The Woman in the Window: The ending explained and all your questions answered
Wait, what's going on with Jane Russell? Here are some answers to what the hell happened in the Netflix thriller.
Jennifer BissetFormer Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
ExpertiseFilm and TVCredentials
Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
By the end of
latest psychological thriller, The Woman in the Window, the twists start dropping full throttle. You'd be forgiven for missing a few pieces of the puzzle, from the truth behind the real Jane Russell, to the backstories of troubled son Ethan and his shifty banker dad, played by Gary Oldman.
If you still have lingering questions, here are some answers.
In voiceover, we hear Anna happily chatting with her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and 8-year-old daughter Olivia apparently over the phone, but we don't see them for the most part of the film. Anna explains she's separated from her husband, but it slowly becomes clear something else is up. When Anna brings the picture Julianne Moore's Jane drew and signed to Detective Little (Brian Tyree Henry) and Norelli's (Jeanine Serralles) attention, her reliability is again brought into question. She says that if her husband were here, he would believe her. Then Det. Norelli not so delicately drops the bombshell: "Dr. Fox, your family is dead."
What happened to Anna's husband and daughter?
In a flashback, we join the Fox family driving to the mountains for a Christmas skiing trip. Anna's strained relationship with Ed is teased out, Ed unhappy about putting on a "happy family" front for their daughter, after Anna cheated on him. Anna then receives a phone call from an Unknown Caller, who Ed suggests is "him" and they struggle over the phone. Anna takes her eyes off the road -- and their car hurtles off the side of the mountain, killing her husband and daughter. Anna continues to relive the traumatic experience with constant visions of swirling snow.
What medicine does Anna take?
After attempting suicide, Anna has been seeing therapist Dr. Landy (Tracy Letts) for nearly a year to address her depression. Believing she's curtailed her drinking problem, Dr. Landy prescribes her Elevan, a medication that has side effects when taken with alcohol. Because Anna has definitely not stopped her drinking, she experiences hallucinations, including her phone conversations with her dead husband. Elevan could be a reference to the real-world drug Eleva, a medicine used for the treatment of major depression in adults.
What happened in the past with Ethan?
When Anna first meets Ethan Russell, he appears to be a sweet teenager dropping off a welcome gift from his mom, the real Jane Russell, aka Jennifer Jason Leigh's character. Yet while Alistair Russell (Gary Oldman) is Ethan's real father, Jane Russell isn't his biological mother. His biological mother is Katie, aka Julianne Moore's character, who Anna had assumed was Jane Russell. They both just happen to favor the same blonde haircut. Troubled teen is an understatement. Ethan, who doesn't truly love his biological mother, discovered his love of watching people die after he pushed Pamela Nazin, Alistair's assistant, from her sixth-floor terrace in Brookline. Soon after this incident, Alistair transferred the family to Manhattan.
Who's the real Jane Russell?
The first time we meet "Jane Russell" she's Julianne Moore's version, a cool artist who takes care of Anna after kids throw eggs at her townhouse on Halloween and she suffers a fainting spell. When Anna says, "You're Jane Russell," the woman replies "What makes you say that?" She never confirms her identity, adeptly dodging any personal questions. Later, Anna shows David (Wyatt Russell) a picture of the woman, after witnessing her murder in the Russells' apartment. David reveals that she's not Jane but Katie, Ethan's birthmother. The woman who later appears to be Alistair's wife and who introduces herself as Jane Russell is indeed who she says she is.
Who's Katie -- aka Julianne Moore's character?
David, who had a one night stand with Katie and apparently a long discussion about who she is, reveals Katie's true identity as Ethan's birthmother. He says that Katie and Alistair Russell were in a relationship before Katie left eight months into her pregnancy. Alistair spent two years tracking her down, finally finding her in a meth commune in Oregon. He took Ethan, while she went to prison. Alistair married Jane and the Russells hid from Katie for years, until she found them in Boston, despite Alistair paying her to stay away. Katie tracks them down after their swift move to New York, appearing inside their apartment several times until she's murdered.
What's David's criminal record?
Anna ventures into David's basement room to ask him if he ever met Jane after working for Alistair. She discovers letters from the Boston parole board. He owns up, saying he's "in violation," supposed to be in Springfield, Massachusetts, because of a bar fight. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and merely "reacted." He then punches the wall, illustrating his point. When Anna calls David out for having Jane's earring, David tells the police the truth, that the earring belongs to Katherine, aka Katie, a woman who stayed with him one night.
Why did Ethan kill David?
On Wednesday, the day after Anna meets "Jane," Anna hears a scream and shouting from the Russells. She sees "Jane," aka Katie, leave (after Katie had presumably frightened the real Jane and fought with the Russells), then goes downstairs to ask David whether he heard the commotion. In the background, she can hear a woman crying. Little does she know, it's Katie, staying with David with nowhere else to go. In Ethan's own words, he killed David because "he deserved it. He slept with my mom and got her all pissed off. And then threw her out. She might have just gone away if he'd left her alone. Then maybe none of this would have happened."
Who killed 'Jane Russell' aka Katie?
On Thursday, Anna sees Katie inside the Russells' apartment and quietly roots for her in what appears to be an argument with Alistair. Moments later, a knife is sticking out of Katie's stomach. We don't see who put it there, but Anna assumes it's Alistair. We later find out it was really Ethan. After Ethan murders David, he informs Anna that he had been secretly letting himself into her townhouse and that he was the one who took the creepy photo of her sleeping.
Anna deduces that Ethan killed his mother. He implies it was because Katie failed at her job of taking care of her family. He knows what happened to Anna's family, saying that she too failed at her one job. He reveals that he enjoys watching people die (he's 15 years old, in case you forgot) and that he killed Pam. He says he would have enjoyed watching Anna commit suicide.
After Ethan dies by falling through the skylight, Detective Little reveals the Russells are in custody and Katherine Melli's body was discovered in Fort Lee. Great timing. It isn't clear just how much the Russells covered for Katie's death, but given they wanted her out of their lives, it's possible they helped dispose of the body. It's likely they helped cover for Pam's death too.
New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More