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Why That ‘Damsel’ Ending Is an ‘Inverted Version of Happily Ever After’

WARNING: The following fully spoils the plot of “Damsel” on Netflix. Read on if you dare.

By the end of Netflix’s new fantasy feature film “Damsel,” Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) and the mother dragon (voiced by Shohreh Aghdashloo), who she battles for most of the story, share a ride — or a sail, rather — off into the sunset. It’s a happy ending, hard-earned through their prolonged encounter in the caverns where the dragon lives.

Scribe Dan Mazeau unpacked that “Damsel” ending, and he wants viewers to embrace the unknown nature of the duo’s fate at the end of the film.

“The story of their lives has not been written yet as they’re flying away. [We wanted] to leave you with this idea that we’ve been through our inverted version of the fairy tale. It’s our inverted version of happily ever after,” Mazeau told TheWrap. “As opposed to the idea that nothing’s going to happen, the idea is anything could happen.”

“Elodie wants to travel the world, the dragon has been effectively locked in this emotional prison for hundreds and hundreds of years,” he explained. “It ends with, as opposed to the confines of the cave, as open as it could possibly be.”

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, “Damsel” watches Brown’s character make the ultimate sacrifice for her village Inophe — which has been hit by famine — to marry into the elusive and wealthy ruling family of Aurea. But the sacrifice doesn’t end with the eldest daughter of the town’s leader marrying a prince (Nick Robinson).

It turns out that for every generation of the royal descendants, three young women must be sacrificed to the dragon lurking above the kingdom in mountainous caves. Elodie’s up next—until she becomes the first young woman thrown into the dragon’s labyrinthian lair to survive the encounter with the creature.

After her father sacrifices himself, Elodie makes a near escape caves without a final confrontation with the beast. Until her sister, Floria (Brooke Carter), gets thrown into the depths as the third sacrifice for Prince Henry (Nick Robinson). The added wrinkle makes Elodie turn around and venture back into the tunnels, which were shaped like a dragon, in what Mazeau calls “the metaphorical journey through the belly of the beast,” to save her sister.

“It’s about taking these traditional knight-in-shining-armor stories and exploring them from a different perspective, and part of that is not just saving yourself but also becoming the savior for somebody else,” Mazeau said. We wanted Elodie to go through the entire arc of a hero, starting from somebody scared to becoming somebody strong.”

Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) in Netflix's "Damsel"
Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie in “Damsel” (Netflix)

The dragon’s gruesome agreement with the first king of Aurea has its roots in heartbreak — the king slaughtered the dragon’s three hatchlings, which was hinted at in the film’s prologue. Upon first conquering the land that became Aurea, which already fell under the dragon’s domain, the ruler demanded his troops kill the three daughters of the dragon, and she, in turn, demanded that he sacrifice three daughters per generation of the monarch’s lineage in exchange for the pain he caused her.

Though she asserts that she and Elodie are both meant to die alone, Elodie counters the pattern by revealing to the dragon that they’ve both been lied to — Elodie was told the king fought back only after the dragon attacked, and the dragon has been tricked into killing innocent women through the trickery of the queen.

“The idea is that when she lost her children, that was it, she was effectively going to be alone forever until she died. And so in trying to repay the pain for that, she has caused the deaths of a lot of young women down there in the dark. She’s telling [Elodie] that this is going to keep happening and happening and happening as punishment and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Mazeau said.

“It’s finally Elodie that breaks the cycle by recognizing that she isn’t actually alone down there, that she’s been aided by all the other women that came before and in fact, owes a responsibility to them to to stop this and change the story.”

The serene epilogue scene would not have been possible had Elodie chosen to slay the dragon before escaping back into the open world.

“The concept of her triumphing over the dragon, and then in some ways of harnessing the dragon’s power and leaving the cave with that power, was baked into the story from the beginning. There was an earlier version where the dragon did not survive the story,” Mazeau said. “We felt, in sort of exploring and developing the story, that we all really became attached to the character of the dragon. It felt like, in some ways, they were both victims of this situation, and so it felt right for both of them to come out changed, both of them to survive.”

What does that mean for their bond? In a story loaded with themes of motherhood and women who become their own heroes, what does the dynamic shifted into after all that cat-and-mouse? Mazeau isn’t sure.

“They have a new relationship. I don’t think they’re necessarily partners in any way shape or form, but they’re no longer dragon and damsel,” he said. “It’s an open question what their relationship is going to be. They’ve surpassed what their relationship was, this antagonistic situation that they were both thrust into, essentially. And now, for the first time Elodie is free in a way that she never has been before, and the dragon is free in a way that it never has been before. They both have an opportunity to chart their own course.”

“Damsel” is now streaming on Netflix.

The post Why That ‘Damsel’ Ending Is an ‘Inverted Version of Happily Ever After’ appeared first on TheWrap.