through the film to criticize Bill for this failing as a writer.
But if you ask It screenwriter Gary Dauberman, there’s no debate over King’s writing skills.
“I think he has stuck the landing over and over again on many of his novels and stories,” Dauberman tells Inverse. “I think the proof is in the pudding on that. The running joke is just that, a running joke, and it speaks more to the back and forth of the arguments on the internet.”
People can’t seem to agree on whether or not Stephen King can write an ending, but the proof is indeed in the pudding given his success — in the clown-shaped puddle of pudding that the Losers murder, that is.
It: Chapter Two is now in theaters.
Eric Francisco contributed reporting used in this article.