When Denzel Washington first signed on to star in 2014’s The Equalizer, fans had no idea that this would be the franchise which would cause the Academy Award-winner to finally abandon his “no sequels” rule. The film was a massive success with critics and audiences alike, and has now resulted in a pair of fan-favorite sequels, proving that the ultra-violent yet reluctant vigilante killer Robert McCall is as compelling a character as any other Denzel performance. Now that the trilogy has concluded with an explosive finale, it feels like as good a time as any to examine the final moments of The Equalizer 3, and unpack the implications that the bloody ending have on the entire series.

As always, please bear in mind that there will be heavy spoilers for all three of the Equalizer films ahead. If necessary, be sure to bookmark this page and return after watching through the full trilogy, especially if you need some assistance unpacking and working through the chaotic conclusion. Without any further preamble, let’s dive into The Equalizer franchise, and explain and unpack the final moments of the third film.

How It All Began

Before Denzel Washington was taking down high-ranking members of the mafia in Southern Italy in The Equalizer 3, the revered thespian first appeared as retired USMC officer Robert McCall in the 2014 reboot of the 1980s television series The Equalizer. Since retirement, McCall has chosen to live out a quiet and reserved life, working at a home improvement store in the greater Boston area. Robert befriends a young sex worker after spending several sleepless nights reading in a local diner due to insomnia, only to learn shortly thereafter that she has been beaten nearly to death by her pimp, Slavi. In a fit of rage, Robert kills Slavi and several of his gangster peers, sparking a larger conflict with a syndicate of Russian mobsters with ties to corrupt cops all around the city.

Before long, Robert finds himself slaughtering droves of gang members and crooked cops, mostly using improvised weapons in stunning action set-pieces. Eventually, Robert eliminates the syndicate from the top down, exposes the corruption of officials who aided in the cover-up, and frees the sex worker from her life of servitude, secretly offering her enough money to start a new life. In the final moments of the first film, Robert’s lust for justice motivates him to commit to his identity as the Equalizer, as he posts ads for his services on the internet.

The Series So Far…

The Equalizer 2 continued to ratchet up the tension in Robert McCall’s life, as the character embarks upon a number of quests to assist the less fortunate with the power of cunning and violence. While working alongside his former colleague Susan Plummer, Robert goes on a number of unauthorized missions overseas, which include saving a kidnapped child in Turkey, and solving an alleged murder-suicide in Belgium. Susan is killed by Robert’s former partner, Dave, who has become a mercenary for hire in the time since Robert last worked with him. Using his superior powers of perception and deduction, Robert discovers his former partner’s crimes, and threatens to kill him and all of the men on his payroll to avenge Susan.

In one particularly memorable scene, McCall casually explains to Dave and his hired guns, “I’m gonna kill each and every one of you, and the only disappointment in it for me is that I only get to do it once.” Needless to say, Robert makes true on this promise by the end of The Equalizer 2, and systematically takes out each of the men through a series of intense action set-pieces. These set-pieces include a fight behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, a chase through the misty streets of a seaside town during a hurricane, and a grenade fight that ends with an entire local bakery going up in flames.

Interestingly, Robert changes his style in this film, opting to near-exclusively kill the mercenaries with their own weapons instead of continuing to improvise weapons out of tools and hardware. This is partially due to the change in setting from the first film, but also displays Robert sliding back into his military ways, by engaging with progressively deadlier arms. It also represents a bit of poetic justice that the mercenaries responsible for wronging Robert were taken out by weapons of their own choosing.

What Happens In The Equalizer 3?

Like the previous 2 entries in the franchise, The Equalizer 3 was directed by legendary action filmmaker Antoine Fuqua. The film continues to up the score for Robert McCall, as he travels across the world to recover a large sum of money from a Sicilian mob. Unlike the previous two films, Robert seemingly throws himself full-force into this conflict without giving the audience advanced reasoning as to why he’s there, bringing an element of mystery and suspense to the most recent installment. After brutally murdering a number of gang members and uncovering their hidden stash of stolen wealth, McCall phones a CIA officer named Emma Collins to give her an inside tip regarding the drug trade, which mobsters are using to fund greater illicit activity.

At first, it seems as though Robert plans to retire peacefully from his vigilante work, until members of the mafia begin to overrun the small village where Robert is staying, harassing civilians and firebombing local businesses. Robert warns the gang not to set up shop here, before ultimately entering into a killing spree, dispatching the gangsters with increasingly gruesome displays of violence. It quickly becomes clear in The Equalizer 3 that Robert has moved on from the days of killing his enemies as quick and painlessly as possible, as he proceeds to lace his foes with multiple gun shot and stab wounds before delivering the killing blow.

How Does The Trilogy End?

As always, Robert works his way to the top of the mobster food chain, murdering his way through droves of bad guys before offering a particularly torturous death to the head mob boss. All the while, Robert anonymously alerts Agent Collins of the situation, allowing the CIA to swoop in and prevent rival gangs from filling a power vacuum. In the final moments of The Equalizer 3, Robert ties up the head mob boss and feeds force-feeds him a lethal dose of his own drugs, before cutting him loose and letting him spend his final moments crawling through the streets of Italy begging for his life. The sequence is exceptionally brutal, and shows that Robert, while being a morally upstanding character, is capable of enforcing a level of violence that is absolutely nauseating.

In the end, Robert’s true motivations are revealed, as we learn that the money used by the mob to fund their international drug operation was stolen from a number of pension funds, including those that belong to some of McCall’s elderly neighbors back in Boston. While briefly serving as a Lyft driver between the events of the first two films, Robert had discussed the details of the pension theft with the couple, and vowed to return their money as soon as he could. With the elderly couple’s pension back in their bank account, the CIA manage to wipe out gang violence in the south of Italy, headed by Agent Collins, who is revealed to be the adult daughter of McCall’s former colleague Susan.

What Happens To Robert McCall After The Equalizer 3?

Surprisingly, Robert survives the bloody events of the Equalizer trilogy, and seems to officially retire from the vigilante business for good. It seems clear that the escalation of violence over the course of the past several years hasn’t taken much of a toll on his mental health, though McCall recognizes that his role as the Equalizer is not a sustainable life path. Over the course of all three films, there is a running theme which suggests people will find their harmony and end up where they belong. For evildoers, flagrant murderers, and other purveyors of destruction, this means standing on the other side of the barrel from Robert McCall. For McCall himself, it seems to mean settling down in a small Italian village, and enjoying his retirement among the welcoming villagers.

The Equalizer 3 was originally conceived to be a conclusion for the character, with no current plans in place to produce an Equalizer 4. Still, franchise director Antoine Fuqua has not completely ruled out the possibility of doing more films in the series, especially if Denzel is still on board. While sitting down with Gamesradar, Fuqua explained “Denzel’s in shape. He’s training every day. If you saw him now, it would blow your mind. He’s like 60 pounds lighter, even from The Equalizer… Obviously, if he wanted to do another one, I would as well, but I don’t see it. But who knows?” As of this writing, The Equalizer 3 closes the chapter on the franchise, though Fuqua and Washington will almost certainly continue to make films together.

Fuqua previously worked with Denzel Washington on films such as Training Day and The Magnificent 7. The filmmaker is also listed as a director on an untitled Denzel Washington project according to his IMDb, meaning a new genre-defining classic from the pair may be in theaters in the next year or so.