‘The Sympathizer’ Ending Explained & Finale Recap: Did Man Save The Captain & Bon?


In the penultimate episode of The Sympathizer, The General’s plans of going to Vietnam ramped up by quite a few notches. Bon decided to join The General’s army to go and reclaim his motherland with his own bare hands. The Captain tried to get him out of the mission because he knew it wouldn’t have a happy ending. Bon was adamant about waging yet another war, and The General was in no mood to back off either. The Captain found out that Professor Hammer was racist and that Ned Goodwin was funding The General’s plans to go back to Vietnam. On top of that, he was unable to digest the fact that Sofia was with Sonny. So, he released all his rage and confusion by killing Sonny. He realized that there was nothing else for him in the United States of America. That was why he decided to join Bon on his trip to Vietnam. We all know what the outcome of that trip was, but The Sympathizer, episode 7, gives us the ugly details of what went down after The Captain and Bon left for Vietnam.

Spoiler Alert

The Captain’s Recap Comes To An End

The Sympathizer episode 7 opens with The Captain, Bon, and the rest of the contingent landing in Bangkok instead of Vietnam, because it’s impossible to enter the country directly, especially for those who hail from South Vietnam. They meet Claude, who takes them to a strip club called Hell Hole for a night of merriment and debauchery before they enter Vietnam. Claude reveals that he is aware of the fact that The Captain is actually a Communist. But instead of ratting him out, Claude gives The Captain the opportunity to fake a stomach bug and avoid getting himself killed in Vietnam. However, one look at Bon motivates The Captain to go along with him. Now, here’s where The Captain’s unreliable narration starts to get very unreliable. We see Claude playing the tape of The Captain’s last conversation with Sonny, which is where he confessed that he was a Communist spy. That said, when Claude allows The Captain to go to Vietnam with Bon and then walks away, we see that there’s no tape in the player. 

So, it’s unclear if this conversation between The Captain and Claude ever happened or if he made it up to show how much he loves Bon in the memoir that he is writing in his cell in Vietnam. By the way, this is also where The Captain’s narration of the past catches up with his present as he and Bon are captured by the North Vietnamese soldiers and brought to the (concentration) camp where The Captain is made to narrate his story. The jailer tries to edit this whole section a lot because he doesn’t want the Communists to be portrayed in a bad (read: fascist) light. But The Captain sticks to his narrative and is eventually released so that he can join the rest of the South Vietnamese people who are being held captive there. The Captain reunites with Bon, and both of them are really glad that they’ve survived the ordeal so far. They get a good look at The Commissar, who is in charge of the camp and gives regular Communist sermons to the prisoners. The reunion motivates Bon to speak up against The Commissar, and he is punished for that. The Captain suspects that The Commissar is actually Man. Hence, he recites a poem and flashes the scar of their old friendship. The Commissar tells The Captain to come up to his quarters for a chat.

The Captain Reveals The Truth About The Communist Spy

The Commissar reveals that he is, in fact, a horribly scarred Man. During the Day of Liberation, Man apparently tried to pull out a tooth from General Phu, and he was so gleeful about the freedom of Vietnam that he didn’t see an incoming Phantom plane. That plane dropped a whole load of napalm, and that’s what burnt off most of Man’s face and gave him a permanent cough. The very act of living was so painful for him that he was doped up on morphine all the time. Still, he persevered because he wanted to see the face of a free Vietnam. After listening to all this, The Captain says that he didn’t expect a free Vietnam to be like this; and that’s where things take a turn for the worse. The Captain is subjected to immense torture for days because the Communists think that his confession (his memoir) is incomplete. They suspect that there are certain details that he has distorted or straight-up omitted for some reason, and that’s what the Communist Party wants to know. The Sympathizer is a spy-thriller, but this is where it goes into James Bond territory, with a masked villain and endless torture. 

Man keeps telling The Captain to remember the parts he has purposefully left out of his memoir. The episode practically recaps everything that we’ve seen in the miniseries. We get glimpses of The Captain’s childhood, where his mother was apparently raped by a French priest, who is also played by Robert Downey Jr. Since Downey Jr. is one of the producers of the show, it’s easy to classify his casting as an act of indulgence. That said, he is doing a good job at representing White evil, while destroying his carefully crafted, family-friendly image that he had created throughout his stint at Marvel. However, based on what we know from The Sympathizer, that’s probably a small price that Downey Jr. is paying to steal the spotlight that should be on the Vietnamese characters, plot, and subplots. Anyway, the ghosts of Sonny and The Major take The Captain to a screening of The Hamlet with Man. And in the most hauntingly crafted scene of sexual abuse, where the horror is implied instead of being explicit (the opposite of what happens in The Hamlet or in so many films and shows directed by male filmmakers who think that explicit rape scenes are integral to the plot), The Captain finally confesses that he stood by while The Major and his men sexually abused a Communist Spy in a theater in front of him. The use of the Coke bottle, the projector, the way it forces us to see The Captain in a new light – it’s all really sublime.

Did Man Save The Captain & Bon?

Man forces The Captain to confront the Communist Spy who was tortured before him at the theater. Man says that, despite enduring more than anything that The Captain has endured, the Communist Spy never revealed his true identity in her memoir. Meanwhile, The Captain has blurted out the whole truth after spending one year in isolation. The Captain wonders if the Communist Spy is disappointed in him, and she says that, after everything she has seen, there is nothing that can disappoint her anymore. It’s a scathing indictment of The Captain’s spy job but, in addition to that, it further underscores the fact that The Captain is really desperate to portray himself in a sympathetic light. His dual identity is so deeply ingrained into his psyche that he sometimes fails to discern between what he really thinks and what’s the right thing to do. So, Man pulls him into a sense of comfort and then gives him one last test by asking what is more important than freedom and independence. When The Captain says that the answer is “nothing,” Man finally stops being stern and talks to The Captain like a friend. He gets very sentimental about how their friendship has been buried under the weight of the war that has corroded Vietnam. The Captain gets really teary-eyed, too. However, he suddenly snaps out of it and tells Man that this is not the time to get emotional; it’s the time to act. 

In The Sympathizer‘s ending, Man helps The Captain and Bon to escape from the camp by switching clothes with The Captain. Bon doesn’t realize that The Commissar is actually Man, and he stops The Captain from telling him the truth about his own identity. In the dead of the night, The Captain and Bon board a ship that’s taking them to a place where they’ll probably not be incarcerated (the chances are apparently 50-50). As The Captain looks at the coast of Vietnam, he sees all the dead people whose lives were stolen by a senseless war fueled by external forces. He is haunted by the ghosts of Sonny and The Major. However, despite all this, The Captain promises that the horrors of the past are not going to stop the people of Vietnam from reorganizing and rebuilding themselves as a collective. I don’t think you have to be a genius to understand The Sympathizer’s anti-war stance. But, more importantly, I hope it finally creates widespread awareness about the United States of America’s penchant for fueling wars without caring about or having any knowledge about the culture that they’re destroying, and then pretending to be the victims of PTSD and whatnot while invisibilizing the hell that their victims have gone through. In conclusion, stop watching movies about Vietnam from the perspective of North Americans, and seek out storytellers from the countries that have borne the brunt of America’s villainy, even if they have been censored by their government.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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