Killers of the Flower Moon (2023) Ending Explained – Who kills Mollie’s family?

Killers of the Flower Moon Plot Summary

Killers of the Flower Moon by Martin Scorsese is a dark thriller based on the book of the same name and true events in the 1920s when the Native Americans of the Osage tribe were killed for their wealth. With starry names such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Lily Gladstone, the movie uses satire to shed light on the gruesome murders.

Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival 2023, the film begins with Ernest (Leonardo DiCaprio), a bumbling but sweet army chef who moves in with his uncle, King Bill Hale (Robert De Niro) in Fairfax where the Natives have been living an even better life than the White settlers due to their oil-filled reservation. Ernest falls for the charming Mollie (Lily Gladstone) who is part of the rich Osage community but her sisters mysteriously keep dying. 

Worried about her family and the rest of the Natives who are being picked off like cotton, she turns to Ernest and Hale to help her uncover the truth. However, there seems to be no progress made. And to make matters worst, with Mollie being the only one in her family left alive, all of the headrights go to her and in turn to her husband, Ernest, making one wonder if she is trapped in the lion’s den.

killers of the flower moon

Who kills the Osage Natives?

Killers of the Flower Moon begins with the suspicious deaths of a couple of Osages, shown to be killed either by White family members or mysterious men. When Ernest Burkhart moves to Fairfax, his uncle, King Bill Hale directs him towards the Native American and full-blood estate girl, Mollie who has already caught Ernest’s eye.

As more and more Osages are killed, Hale too starts organising murders of Mollie’s family by ordering Ernest and his brother Bryan. It is then revealed that during a drought, the desperate Osage had drilled downwards and found that their reservation was built over oil-filled land. As they monopolise and capitalise on it, they become a rich, affluent community, to be rivalled by the rich European settlers.

While the settlers bow down and work for the Natives, they find a loophole in the law. Should an Osage die, the headrights which include their assets and profits of the oil used from their land will be passed on to the next of kin which can also be a White spouse. Slowly and surely, this has White men marrying Osage women and then killing them to get their headrights.

With Ernest being a little dense and in love with Mollie, Hale finds him easy to manipulate and control so that all of her family’s headrights go to Mollie and in turn his nephew via marriage. He first gets Ernest’s brother Bryan to target Mollie’s sister, the loud and headstrong Anna. Bryan and a friend, Kelsie get her drunk, take her out in the middle of the woods and have Kelsie pull the trigger.

It is followed by her sister, Rita getting together with Bill, the widower of their fourth sister, Minnie who died of a mysterious illness. As Bill and Rita start poking into the murder of Anna, Hale claims that Bill killed Minnie and will soon kill the remaining sisters and take their headrights. With Mollie and Rita’s mother dying of old age, all of the headrights go to the sisters.

This spurs Ernest into action who orders Blackie to bomb Bill and Rita’s house in exchange for his car. Blackie enlists the help of Henry Grammer and the bomb expert Acie (Asa) Kirby who bomb the house and kill the couple. As for the suicidal Henry Roan, a single, full-blood estate man, he owes Hale and has depression. Hale keeps saving his life, as he can only cash in on Roan’s headrights after the expiration of their contract.

Once the time is ripe, Hale goads Ernest by claiming that Mollie and Roan were sweethearts. The jealous Ernest orders John Ramsey to kill Roan and make it look like a suicide. Ramsey befriends Roan as they bond over alcohol with the former losing his nerve and killing the Native from the back.

Meanwhile, the Shoun brothers are doctors in cahoots with Hale who give the wrong diagnosis to the Native patients and aid in their killing. They are the ones who supply Ernest with the poison which he gives to a diabetic Mollie under the guise of insulin.

killers of the flower moon

Why does Ernest go along with King Hale’s plan?

While Ernest truly loves Mollie, he doesn’t hide that he is a flawed man who is greedy and loves money. Even before he gets roped in the Osage headrights conspiracy, he robs rich Natives and uses the spoils to gamble. He is also blind to the manipulation which allows Hale to enrol him in his nefarious plans without actually telling him the truth.

When Ernest inadvertently causes the death of Mollie’s sister, Rita, he thinks that he is doing it to protect Mollie as Bill might be using her for her headrights. But once Hale has him hooked, he keeps getting him to do his dirty work by claiming that if they are ever caught, Ernest will go down and lose his family which prompts him to kill the private investigator hired by Mollie who gets too close to the truth.

When Ernest starts poisoning Mollie, he is told that it is not fatal, it is just meant to slow her down. When Mollie’s health starts to worsen, Ernest thinks that it is her fate to die, not realising that it is the poison that he is giving her that is killing her.

Killers of the flower moon

Does Ernest save Mollie?

Initially, Ernest goes with the plan to poison Mollie and kill her family as he has warped notions of the outcome. But the last time he is supposed to give her the ‘dose’ before he is caught by the cops, he doesn’t give her the poison but drinks it himself. Once he is arrested and grilled by the police, he wants to go back to Mollie and tell her everything.

On learning that he can strike a deal, he promises to tell all and starts by snitching on Blackie and Ramsay, so the cops arrive just in time to save Mollie. But even then, when Ernest has a chance to meet her, he doesn’t tell her the truth, the poisoning or his part in the murders.

In the end, he changes his mind when his youngest daughter, Anna dies. Wanting to go back home, he does tell the truth to Mollie in court when he is testifying against Hale. He also reveals that he married Mollie not for her money but because he loved her.

killers of the flower moon

How does King Hale try to tie up the loose ends?

After the Osage go to the White House and beg for help, Tom White, John Wren and their squad show up and secretly start investigating. But because Hale has connections everywhere, he learns that the cops are upon them. To make sure that none of the murders are connected to him, Hale starts cutting off all the accomplices. Henry Grammer crashes his car.

He tells Blackie that he has set up a job for him but then informs the cops who catch Blackie for stealing. Again, he tells Acie about an easy robbery but warns the owner who kills Acie. He is not beyond killing his nephew either as he convinces Ernest to make him the successor of his headrights. He then orders Blackie to kill Ernest so he doesn’t snitch but of course, Blackie is caught and sent to jail after the botched robbery.

killers of the flower moon

How do the officers figure out the conspiracy?

The squad who will later form the FBI start by interrogating the doctors, the Shoun brothers and find them suspicious. After they catch Blackie due to Hale’s manipulation, they look for ways to connect him to Hale. They first approach Ernest at home and then when he is out with his kid. He starts cracking and they are finally able to arrest him on suspicion of murder.

They figure out that Hale is trying to kill Ernest and cash in on his headrights which will go to him after Mollie dies with John Wren tailing Hale. Upset, Ernest spills on who killed Henry Roan. Ramsey gets angry and snitches on Blackie who then snitches about the rest. The squad is able to trace it up to the first murder with Kelsie who straight up admits to having killed Anna in exchange for testifying against Hale.

killers of the flower moon

Does King Hale get convicted?

As the squad starts arresting everyone, King Bill Hale’s plan starts to crumble. At first, he is confident that he will be acquitted as the strongest witness is Ernest whom he can easily manipulate. He almost succeeds as during the first trial, when Ernest is called to testify, it all goes wrong.

Before he can say a word, Hale’s lawyer, Hamilton (played by the hilarious Brendan Fraser) claims that Ernest is his client too and has been missing since the squad had kept him hidden. The court is in pandemonium as Hamilton keeps assuring the dense Ernest that his rights have been violated and that they need to speak. Poor Ernest is confused and agrees, which is the worst thing he can ever do.

The moment the court is adjourned, Hale’s family and Hamilton crowd around Ernest and feed him lies that the squad is just using him. Once they don’t need him, they will convict him for Rita and Bill’s murders which scares Ernest. They also emotionally blackmail him that if he betrays Hale who has always looked after him, his uncle will die of grief. The guilt-tripping works and Ernest backs out from his deal with the squad.

They are frustrated but can still keep him in custody as he has been arrested under the suspicion of killing Rita, Bill and the P.I. However, when Ernest’s youngest child, Anna dies due to a sickness, he breaks down and promises to testify as he wants to go home to his remaining family.

While Hale is genuinely sad about little Anna’s death, he goes as far as to threaten Ernest to stop him. He is also misguided in his confidence that as the Osage’s peer and benefactor, they will also side with him. However, that is not the case as Ernest finally testifies, revealing the truth and his involvement.

In the epilogue told by Scorsese as a TV host, it is told that the Shoun brothers are not persecuted as there is not enough evidence. Hale is convicted but he is released due to good behaviour, hinting at bribery. He later dies at age 87. Bryan is convicted as an accomplice while Kelsie is charged for the murder of Anna.

Ernest is convicted as well but is given a pardon for his testimony. He and his brother live the rest of their lives in a trailer park. Meanwhile, Mollie divorces Ernest and marries a second time before dying of diabetes.

Read More: Killers of the Flower Moon Movie Review

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