‘Emergency’ Ending, Explained: Why Was Kunle Traumatized? What Does The End Signify?


A night that was supposed to be fun turned into a disaster when three men found a girl lying unconscious in their room. With a history of police brutality against black men, Sean stopped his friend Kunle from calling 911. They realized that the girl had entered upon finding their door open, but they had no clue about who she was. Two black and one Hispanic man stood there, weighing the situation, knowing how easily they could be villainized, particularly because of their skin color. “Emergency” is a satirical film that discusses racism and the innate fear of being at the end of a gun barrel.

‘Emergency’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

On the last day of college before spring break, Sean persistently asks his friend Kunle to ask out a girl he admires. They planned to spend the last day attending all the parties that were taking place on the college campus and be the first black men to complete the legendary tour. Their pictures would be up in the Black Hall of Fame. It was their way of creating a memory that they could revisit anytime. While Sean was a man who enjoyed vaping and parties, Kunle was more focused on his academic interests. He had already secured a place at Princeton College for his Ph.D. and was considered a genius by all those who knew him. Kunle’s parents were doctors, and he was kept away from the struggles that a regular black person had to face. When their linguistics professor used the n-word in class to discuss its implications, Sean was mad at her, as he knew she simply took it as an opportunity to utter the word without facing any consequences. While Kunle tried to reason how using such a term in academic space could somehow be justified, Sean declared that it was unacceptable. Their difference in upbringing created contrast in their worldview. The film focuses not only on race politics but also on class differences and how they influence one’s political and social stance.

Sean, with a bottle of what he called “death punch,” prepared for the unforgettable night while Kunle studied the bacteria he was growing for his thesis. Sean hurried Kunle to leave work so that they could start their legendary tour. Kunle left his bacteria in the freezer but forgot to lock it. After reaching the campus, Kunle realized that he had made a mistake, and he wanted to go back to the lab. Sean assisted him, and as they walked to the car, he noticed that the door to their house was left open. He entered to make sure their roommate Carlos was there, but what they found instead was a young girl lying on the floor, unconscious. While Carlos was busy playing video games, he was not aware that a girl had entered their apartment. The three stood there trying to figure out a way to help the girl. Even though Kunle wanted to call the police, Sean knew that was a bad idea. His cousin was a victim of police brutality, and he knew that in a situation where a white girl was found by two black and one brown man, they would be blamed for it. Kunle suggested taking her to the nearby hospital, and the two agreed. They took her to their van and drove her to the hospital.

Meanwhile, the girl’s sister, Maddie, was in search of her. She could not find her at the party and asked her friend, Alice, and her new romantic interest, Rafael, to accompany her. They tracked her with the help of a location app. 

Major Spoilers Ahead

Why Did Sean Stop At His Brother’s House? 

Kunle noticed that Sean was driving too slowly, and he figured that it was because he was high from the death punch he had been consuming since afternoon. There was a police check post nearby, and they had to find a way to bypass it. The alternative route that they chose was longer than the one they had taken initially. They were crossing the party from where they assumed the girl had left. Both Carlos and Sean felt that taking her back there would be easier than at the hospital. Kunle looked for a clear passage, but as he waited, a few white college boys got into a verbal altercation. Kunle ran as fast as he could and got into their van. As they were leaving, the drunk boys threw objects at the car that broke the taillight. Meanwhile, the girl woke up and wanted to urinate. Sean stopped the car at a nearby white neighborhood, where the girl was taken to a vacant spot. They noticed that their taillight had broken, making it all the more difficult to pass without attracting the attention of the police. As they were thinking of a solution, a white couple started filming them, accusing them of selling drugs there. They got in the van and left as soon as they could.

Sean decided to ask his brother for his car. When they reached his place, Carlos stayed with the girl while Sean and Kunle went in to get the keys. Sean lied to his brother, saying that they wanted to take the car to help Kunle’s grandmother get to the hospital. Meanwhile, the girl was in a semiconscious state of mind and stated that her name was Emma and she was a high school student. The fact that they had an unconscious underage girl in the van with them left Carlos all the more anxious. To hydrate her, he gave her a bottle that he thought had juice but had the death punch. The girl blacked out again, and Carlos was confused and went inside the house for help. Sean’s brother and his friends were visibly agitated about having an unconscious white girl in the house. His friends immediately left the house, and Sean’s brother asked him to stay away from the mess, saying that Kunle was wealthy enough to get away from it, but he wouldn’t. The three left in the van. To avoid the police, they took the road through the woods. Suddenly, Emma came back to her senses and demanded they stop the car. She kicked Kunle and Carlos in their faces, opened the door of the car, and ran to the woods. As they were searching for Emma, Kunle expressed his frustration, blaming Sean for stopping him from calling the police. He also stated that it was because of his arrogance and a know-all attitude that they were in a mess. Sean was not mad at his friend. He knew Kunle had reasons to be angry, and he admired him for raising his voice for a change. The three later found Emma on top of a tree; she had passed out again.

‘Emergency’ Ending Explained: Why Did Sean Leave Kunle And Carlos In The Woods? Why Was Kunle Traumatized? 

Maddie, Alice, and Rafael tracked them to the woods. They called 911 for help, but Maddie wanted to make sure that her sister was safe at that moment. She got hold of a stick and ran towards the three. Sean and Kunle noticed her, and they tried to explain themselves. Maddie was not ready for an explanation; they were already abusers in her eyes, and she attacked them. As Alice and Rafael rushed to the scene, Rafael stopped the fight since he noticed his cousin, Carlos. Alice and Maddie were surprised, since they had assumed Rafael was white. Alice started to believe the boys when they could explain their stops, but Maddie refused to believe them. It was only after learning that Kunle had received certified training for medical emergencies that she gave them a chance. Kunle warned Sean to leave since Emma had people to take care of her now, but Kunle could not leave an unconscious girl unassisted. Sean rode the bicycle that Maddie had brought along with her back to the campus. Before leaving, he cautioned Kunle that the whites would be safe. If they were to be caught by the police, it would only be Kunle who had to face the consequences. Kunle chose to stay out of moral obligation.

As Carlos drove the van, Emma’s body temperature started to fall. Kunle gave her CPR, but her body was not responding. The police started to follow the van and asked them to pull over, but Kunle knew that if they stopped now, Emma would lose her life. Carlos drove the van as fast as he could while they were tailed by the police. They drove into the emergency section of the hospital, and four police vehicles surrounded them. All those who were present had to raise their hands as they got down from the car. The girls and Rafael tried to explain to the police the misunderstanding, but they ignored their screams. A policeman pointed a gun at Kunle’s face and asked him to leave the vehicle. He was pushed to the ground with his hands behind his head. At that moment, Kunle believed this was how he was going to die: for being black, for fearing the consequences of being black. Maddie and Alice demanded them to take Emma to the medical emergency room and to leave Kunle since he was not at fault. After their persistent request, the police carried Emma to the hospital and removed the gun pointed toward Kunle. The police officers left Carlos and Kunle with a warning, asking them to call the police if they ever find someone unconscious. If only he knew what it was to be black, to not be able to make decisions so simply, to fear taking a wrong step and dying for their little mistake.

Carlos accompanied Kunle to the lab to check on the bacteria. Carlos could only guess the emotional turmoil that Kunle was going through. They entered the lab and found Sean lying on the floor guarding the freezer. Kunle checked the bacteria under the microscope and found them all alive, to his joy. When Carlos left the room, Sean apologized for leaving him at that moment. Kunle broke down in tears; he now knew the trauma that Sean spoke about. He was right about it all; the situation unfolded just as Sean had imagined. Even though Kunle wanted to believe in a better world, he had to face reality in the most brutal way imaginable. After a few days, when Kunle celebrated his Princeton acceptance with his friends, Maddie and Emma knocked on their door. They apologized to them for all that they had to go through, and Maddie even started reading a note that she wrote stating how she was trying to be a better person. Kunle simply closed the door to her face, she was racist, and there could never be an apology good enough to revoke the damage she had done. Had she not brought her sister, who was in high school, and abandoned her at a college party, they would not have had to live with the trauma they now did. In the end, as Kunle was playing a game of Jenga, the siren of a police vehicle passing dilated his pupil, expressing the trauma that was now embedded in him. 

The brilliance of “Emergency” is that one can never be sure where the film might end up. It is not one of those films that sets out to give a message per se, but it will leave you with an unsettled feeling.

“Emergency” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Carey Williams.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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