The Gray Man ending explained on Netflix (2023)

The Gray Man's ending has given fans plenty to talk about as we wait for the already-confirmed sequel to arrive on Netflix.

A big future is planned for the Russo brothers' new spy franchise as there's also a spin-off movie on the way, following the huge success of the first movie which debuted at number one in 92 countries.

The first movie certainly paved the way for Court Gentry, aka Sierra Six, to return in the future, as well as opening up several storylines to follow in future movies.

While the movie itself wraps up neatly, there are plenty of mysteries left unanswered and chief among them is just who exactly is the "old man" that CIA Group Chief Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) is so worried about.

Major spoilers are ahead as we delve into The Gray Man to uncover just why Six is being hunted down, who the "old man" could be and speculate about what the future might hold for the series.

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In The Gray Man's opening mission, Six discovers that he was sent by the CIA to kill another member of the Sierra programme, Four (Callan Mulvey). Before he dies, Four hands Six a necklace which contains a data card with evidence that Carmichael is dodgy.

Before he goes on the run, Six sends the encrypted card to former bureau chief Margaret Cahill (Alfre Woodard). He visits her later and she reveals that it shows that Carmichael is "using the agency as his own personal hit squad". This includes the unauthorised use of Hansen, who is friends with Carmichael as they went to Harvard together.

She calls what Carmichael is doing as "shadow government stuff" above his pay grade which means he has at least one higher-up "covering his tracks". "Somebody very powerful is pulling the strings," Cahill adds.

Four was attempting to sell the evidence to the higher bidder, only for Carmichael to find out and send Six after him. When he finds out that Six has the evidence, he sends Hansen after him to retrieve the card which can't be copied as it's a "dead disc", meaning it'll encrypt the encryption.

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Rather than just go to the media, Six first has to rescue his handler Donald Fitzroy's (Billy Bob Thornton's niece Claire (Julia Butters). She was taken by Hansen as a bargaining chip to get Fitzroy to reveal Six's location, but Hansen didn't know that Six cared for Claire previously so he's obviously a bit annoyed too.

The Gray Man's big finale (following many, many set pieces) sees Six and CIA ally Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) rescue Claire, although Fitzroy sacrifices himself to help Six and Claire escape.

One final showdown between Six and Hansen is ended abruptly when Carmichael's deputy Suzanne Brewer (Jessica Henwick) – who also went to Harvard with him – fatally shoots Hansen and then shoots Six in the leg. She intends to place the whole mess on Hansen's shoulders, clearing both herself and Carmichael of any wrongdoing.

In order to make sure Six complies with the story she's created, she takes Claire back to be looked after by the CIA, while Six goes back to prison – or at least that's what she planned. Brewer's story works with the government and Carmichael destroys the asset, but Six escapes and rescues Claire in the final sequence of the movie.

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While the main story is wrapped up, there are threads left hanging that could be explored in future movies. For one, who is the person protecting Carmichael and backing his rise to power? We never find out in The Gray Man, but in the book, it's Kaz who is the head of Saudi intelligence in Washington, DC.

In the books, Kaz is the one orchestrating everything for his benefit and using Carmichael to that end. In the movie, it's implied that Carmichael is doing it for his own benefit, but the sequel could well retcon it to show he's unintentionally doing even dodgier stuff than we know of.

The other big mystery is who the "old man" is that Carmichael and Brewer are so concerned about finding out they hired Hansen. In an early conversation, Carmichael says that "heads will roll" if he finds out and the consequences are dire: "You know, the last person that pissed off the old man ended up floating in the Potomac."

It's possible that the "old man" and whoever is helping Carmichael are the same person, but it's more likely they're two different people. Potentially the "old man" works in the CIA too, but we never find out in the movie as the only other reference is when Brewer asks Carmichael if he's been in touch after Hansen basically blows up Prague city centre.

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Again, we imagine this will be revisited in the confirmed sequel, along with what other characters have been up to, such as Dhanush's mercenary Avik San. He's on Hansen's side, until he realises in the finale what a wrong'un Hansen is and he decides not to kill Dani when he has the chance.

Dani could also be a hindrance to Carmichael in the sequel or future movies. She's back with the CIA and plays along with Brewer's story to keep Claire safe. Now that Claire is fine though, she could well work to expose Carmichael, Brewer and all their dodgy deeds.

Equally, the likes of Avik San and Dani could be the subject of the already-confirmed spin-off movie. It doesn't mean they couldn't cameo in the sequel, but it might be more like the MCU where they end up being cameo roles.

All of the hanging threads are intentional from the Russo brothers though with an eye to these future Gray Man outings.

"We definitely conceived of a larger narrative universe that this movie is our introduction to. Part of what we like about storytelling is we like the elaborate, long narratives, and we did try to build something out that could be explored further," Anthony Russo told Digital Spy.

"Part of our effort to do that was also just the size of the ensemble. We have a lot of characters in the movie played by many wonderful actors, and our hope would be that the audiences would be interested in following any number of them."

The Gray Man is out now on Netflix.

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Ian Sandwell

Movies Editor, Digital Spy Ian has more than 10 years of movies journalism experience as a writer and editor.

Starting out as an intern at trade bible Screen International, he was promoted to report and analyse UK box-office results, as well as carving his own niche with horror movies, attending genre festivals around the world.

After moving to Digital Spy, initially as a TV writer, he was nominated for New Digital Talent of the Year at the PPA Digital Awards.

He became Movies Editor in 2019, in which role he has interviewed 100s of stars, including Chris Hemsworth, Florence Pugh, Keanu Reeves, Idris Elba and Olivia Colman, become a human encyclopedia for Marvel and appeared as an expert guest on BBC News and on-stage at MCM Comic-Con. Where he can, he continues to push his horror agenda – whether his editor likes it or not.

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