Editor’s Note: The following contains Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery spoilers.
Rian Johnson loves to play with the conventions of a mystery, as shown in Knives Out and its sequel Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Instead of the traditional “whodunnit” structure, both Knives Out and Glass Onion double in on themselves to reveal a story within a story and turn where the audience least expects it. Glass Onion takes this a step further, outright hinting at the conclusion to its central mystery in its opening sequence.
Glass Onion is set in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and kicks off when billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) invites his fellow “Disruptors” – the friends he’s made along the path to success – to a getaway on his private Greek island. Among the invited is renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). The only problem is Bron never sent Blanc an invitation. Blanc soon deduces that many of the invited have a genuine reason to wish Bron harm, and soon he’s swept up into another mystery.
Everything About ‘Glass Onion’s Disruptors Is Revealed via Puzzle Boxes
In Glass Onion, Miles’ crew of Disruptors are a rather eclectic bunch. Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn) is an ambitious politician. Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) is a high-ranking and brilliant scientist at Miles’ company Alpha. Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) is a fashion designer/supermodel who just can’t seem to stay out of the limelight – for better or worse (mostly worse!) And Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) is a popular streamer who’s the poster child for nearly everything wrong about the internet.
More about their personalities are revealed via the way they handle opening Miles’ box. Lionel is the sole person who actually grasps the puzzles, solving them with ease. Duke’s mother is able to figure out the puzzles, much to his annoyance. Claire shrugs off attempts from her husband to help. And Birdie is fairly clueless, leaving her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) to figure it out. This dynamic continues when they get to Miles’ island and the real reason behind their connection is revealed. Both Lionel and Claire staked their reputations as well as their careers on Miles’ new energy source Klear – which has literally explosive side effects. Duke is dependent on Miles for his success as an influencer, even as Miles puts the moves on his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline). And Birdie took a step too far when she invested in sweatshop labor to make her line of sweatpants – which puts Peg in jeopardy as well.
Miles Isn’t the Genius He Claims To Be in ‘Glass Onion’
But the puzzles also reveal a damning truth about Miles’ so-called “genius”: that he’s not really much of a genius. Blanc even dismisses them as child’s fare! But there’s more to it than that – Miles reveals that he hired Phillip Glass to compose the hourly “dong” that goes off around his island and enlisted Gillian Flynn to write the murder mystery for his guests to solve. In short, he has no ideas of his own.
It goes even further than that: when Miles’s buisness partner Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe) objected to the use of Klear and tried to walk, Miles had her discredited and enlisted the help of the Disruptors in the process. But when Andi found proof that she, and not Miles, was the true reason behind Miles’ success, he poisoned her and took the napkin containing her original sketch for Alpha. Yet he never thought to destroy the incriminating piece of evidence until Lionel points it out. As Blanc so simply puts it, “Miles Bron is an idiot.”
Sometimes, the Answer Is (Stupidly) Simple
In fact, it’s the simplicity of the case that trips up Blanc. The detective is used to solving more intricate and well-thought out cases that Miles’ stupidity serves as a roadblock. And once again, Johnson foreshadows this in a clever (and rather hilarious) way. Blanc has spent most of his time in lockdown playing Among Us in the bathtub and his friends – which include the late, great Angela Lansbury and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – point out that he’s terrible at it. Unlike Miles and the Disruptors, Blanc has people who will tell him the truth, and he’s an actual genius!
Blanc also has help in the form of Andi’s sister Helen (also played by Monae). Helen’s approach to things is simple, yet effective. She manages to pose as Andi while on the island and thanks to a couple of hastily downed bottles of hard kombucha, unravels the truth behind the Disruptors’ connection to Miles. She also brings Miles’ empire toppling down by tossing a Klear sample into his fireplace – literally sending the Glass Onion into flames.
But once again, it all goes back to the beginning. Helen is shown staring at the puzzle box intended for her sister, rage slowly brewing in her eyes. Finally, she walks off-screen…and comes back with a hammer, breaking the box into pieces. It goes to show that sometimes the simple approach is best.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is currently available to stream on Netflix.