Reality (2023) Ending Explained: What happened after Reality’s arrest?


Reality’s story created a sensation among the larger public back in 2017 due to its links to Donald Trump’s controversial 2016 regime which saw shocking claims of Russian interference in making him president in the 2016 elections.

The HBO movie, directed by Tina Satter and starring Sydney Sweeney as Reality, focuses on the “why” behind Reality’s actions. It is verbatim based on the transcripts recorded by the FBI on the day of the arrest with absolutely no changes. This creative choice places the viewer right in the middle of things and makes the most of the chilling interrogation that went on for about two hours.

It is hard to imagine yourself in Reality’s shoes but that is exactly what Satter and Sweeney do together. The minimalist dressing of the film helps the theatre-like staging to be impactful and elevate the film’s dramatic appeal. There is a lot to read between the lines as the unsaid part about the controversy is necessary to be brought to the surface.

Here is our ending explainer of HBO’s ‘Reality’ and an elaboration on the events depicted in the movie.

Why did the FBI raid Reality Winner’s house?

For the most part, the FBI agents Garrick and Taylor do not reveal the purpose of the FBI’s sudden presence at Reality’s home. They beat around the bush and search for stuff inside the house, talking about mundane things like Reality’s dog, her previous deployments, and her interests other than her professional life. Like us, Reality is confounded by the FBI showing up in the most unexpected manner. Then things start to get serious when we learn the basis of their search warrant was a news piece published in The Intercept, an online news outlet.

Certain contents in the piece were classified information of the NSA, which should have been kept under wraps with no compromises. The FBI was investigating the paper trail of how that document got leaked from the intelligence database. Reality worked as an intelligence linguist for a private defence contractor, Plurbis. She was fluent in Pashto, Farsi, and Dari, which was quite an astonishing combination. Since the document was released from the servers in that building, Reality came under their radar.

Why was Reality arrested?

Only six people, including Reality, could have had access to that document. The FBI had trailed the download of that particular NSA document from their website, NSA Pulse, that Reality occasionally surfed in her free time. Moreover, someone from The Intercept revealed the source of the information they received when they tried to vet the document by sending it to the NSA’s office. Reality had downloaded an article from the NSA Pulse that talked about how the Russians fished many registered electors through email and interfered with the 2016 elections.

There was strong evidence that they manipulated and influenced voters through well-planned strategies and experimental software techniques. But none of this was available in the public domain. Quite interestingly, Reality also mentioned in her transcript that her offices blared Fox News on full volume throughout the day. According to some, Fox is a Republican-leaning outlet and more often than not runs stories that might seem bigoted to many left-leaning individuals. This made Reality even angrier at the administration and the lack of discussion in public discourse.

As a responsible citizen, she felt like it was her responsibility to leak that document in good faith. She downloaded the article, printed it, and then folded it in half in her pantyhose to take it out of the building undetected. Reality then sent the article by post to The Intercept. She was charged under the Espionage Act and sentenced to five years in prison without the possibility of bail or parole.

What is her position in mass media and the public eye?

Winner’s arrest and subsequent legal proceedings raised broader questions about government transparency, the handling of classified information, and the role of whistleblowers in American society. It contributed to ongoing debates about the balance between national security and the public’s right to know. ‘Reality’ does not imbue these observations or commentary in its core. But there is a transient attempt to reignite the discourse in times when the idea of free speech is going through a tough phase.

In the broader landscape of American politics, Winner’s arrest became part of the larger narrative surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 elections and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The case also underscored the heightened tensions and divisions within American society during a politically charged period. Throughout the film, we see Reality indicating her ambition to be deployed in the US Air Force.

Since she already had the security clearance and now has all the requisite fulfilment as to requirements for flying, Reality dreamed of serving in an area like Afghanistan, where her special skill set could be useful. But all of her hopes were dashed after the court’s sentencing in 2017.

Reality Ending Explained: What happened in the aftermath of Reality’s arrest?

All the following information is collated from news pieces and information available in the public domain.

Reality pleaded guilty to the charges that the prosecution levelled against her and she was specifically prohibited from speaking about her actions publicly. Following her sentencing, Reality Winner was incarcerated at the Federal Medical Centre, Carswell, in Fort Worth, Texas. The facility is a low-security prison for female inmates, which was consistent with her term of sentence. As of now, Reality is not in jail anymore, having completed her mandated sentence.

However, Reality will remain under supervised release until November 2024 and her dreams of getting deployment with the Air Force are over.  Winner’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment drew significant media attention. Supporters argued that her actions were driven by a desire to expose election interference, while critics considered her a whistle-blower who violated national security protocols. The case sparked debates about government transparency, whistle-blower protections, and the handling of classified information.

In prison, Reality Winner’s legal team filed appeals seeking a reduced sentence. They argued that the Espionage Act was overly harsh and sought to challenge the classification and handling of the leaked document. Additionally, advocacy groups and individuals campaigned for her release, citing concerns about the severity of her punishment and the need to protect whistle-blowers. There was also a hue and cry to abolish the stringent WWI-era laws under which Reality was charged. But as of today, the laws still remain in place.


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3 thoughts on “Reality (2023) Ending Explained: What happened after Reality’s arrest?”

  1. If people like this don’t get punished there is no point in have documents classified as Top Secret etc. if everyone with a clearance and access to national secrets is free to disclose what they feel is appropriate then we won’t have any secrets. Worse yet, other countries will not share intelligence. Lastly sometimes, as one expert pointed out, it is the human source that is more important than the info. Disclosing the info exposes the source and in extreme cases those individuals disappear and are presumed executed by the foreign governments they betrayed.

  2. Nothing like punishing the truth being told!! Sad state of affairs when a journalist is butchered and yet the Saudi Prince behind was welcomed by tRump!!

  3. I think she should have not done jail time. She brought the truth out. Fraud by a politically corrupt man running for our presidency. Maybe fired but no jail. She’s the wrong person to get that

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