The 1990s thriller Se7en is based upon the seven deadly sins. The movie is about a serial killer with a delusion of grandeur. He thinks he is chosen by God to punish those who commit these sins. To know what original plan was, we need to know which plan was executed. So let’s get into the plot summary of the movie first.
William Somerset, a soon to retire detective is teamed up with a newly transferred, short-tempered but idealistic David Mills who has moved to the city with his wife Tracy. After Tracy befriends Somerset, she tells him that she is pregnant and she hasn’t told Mills yet. Tracy also tells William that she is not happy with the city and feels like this is no place to raise a child. William sympathizes with her as he has also faced the same situation with his ex-girlfriend several years ago and advises Tracy to only tell David if she plans on keeping the child.
Seven deadly sins
Somerset and Mills are assigned to investigate a case inspired by the seven deadly sins. A man was forced to eat until his stomach burst, representing gluttony. A defence attorney was killed after being forced to cut a pound of flesh for himself. Following clues from the two cases lead them to a suspect’s apartment, where they find another victim. A drug dealer and a child molester was found tied to a bed, representing sloth, emaciated but alive. The third victim is in critical condition and in no position to talk or answer any questions from Somerset or Mills. Daily photographs of the victim shows that the crime was planned far in advance.
The detectives use library record to track John Doe to his apartment. Doe flees, and Mills chases him. While chasing, Mills falls off the fire escape and injured his arm. Mills searches a truck before being hit by a tire iron on the head. Doe walks up and holds Mills at gunpoint before escaping while Mills is incapacitated. Doe’s apartment contains hundreds of notebooks revealing his psychopathy and a clue to another murder.
The detectives arrive too late and the murder was already committed. Doe forced a married man at gunpoint whom he found at a club to rape a prostitute over and over with a custom made blade strap-on, killing her by damaging her internals, representing lust. The following day, they attend the fifth victim’s crime scene, a model whose face was mutilated by Doe. She was given two options, to call for help and live with her disfigured face or to commit suicide by taking pills. She takes the pills and dies, representing pride.
Surrender or another plan?
As the detectives return t the police station, Doe turns himself in, covered in the blood of an unknown victim. He offers the detectives to take them to the final two victims and confess to the murders, but he has his terms and conditions. If his conditions are not fulfilled, he will plead insanity. Somerset is suspicious, but Mills agrees.
The detectives follow Doe’s directions to a remote desert. Throughout the journey Mills keeps trying to understand Doe’s motives in committing all those murders. Doe keeps telling calmly that “God has told him to reveal to mankind what an awful and tragic place the world has become.”
They arrive at the desert in the middle of no-where and soon, a delivery van arrives. Mills keeps Doe at gunpoint while Somerset intercepts the delivery man. Somerset is shocked to discover Tracy’s head in the box and warns Mills not to come closer while Doe tells Mills about it. Does tells Mills that he got envious of his lifestyle, and his life with Tracy and she died as a result of it. He also admits that Tracy’s head is in the box and Somerset’s silence upon questioning it confirms this, Doe also reveals that she was pregnant.
Mills gets mad and Doe keeps on encouraging Mills to kill him. He says his sin is envy and keeps saying “Go on, shoot! Become wrath!” and even after Somerset’s warnings, Mills shoots him. Thus Doe becomes his fifth victim, an impersonation of envy and Mills becomes wrath, as he gets his revenge.
So, now that we know how it ends, let’s get into how it could have. Doe’s plan of killing his victims in a way associated with their sins is diligently crafted. It is evident in the long term torture he did to the sloth victim. At the start of the movie, it is mentioned that Mills and his wife have newly moved to the city. There is no logical way possible for them to be included in his original plan. Which is revealed by Doe himself when he admits that Somerset and Mills finding his apartment was an event that he didn’t expect. Which means that Doe and Tracy were not a part of his seven kill victims.
Doe changed his original seven kill plan after Somerset and Mills track him to his apartment early. And the fact that he pulled it off in such a short time only gives us a little more idea about his sharp intellect. He altered his plan so quickly and pulled off a gambit that required Somerset and Mills’ co-operation. Doe’s normal way of operation did not involve personal grudges or feelings. In Doe’s original seven kill plan, he probably wouldn’t end up dead. It was possible that he would still have died, but that is unlikely.
It wasn’t until after Doe realises he has committed his own sin, envy, towards Mills’ life with Tracy that he decided to involve the Mills and serve as his last victim. It appears that before meeting Mills, Doe didn’t consider worthy of dying. And although even the thought of him doing the right thing is sickening, he does believe that he is doing the right thing.
Other alternative endings:
According to The Telegraph, this version was storyboarded, but was never shot. So, in this version, Somerset kills Doe himself, and he is unable to fulfil his plan, and when Mills asked him “What are you doing?” Somerset answers with “I’m retiring…” Well, it’s safe to say this ending wouldn’t have made the impact the original did.
According to DigitalSpy, there is a version of Se7en in which Mills shoots Somerset to stop his from taking away his chance of getting revenge when Somerset was trying to take Doe out before Mills can shoot him. At the end, he is recovering in a hospital and receives a note from Mills saying “you were right! you were right about everything.”
In another version, Doe kidnaps Tracy and after a race against time Somerset and Mills manage to save Tracy.
In yet another version, there is a dead dog in the box. Instead of Tracy’s head, there is Mill’s dog’s head in the box.
In another version, the confrontation takes place in a burning church and Doe kills Mills. He still sticks to envy has his sin (of Mills’ life). Somerset shoots Doe in retaliation. Mills’ funeral is seen and a heartbroken Tracy leaves the city. Somerset tells her he will be in touch and tells her to take care of herself and her baby.
There is another version which is almost the same, but instead of Mills killing Doe, Somerset kills Doe.
Although the movie ended with an optimistic note, Fincher wanted to cut black instantly after Mills shoots Doe to let that sink in.
We can assume that neither of the alternate endings would have made such a long-lasting impact as the original one did. Although this wasn’t Doe’s original plan, and it got personal, he was able to direct it just the way he wanted to. He was smart enough to analyze a person capable enough of being the impersonation of wrath in such a short time. And to be honest, things could have gone wrong with his plan. Mills could have acted more responsibly and could have let Doe live to be punished by the law. But he chooses to have his revenge and kill Doe that very moment, acting in passion and becoming wrath, just as Doe calculated.
Even though Doe dies at the end, but sadly, he still won. He was able to fulfil the destiny he decided for himself by being killed by the “wrath”.
Making of the monster
There is a series of comics written by Mike Kaldova, explores Doe’s life before the movie. Doe’s suffered from headaches and was treated with electroshock therapy. His mother was a religious fanatic and was obsessed with sins and eternal damnation. Doe was infatuated with a pleasant girl and at this point in his life, he started writing journals about his thoughts and feelings. He wrote his feelings for this girl were pure. Doe offered to help her with her revision, and when he went to his room, he found out his mom going through his journals. She read out the journal to the girl and the girl ran away. Then Doe was attacked by his mom and was told that no matter what he does, he will always be a sinner and would definitely go to hell. Well, at least for what he did in the movie, I wouldn’t disagree.
Doe, later on, began to question if God was watching mankind. He went to see his mother, where he found her burning all Doe’s belongings, SHe died in the flames. Doe’s mother left him a key to a box that contained the book of seven deadly sins. Upon reading it, he shaved off his fingertips and renounced his former identity. He then dedicated himself to making a statement with the seven deadly sins, punishing people who committed any single one them.