Netflix’s Things Heard And Seen Ending Explained- Emmanuel Swedenborg, What Happened To George, And The Ring
The quietly feminist ghost story Things Heard And Seen is a more meditative version of Promising Young Woman. In Promises, Cassandra gets her revenge on unsuspecting douche bags before she finally loses herself in the madness and danger. While in Netflix’s latest, revenge only comes in the form of justice in the afterlife. Gorgeous to look at, frustrating to watch, and occasionally too heavy-handed Things Heard And Seen is the past sending messages to the present. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse depending on who’s listening.
Unlike Kevin Bacon’s You Should Have Left, it isn’t the house that is the danger but those who live there. Specifically toxic men who believe they are entitled to everything they have and everything they want. Based on the novel of the same name by Elizabeth Brundage, this is the story of Catherine and George and their daughter Franny who have moved to upstate rural New York. George has taken a teaching position at a small private college. Once the family relocates and moves into an old farmhouse desperately needing repairs, strange things begin happening. Weird toys light up, shimmery reflections appear for no reason, and radios play ominous messages even when unplugged. As creepy as those things are, the relationship between George and Catherine is even scarier.
He is that special breed of man who thinks privilege should only extend one way, his. George is a first-rate gaslighter and, as it turns our an accomplished liar. He dragged his family out to the isolated but pretty little town because he had a perfect picture in his head of what his life should be. A pretty trophy wife who must stay young and thin, an adorable child or two, a renovated massive farmhouse, a successful teaching career providing him with an endless supply of nubile young women, and his great American novel. The problem is, he isn’t much of a teacher or writer, and the rest he intends on manufacturing one way or another.
When he gets caught in a lie, he begins a downward spiral of violence that ends in tragedy. Even though Catherine isn’t able to escape from the end of an ax, she can seek retribution from the grave. Here’s everything you need to know about the film.
Who is Emmanuel Swedenborg?
Emmanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish theologian who was deeply spiritual. He believed Good always triumphed over Evil. If you were a good person who actively sought to put positivity into the world, you would go to Heaven and be an Angel. If you were vile in the physical world, you went to Hell to be a demon. He theorized bad people were happiest in Hell, and thus they went there. The book Heaven And Hell, which plays a prominent role in the movie, is his accounting of a near-death experience he said he had. He claimed he was allowed to leave the physical world and enter the spiritual one to tell everyone what it was like.
Between the two worlds, he said there was a space he referred to as the world of spirits where people remained until they were sorted into their respective afterlives. In his view of life after death, no judge declares where a person goes. They are simply drawn to the place and people that are most like them. Good is drawn to good, and bad is drawn to bad. In this way, Catherine is drawn to the women who died before her in the house, while George hears the voices of the men who killed their wives in the past.
Was the house haunted?
Yes, the house was haunted by both the spirits of the women killed and the men who killed them. The women tried desperately to communicate with Catherine to change her fate while the men whispered to George, who was already very receptive. The haunting isn’t the sort of classic poltergeist activity, nor is it of the Beetlejuice variety but more a tune to a cosmic war between right and wrong. Even though some of the activity was scary, particularly to Catherine and Frannie early on, the ghosts were actually trying to help her, not hurt her.
The ghosts are not confined to the Clares either. When George’s colleague and Catherine’s friend Floyd DeBeers performs a seance in the home, they all witness apparitions confirming she wasn’t “crazy,” as George intimated. This was just one of many times he blamed her behavior on female hysterics. In her case, he blamed it on her refusal to eat. It didn’t matter that at every turn, he instilled in her a belief that only super-thin women who ate like birds were of any value.
The Ending of Things Heard And Seen
The ending of Things Heard And Seen is about good triumphing over evil even when that victory comes too late in life. It’s about the burden women had to bear in the past, and some women still do. In the final act, George is confronted by Floyd Debeers, who knows he forged his reference letter. Although he cares about him, DeBeers tells him this is a legal matter, and George would have to answer for it. Instead of taking his punishment, he tosses the older man into the lake and drowns him. He returns to shore and changes clothes in the kitchen, which is why Catherine finds him naked.
That was not the first murder for George. He next tried to run Catherine’s friend and fellow professor Justine because she knew he had been cheating on Catherine with Willis, and she caught him returning home from Floyd’s murder. Fortunately for everyone, he did not kill her, just put her in a coma. She woke up at the very end after being visited by Ella and a newly dead Catherine. Justine left a message for George that she knew everything. She knows about his affair and the murders, including Catherines.
By the time Catherine finds her husband wet and naked in the kitchen, she knows he is a monster and plans to escape with Franny. Before she can leave though he drugs her and then takes an ax to her body. As she is stumbling through the house, the ghost of Ella Vayle tells her she can not save her, but she can take the pain away. Ella had been trying to communicate with her all along, but her husband, who was also a ghost in the house, prohibited her. The next day he makes an effort to establish an alibi with a babysitter and then reports her murder after a full day’s work.
The first time George killed someone was his cousin, who died of a mysterious drowning with George present. It was never confirmed George killed him, but it is all but fact judging by his actions later. This is why he was so susceptible to the evil forces in the house. George wanted his cousin’s life, and so he killed him and took it. He came into the house as a horrible person and became even more monstrous.
What happened To George?
After receiving Justine’s message, he knows he will be caught, so he takes the ironically named Lost Horizon out to sea, where a storm is brewing. As Swedenborg’s words and the words from the seance echo around him, the final shot of George is surrounded in a hellscape of inverted crosses and swirling darkness. This same picture is the one that he sees over and over in his classroom earlier that day. The implication is that he dies at sea and goes to Hell. Justine, with the help of Catherine and Ella, can get justice. Reverend Smit started the cycle of violence, and hopefully, with Justine’s revelation, they can stop it.
George is a toxic man who treats women like objects and nothing more. He constantly belittles Catherine, sleeps around with young women, and hates her friend Justine who challenges him. George is not a complicated man, but a coward who thinks women should do his bidding and then go away. He deserved to have a group of women take him down.
What as the importance of the ring?
The ring was the tie that bound all of the women who died together. It is passed from woman to woman linking them together. Catherine finds it in the house shortly after moving in and begins wearing it. It is later seen in photos of Reverend Smit on his wife’s fingers. It is a physical reminder of the violence that the men perpetrated on the women.
Justice isn’t always swift, but it is often sweet. George may have been able to kill several people before he was stopped, but eventually, everything caught up to him. Ella and Catherine’s unison voices close the film. “Because of you, we are joined in spirit. Because of you, our powers grow. From tiny drops to an endless sea.” World of warning those who seek to harm, the pain only makes the us stronger, and karma can be a bitch.
Things Heard And Seen is on Netflix right now.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.