Knives Out 2 can’t repeat the greatest trick that the first Knives Out plays on its audience. Knives Out revolves around Daniel Craig’s detective, Benoit Blanc, investigating the mystery of who killed author Harlan Thrombey and becoming embroiled with Thrombey’s wealthy and dysfunctional family. The devious plotting that writer and director Rian Johnson employs in Knives Out was a hit with audiences, its current Rotten Tomatoes audience score sitting at 92% – but that popularity means that he will have to change up his formula for the sequel.
The central trick in Knives Out happens about half an hour in, during a flashback. The scene shows Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s nurse, seemingly giving him an overdose of morphine by accident, leaving him with only minutes to live. During that time, Harlan concocts a plan to make it look like suicide so that Marta and her undocumented family are left alone by authorities. Knives Out then twists into a Hitchcock-style suspense thriller, where Marta is left to try and hide the truth from the Thrombey family after he leaves her his inheritance. However, in the last act, Knives Out takes another gear shift, when Benoit Blanc reveals that Harlan’s medications were switched by his grandson, Ransom Thrombey, who had anonymously hired Blanc to expose Marta and get her name taken off the inheritance. Knives Out combines both the Hitchcock suspense thriller and the traditional Agatha Christie mystery to create a constant push and pull of genre, and a conflict of interest for the audience. Rian Johnson has explained that his inspiration for Knives Out came from the question: “Can I do something that starts as a whodunit, turns into a Hitchcock thriller, but then turns back into a whodunit at the end?” (via Indiewire). Johnson misleads the audience into thinking the mystery is solved, and that Knives Out is about the suspense of whether Marta will get away with it or not. Then, in the final act, he reveals there was a different culprit all along, combining two genres that Hitchcock thought incompatible. But now that this trick has been played out masterfully in the first movie, Knives Out 2 will need to find a new way to subvert the mystery genre. The fun of the first movie was its brilliantly twisty plot. Now that audiences know what to expect from the first movie’s fake-out twist, however, Johnson will have to keep viewers guessing in another unexpected manner.
Johnson has already stated that he tackled the sequel’s script from a different angle, not having the luxury of the central genre-bending premise for the first film, which he had in mind for 10 years (via Interview). Indeed, the Greece-set Knives Out 2 looks to be a separate mystery altogether for Benoit Blanc, with a new all-star cast including Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Ethan Hawke, Dave Bautista, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick, and Katherine Hahn. Details about the story are sparse, but audiences are savvier now and they’ll know what to look for. Johnson will have to play a different game with the audience to retain the same element of surprise as the first one. There are certainly many options for Johnson on Knives Out 2: he could go metatextual and deconstruct the idea of a Christie mystery Scream-style, he could find another way to re-order how a mystery is told, or he could even surprise by simply telling a straight mystery with no genre subversion at all. The one certain thing is that both Knives Out 2 and Netflix’s third Benoit Blanc sequel will require a dastardly collection of new plot twists to strike a clued-up audience.
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