Reptile Ending Explained: Who The Killer Is


  • Grant Singer’s thriller “Reptile” uncovers department-wide corruption within the Scarborough police force as Detective Nichols tracks down the killer of a young real estate agent.
  • Will Grady killed Summer in a plot twist that may feel formulaic, but Justin Timberlake’s role adds an enjoyable element of surprise.
  • Summer was killed because she was planning to reveal the truth about a drug laundering scheme involving the police department and the shell company White Fish. The narrative gets convoluted, but the tension and tone remain gripping.



Grant Singer’s thriller Reptile weaves a web of deception as Benicio del Toro’s Detective Nichols tracks down the killer of a young real estate agent named Summer (Matilda Lutz), and in the process uncovers department-wide corruption within the ranks of the Scarborough police force. After going through several suspects, including Summer’s lover and fellow real estate agent Will Grady (Justin Timberlake), ex-husband Sam (Karl Glusman), and disgruntled neighbor Eli Phillips (Michael Pitt), he finally discovers the identity of the killer and the reason why they killed Summer. Unfortunately, his revelations put him in the crosshairs of powerful players in a convoluted game of cat-and-mouse.

When he brings evidence against the killer and corrupt members of his department to the chief of police, the pair pay a visit to Captain Allen (Eric Bogosian) whose been concealing the identity of the murderer the entire time. Unbeknownst to Nichols, the deception goes all the way to the chief of police, and Nichols is forced to get into a shootout with his former colleagues before he can expose the entire conspiracy. Full of red herrings, plot twists, and a surprising actor reunion, it delivers on the hallmarks of a gripping procedural but nevertheless leaves a few lingering questions, making Reptile a frustrating crime drama.

Will Grady Killed Summer In Reptile

Justin Timberlake in Reptile
Justin Timberlake in Reptile

In a rather confusing flashback, it’s revealed that Will Grady killed Summer. When Detective Nichols is chasing down yet another lead and trying to figure out who Rudy Rackozy called so many times on the day that Summer was killed. It isn’t stated out loud but it’s implied that Rudy called Will, who is seen in yet another flashback standing over Summer’s barely-breathing body. Will intended to pin the crime on Summer’s ex-husband, but unfortunately for him, Detective Nichols was too good at his job and traced the burner phone to Will.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the most innovative part of the plot, as the killer is often the boyfriend in thrillers like Reptile. While it’s enjoyable to see Justin Timberlake play against type, his part in the film makes it feel formulaic. Fortunately, Will isn’t given a villainous monologue, but at the same time, getting more scenes involving him being a little more sinister, rather than so much time wasted on Eli and other red herring suspects would have made the reveal feel more deserved.

Summer Was Killed Because She Was Going To Reveal The Truth About White Fish

Benicio Del Toro and Alicia Silverstone in Reptile
Benicio Del Toro and Alicia Silverstone in Reptile

Detective Nichols initially thought it was suspicious that Summer sold houses for a real estate agency yet often didn’t receive any commission for the sales. These sales were part of a drug laundering scheme concocted by Wally and the majority of the police in Detective Nichols’ department, and Summer had started calling the FBI in preparation to tell them the truth about White Fish being a shell company. Will finds out about what she was planning to do and kills her before she can reveal how far up the corruption goes.

How White Fish Connects To The Corrupt Police Dept

Benicio Del Toro in Reptile
Benicio Del Toro in Reptile

The corruption linking the police department and the shell real estate company is somewhat convoluted, but Detective Nichols starts to piece it together once he notices that contraband has been suspiciously disappearing from the department evidence room. Wally plants drugs in certain houses and then they get seized, and White Fish buys them for a fraction of their cost and makes considerable profits. Summer was the broker for these transactions and didn’t know anything about it at first, but eventually, the guilt became too overwhelming.

RELATED: 10 Best Thrillers Of All Time To Watch Right NowProcedurals like Reptile need to get tighter as they progress, but it’s at this point that the narrative gets more convoluted. A lot of loose ends are left dangling, such as why Captain Allen agreed to keep the Chrysler Imperial, seen at the scene of Summer’s murder, in his garage. The “why” in Reptile is not as important as the “how,” and understanding character motivations only gets in the way of appreciating what they end up producing as far as tension and tone.

Who Showed Up To Threaten Eli?


Eli Phillips is a Nostradamus-looking suspect who appears early on with a motive to kill Summer; Will Grady swindled his family out of their property, which forced Eli’s father to take his own life. Eli threatens Will and he returns the favor by showing up one night in his apartment, telling him to stop sniffing around his business. He’s joined by another figure who Eli seems to recognize, but they’re never revealed to the audience. This person is most likely the chief of police, whose role in the entire tawdry tableau is revealed later when Detective Nichols tries to bring evidence of the corrupt officers to his attention.

Why Detective Nichols Needed Redemption

Benicio del Toro in Reptile

Benicio del Toro gives an incredibly nuanced and intense performance in Reptile, using body language and long stares to communicate trauma and a wounded psyche. He’s been accused of being on the take at his old department, which makes him a perfect candidate for Captain Allen’s, or so Allen thinks, but Detective Nichols wants to actually have a fresh start and peace that will never come. He’s asked at one point if he needs to be redeemed, a notion he becomes defensive about, but it’s clear that he needs to solve Summer’s murder for more reasons than simply being a thorough investigator.

Why The Movie Reptile Is Called Reptile


In one of the earliest scenes, Summer finds a dried snakeskin on the ground, which seems apropos to the movie’s title. The movie is called Reptile because as each character is introduced their nature changes, and while they first appear to be one thing, they soon shed their skin and are revealed to be something else. Will Grady is a skittish silver spoon wasp who turns out to be capable of stabbing his girlfriend dozens of times, Wally is an avuncular poker buddy who turns out to be the kingpin in a drug scheme, etc.

The Importance Of Mirrors In Reptile


Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis crafts Reptile stylishly and makes salient use of reflective surfaces, particularly mirrors. Characters reveal key plot points, perform exposition, and question each other from within these glossy parameters, representing the way that things aren’t always what they seem even when they’re right in front of character’s faces. It’s an interesting technique that helps give Singer’s thriller a distinct aesthetic and oeuvre.

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