Why That “E+R” Ending in It Chapter Two Wasn’t Nearly as Shocking as Critics are Saying

If you haven’t seen the thrilling sequel to It Chapter One, which still holds records for the highest opening of a horror movie and the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, then you’re seriously missing out.  Though it’s received some mixed reviews from critics, this nearly three-hour-long film has joined It Chapter One at the top of the charts as the second highest grossing horror movie of all time, and it is absolutely worth a watch. The movie boasts a star-studded cast including James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Jay Ryan, Bill Hader, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa, and Andy Bean. It also sees a reappearance of the original actors of the young Losers— Jaeden Martell, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Chosen Jacobs, and Wyatt Oleff— many of whom have been in recent box office successes themselves.  And of course, both films star the incredible Bill Skarsgård as the murderous clown Pennywise.  

With three hours of footage pulling inspiration from the book, the 1990 miniseries, and original aspects of the first film, there is so much to unpack in It Chapter Two.  However, critics seem to be particularly interested in that scene with Bill Hader’s character Richie Tozier on the kissing bridge.  Warning–there will be spoilers ahead.     

So, if you’ve seen It Chapter Two, you know that one of the last scenes in the film shows Bill Hader’s character Richie Tozier re-carving the initials “R + E” into Derry’s kissing bridge. Richie carved these letters for the first time as a kid secretly pining for his best friend Eddie Kaspbrak, and his return to the kissing bridge is a way to gain closure after Eddie’s death in Chapter Two. While the movie seems to make Richie’s sexuality quite clear to a die-hard fan, many critics have described it as confusing or surprising, and there have been many articles written with titles such as “Richie’s Ending Scene Explained” or “The Secret Meaning Behind E+R.” If you’re one of those fans that totally missed the development of the relationship between Richie and Eddie, don’t worry— I’ve got you covered. Here are all the signs hinting towards this ending since the first movie.

While Richie’s sexuality is much less explicitly referenced in It Chapter One, there are many nods throughout the film to Eddie’s sexuality. I’ll talk about Richie’s solo encounter with Pennywise in It Chapter Two more in a second, but if that scene with the balloons looked a little familiar…

…then good.  It was supposed to.  The first time we see this inverted triangle of balloons is when Eddie sees Pennywise in front of the house on Neibolt Street in the first film.  

Eddie stops in front of the house after dropping his medication and is attacked by an extremely sick man who asks if Eddie thinks the medicine will help him. This scene is a little easier to understand if you’ve read the book, in which Eddie describes the man as a “hobo” and assumes he has leprosy, as his skin seems to be rotting off his body.   Eddie is later corrected by Bill and Richie who tell him that the man must’ve had syphilis. The man in the book also offers to perform sexual favors for Eddie for money. The form that Pennywise takes to scare Eddie is a homeless man dying of an STD, and because It Chapter One is set in 1989 during the AIDS epidemic, his fear of being “infected” by this man has a much deeper meaning. This is further established by the pinkish triangle of balloons depicted in this scene, resembling the Silence = Death poster used by the AIDS activist group ACT UP.    

Source: Wikipedia

Eddie even specifically references his fear of getting AIDS in a panicked conversation with the other Losers after Ben is attacked by Henry Bowers, saying:

“I think it’s great that we’re helping the new kid, but also we need to think of our own safety. I mean, he’s bleeding all over and you guys know that there’s an AIDS epidemic happening right now as we speak, right? My mom’s friend in New York City got it by touching a dirty pole on the subway, and a drop of AIDS blood got into his system through a hangnail. A hangnail! And you can amputate legs and arms. But how do you amputate a waist? You guys do know that alleys are known for dirty needles that have AIDS, right? You guys do know that?”     

Many fans of the first movie have also noticed the comparatively high number of interactions between Richie and Eddie, especially while fighting Pennywise. The two are often clinging to each other or calling out for one another, and Pennywise even lures Richie away from the group in the house on Neibolt by mimicking Eddie calling for him.  

Source: TV Movie Flix

Though most of the references to a relationship between Richie and Eddie are very subtle in It Chapter One, they set the stage perfectly for Chapter Two.

The opening scene of It Chapter Two makes it clear that sexuality and homophobia in Derry will be key themes of the film, showing the brutal murder of Adrian Mellon in front of his lover Don Hagarty at Derry’s town carnival. Though some critics believe this scene feels awkward and disjointed from the rest of the plot, there are echoes of it in the characters of Eddie and Richie throughout the entire film.  

One of the most obvious parallels between Adrian Mellon and Eddie Kaspbrak can be seen right from the start of the film— Adrian has asthma. Eddie’s asthma is a heavily stressed aspect of his character, and he is often seen with his inhaler out while talking about and/or fighting Pennywise. When Adrian pulls out his inhaler during this attack and Don shouts that he has asthma, most viewers immediately connect this scene with a bombardment of images of Eddie with his inhaler in It Chapter One.  

There are other, less obvious references to this scene scattered throughout the film that you might’ve missed the first time around. Adrian makes a joke referencing Meg Ryan to his attackers and Richie is seen standing in front of a Meg Ryan poster after the arcade scene, and both Adrian and Eddie mock their attackers' hairstyles (in Eddie’s case, he jokes about Henry Bowers’s mullet before being stabbed in the face by him).  All of these references only serve to make Eddie’s death more heartbreaking— when Eddie is fatally stabbed by Pennywise directly on top of Richie, we see that Eddie is not the first gay man to die because of the hatred that Pennywise embodies in Derry, and that Richie is not the first gay man to watch helplessly as his lover is taken from him. Both of these deaths are extremely painful to watch, especially because Richie and Eddie never get to admit their feelings for one another in the film. Eddie does tell Richie that he has a confession to make just before he dies. In the book, Eddie asks Richie not to call him by his childhood nickname “Eds,” whereas the movie opts for a “your mom” joke instead. There are many fan theories about this confession, including that Eddie wants to make Richie smile one last time, or that because these jokes were shared constantly between these two characters as children, often to avoid answering hard questions or to diffuse emotional moments, this joke serves as both a confession and a reminder of the intimate relationship Eddie and Richie have always had. Regardless, the two seem to understand the hidden meaning of these last words, and somehow a “your mom” joke manages to be one of the most emotional scenes in the film.     

Now that we’ve unpacked all of that, we can finally talk about the explicit references to Richie’s sexuality in It Chapter Two. From the heartbreaking arcade scene in which Richie is bullied by Henry Bowers and his gang for innocently flirting with Henry’s cousin, to Pennywise’s song about Richie’s secret from atop the Paul Bunyan statue, we see many references to Richie’s attraction to men throughout the film, and especially to his fear that others will find out. This slow buildup should culminate in Richie overcoming his fears surrounding his sexuality and admitting his feelings for his best friend, and the fact that Eddie dies before Richie has a chance to admit how he feels is so heartbreaking. One of the final scenes in the film shows Richie in the lake crying as he mourns Eddie’s death, finally allowing himself to show true emotion towards Eddie that isn’t masked or stifled by humor. He loses his glasses in the water, and there’s a beautiful shot of them sitting at the bottom of the lake still covered in Eddie’s blood, perhaps hinting that Richie allowed Eds to truly “see” him in those final moments before Eddie’s death. Richie’s last scene, in which he re-carves the initials “R+E” into Derry’s kissing bridge, shows a final admittance of his feelings and a tribute to the love he never allowed himself to pursue with Eddie.

Source: Reddit

Though there is all of this evidence referencing the romantic relationship between Richie and Eddie in the It franchise, it’s still understandable why the plot went over so many viewers’ heads. While a careful movie-goer might have caught all of these moments, there is no good reason why the relationship was not more explicitly depicted. The 1990 miniseries opt for a subtle depiction of this relationship mostly portrayed in acting choices made by Harry Anderson (Richie) and Dennis Christopher (Eddie) because the “chapter two” scenes occur in 1990, a much more dangerous time for out gay men. Andy Muschietti’s version, meant to take place in the present, does not have this excuse. With how much creative license this film already takes in straying from both the miniseries and the novel, it absolutely could have portrayed a version of this relationship that did the characters of Richie Tozier and Eddie Kaspbrak justice. Instead, we’re left with a half-baked romantic subplot so vague that it requires most fans to do additional internet research to understand. The film clearly does not shy away from tackling the experiences of queer men in Derry in its opening scene, and therefore its hesitation to show intimacy between Richie and Eddie is surprising. While there are reportedly deleted scenes involving these two characters that will be released at a later date, their exclusion from the film shows a disregard for a part of this story that many fans became heavily invested in, and that many fans were therefore highly disappointed by.  

If you haven’t seen It Chapter One or its sequel yet, I highly recommend you check them out. And if you’re already a fan of the films, check out the 1990 miniseries or the original novel by Stephen King! I have so much love for this franchise, and you can find so much more context for the scenes in the film that weren’t done justice from these other sources. As we enter the spooky season, add It to your list of scary activities (even if the truly scary part of this horror movie is the underdevelopment of Richie’s character)! 

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