Hulu’s The Stranger Ending Explained: How It Turns The Tables And Delivers A Thrilling Conclusion

 Maika Monroe in The Stranger on Hulu.
Maika Monroe in The Stranger on Hulu.

The Stranger is a Hulu hit. However, it technically isn’t an original for the popular streaming service. Quibi birthed it. For those who have long forgotten the legend of Quibi, it was a streaming service that encouraged subscribers to watch bite-size episodes on mobile devices. It was an innovative concept that ultimately had too many issues to survive; launching and shutting down in 2020. Despite its flaws, the streamer had many positive aspects, including allowing creators to own their work - an often foreign concept in the entertainment business. This Quibi policy is why a new audience can enjoy The Stranger ending.

Based on the trailer, you may expect The Stranger to be another rideshare thriller, similar to Ride and Spree. However, the movie quickly diverges from that concept. Instead, it turns into an interesting cat-and-mouse thriller that tackles socially relevant issues, such as police brutality, the #MeToo Movement, and toxic masculinity. Exploring toxic masculinity and the #MeToo Movement helps the success of The Stranger ending. The end makes the film worth the ride.

Warning: The Stranger spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution. 

Maika Monroe in The Stranger
Maika Monroe in The Stranger

What Happened At The End Of The Stranger?

Carl E. (Dane DeHaan) drugs and leaves a tied-up JJ (Avan Jogia) in a closed bathroom stall. Then he rigs a machine to explode and create bullet holes. The police react on impulse and shoot the stall. Clare (Maika Monroe) realizes Carl’s plan but she’s too late to stop JJ’s murder. She then leaves the police station seemingly giving up on defeating Carl.

She gives Pebbles, her dog, to a shelter. We then see her climbing an abandoned bridge or viaduct in an extremely isolated LA area. She has Pebbles’ leash in her hand. It appears that Clare will become the statistic that Carl predicted and die by suicide. He calls to taunt her. Carl E. also reveals that he obtained Pebbles from the shelter.

As he drives on to celebrate his victory, Clare throws the leash at his car window. This makes him lose control and crash. He hurts his leg to the point where he can hardly move. Clare reveals that she tracked him using Pebbles’ chip, just like he did to track her. This was all an orchestrated revenge plan.

Carl continues to taunt her even with a gun pointed at him. He demands her help. Clare commands Pebbles to kill and she gives a pretty pathetic growl, which makes Carl laugh.

Instead of shooting him, Clare picks up her dog and walks away. Then a bunch of coyotes appear because of Pebbles’ call. Carl tries to get his phone but ends up just recording his death as the coyotes descend on him. Clare and Pebbles safely leave as they hear Carl’s screams.

Maika Monroe in The Stranger on Hulu
Maika Monroe in The Stranger on Hulu

How Clare Gets Revenge

Clare learns and enacts several of Carl’s tricks before causing his death. She manipulates him by playing on his belief in the algorithm behind a person’s fate. He thinks he can break her so much that she’ll decide to die instead of live. He also knows her undying love and devotion to Pebbles. Therefore, he jumps on the opportunity to grab the dog as one final act of trauma to inflict on Clare. Carl’s brand of evil becomes so predictable that Clare preys on it.

She knows how to exploit his ego, arrogance, sense of superiority, and psychotic nature to use his tricks on him. Clare also becomes a true predator by carefully making this plan. She finds out how to call the coyotes using Pebbles, teaches Pebbles the call, and remembers the coyotes' location.

This careful planning allows Clare to have a revenge movie-style victory. The Stranger ending delivers an entertaining twist and power shift that makes the film thrilling. Instead of becoming another film where the villain wins, it becomes an epic display of female empowerment.

Dane DeHaan in The Stranger
Dane DeHaan in The Stranger

Why Carl E’s Death Represents A Win For Women

The Stranger creator, Veena Sud, creates an irredeemable villain. Dane DeHaan brings this demonic man to life in another impressive performance. Unlike some of his other villain characters, he didn’t see the good in Carl E. In an interview with Flickering Myth, DeHaan talked about Carl E being a man who did bad things because he is just a plain and simple bad dude. The character represents a collective of people, especially men, who revel in hurting others, especially women. Clare has faced a lot of trauma in her life.

You learn that she was sexually assaulted, harassed, and stalked by her teacher. Then no one believed her when she tried to report him. All during the film, she’s terrorized by Carl. He even kills one of the few people she cares about. Clare is an innocent victim who finally gets some justice.

Seeing her kill this very evil man is a cathartic moment. It has shades of Game of Thrones (if you know you know) and a true victory to abuse survivors. Sud intended this with The Stranger ending, which she explains during an Entertainment Weekly interview:

The overarching desire [for me], of playing in this genre of damsel in distress that's been done a million times before, was to tell a hero story for a young woman. This is a revenge story. This is a story about a woman on the run, who decides to turn and face her attacker and beat the fucking shit out of him. It's an homage to #MeToo, and to every woman who's turned and faced the bad guy.

The Stranger ending delivers, because you can’t help but feel triumph after Clare allows the coyotes to kill Carl. It’s a victory for her but a symbolic victory for victims. The bad guy loses in this one.

Avan Jogia and Maika Monroe in The Stranger
Avan Jogia and Maika Monroe in The Stranger

The Pros And Cons Of Technology In The Stranger And How It Helps Clare In The End

Technology plays a major role in The Stranger. The film shows many drawbacks of technology, especially in how it can make people vulnerable to predators. Carl E. has a really important line about opening your doors to monsters when you share too much on social media. The surveillance nature and oversharing of technology become a major part of how Carl stalks his victims.

Despite the problems with tech, this isn’t a "fear technology" movie. It’s more of a cautionary tale on what could happen when you grant too much access to your life online. However, the film doesn’t completely depict technology as an evil entity. Without it, Clare doesn’t get her revenge on Carl. Pebbles’ chip allows her to turn Carl into the prey and her into the hunter.

This aspect of The Stranger ending shows the importance of using technology wisely. While talking about his own relationship with social media and technology, DeHaan echoes this sentiment in his Flickering Myth interview:

But like anything with technology it’s the responsibility of the user to use it in the correct way, while it is certainly easy for a person to take control and use it for the wrong reasons.

Carl represents the dangerous elements of technology and social media, while Clare showcases some of the crucial ways it helps. It doesn’t just allow her to get revenge but offers a way to connect. We see her looking at JJ’s old contact information. This symbolizes her grief over his death but also her having his number and contact in her phone as a way to honor him.

The Stranger is the best movie to watch on Hulu right now. It’s a great psychological thriller that gives a very satisfying conclusion.

Stream The Stranger on Hulu.