Inside Out 2 Ending Explained – Does Riley succumb to an Anxiety attack?

Inside Out 2 Plot Synopsis

Puberty is a tough time for any kid and when it comes to Riley, our 13 year old protagonist has her toughest test yet. With Hockey Camp coming up and her emotions a cocktail of confusion and panic, Joy and the other emotions find themselves confronted with a new chapter in Riley’s life. And with that, come brand new emotions over at HQ. Embarrassment, Ennui (French for Boredom), Envy and Anxiety.

The latter ends up more trouble than she’s worth, spiralling Riley into an unrecognizable mess, hijacking headquarters, and banishing the “old” Emotions, led by Joy. In essence, the story takes parts of the first film and spins that to include Riley slipping further into an anxiety-laden panic, following a rather rudimentary “coming of age” story, as she abandons her own values to fit in with the cool kids.

What happens to the Old Emotions?

Anxiety takes control of HQ and decides to get rid of all the old emotions. She’s dead-set that Joy isn’t what Riley needs anymore. They’re all bottled up and kept separate from the new emotions. They even get rid of Riley’s “Sense of Self”

Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger are taken away to The Vault, as supressed emotions. Other supressed ideas are here, including Riley’s “deep, dark secret” and an old Kindergarten “guilty pleasure”, which plays out like a riff on Dora the Explorer.

How does Anxiety change Riley?

While the Core Emotions try to get back, Anxiety decides to keep pretending Riley is someone they’re not, and in the process, alienates her friends, Brie and Grace.¬†Sadness heads back to the main console but Embarrassment, which goes hand in hand with sadness sometimes, helps her out to hide her.

Anxiety and Joy end up at odds with one another, but Anxiety comes out on top. She concocts a plan to sneak into the Coach’s office and take a peek at her red journal. This includes details on what she thinks of every player. When Riley makes it to the coach’s office, she finds a note next to her name, stating “Not ready yet”.

Anxiety brainstorms (with a literal storm of ideas!) to try and persuade the Coach otherwise. As for Joy and co, they head to the back of Joy’s mind to find Riley’s true “Sense of Self”. Joy though begins repeating a mantra that’s starting to consume Riley: “I’m not good enough”. This is something, of course, many of us have felt before.

What happens to Joy?

Embarrassment helps Sadness and eventually fights with Anxiety. Unfortunately, it destroys the other emotions’ only way back. Joy doesn’t know how to stop Anxiety. As a result, she says the most resonant line in the entire movie: “Maybe this is what happens when you grow up. You feel less Joy.” This also explains Joy’s diminished role in HQ and how the other Emotions are playing a bigger part. However, she’s learned from the first film and remains dead-set on bringing back Riley’s Sense of Self.

The hockey game starts and Riley’s big plan is not to pass to anyone and showboat, deciding to solo all the goals and knock everyone out. While this is going on, Joy and co use Pouchy (the cartoon creature from Riley’s Vault) to grab some dynamite and blow a route back to HQ, spilling over a tsunami of memories to overwhelm Riley.

How does Anxiety lose control?

Riley is forced into the penalty box after knocking Grace down in her desire to score. Unfortunately, all this pressure causes Anxiety to spiral and she whirls around the console, struggling to keep everything under control. Riley is breathing heavily and clutches her chest. She’s clearly having an anxiety attack and struggling to keep it all together under this pressure.

Things don’t look good but the other emotions make it back to HQ, while Anxiety spirals out of control at the console.

Joy steps up and speaks to Anxiety, telling her to let Riley go. Eventually she does, and the other emotions replace Riley’s Sense of Self, reminding her that she’s “a good person”. Anxiety apologizes to Joy after letting go of the console, saying she was just trying to help.

Anxiety realizes they don’t get to choose how cool Riley is, something that harks back to Joy’s little mantra of “we keep the best, and toss the rest” at the start of the film. It also echoes back to Joy letting go of Console control with Sadness, doing what’s best for Riley.

How does Joy save Riley?

Joy realizes they can’t define Riley themselves and rips off the Sense of Self to let Riley choose for herself. Joy eventually envelops the Core with a hug (like the hug with Mum and Dad in the first film), and all the other emotions join in.¬†

With Riley a bit calmer outside the penalty box, she speaks to her friends, apologizing to them for freaking out. Joy is called to the Console, and in a nice touch to the first movie, this time it’s Sadness who tells Joy to go, rather than the other way round. The familiar musical chimes from the soundtrack hit, and Riley gets to experience pure joy with her friends.

How does Inside Out 2 end?

Brie and Grace are still friends with Riley at the end, even with our girl moving to her new school in the Bay Area. She’s mates with all the Firehawks and while Riley does have some anxiety, the emotions are largely under control, rather than letting it run riot in HQ.

And as we’re reminded once more of how special Riley is, she gets a buzz on her phone… and smiles.

What happens at the credits? Does Riley get on the team?

During the credit sequence, we see Riley back home. Anxiety is with us all. It’s in her mum and dad, who react worried when Ennui takes control of Riley and claims that Hockey Camp was “good” in a nonchalant way.

Now, it would appear that Riley has made the team, allowing her to follow Val, and some of that stems from her able to step back and actually play as a team, rather than trying to solo everything. Competition is important, but so is the value of friendship and not allowing anxiety to consume you.

We’re not explicitly told that Riley’s made it onto the team but there are enough hints here to suggest this is what’s happened. There are obviously still going to be plenty of bumps in the road to come for Riley’s life, given we’ve seen hints of this in places like Imagination Land, but there’s enough to suggest Riley is now on the right track. And in the end, Riley is back to a harmonious level… but for how long?


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1 thought on “Inside Out 2 Ending Explained – Does Riley succumb to an Anxiety attack?”

  1. I HATE how much this plot line resonated with me, it is not made clear, but from what I can tell the film suggests that Riley may have an anxiety disorder, I say this because for the entirety of the film anxiety doesn’t leave there is a subtle hint at the end of the film when watching from inside of the parents minds “Welcome back anxiety”, for most people anxiety isn’t always present, as it’s normal to feel anxious every now and again. But for Riley anxiety doesn’t leave which for people like myself with anxiety disorder anxiety never leaves its always there. The panic attack and the heart racing scene hit close too home for me when allowing too much to build up or even something small can cause this intense reaction. This film did a great job of highlighting some of the issues with anxiety and the affects it can have on your day to day life. Even when joy creates a “comfort zone” for anxiety and offers reassurance is something I create for myself to help myself. A great watch and a perfect example bringing to light some of the issues anxiety can create.

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