‘The Passenger’ (2023) Ending, Explained: Did Randy Bradley Shoot Benson?


The Passenger is a new thriller-drama film starring Kyle Gallner and Johnny Berchtold as two starkly different men who have to take a road trip together. The plot in this film follows a young man named Randy, who is timid enough to be bullied around by a colleague, as he is suddenly forced to face his fears and recall his traumatic past when another colleague starts a violent rampage. The Passenger is a bit unconvincing towards the end, which slightly mars the overall experience, but can definitely be given a watch for great acting performances.

Spoilers Alert

What is the Film about?

The Passenger begins with the protagonist, Randy, dreaming of a horrific scene in which a young boy has to sit and witness a woman in front of him bleed out from her eyes. Randy is woken up by the nightmare and is evidently disturbed by it even as he gets up and prepares himself for the day. The man then drives to his workplace, a local burger restaurant, where Randy has been working for almost a year. As his boss and the rest of his colleagues come in, Randy is called into the boss’ room for a short discussion. Convinced by his hard work and determination, the boss feels like Randy should definitely not be restricted to such a life, and he willingly offers Randy’s name for the managerial position at some other restaurant chains.

Despite naturally being happy and excited about this new opportunity, Randy soon reveals his natural inability to hold the position of manager. The man is too soft-spoken, mild-mannered, and almost a pushover, and he is often taken advantage of by a colleague named Chris. Being a complete inconsiderate bully, Chris is only concerned about his current girlfriend, Jess, who is also an employee at the place, and about humiliating Randy in front of her. Together with Jess, Chris repeats the same routine this morning as well, forcing Randy to eat a spoiled leftover burger. Although the protagonist does try to speak out once, his attempt is rather feeble, and it instigates Chris even more.

For all this time, another colleague, Benson, had been silently watching this entire event unfold while cleaning the restaurant floor. For one instance, Benson does ask Chris to stop his humiliation of Randy, but the bully does not listen. Internally raging throughout this time, Benson casually walks out of the restaurant, up to his car, and pulls out a shotgun from the trunk. Returning to the restaurant with the gun, he then shoots Chris dead with a straight face before killing Jess and the boss as well. Benson thinks of killing Randy, too, in order to keep no witness of his crime, but then decides that Randy will never pose a threat to him. He swiftly gathers the bodies inside the meat closet, cleans up the blood from the floor and walls, and also makes Randy help him. Benson then takes Randy hostage and drives away in his car, promising to make Randy a tougher man.

Why does Randy not make any attempt to escape?

After the forceful car ride towards no specific destination begins, Benson figures out that they probably have seven hours to drive away from the town before the police start looking for them. While Benson remains as calm and composed as ever, seeming to be in complete control of his actions and decisions, Randy looks lost and is still reeling from the events that took place at the burger joint. Benson’s reason for fleeing the town makes sense, as he had committed three murders in cold blood, but Randy having to go along is odd, and the timid man also seems to ask why he is made part of this trip. Randy was indeed a witness to Benson’s crime, but then the latter could either shoot him dead or even let him go since he was of the opinion that Randy would never report him. But as the shooter confesses to Randy, the reason he takes him along for the ride is to give Randy some life training and make him tougher and able to fight for himself. This, of course, is untrue, even though Benson does seem convinced that he is about to do such a thing. In reality, Randy becomes an experiment of sorts for Benson, his pet project, to take along throughout his day and perhaps see how he would react to situations.

Therefore, it makes all the less sense that Randy actually sticks along with his kidnapper and makes no attempt to escape. However, that is exactly how The Passenger writes Randy’s character, for he is no ordinary introverted man who gets shaken and scared easily. Even for someone like that, being held captive by a man with guns would warrant a much more severe and desperate reaction. There comes a moment when the car is parked in front of a gas station, and Randy is left alone to fill up the tank while Benson goes inside to pay. The thought of running does seemingly come to Randy’s mind, but he looks around to look for any buildings where he can hide and then stops his thoughts when he sees Benson threaten him that his escape would mean death for the store owner. Any other person would perhaps be expected to either make a run for their life in such a scenario or at least leave some clue or message for others, asking for help.

But Randy does not react in any such manner; the young man does not react at all. He agrees to be lugged around by the violent ex-colleague, just like he had earlier eaten the spoiled burger on Chris’s orders. This primary attribute of Randy’s character is present in every part and section of his life, which is presented from the very beginning of the film. At the burger shop, Randy’s boss and even the rest of his colleagues do not know his real name and know his name to be Bradley. This was because, at the time of his joining, the boss had given Randy his badge with the name Bradley printed on it, despite Bradley being Randy’s last name. Perhaps having two first names led to this confusion, as the waitress at the diner later remarks, but Randy never bothered to correct this mistake with anyone. He was more comfortable being referred to by the wrong name than correcting his boss, which would involve a little bit of confrontation, despite having worked at the place for almost a year.

Randy appears to be similarly docile and submissive in his relationship with his mother as well, which is seen when he receives a call from the mother while out with Benson. Although we do later learn that there was a reason for his mother to be behaving in such a manner, Randy is heard being grilled with questions from the other side of this call. The mother wants to know almost everything about her son’s situation and circumstances at the moment, almost bewildered at the fact that he is with Benson, whom she does not personally know. Almost similar submissiveness can also be noticed in Randy’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Lisa.

As Benson fishes out information about Randy’s past, it is revealed that the young man has only been in one relationship so far, with a girl named Lisa a few years ago. However, the end of this relationship was rather strange, as Lisa broke up with him after her cat died. When asked more about it, Randy states that he himself did not know more about how or why this breakup had taken place, for he and Lisa had never really talked about it with each other. This leads to Benson driving the car up to the local mall where Lisa works and forcing Randy to have the much-needed conversation. Just like in his current situation, Randy had simply not reacted to Lisa breaking up with him, and he had simply left her life. Now, when mildly confronted about this incident, Lisa mentions being upset about the fact that nothing seemed to affect Randy, who always seemed very distant and closed off. When he did not react in any way to Lisa’s decision, she understood it to be his disinterest in being with her anymore, and so she did not keep any contact with him either.

What had Randy done during his childhood days?

The incident that took place during Randy’s second year in school is something that comes up as the cause of numerous problems. Lisa makes a mention of it, saying that he had never told her what had happened, which made her feel all the more distant from him. Randy also reveals that his mother had made him drop the second grade and repeat it the next year, which made him lose a year in school. Ultimately, when it is revealed what happened with Randy, we get to know that he was not really on the receiving end of it, but he had actually caused some trouble.

During one of the classes in second grade, Randy had been playing with a makeshift sling along with his classmates when the teacher, Miss Beard, caught him and scolded him for fooling around. Randy was upset and angry that the teacher was only reprimanding him, so the boy emotionally reacted to the situation. Picking up an eraser, Randy used the sling to shoot it at Miss Beard, and it struck the woman in the eye. This led to more complications, as the eraser had fragments of lead on it, which resulted in the teacher losing one of her eyes forever. Although the bloody scene that Randy saw in his nightmare at the beginning had never actually taken place in reality, the effect of the situation was the same—Miss Beard lost her left eye and always had to wear an eye patch for the rest of her life, and the woman had soon quit the teaching job as well.

As The Passenger progresses, Randy goes over to Miss Beard’s house and meets with her once again, sincerely apologizing for his actions in the past. It was this incident that haunted Randy’s psyche still, as he had nightmares about it and had completely stopped making any decisions for himself at all. He admits that the only time he had reacted to any situation had led to such a horrific tragedy, and therefore, Randy had stopped reacting at all. Finally, after hearing Miss Beard tell him about how she had learned to live with what had happened, Randy feels much lighter.

‘The Passenger’ Ending Explained: What Happens to Randy and Benson?

The Passenger‘s ending leads me to believe that Randy and Benson were perhaps not too different from each other after all, at least in their most internal depths. While Benson was brash and confident about his actions and thoughts, he was seemingly never in control. Like Randy, Benson, too, had a memory from childhood that he had kept suppressed forever, which rushed out during their visit to the school. When Benson sees Elliot Sheppard, he recognizes the man from some unmentioned incident from his own childhood. Although what exactly happened is never revealed to us, it is evident from Benson’s violent reaction that Sheppard must have done something horrible to him when he was just a child in the third grade. It is this violence and trauma that turns into a rage every time Benson is agitated by his surroundings, and he, in turn, becomes the assaulter and abuser.

The fact that Benson is not in control is perhaps all the more evident in the internal strife that he goes through at the very end of The Passenger when Randy steps up to him and tells him to stop. There is a constant tussle inside his own head about believing Randy to be just a submissive bystander and also wanting Randy to be one who reacts. The conflicted Benson shoots Randy in the shoulder shortly before getting to know that it was he who had called the police. Upon learning why Randy had done so, Benson stops his violent rampage once and for all but refuses to listen to Randy’s advice about reforming himself. As it turns out, Benson has been much less in control of himself than Randy, and the man walks out pointing his gun at the police. Benson is immediately shot dead by the police.

On the other side, though, this entire experience leaves Randy in a much better place than before. Perhaps seeing someone more conflicted than himself encourages the young man to mend his life and give himself another opportunity. This is even more helped by the loving and understanding Miss Beard, who keeps in contact with Randy, as the young man now often babysits the teacher’s young daughter, Tessa. His relationship with his mother has also improved, probably because now Randy has found confidence in himself, leading to his mother also being able to trust him more. The Passenger ends with a shot of the toy crocodile that Randy had earlier designed, which he has now gifted to Tessa, signifying that he has truly developed a loving bond with the kid. This might even signify that Randy has mended his relationship with Lisa as well and now perhaps visits her often at the shopping mall toy store, perhaps just as a good friend.

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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