WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for M. Night Shyamalan's Glass, in theaters now.
Glass, the finale of M. Night Shyamalan's superhuman trilogy, is a culmination of events that began in Unbreakable and Split, setting up a showdown between Bruce Willis' David Dunn and James McAvoy's Beast, orchestrated by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson).
But with all of those pieces on the chessboard, Shyamalan goes beyond a mere superhuman brawl to offers insight into the characters' pasts, which provides context for the entire trilogy. In the finale, Elijah admits the film is really "an origin story," as evidenced by the director stitching together everyone's past like a comic book tapestry.
ELIJAH'S FRAGILE AWAKENING
Since 2000's Unbreakable we've known about Elijah's brittle bone disease, but while his body is fragile, his mind remains formidable. In Glass, Elijah hatches a meticulous scheme to reveal to the world the existence of superhumans, and plots against psychiatrist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) at the Raven Hill mental facility, where she conditions her special patients to believe they're completely normal.
When Ellie tries to get Elijah's mother to convince him that he isn't a genius, she reflects on the first incident that revealed the truth about her son: While on an amusement park ride, Elijah, then about 6 years old, is tossed around, leading to broken limbs. But it wasn't the physical anguish that imprinted upon him, it was everyone at the carnival looking at him like a freak, which drove him to despise humanity. From that moment, he decides to seek out others like him, and prove they're the next step in mankind's evolution.
DAVID'S AQUATIC REBIRTH
Ellie contends the superhumans are linked to traumatic events from their past, which deludes them into thinking they're more than men. Unbreakable revealed David's weakness is water, stemming back to a childhood incident in which he nearly drowned, and in Glass, it's further detailed as we learn that mischievous boys at a community pool were actually responsible for David's near-death experience in a prank gone horribly wrong.
David had to be resuscitated, which triggered his hatred for people who take advantage of others. That's why, once the train crash confirmed he possessed unbreakable skin and superhuman strength, David is inspired to become a cloaked vigilante known as "the Overseer." He realized his powers were meant to help others, and in Glass, it come full-circle as he has formed a spy agency with his son, Joseph, to monitor crime and save those in need on the city streets.
THE BEAST IS BORN
We learn in 2016's Split that Kevin suffered abuse from his mother as a child, which led to his psyche fracturing into more than 20 personalities at present. Most of them are random, but a few, like Patricia and the Beast, were meant to protect him by killing people he encountered in the real world. In Glass, however, we see that the point when Kevin broke mentally was when his father died, which triggered his syndrome in full.
The kicker is, his father died in the same train crash that David survived, which means Elijah was responsible for creating the Beast, as much as he was for creating David's superhero persona. With the origins of all three players finally exposed, we can clearly see how they were intrinsically linked by fate, and why they were motivated to do the things they did over the course of the trilogy. In the case of the Beast, he had the most aggression to dispense to the outside world, and it's because he never knew love and warmth, only pain and abuse.
In theaters now, director M. Night Shyamalan's Glass stars James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Beast, Bruce Willis as David Dunn, Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass and Sarah Paulson as Ellie Staple.