David Fincher’s first serial-killer flick carries a scorpion’s sting at its tail-end — a nihilistic denouement that sees the two heroes shockingly outwitted by the killer. On his instruction, the pair of detectives have escorted their prisoner to the middle of nowhere. One of them guards him, while the other goes to check on a cardboard box that’s just been mysteriously delivered…

* * *


Somerset (Morgan Freeman) stares down at the box, ashen-faced. He looks up at Mills (Brad Pitt), a long way across the plain. His partner holds his gun to the head of John Doe (Kevin Spacey) as he watches Somerset.

Somerset: (on radio to police helicopter) California, stay away from here. Don’t come in here. Whatever you hear, stay away. John Doe has the upper hand.

He starts to run towards Mills, shouting his name. Doe calmly watches his approach.

Doe: Here he comes.
Mills: (yelling at Somerset) What?
Somerset: Throw down your gun!
Doe: (to Mills) I wish I could have lived like you did.
Mills: What the fuck you talking about?
Doe: Do you hear me, detective? I’m trying to tell you how much I admire you… and your pretty wife.

He now has Mills’ undivided attention.

Mills: What? What you fuckin’ say?
Doe: It’s disturbing how easily a member of the press can purchase information from the men in your precinct. I visited your home this morning after you’d left. I tried to play husband. I tried to taste the life of a simple man.

Somerset: (still a way off) Throw down your gun!
Doe: It didn’t work out… so I took a souvenir. Her pretty head.

Somerset arrives on the scene.

Mills: (reeling) What the fuck’s going on?
Somerset: Give me the gun.
Mills: What’s going on over there?
Somerset: Put down the gun!
Mills: What’s in the box? What was in the box?
Doe: Because I envy your normal life…
Somerset: Put the gun down!
Doe:… it seems that envy is my sin.
Mills: (howling at Somerset) What’s in the box? What’s in the fucking box? (Somerset stands in silence)
Doe: He just told you.
Mills: (holding the gun to Doe’s head) You lie! You’re a fucking liar!
Somerset: That’s what he wants. He wants you to shoot him.
Mills: (To Somerset) No… No… You tell me that it’s not true.
Doe: Become vengeance, David.
Mills: You tell me she’s alright. You tell me.
Doe: Become… wrath.
Mills: Tell me she’s alright!
Somerset: If you murder a suspect, David…
Doe: She begged for her life, Detective. She begged for her life… and for the life of the baby inside of her.

Somerset slaps Doe hard. There’s silence as Doe turns his face, smiling, back towards Mills.

Doe: Oh. He didn’t know.
Somerset: If you kill him… he will win.

Mills doubles over. He battles with his emotions but it’s no use; something visibly snaps inside him. Doe closes his eyes, just before Mills unloads his clip into the killer’s head and body.