The sequel to Knives Out is about detective Benoit Blanc tagging along to a rich billionaire’s murder mystery party on a private Grecian island. This game quickly turns quite deadly as murder breaks out. Benoit and a surprise companion must snoop around this Elon Musk/Mark Zuckerberg-inspired estate to find the real culprit.
The first Knives Out was a deconstruction of the rich, specifically the Thrombey family, as they turned on their father’s nurse after she inherited the family fortune. Their vastly differing political affiliations didn’t matter to them as much as preserving their status and, most importantly, their wealth.
The sequel is more about how the wealthy use their privilege to bully people into compliance and construct alternate realities that delude them into thinking they are superior in every way. The only way to stop people like that, Glass Onion seems to imply, is to tear their world down or to stay out of f@cking way of the people who will.
The idiocy of the rich
I am not going to dive into who the murderer(s) and victim(s) are because it's unnecessary for the point of this article. Rather what I want to focus on is how billionaire Miles Bron is, in the words of detective Benoit Blanc, an idiot. A running gag throughout the film is that he says things the wrong way and goes on nonsensical tirades. There is a minor plot point where Miles Bron’s friends spend minutes of screen time solving a puzzle box he has commissioned, tasks Benoit Blanc later classifies as children’s puzzles, only for one no-nonsense character to solve the problem in several seconds by smashing the box with a hammer.
Miles Bron is not nearly as intelligent as he thinks he is, but because he has so much wealth, everyone puts up with him. All of his “friends” are positioned as having a motive to literally kill him, and the only reason they never challenge his many, many insanities directly is that he is financially supporting them. Multiple characters refer to Bron as a “golden teat.”
Bron appears to make his wealth, not due to any outward brilliance, but because he uses the money and influence he already has to bully and coerce others. He pushes his cofounder out of the company she came up with (something reminiscent of the story of Elon Musk overshadowing Tesla’s real founders, Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning) and uses his parasitic ties to get people to perjure themselves in court to cover it up.
The text makes it clear that there is no way to really fight a person like this through the avenues of the law because he has manipulated the system to give him an unfair advantage. He has literally bought off a Senator to put into production a dangerous fuel source that will make every house that uses it into a potential Hindenburg explosion. As Blanc describes of someone's hesitancy to approach Miles through public channels: “Miles’s machine of lawyers and power could burn her through sheer dumb force.”
The solution that Glass Onion proposes is to walk away. “…this is where my jurisdiction ends,” Benoit Blanc tells a character who Miles has just denied justice. “I have to answer to the police, to the courts. The system. There is nothing I can do but maybe offer you courage.” Blanc then hands her a drink and leaves her in the room so that she can seek whatever justice she wishes to take.
Mile's entourage of grifters also perceives themselves as spectators to this character's rage. They find the ensuing violence she commits initially cathartic, but as the destruction increases, they are horrified, too invested in Miles Bron’s “golden teat” to see it destroyed. They are performative onlookers, pretending like they are cheering on from the sidelines when really they will try to preserve their meal ticket. It’s only after Miles Bron’s reputation has no chance of recovery that they turn on him, on to the next golden teat.
It's Blanc who is the only one to truly walk away, and more than that, before leaving, he hands this character a chunk of Miles Bron’s dangerous new fuel source, “Klear,” so that she can use it to blow up his hideaway pad, the so-named Glass Onion. Since Miles Bron has controversially placed the real Mona Lisa (on loan from the French government) in that building, the scandal will allegedly ruin him. “Your fuel of the future just barbecued the world’s most famous painting, dumbass,” she mocks gleefully.
And it wouldn't have happened if this character hadn't worked outside the system and broke shit. We so often have stories highlighting the need to work within the system to create positive social change. Texts like Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Panther plead for revolutionary figures to do things “the right way.” Glass Onion makes no illusions that this mindset works. There are two correct positions: you either get messy, or you stay the f@ck out of the way of the people who will.
The glory of breaking shit
There is something cathartic in watching Blanc passively witness the violence of the Glass Onion from the sidelines. In the end, he realized his limitations — his inability to hold people like Bron accountable — and he got out of the way of the person willing to do the dirty, violent, necessary work of toppling an unjust person’s power.
The Brons of the world may not be able to be defeated in courts, but they are vulnerable. Billionaires are flesh and blood like everyone else, and sometimes we lose sight of the fact that they are not invincible demigods. Oftentimes, they are idiots, so used to never being challenged that they leave themselves open in ways that they shouldn’t.
The moment you stop playing by their rules, Glass Onion suggests, then their whole house of cards (or, in this case, glass) comes crashing down.
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