‘The Strangers’: Inside That Unforgettably Bonkers, Coyote-Filled Ending


By the end of The Stranger, Maika Monroe’s terrified protagonist, rideshare driver Clare, has really suffered. She’s been stalked by a menacing misogynist, Carl E., played by Dane DeHaan. She’s run away from coyotes underground, in Los Angeles’s abandoned subway system. She’s holed up in a gross hotel with a guy she just met at the 7-Eleven—the only person who would believe her story. And through it all, she’s also had to worry about her poor, tiny dog, Pebbles.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead.)

In the end, when it came time to write Clare and Carl’s epic showdown at the end of her horror film about toxic masculinity, creator Veena Sud wanted her female viewers to walk away with one final thought: “We win.”

“I mean, I love Thelma & Louise,” Sud told The Daily Beast’s Obsessed during a recent interview. “But no more us dying. No more going over a cliff. No more. We get to fucking win.”

The Stranger initially premiered in 2020 as a Quibi series, and Sud has since re-cut it as a feature film for Hulu. The ending of this new cut is as unforgettably kooky as the original: After a long night of running and hiding from Carl, who seems to sniff her out of every corner, Clare seems to give up hope. She hands her precious pooch over to a shelter for adoption before making her way to the bridge over the Los Angeles River.

A photo including a still from the film The Stranger

A still from the film The Stranger


It seems like Clare is about to hang herself with Pebbles’ leash when she gets one final call from her tormentor, who lets her know that on top of ruining her life and (he predicts) driving her to suicidality, he’s also adopted her dog from the shelter and plans to kill the pup as one final slap in the face. The reveal is so evil (and, if we’re being honest, absurd—how did he know which shelter Pebbles was at, exactly?) that viewers might fail to notice where, exactly, he’s driving.

All of a sudden, however, Carl’s location crystallizes when Clare throws Pebbles’ leash down to the pavement below, striking his windshield as he spins out. It turns out, she knew he would take her dog, and she’s tracked him the same way he used Pebbles to follow her every move—through the dog’s microchip. (As both a dog owner and a pedant, I must point out that this would be impossible; contrary to popular misconception, microchips are not geolocation devices. Instead, they store owner information so that if the dog is ever recovered, a vet can scan the chip and contact the owner. But anyway, this is a movie, and the reveal is so hilarious that we must allow it.)

‘The Stranger’ Director Talks Reviving Her Quibi Show as a Film

After her long night of torture at the hands of a tech-savvy incel, Sud wanted viewers to get the sense that Clare—their on-screen avatar—had decided, as the writer-director put it, “Absolutely fucking not.” Hence, the epic fake-out.

Somehow, that’s not even the wildest part of this rollercoaster finale. After successfully crashing Carl’s car from above, Clare saunters down to the dried-up river below to finish him off. She takes his gun, but even after everything he’s put her through, she can’t bring herself to shoot him. Carl can’t seem to decide what to do; he alternates between taunting her and trying to Jedi mind-trick her into changing her mind.

“He thinks he can kind of talk her out of hurting him, or humiliate her enough,” Sud said. “Or do that male entitlement, like, ‘Come on, help me up.’ You know, like, command her… He’s realizing that he’s lost, and he’s scared.”

In the end, Clare can’t bring herself to fire on Carl.—an understandable reluctance, as far as Sud is concerned. Most of us couldn’t actually bring ourselves to kill someone, she said, even with such strong motivation. “But even if she decided not to do that, she had another card that she was going to play.”

It turns out that Clare somehow found the time to teach Pebbles a new command—“kill.” Carl laughs at first when the dog lets out her ridiculous little howl, but before long, he realizes that the noise is not the end goal. When he looks up, he realizes that Pebbles’ cry has summoned the roving wolf pack from earlier. They approach menacingly, and for the first time, Carl seems genuinely scared. Fin. (… ?!)

To Sud, this ending is all about comeuppance. “It's very hard to kill a person in their face,” Sud said. “He was right about that; very few of us can do it. But she was gonna get rid of him. She’s gonna teach you this lesson and get him off the face of the Earth with her trusty dog.”

A Rideshare Driver and Her Tiny Dog Battle a Stalker in ‘The Stranger’

As a New Yorker, I will admit that I was mostly hung up on the seemingly ubiquitous coyotes. Do wild canines really just hang out in L.A. like that, I wondered?

“You see coyotes on the street a lot,” Sud said. “We’re on the verge of so much wilderness. Where I used to live up in the mountains—you know, northern L.A—I had a bear. There was a bear around that would raid people’s garbage and swim in people's pools.”

Beyond Sud’s own experience with wildlife in the city, the coyote idea ultimately came from a local urban myth that crocodiles and alligators live in the sewers. “There’s a world underneath L.A. that’s pretty intense,” she said.

In other words, Carl might have access to the internet’s putrid underbelly, but in the end, Clare proved that the perils of the digital world are no match for the predators that exist IRL.

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