Furiosa Ending Explained: Hope Grows

This article contains massive spoilers for "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga."

With the release of "Furiosa," the fifth film in the "Mad Max" saga, it is abundantly clear that these movies never intended to be a single, serialized narrative. Instead, each film is a piece of mercurial mythology — stories that aren't concerned with strict continuity. They're legends, in the way that stories about Moses or King Arthur are legends; they aren't chronicles of what exactly did happen, but what may have happened.

This approach to the "Mad Max" films began with the 1979 original (which opens with the vague "A Few Years From Now..." title card) and continued in earnest with 1981's "Mad Max 2," which is narrated by an older version of one of the principal characters (whom we only hear and never see). Only 2015's "Fury Road" is narrated by Max himself, and even then, he's not of sound mind. For "Furiosa," co-writer/director George Miller has the tale of the early years of the titular character (Alyla Browne [child] and Anya Taylor-Joy [young adult]) narrated by The History Man (George Shevtsov), a person whose role in the post-apocalyptic Wasteland is to keep the past alive through oral history (or, in the parlance of the Tribe Who Left from "Beyond Thunderdome," to "continue the Tell").

"Furiosa" is technically a prequel in the way it chronicles the character right up to where her story begins in "Fury Road," but it's also a fable about the woman who, against massive odds, survived and changed things in the Wasteland for the better. It's a film that explores elements of myth and religion while telling a subversive tale of revenge. It is, to borrow a keyword from the film's climax, a true epic.

The Ballad of Mary Jabasa

After a table-setting montage during the film's opening credits (which reprises similar material from "Fury Road" about the fall of civilization), "Furiosa" begins with a shot of History Man as he introduces the story with a question: "As the world falls around us, how must we brave its cruelties?" Right away, "Furiosa" is presented not as a pure tale of revenge, war, and/or survival, but as a moral parable.

Following an establishing shot that denotes we're on Earth and in the continent once called Australia, we're introduced to young Furiosa as she attempts to pick peaches in the verdant Green Place. When the girl and her friend, Valkyrie (Dylan Adonis) — who we later see reunited with Furiosa in "Fury Road" — notice dangerous interlopers encroaching on their protected, Eden-like haven, Furiosa attempts to warn her people, only to be abducted by the invading bikers.

Furiosa's mother, Mary Jabasa (Charlee Fraser) — one of the warrior wardens known as the Vulvalini — ignores the danger of venturing out into the Wasteland and goes after her daughter. Young Furiosa attempts to escape several times but is taken by the bikers to a warlord, Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), who has gained dominance over a community of unsavory marauders by preaching a gospel of supposed fairness between his followers. At first, he appears benevolent, declaring Furiosa be taken care of before he personally escorts her back home ... if only to plunder its "abundance."

Once Mary rescues her daughter, Dementus and his gang give chase, leading Mary to send Furiosa ahead on her own after giving her a special tree seed and making her promise to protect the Green Place and find her way back home. Despite putting up a good fight, Mary is overpowered by Dementus' horde and is tortured for information. A distraught Furiosa runs to her mother's aid instead of continuing back alone, leaving her in Dementus' clutches as he makes her watch the horrid execution of her mother.

Dementus and Immortan Joe meet cute

Later, Dementus' gang comes upon a stranded War Boy in the Wasteland, who explains that he is from a place of abundance known as the Citadel. Dementus insists on visiting, just as the paint from the War Boy's flare gun stains his hair, causing him to further self-mythologize and dub himself the Red Dementus. Once at the Citadel, he gives a speech about how the rulers of the place must be exploiting its people, and how he will personally elevate all to rule alongside him if they'll overthrow these leaders.

However, Immortan Joe (Lachy Hulme) demonstrates how the tyrannical fanaticism he's fostered is stronger than Dementus' Communist ethos when a random War Boy sacrifices himself for Joe's cause. As a battle ensues, Dementus retreats, but not before rescuing Furiosa from a group of people living underground (more on them later). Dementus and his gang comes upon Gastown, and lears that the Immortan has a relationship with it and the other fortress of the Wasteland, the Bullet Farm, so he hatches a plan to pull off a Trojan Horse maneuver on Gastown.

The coup successful, Dementus and his lieutenants meet with Joe and his cabinet, holding Gastown hostage and demanding that Dementus be declared its new ruler (in addition to now being known as Dementus the Great). Joe agrees to the terms, provided he can acquire the Organic Mechanic (Angus Sampson) and Furiosa for himself. Dementus has been referring to Furiosa as his daughter, dubbing her "Little D," even creating a mythical backstory for her that Furiosa is eager to reject as she is transferred to the Citadel. Dementus, feeling betrayed by this girl who he believes he's taken care of since the murder of her mother, takes back the teddy bear he'd given her, allegedly all that's left of his own children.

Praetorian Jack will get you by tonight

Furiosa is initially placed inside the vault where The Brides of Immortan Joe are kept, and it's presumed she'll also become breeding stock when she's of age. Planning her escape, she secretly shaves her head while fashioning a wig, allowing her to slip out from the creepy clutches of Joe's son Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones), and sneak into service as a Blackthumb mechanic while disguised as a mute boy.

Furiosa grows into an adult, all while the wig she'd used to make her escape sits abandoned atop a branch as it leafs through the years. After being part of the team that has built a new War Rig for transporting supplies through the Wasteland between Gastown and the Bullet Farm, Furiosa makes a move to escape, stowing away onboard the Rig during a supply run. Taking the advice of her late mother, Furiosa uses the stars in the sky to help triangulate her position relative to the Green Place, tattooing a map home on her left forearm.

Unfortunately, the day Furiosa chooses to stow away is when one of Dementus' underbosses, the Octoboss (Goran D. Kleut), breaks away and raids the Rig with his own men. During the battle, Furiosa is forced to defend the Rig, taking out the Octoboss and his cronies with skill but revealing her true identity to the Rig's driver, Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke).

Jack (whose outfit resembles Max Rockatansky's) proves to be his own man, promising to keep Furiosa's secret and let her escape after she stays on with him and the Rig so that he can teach her the ways of Road War. Furiosa agrees, and her skills sharpen while her relationship with Jack, himself the son of soldiers who died looking for a righteous cause, deepens.

Furiosa and the not-so-great escape

As hope blooms in the Wasteland for Furiosa and Jack, the tyranny of evil men continues unabated. Losing his grip on Gastown thanks to his mixture of control and anarchy breaking down, Dementus makes a play to overthrow the Immortan by seizing the Bullet Farm just as Jack informs Furiosa that her service with him has finished. Furiosa invites Jack to travel to the Green Place with her.

As the duo takes the War Rig to the Bullet Farm to load up on guns, Dementus brings his friends and ambushes the Rig. During the battle, Furiosa attempts to assassinate Dementus but chooses to focus the majority of her efforts on rescuing Jack. The two take off for the Green Place, attempting to leave the Rig, the Immortan, and especially Dementus in the dust.

Sadly, Dementus seems personally and morally incensed that Furiosa (whom he does not yet recognize as the young girl he used to call his daughter) and Jack would deign to rush off "full of hope," as he venomously observes, stating that "there is no hope," a philosophy that makes up Dementus' latest and final persona: the Dark Dementus. To prove his belief, he has Jack tied to the back of a car and run to death, while he makes Furiosa watch by chaining her wounded left arm to the back of his own vehicle. While he's distracted, however, Furiosa escapes by severing her own arm, the arm that holds her map back home. Furiosa has survived, but Dementus has won — Furiosa's hope has now been lost.

But all is not lost, as a fleeing Furiosa is observed from afar by a solitary man standing next to a black-on-black Interceptor, eating food from a can. (Psst ... it's Max.)

Furiosa and the Wasteland War

Furiosa nearly makes it back to the Citadel before she's captured once again, this time by the denizens of a community living under the Earth. However, this place may as well be the Underworld, as it's an abattoir full of human corpses, run by a woman who promises "peace." Not content with surrendering to the siren call of death, Furiosa is reborn anew, clamoring her way back up the Citadel to inform Joe about Dementus' plans to conquer the Immortan's empire. As Joe and his generals head off to properly begin a Wasteland War against Dementus and his horde, Furiosa only asks for one thing from the Immortan: "He's mine."

While the War begins to rage, Furiosa further transforms, moving closer to becoming the woman we meet at the start of "Fury Road" by constructing a mechanical prosthetic arm for herself and shaving her head bald.

In conjunction with the History Man's narration, "Furiosa" is split into five chapters, each with titles that recall different fables or fairy tales a la "One Thousand and One Nights." Beginning with "The Pole of Inaccessibility" (referring to the mast that Mary Jabasa was tethered to) and continuing on through "Lessons From the Wasteland," "The Stowaway," and "Homeward," the film arrives at its ominously titled final chapter as Furiosa steals a vehicle to hunt down Dementus himself: "Beyond Vengeance." The very first "Mad Max" is a story about a cop who loses his soul as he pursues the leader of a vicious biker gang who murdered his wife and child. Is Furiosa following a similar path, thereby creating her desperate need for "redemption" as she states in "Fury Road?" Or might there be something else beyond brutal vengeance?

The good, the bad, and the Furiosa

In a sequence reminiscent of a similar moment in Sergio Leone's "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly," Furiosa tracks down Dementus in the deep desert after Dementus' last remaining lieutenants have been swallowed up by the Wasteland (in one case, literally). Yet she isn't content to merely cut his throat in the night or fight him right away. Instead, she psychologically tortures her prey, letting him know she's watching and that she could strike at any second.

Eventually, Dementus surrenders and Furiosa reveals herself, asking him "Remember me?" At first, Dementus refuses to give her the satisfaction, remarking how he can't remember torturing and killing her mother (since he's committed so many atrocities over the years) even as he's being beaten. Yet eventually he recognizes her, insisting on calling her "Little D" and observing how she's grown into the copy of himself he'd always hoped to turn her into, a hardened, hopeless warrior fueled by hate. At every turn, Dementus refuses to make Furiosa's victory easy or righteous; he insists that all his misdeeds are due to suffering the loss of his own, actual children and the trauma that followed. While the fact that he insists on wearing what was ostensibly his child's toy bear at all times could mean that this is true, there's always the chance that this could be yet another false myth that Dementus uses to manipulate and self-aggrandize.

Ultimately, despite his defiance and various attempts to confuse Furiosa, Dementus knows his minutes are numbered. Yet he welcomes death, taunting Furiosa with a challenge: "Do you have it in ya to make it epic?" As the History Man asked at the beginning of the film, can Furiosa transcend the Wasteland's cruelties, or will she give into them?

Hope grows where my Dementus goes

As the famous adage from "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" goes, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." That's good enough for men who use their legends as false myths to better raise themselves up, like Immortan Joe and Dementus. Furiosa and the story that bears her name follows a different path: all and none of them at the same time.

While History Man describes how various denizens of the Wasteland spread different tales about what exactly Furiosa did to Dementus during their fateful encounter in the desert, we see some of those "endings" play out: Furiosa simply shooting Dementus in the back of the head (as Dementus himself suggested to her earlier), tying him to the back of her vehicle and making him run to death (as he did to Jack), and crucifying him while birds peck at his withering body (similar to the fate Dementus brought upon Mary Jabasa).

Yet the true fate of Dementus ("according to History Man, who insists that this knowledge was "whispered to me by Furiosa herself") is altogether different. Furiosa brought Dementus back to the Citadel's hydroponics chamber, whereupon she planted the seed her mother gave her years before into Dementus, the tree using his body as soil while keeping the ex-warlord nominally alive.

Whether this fate is literal or figurative, its meaning remains the same: as Furiosa picks a newly grown fruit from the Dementus tree, she observes that the fruit is not for herself or her peers but for some "uncorrupted life" that will be allowed to rise and thrive thanks to her actions today — like her smuggling of Joe's Wives into her own War Rig to drive them all on their fateful journey through the Fury Road. 

To answer the questions asked by both History Man and the film's chapter heading itself: how can people brave the world's cruelties, and what lies beyond vengeance? Life and hope are the answers. They're two quantities that may not be abundant in the Wasteland, but they cannot be so easily snuffed out or discounted.