Us Ending Explained – Does Jason know the truth about Adelaide?

Us Plot Summary

Following on from the success of Get Out, Jordan Peele returns with Us, a 2019 horror-thriller with plenty of ambiguity, and lots to say about society, identity and privilege. Throughout the movie, there are numerous layers of depth and symbolism, which only adds to the horror. So let’s dive in and explore Peele’s fascinating horror.

After a traumatic experience as a child, we cut to present day with Adelaide Wilson and her family. They pack up their things and excitedly prepare to go on vacation to Santa Cruz. As strange coincidences begin to overwhelm Adelaide, this weirdness spills over on holiday, turning to chaos when a group of doppelgängers show up and begin to terrorize the family. From here, the film devolves into a home invasion plot which escalates to include the entire country being attacked.

A crucial flashback to 1986 kicks off the film before this though, adding crucial context to what ultimately becomes much more important as we get to the end of the film. The opening scene sees a young Adelaide Thomas wandering away from her parents on the boardwalk, entering a hall of mirrors. Whilst there, she encounters a doppelgänger of herself, leaving her traumatized. 

Mirroring this scene, Jason wanders off on the beach in Santa Cruz during the present timeline, where he sees a mysterious figure standing on the beach with bloodied hands. Adelaide, already on edge and afraid, decides they should return to their beach house, which is when they’re attacked and held hostage by a family of doppelgangers.

What are the Tethered?

Sporting red jumpsuits and wielding scissors, we learn that these Doppelgangers are actually known as the Tethered. They’re led by Adelaide’s doppelganger, aptly titled Red, who explains that they are the shadows of the Wilson family, forced to live underground and mimic their actions. However, they do so without the proper joy or thrill of emotion to go with it. It’s a grim, nightmarish existence and something that Red later explains to Adelaide in more detail.

It turns out the Tethered are actually the result of a failed cloning project run by the government. The government’s initial plan was to infiltrate and control the American people. Although the government were successful with the initial cloning process, they couldn’t do the same for the soul, resulting in the empty shells we see before us. When the project ended up as a failure, it was abandoned and the helpless Tethered forced underground to shuffle about, living off rabbit meat.

These experiments took place in thousands of miles worth of underground tunnels in the United States. The purpose these tunnels is not made clear in the film but there is specific reference to this occurring all over the country with other Tethered and surface families It’s also not made clear for what purpose these Tethered are used to take over our existence, but given Peele specifically centers on themes of race, division and control, we’re gunning for the latter; the government plan to use the Tethered as a means of controlling the masses.

What happens that night?

The Wilson family fight their own doppelgangers, eventually spilling over to the Tyler’s place, the wealthy family they encountered earlier in the movie. The Wilson’s are shocked to learn they’ve been murdered by their Tethered.

Adelaide and her family head inside and are assaulted as well but they manage to overpower and kill the Tylers’ doubles. Turning on the news in the aftermath of this, they learn that the Tethered have been murdering their equivalents across the city and, after doing so, have joined hands to form a massive human chain. They’ve surrounded the city so no one can go in or out.

The Wilsons decide to leave, driving away and heading toward the boardwalk. Whilst there, the Wilsons are shocked to see all the townsfolk have been slaughtered. There’s also a burning car ominously ablaze in the middle of the road. Gabe, realizing it’s a trap, orders everyone to get out but unfortunately, Red shows and snatches Jason, taking him into the funhouse and, subsequently, the aforementioned underground facility. This is, of course, a throwback to the earlier flashback and where it all began for Adelaide.

The truth about Adelaide

Remember that flashbacks at the start of the movie involving Adelaide? Well, it turns out that Red and Adelaide actually switched places back then. The clone choked Adelaide unconscious, damaging her larynx in the process so her voice is raspy and guttural sounding. Red dragged Adelaide underground, handcuffed her and returned above ground to take Adelaide’s place in life. She learned to speak and adjust to living as a human being.

In the tunnels, the other Tethered realized that Red was “different from the others”, and she spent years organizing the escape and for the Tethered to take revenge by murdering their counterparts.

It’s a shocking revelation, and one that is eventually revealed to us after the climactic fight, which sees Red and Adelaide fight. “Red” is impaled with a poker, before being strangled to death. However, it’s actually Adelaide that dies here and Red takes on her role within the family, just like she has all those years before. This also explains why “Red” was the only Tethered that was able to speak, albeit with a ruined larynx. However, this also plays into the idea of privilege and how has been given an opportunity at a better life and who has to take it. For some, it’s easy to drift through life while others are forced to claw their way up from the depths to take what they believe they’re owed.

This is something reinforced by the final moments of the movie, which sees us pan across the landscape and see all the Tethered together across the landscape, holding hands. This echoes back to the Hands Across America in the 1980’s, which was a peaceful campaign set up to help fight poverty and hunger. Within the context of Us, the Tethered want freedom and equity, something that echoes societal and class problems, with the poor relegated to “the dirt” and the rich able to live in the sunshine. This is their way of protesting peacefully for equal rights.

Does Jason know the truth about Adelaide?

There’s a moment right at the end of the film which is suitably ambiguous and left up to interpretation. Within this, Adelaide (Red) and the family drive away from Santa Cruz, ready to put the horrors of what they’ve been through behind them. Jason and Adelaide share an extended glance at one another, one that sees Jason’s look convey suspicion and somewhat trepidation. He slowly puts down his mask while Adelaide gets back to driving.

A popular theory online is that Jason is aware of what’s going on, and was switched with Pluto at some point on the movie. However, on the US Blu-ray commentary, Jordan Peele himself lifts the veil on some of that ambiguity. Within that he says:

“Adelaide is the leader, the captain. Zora is the warrior. She acts before she thinks and she kicks ass. Gabe is the fool, even though on the surface he looks like he might be the leader or the warrior. And Jason is the wizard. He’s the magician.” Peele continues, “I have this kinda concept of Jason that he can sorta see through the veil. You can see these moments where he’s observing his mother and he’s meant to be a little step ahead of us, the most clever of us that’s sorta figuring out there’s something more to Adelaide’s story than we see.”

So Jason did not have prior knowledge before the movie but given Adelaide holds back from making small tics and gestures, not to mention her panic at seeing the Tethered, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to think Jason picked up on all this and realized his mother was born a Tethered.

The mask he places down over his face at the end is a symbolic gesture, either interpreted as him ready to “put a mask” over his true feelings, or using this as a reference to us, the audience, that Adelaide is actually Red pretending to play someone she isn’t. And that is, funnily enough, another throwback to the promotional material for this movie, which clearly shows Red with an Adelaide mask (pictured above).


What did you think of the ending for Us? Did you enjoy this film? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

1 thought on “Us Ending Explained – Does Jason know the truth about Adelaide?”

  1. Despite it being “just a movie”, I believe that it can be quite moving if you’ve ever been in a situation of being kidnapped and/or replaced. It also reminds me of the urban legend of changelings; the mythical creatures replacing the original baby of a family. I’m not really sure if Jordan Peele has ever thought about making sequels for his movies, but I can imagine that the sequel for Us would continue where it left off with Jason, his family, and his “mother” as she would choose to tell the truth to her “family” or not (let’s say if the theory about “Jason knew at the end” is true).

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