Discussion: The Ending of “se7en”

Spoilers ahead for an almost THIRTY YEAR OLD Film.


Over the weekend my girlfriend and I watched David Fincher’s masterpiece se7en. Once the credits began to roll I tumbled over to my girlfriend and insisted that she give the film a five star review on Letterboxd, but when I opened the app she only gave it a three. I was shocked. Why would she give the film such a low score? For the next two hours we sat in her basement, arguing about the film and the reasoning of why she gave it such a rating.

And it came down to the ending.

To recap: John Doe (Kevin Spacey) gives himself up to David Mills (Brad Pitt) and William Somerset (Morgan Freeman). After his arrest, Doe brokers a deal with the police in exchange for the location of the final two bodies. The police agree to his terms and send Somerset and Mills to transport Doe to the site. Along the way, Doe and Mills discuss the idea of innocence and how the people that died are not innocent.

This is the scene that created the controversy.

Throughout the film Doe killed an obese man for the sin of GLUTTONY, a prostitute for LUST, a drug dealer for SLOTH, a model for PRIDE, and an attorney for GREED. Leaving WRATH and ENVY for the climax of the film.

Argument 1 – Mine

When John Doe speaks of being set from god as a man destined to make sinners repent for their sins. David Mills questions Doe about the people he killed, asking about their innocents. Doe bursts, deeming them the worst of the worst, that these people deserved it. However, John didn’t exactly kill everyone.

For example, Lust, the prostitute is killed via a knife dildo attached to a patron of the brothel. While Doe is responsible for the murder, the person repenting for their sins is both the woman and the man. Her, with death, him, knowing for the rest of his life that his actions were the cause of her death.

Another example is Sloth, who is tortured for a year. As with Lust, Doe is responsible for his death but does not directly kill him. He forces the man to repent for over a year, tied to the bed of his sins.

Now onto the box. I believe that inside of the box is in-fact Tracy’s head. John Doe uses her death as a life long form of repentance for David. By losing the person he loves most and the child he would never be able to have, David will forever be reminded of the trauma that Doe has created and in killing him has completed this monsters plan. David lives knowing that his sin is the piece Doe needed in his puzzle.

Yes, even if the box is empty Doe completed his plan, but the ramifications are drastically different. Mills would still have his wife and child and Doe will be nothing more than a forgotten memory. Over time, Mills would be able to move past his decision and life his life.

Argument 2: My girlfriend’s (told in my words with her consent)

In the scene above, John Doe exclaims that the people who died were not innocent and that he was sent by God to force those to repent for their sins. After killing all of those people and their actions or lifestyles making them sinners, their deaths make sense in accordance to Doe’s arguments.

However, once the box is brought into the conversation, later in the film, his motivations become meaningless. If Tracy’s head is actually in that box, then he has killed not one, but two innocent people. Not once in the film are we shown any reason to believe that Tracy is a sinner and deserves death.

In order for the film to maintain the theme of innocence, her head must not be within the box. Possibly the dead dog could have a piece of it inside of the box, or an item of Tracy’s could be within.

Having heard our arguments, what do you think is in the box? Does John Doe’s plan make sense? Do his actions make sense with his motives? Let me know what you think down in the comments below!

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