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Alternate Character Interpretation / Knives Out

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Naturally, for a murder mystery, character motivations often put them in gray areas.

Be warned: all SPOILERS are unmarked.


  • Did he cut off his family to make them better people? Or just to be spiteful that they didn't treat him with the respect he thought he deserved? (Or simply to just dick around with them all one last time, before leaving them with absolutely nothing?) For that matter, his relationship with Marta. He truly cares about her, but does that keep him from being as patronizing as the other Thrombeys? His Senseless Sacrifice comes at the same mistake the other Thrombeys make: underestimating her abilities and not listening to what she's saying.
    • Is Harlan engaged in Financial Abuse with the rest of his family? He controls their livelihoods, and while they are supported, he also keeps their lives under a magnifying glass.
      • Did Harlan attempt to cover up Marta’s (supposed) Accidental Murder of him motivated purely by his wanting to protect her and her family? Or, was he aware that if Marta was found to be guilty of his murder, her status as his sole inheritor would be null and thus his family would regain control of his inheritance and determined to have his Will remain as he wished?
      • Why did he cut off Meg? Given that she didn't know what her mother was doing, it seems rather harsh. Sins of the Father, or was Harlan attempting to prevent her from turning into another Ransom by nipping the problem in the bud and forcing her to stand on her own two feet?
      • For that matter, why didn't he leave anything for Fran, an employee who was more full-time than Marta and presumably had worked for him for a much longer period of time?
      • Harlan also didn't leave anything to his mother. Were there (offscreen) conflicts between them, too, or did he just assume she wouldn't survive him because of her age?
      • Is it possible he left everything to Marta because he knew her status as an Hispanic immigrant would piss off his family much more than if he'd split the inheritance among the staff?
      • Did he not question whether he received a fatal dose of morphine despite not feeling any symptoms because in the heat of the moment he felt he needed to act quickly and save Marta or was he so quick to accept the idea that he was dying of a morphine overdose and had to kill himself in a over the top way because he felt he was nearing the end of his life and accepted the idea he was dying so quickly because it was a opportunity to die in a way that would make him feel dramatic and clever till the very end rather than dying a untheatrical death by old age.
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  • Another question, even In-Universe, is what did Harlan want Marta to do with the inheritance? Did he expect her to keep it all because she deserved it or as an All-Loving Hero, did he trust her judgement in dispensing the inheritance to the family members that truly needed it? This could mitigate his thoughtlessness in not providing for his other staff and his mother because he expected Marta to understand and take care of them. Marta herself asks that question as to what she should do with the money and Benoit Blanc says she'll do the right thing. Did Harlan think the same?



  • Is she actually Incorruptible Pure Pureness? Or is she just as self-interested as the Thrombeys in her own way (albeit for much more understandable reasons) — that is, up until the point where Fran dies?
    • Did Fran really die from the poisoning, or was Marta's saying that she had and that Ransom had just confessed to her murder the lie that made her throw up, given her earlier mention that sometimes even just thinking about a lie could trigger that reaction. While this seems unlikely, after hearing Ransom's rant about how little he felt they had on him, she could have thrown that in to make him sweat and/or incriminate himself further.
    • Cinema Wins found some hints that she was the real mastermind, and wondered if maybe she was originally intended to be more unsympathetic in earlier drafts.



  • How much of his Good Ol' Boy demeanor is genuine? People have noted that the character he's an expy of, Hercule Poirot, plays the part of a Funny Foreigner to make people underestimate him. It's entirely possible that at least some of the way Benoit acts is just a persona designed to lead people to dismiss him as a dumb hayseed.


  • Regardless of the fact that she's no self-made woman like she claims, she does own a successful business now, and that won't change even if she inherits nothing. So she may be more genuinely outraged at Harlan's leaving everything to Marta out of familial loyalty rather than greed, unlike Walt and Joni who are financially dependent on his continued generosity. She also seems to have had a much closer relationship with her father than the others, being the only one who shows any signs of real grief, and had a secret way of communicating with him. While Harlan's schemes at the party deliberately cut Joni and Walt off from their income, all he wanted was for Linda to know the truth about her cheating husband, suggesting they truly cared about each other. And unlike Richard, she refuses to badmouth Walt to the detectives, again suggesting that she's more motivated by loyalty than the others. The will reading also heavily implies that she was only interested in inheriting the house (since she gets visibly excited when his estate is brought up, but doesn't react when his fortune and publishing company are mentioned like the rest of her family), which, coupled with her close relationship with her father, suggests she just wanted the house for sentimental reasons and felt betrayed that he gave away something deeply personal to the family to someone who'd been working for them for a short time.
    • Though it is worth noting that she's the loudest and most vocally furious about what's happened even before everyone learns that the house was included in Marta's inheritance.


  • Token Good Teammate? Or just as bad as the rest of the Thrombeys? Did she reveal the illegal status of Mrs. Cabrera because her family forced her to or because she feared losing her college funding and having to rely on student loans/getting a job? Did she hang up on Marta because Marta's promise to keep her safe gave her a realization or that she found it exactly as patronizing as it was to Marta, or was she just feeling guilty that Marta was comforting her when her whole family was listening in?
    • Even the script itself is ambiguous to Meg's reaction to Marta's offer to help with the fortune. It simply describes Meg as "horrified, mortified, barely comprehending what she just heard." Was she horrified because of her guilt for betraying Marta, or was she outraged that someone was offering her charity, instead of the other way around?
    • It's a bit ambiguous as to when, exactly, Meg revealed Marta's mother is undocumented to her family. If she did it after the phone call, then that's nigh-unforgivable, even if she was pressured into it. But if it was before she called Marta, then her reaction to Marta offering to pay her tuition could be interpreted as her having a My God, What Have I Done? moment, realizing she just threw her friend under the bus to protect herself, when said friend would've gladly helped had she simply asked.
  • Are her friendships with Marta and Fran born out of a genuine kinship and like for them in spite of their backgrounds? Or is she just making friends with them so she can make herself appear to be a good, progressive person for befriending "the help" unlike other rich people who treat their servants like dirt?
  • A bit of Fridge Brilliance, but Meg can come off as a younger, female version of Ransom. They have many similarities: has a drug habit (Meg smokes pot, Ransom does designer drugs), think they're better than the family but are ultimately willing to turn on people when their livelihood is threatened.
    • Is it possible that Meg realized this similarity while on the phone with Marta, and changed her mind because it was the only way she could think of to avoid becoming cruel like Ransom, or worse, like the rest of family?
  • There is ambiguity over Meg's degree and how this influences her character. Though neither the film nor Meg herself ever confirms what she is actually studying, her family tend to make snide jabs about it being something along "post-modern deconstructivist Marxist" A Degree in Useless lines, it appears to be at a very expensive liberal arts school (Joni's double-dipping scheme with Meg's fees reveals that she gets $100,000 per year from it, implying that Meg's studies cost something similar), and Meg's overall character — left-leaning politically, places a premium on being politically correct, attempts to be egalitarian with the "help", contemptuous and dismissive towards older generations or those with different political views, somewhat self-righteous and quick to loudly take offense towards others on political grounds — would seem to reflect the archetypal (or stereotypical) leftist student activist. As it is entirely credible to infer from all this that Meg as studying something heavily based around Marxist critical theory (such as cultural studies or gender studies), this can lead viewers to detect several possible notes of hypocrisy into Meg's character around her subsequent actions. For example, when trying to persuade Marta to renounce the inheritance, Meg claims that the Thrombeys deserve it more because "we're family", despite Marxism being strongly opposed to the idea of hereditary wealth. It can also give rise to the suspicion that, for all her disdain for her family (and Ransom in particular) for their materialist and money-grubbing attitudes, she herself is something of a "champagne Marxist" who pays lip-service to egalitarianism without wanting to give up her own privileges.


  • Was she just another self-serving member of the family who wanted a piece of the inheritance, or did she realize her embezzling was going to cost her daughter her tuition and make an attempt to set things right? If so, did she not tell Meg because she was ashamed? When it's announced Marta will be getting everything Harlan left, she only wants to talk and the tuition is all she mentions.
    • It's worth noting that she told Meg she couldn't afford to pay her tuition, even though Harlan's final payment to her was supposed to be for exactly that. Was she planning to use the tuition money for her own expenses instead?
    • She may have just been speaking generally there, with the unspoken implication that she "couldn't afford to pay for Meg's college" from that point on without financial assistance from Harlan.
    • Perhaps also worth noting that she could easily be using Meg's education as a tool for emotional blackmail; if you're trying to convince someone to give you access to lots of money, claiming you want it solely to support your daughter is going to go down a lot better than bringing up your own lavish lifestyle. Since Joni is suggested to be a bit of a hypocritical Bourgeois Bohemian, this interpretation would also fit.


  • Did she simply forget to tell the family about seeing Ransom the night Harlan died until Blanc helped her remember? Or did she think that if she spoke up no one would believe her and it wasn't until Blanc treated her with respect that she realized someone would listen?
  • Is she meant to be older than 100, or was Harlan born out of Teen Pregnancy, or even younger? The latter might explain why there's never any mention of Harlan's father (although to be fair in the former scenario, he could easily be long dead of old age).


  • Does he consistently mock and belittle Benoit Blanc's accent because of snobbish prejudice against southerners, or because British actor Daniel Craig's accent is meant to be a "Kentucky fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl" in-universe as well, and Ransom rightly considers it an affectation?


  • Why did Fran deliberately withhold crucial information from the police? Was it because, as a fan of murder mysteries, Fran wanted to be the hero and solve the case on her own? Was it because she didn't trust the police or that they ignored her as the help?
    • For that matter, why did she dramatically confront the killer alone in a secluded area? Was she trying to blackmail them? Was she Wrong Genre Savvy seeing how she mostly watches Lighter and Softer Hallmark channel mysteries? Or was she a Horrible Judge of Character and simply did not believe that the killer would actually try to hurt or kill her?
  • Could she have not been thinking straight due to grief? Viewers noted that, much like Marta, Fran wasn't invited to the funeral and it's established that she loved Harlan. That is very petty of the other Thrombeys, and she seems to be going through the motions while collecting laundry. If she was doing housework while excluded from saying one last farewell to her employer, seeing Ransom and becoming determined to bring him down was how she processed her sadness.


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