Follow TV Tropes


Headscratchers / Se7en

Go To

  • At the end of the movie, we learn that John Doe has killed Mills' wife and unborn child, and goads Mills into killing him, thereby becoming Wrath. Two problems:
    • Mills wasn't particularly wrathful before he killed John Doe. So if it weren't for Doe, he never would have committed the sin in the first place. Isn't that sort of unfair? He punished Mills before he'd even done anything wrong.
      • He was wrathful before, not to the point of murder, but he was angry and impulsive throughout. One establishing moment was when John Doe shows up at a crime scene disguised as a photographer, and Mills basically threatens to beat the hell out of him.
      • This may be when John chose Mills as his Wrath victim. In the ending scene Doe tells Mills how disturbingly easy it was for a man of the press to purchase information from the men in his precinct. This implies Doe went to the police station specifically to purchase information about Mills.
    • Advertisement:
    • Since Doe actually committed two sins, wouldn't he technically have to die twice to be fully absolved? Or was absolution not his aim? If it wasn't, what was?
      • I seriously doubt absolution was Doe's concern. In his mind, he felt as though he was chosen by God to make an example out of humanity and himself as well and whether or not he went to Hell because of it was not up to him. If that's the case, chances are he probably didn't care if he himself had two sins to atone for instead of just the one.
      • Plus, John Doe is just insane. He wants to kill one person for each sin, but, uh oh, I don't have anyone for Wrath. No problem, I'll just manufacture one, God would totally want that.
      • "It's more comfortable for you to label me 'insane.'"
    • But what if Doe wanted himself to be the Wrath victim, seeing how he, you know, is a serial killer?
      • But if so where is Envy?
      • John Doe envied what Mills had (e.g. wife, "children", a "normal" life).
      • The question being, if he secretly wanted to be Wrath (which would make sense considering his actions), then Envy is still missing since he had only one sin per person up til this point. One could argue, on the other hand, if Doe is the Wrath victim, that Tracy is therefore the Envy victim.
      • Tracy's death created, in John Doe's sick mind, a closed loop. He committed the sin of Envy by killing her, an innocent that he envied the normal life of. Mills then committed the sin of Wrath by killing Doe, forcing him to pay the fatal price for Envy. And now Mills' family is dead and life wrecked, making him pay for the sin of Wrath for the rest of his life.
      • I wonder, did Doe have a plan for if Mills managed to keep himself from killing him?
    • Advertisement:
    • It's in the nature of Envy to be motivated, if you can't supplant the envied person's status, to bitterly ruin or destroy them instead. John kills Tracy out of bitterness, not Wrath's extreme anger.

  • The deadly sin of Sloth generally means being a lazy bastard who couldn't get off his ass to save his life. Yet, the chosen victim for that sin was apparently a drug dealer and child rapist. Wouldn't that make him more guilty of Wrath, or possibly Greed?
    • Drug dealers might not be "lazy" so to speak, but they contribute to a lifestyle that encourages Sloth for everyone else. Also, as Topher Grace stated in Traffic, "You can go out on the street and make five-hundred dollars in two hours, come back and do whatever you want to do with the rest of your day." Given how fast money can be made through their "trade", drug dealers, especially very well connected middle-men, generally let their clients seek them out. We never got any indication that the victim was particularly wrathful or any greedier than any of the other drug dealers in the city, pederasty notwithstanding, but Doe more than likely chose him because of his connection to the Greed victim (a city attorney who got him absolved of said pederasty in court).
    • Advertisement:
    • Also, Sloth is not just laziness. Sloth is the sin of moral complacency and indifference. But yes, the drug-dealing pederast seems like an odd choice for that sin.
      • Not when you consider that drugs are often used to create complacency and indifference. People get addicted to things like heroin to give themselves a high that counters the low of their lives and the lives around them. It's a selfish addiction that changes nothing, and just urges people to forget and ignore instead of being active in change.
      • A drug-dealer would also often be indifferent to the health and well-being of his clients, selling drugs that either destroy the body or relationships. As long as he gets paid, he wouldn't care what he inflicts on others.
    • I thought a drug-dealer was perfect as example of sloth, as selling drugs is not a real job and requires very little effort in exchange for a lot of money. Though be a child molester will be more connected to Lust.
      • Possibly he wasn't an exclusive pedophile, but went after kids because it was easier. They're vulnerable, low-hanging fruit by comparison with the greater effort of assaulting an adult victim, hooking up with a one-night fling, or even (gasp!) putting in the effort to have a real relationship. Lust, yes, but really lazy lust.
      • The movie doesn't establish the victim's age, just says is a minor, she could be 17 years and 11 months old for that matter, probably the reason why the script takes the effort in calling him a pederast (someone into teens) instead of a pedophile (someone into prepubescent children), considering that he was a drug dealer, most likely the victim was a teenage girl client whether he tried to forced her sexually or to sell drugs in exchange for sex (which albeit consensual is still statutory rape), if the girl is around 15, 16 or 17 is still a minor but he would hardly be considered a pedophile even for someone like John Doe, thus his main crime is still sloth.

  • The last two deaths don't fit in with the pattern of the others. In the first five, they were killed by an overabundance of their sins (although Greed is a little shaky in that regard.) If we count Mills' wife to be the sixth death, then she didn't die because she was envious. She died because someone was envious for her. That would be like saying that the victim of Gluttony would be someone getting eaten to death. The same goes for John Doe. If he is the victim of Wrath, he didn't die because he was wrathful, he died because he made someone else mad. This is solved somewhat if you consider John Doe the sixth death, and Mills the seventh death (assuming he dies from the death penalty), but it's still a leap.
    • The last two sins are Envy and Wrath, they don't have to be deaths, as seen with Sloth, so they are Doe and Mills respectively.
    • The wife isn't killed for any sin, just a victim of Doe's envy, just to make sure no one is hanging on to the idea that Doe is virtuous in his killings.
    • Also, Mills would probably not get the death penalty. While he did murder an unarmed, handcuffed suspect, the dude was a serial killer who had just killed Mills' wife - and her unborn child, which Mills didn't know about until Doe told him - and shipped her dismembered head to him in a box. Under the circumstances, "extreme emotional disturbance" would be open-and-shut here, which means decades in a prison and/or mental institution, but not death. Unless, of course, Doe had meant to "kill" Mills' spirit, but maybe not his actual body. Then he succeeded without question.
      • The novelization establishes that Mills won't get the death penalty, and he'll likely not get the maximum jail time possible for killing Doe because of the circumstances, but he'll definitely serve time.
      • The maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter is generally 10 years. Considering that he was elaborately manipulated into killing, that the victim is a serial killer without any surviving friends or family to testify, and that judges and juries are generally sympathetic to police officers, Mills would get at most three years in prison.
    • Also, those would not be the only two killings that don't fit the supposed pattern: for Lust, Doe forces a john to kill a prostitute by raping her with some sort of strap-on dagger-dildo. It's presumably not the prostitute who was committing the sin of Lust, however, but the john. So it's really a pattern of four, out of seven, in which Doe kills the sinner in a manner appropriate to the sin, and three in which Doe engineers the killing of someone else, i.e., the prostitute, Tracy Mills, and himself, as a victim of the sin in question. So really, there are two patterns.
      • It's been stated the victim of Lust is the prostitute, although shouldn't the victim of Pride be more accurately considered as victim of vanity?
      • Is that's the case that doesn't makes sense. Prostitutes do not have lust, they (generally) do not have sex out of sexual placer, but for money, she would be Greed, not Lust. She's a provoker of the sin but not the sinner.
    • The two final victims are John Doe (Envy) and David Mills (Wrath). It's all built on the penal system in use during Dante's lifetime. A man sentenced to death could either be executed or his wife and children could be. The loss of his entire family was considered equal to taking his life. That is exactly what Doe does to the Wrath victim, only he kind of lucked out on the part about the child. This is all foreshadowed earlier when he says to Mills "what life I will allow you to have".

  • From above points, considering Sloth isn't dead yet, isn't his work still kinda incomplete?
    • So sensitive if you shine a flashlight into the man's eyes he'll go into shock? For all intents and purposes he is dead.
    • He didn't kill the Pride victim either (she kills herself); if she chose to call for help would have survived, but disfigured for life. Similarly, depending on your interpretation, the prostitute wasn't guilty of Lust: thus her death was more of a way to punish the client who was the sinner- similarly how Mills does not die, but his life is ruined. So technically for John Doe the death of the sinner is not always the goal, but messing up their life and mind forever.

  • While the Gluttony victim was certainly guilty of his sin, he did not, to our knowledge, actually harm anyone or commit any crimes. By most modern definitions, that would mean he is innocent. So why do Mills and Somerset appear to agree with the serial killer about his lack of innocence?
    • It didn't seem so much that they were agreeing with him on any of his points in that speech, more stunned by his venomous rant.
    • Or, maybe, that they better understand his reasoning due to his rant, without necessarily agreeing with it.

  • Would being tied to a bed for a year really destroy your mind to the point where you bite off your own tongue? Don't get me wrong, it would take quite a while to get over something like that, but I think you would have to be tied up for at least a decade to get to the state seen in the film.
    • Bedsores can develop extremely quickly, within a couple of days. Imagine the pain that he would have been in after being in the same position for a whole year. He's also wasting away, only fed enough to be barely kept alive, is getting no sunlight at all and it's not as if he'd be able to get up to go to the toilet so he's likely lying in his own waste as well. I'd think slowly rotting on a bed for a year being unable to move would definitely mess up your mental state. In addition to this, the only person he sees for a year is an insane madman. At that point, he's biting off his own tongue in an effort to commit suicide.
    • Reality Is Unrealistic: There have in fact been voluntary human experiments (including some offered by NASA) where people are paid to lie in a bed for a considerable length of time, usually a period of up to a few months, wearing special suits for using the bathroom and being fed by assistants. Within a few weeks you will lose much of your blood volume, your muscles will atrophy (and your body will ''feed'' off your muscles if you don't use them enough), your spine will contort and you will suffer physical pain from staying in one position for a considerable length of time, not to mention the psychological harm- anxiety, depression, irritability, panic attacks, feelings of intense loneliness and isolation, hallucinations, paranoia, time distortions and psychotic breaks, and still other symptoms. And most of these experiments are performed on young, fit and healthy people who have to pass intensive physical exams just to make sure they are hale and hearty enough to endure the test. Now imagine you are just Average Joe Drug Dealer, you are being held hostage in this position against your will, your only company is an insane Knight Templar who is doing this specifically to torture you, and you are in this position for a whole year. Biting his own tongue was probably something he did in the first few days of his confinement- because otherwise, he literally would not have had the strength to even attempt such an act.
    • Adding to the above two answers, it's mentioned later by Somerset that John was injecting the Sloth victim in his genitals, and the hospital scene mentions John was injecting him with a ton of drugs including but not limited to heroin and the antibiotics, which likely secured his complete mental degradation.
    • Would Victor have felt any pain by the time he was found, or would he be so insane that he wouldn't be able to feel anything? And if so, how long would it take for him to become that insane? Also, would he be aware of where he is and who's in the room once he went completely insane, even if he's not able to communicate?
      • The scene with him in the hospital has the doctor explaining the state his mind's in.

  • When John Doe turns himself in, the police explain that he's been cutting the skin off his fingertips for quite some time, hence why they couldn't find any fingerprints in his apartment. But just after the police find the Sloth victim, the killer shows up to take Mills's picture and his fingers seem to be perfectly unharmed, nor does he appear to be wearing gloves. Just a simple continuity error, or am I missing something?
    • Possibly he built up so much scar tissue on his fingertips that the pads superficially looked normal, barring a close examination. He shaved them off afresh before turning himself in to demonstrate that, no, he doesn't care if the police know his methods, and yes, he's so inured to pain that they can't beat information out of him.
    • In the prequel comics, it's revealed that he doesn't start cutting off his fingerprints until after Mills and Somerset show up to his apartment, when he's in the endgame.

  • Throughout the film it becomes clear that the pattern is Sin. The detectives understandably take the simpler view that these are a pattern of murders based on the Sins, where really the pattern is the Sins themselves. This is exacerbated by Gluttony being the murder of a man via force-feeding and Greed that of a Shakespearean 'pound of flesh' punishment (there was actually a small chance the Greed victim could have survived). These first two make it look like Doe's motivation is solely based on murder. The Sloth victim is the first misstep in the perceived pattern as he is not dead - the motivation was demonstrating the sin. The Lust victim is not actually guilty of Lust (though Doe still feels contempt for her being a 'disease-spreading whore'), the client is. Again the motivation is the demonstration of the sin rather than truly punishing the sinner. Doe does admit that he enjoyed 'turning each sin against the sinner', but as mentioned already, you don't have to kill the sinner to turn their sin against them. The Pride victim is another demonstration, where Doe is attempting to show society that some people are so full of Pride (in this case the sin is the very modern syndrome of obsession with one's physical appearance) that if they are deprived of the focus of their Pride they would rather end their own life. In the Pride case, Doe specifically disfigures but very carefully bandages the victim, ensuring she would not die unless by her own hand. The last two are very subtle demonstrations and fit in with Doe's belief that his 'work' will be pored over and studied endlessly. Doe believes himself to be guilty of Envy (specifically of Mills' life and his wife) and so turns this sin against himself by killing Tracy and thus destroying the object of his envy, with the greater purpose of tipping Mills over the edge into giving in to his Wrath. When Mills kills Doe, his sin of Wrath (which Doe had already noted was a trait of his when he commented that Mills would likely assault or even kill him if left alone with him in a windowless room without fear of consequences) is turned against him, completing the list of Sins.
    • So, in a way. Doe tried to purify his victims AND himself, trying to save them from their sins. This fits in with his belief of him doing God's work.

  • There's one thing I've never understood about Doe's motivation for killing Tracy. His Motive Rant reveals that he only killed people who were, in his mind, guilty of committing a deadly sin. Doe even goes so far as to attack Somerset and Mills for calling his victims "innocent," suggesting that he only wanted to kill people who had actually done something wrong. So how does he justify killing a young woman who's totally blameless? It's suggested that he did it because she made him feel envious, but that's not her fault; it seems analogous to killing a rich man because you want what he has. What's Doe's reasoning behind this particular murder?
    • Doe didn't believe that she was guilty of anything. She was innocent. She was an innocent victim of his Envy.
    • Thank you for this answer! But I don't think I worded my question clearly enough. If Doe did think that Tracy was innocent, why did he kill her? In his speech in the car, he makes it clear that he only went after people who had actually committed deadly sins, not inspired them—he didn't, for instance, attack the people who sold the Gluttony victim food, or the Greed victim's clients. Doe's clearly a misanthrope who hates the world, but he doesn't really seem to have a Kill 'Em All mentality, either, nor does he seem like an Ax-Crazy psychopath (his murders were all carefully planned and justified in his own head). So I still can't figure out how Tracy's murder fits into his plan.
      • He said he went after sinners he never said that he only went after sinners. He didn't go after people like the sellers or the clients because he was simply trying to make an example of the Gluttony and Greed victims, not eradicate all bad people. But that doesn't mean he won't kill innocent people to make his point either- the Lust victim arguably wasn't the prostitute, for instance, but the client who hired her, plus he threatened to kill said client AND he shot at Somerset and Mills, and will kill anyone who gets in his way. Besides, he specifically says that he himself is guilty of Envy and needs to be punished for it (in order to turn Mills into Wrath), so he murdered an innocent person for the sake of murdering an innocent person- because it's pretty obvious that he doesn't think murdering "guilty" people is sufficient to make him a sinner. Besides, he wasn't REALLY guilty of Envy- he'd just decided that the coup de gras of his Evil Plan will be to make Mills into Wrath, and since he has one sin left, the most straightforward way of achieving that is just to pretend that he is Envious of Mills and thats why he killed her- when really, he just needed a flimsy excuse to involve her (and thus Mills) in his twisted story.
    • Tracy is killed because she is the wrath victim. Back in Dante's day if a man was sentenced to death he could be allowed to live if his wife and children were killed in his place - thus taking away his reason/will to live. Doe kills Tracy (and the unborn baby but that was a fluke on his part) in place of David, making David the one guilty of wrath and the loss of Tracy and the child his punishment.
    • The point is that Doe is Envy. He killed a perfectly innocent woman as a result of his envy. He never once attempted to say he was any different. So obviously, in his mind, he would deserve to die.

  • Frankly, John Doe should have been pride. Go back to Milton, the belief that one who is not god has the ability to make judgements in his name is the ultimate example of Pride, which is suppose to be the greatest of the sins. After all, Satan himself is associated with it. John never shows any hint of envy, in fact other than pride and disgust, he shows very little emotion. Envy should have been Sommerset, who clearly is somewhat jealous of Mill's loving relationship.
    • A common trait of Pride in people who think Pride is bad but are nonetheless guilty of it is the refusal to admit to oneself that one is Proud. Doe would rather pretend to have Envy (which it's obvious is just an excuse - it's doubtful he actually believes it) than admit that he is simply a madman with grandiose delusions. It's painfully obvious that he is guilty of Pride; at the same time, it's painfully obvious that he won't admit to it- after all, another trait of Pride is the refusal to admit that you have done anything wrong.

  • Why did only the Pride victim get a choice in regards to her sin? Live, but be disfigured. I get that beauty is something one's born with, so Doe couldn't justify killing just any pretty person to himself, but why not just kill anyone who got a lot of plastic surgery, or was diagnosed with narcissism?
    • That's exactly it-he couldn't justify killing any pretty person, so he had to prove that she was vain, not just beautiful. He wanted to make her admit that she valued her looks more than her life, therefore demonstrating and punishing the sin in one go.
      • None of his other victims (except Wrath and maybe gluttony, who could have his tongue cut out) probably values their sins more than their life. Again, diagnosed narcissism or getting a lot of plastic surgery seems proof of pride enough to me.
      • On that note, she could have gotten the damage repaired if she had the sense to get medical attention. Since John Doe wouldn't have picked her as a victim if he wasn't certain that she'd opt to overdose, he must have been counting her as a twofer on the unwritten eighth deadly sin of Stupidity.

  • There's something that bugs me about the time frame. So John Doe goes to Mills' house, rapes his wife, kills her, cuts her head off, arranges for the head to be delivered at a specific time and location, and then goes to the police. He has time to do all that before he arrives at the police station early in the morning schedule, and he's lucky enough to be processed and have his lawyer called, who arrives just immediately... really? Doesn't booking a suspect, interrogating him and letting him talk to his lawyer normally take several hours? And in all that time, Mills at no point calls his home just to say "hello" to his wife or "Hey, honey, guess what? We caught him! I'm so happy!". Just one phone call from Mills to see how's the dogs are doing, or what's for dinner and Doe's plan would've failed.
    • Not necessarily. Cell phones weren't yet that ubiquitous in the mid-Nineties, so Tracy might not regularly carry or even own one. Mills could easily ring his home's landline number, get no answer, and assume she's out walking the dogs or whatever.
    • As for the booking and interrogating, it's likely that Doe deliberately used his claims of "two more victims" to speed along the process. As far as the cops knew, there were two more people still alive, but in a state of horrific torture and pain, at that very moment. They probably agreed to give Doe whatever he wanted, or even skipped the interrogation altogether, in exchange for him revealing the victims' whereabouts. Doe also probably called his lawyer ahead of time and arranged things so that he'd be waiting by the precinct when Doe handed himself in; the guy may be a serial killer, but he's Crazy-Prepared and plans for everything.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: