Understanding M. Night Shyamalan’s Eastrail 177 trilogy.
M. Night Shyamalan‘s superhero ‘Eastrail 177’ trilogy is coming to an end as Glass arrives this week. However, the first movie, Unbreakable, came out almost two decades ago in the year 2000, which means that many viewers must have forgotten the details of the who and the what.
Having recently rewatched both 2001’s Unbreakable and 2016’s Split (so you don’t have to), I’m here to tell you what you need to know before watching Glass. Which means…
It all began Philadelphia in 1961 when Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) was born with “Type I osteogenesis imperfecta,” otherwise known as ‘brittle bone’ disease. He led a sheltered life filled with suffering and pain until one day when his mother bought him some comics. That’s when this man – who later becomes a comic book art dealer – develops a theory that comics are simply the secret and hidden history of the world, and that if someone like him exists, there must be someone that represents his complete opposite: an ‘unbreakable’ man.
When a man named David Dunn (Bruce Willis) becomes a lone survivor of a tragic train crash (hence the origin of the name ‘Eastrail 177’ trilogy), Elijah seeks this man out to find out if there’s any truth to his theory. Meanwhile, David himself is a disillusioned man, with a broken marriage and a son who wants to believe in his father. It turns out that David is superhumanly strong and invincible, as well as having the ability to sense past and future crimes of people just by touching them.
After being persuaded by Elijah to try out crimefighting, David later discovers that he has a weakness to water, thanks to a traumatic event during his childhood. At the end of the movie, David shakes Elijah’s hand, learning (to his horror) that Elijah was the one who not only orchestrated the train crash but also several other ‘accidents’ and terrorist disasters.
Elijah justifies his psychopathic actions as a means of finding the ‘unbreakable’ man and proceeds to call himself Mr. Glass, believing himself to be the arch-nemesis to David’s superheroic persona. Due to his actions, Elijah is then incarcerated to a psychiatric hospital.
The events in Split is set 15 years later in the same world (and city) populated by David Dunn and Elijah Price, though this wasn’t actually confirmed until the end of the movie (I’ll explain in a bit). Three young girls go missing, having been kidnapped by Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man afflicted with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) or multiple personalities (24 in total).
Throughout the duration of the movie, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), one of the three kidnapped girls, slowly learns that they are being prepared as a sacrificial tribute for Kevin’s mysterious 24th personality, The Beast. The Beast is an animalistic personality of Kevin’s with superhuman strength and agility, as well as the ability to scale walls à la Spider-Man (or something out of the Exorcist).
By the end of the movie, The Beast eats two of the kidnapped girls while Casey manages to escape this unsavory fate thanks to the fact that The Beast finds her to be ‘pure.’ In the eyes of The Beast, those who are broken or have suffered in life are considered ‘pure’ and therefore safe from his wrath. In flashbacks (and the visible scars all over her body), Casey is later revealed to have been abused by her uncle.
The Beast’s only weakness is to call out Kevin Wendell Crumb’s full name out loud. This is because Kevin was abused by his mother during childhood, which in turn caused the 24 personalities to emerge in order to ‘protect’ Kevin. At the end of the movie, Kevin’s whereabouts are unknown, but his existence has been revealed to the public at large.
This is where it gets interesting. The final scene in Split shows several people in a diner watching a news broadcast about Kevin, whom the media has dubbed ‘The Horde,’ when a person mentions a similar criminal in a wheelchair. The man sitting next to that person answers, “Mr. Glass,” and it turns out to be none other than an older David Dunn, thus confirming that Split is actually a sequel to Unbreakable.
Now that you know all about the central characters (David Dunn, Elijah Price, and Kevin Wendell Crumb), you’re ready to catch Glass when it premieres on 17 January 2019. In the meantime, check out our review of Glass here to find out if it is indeed a worthy conclusion to the Eastrail 177 trilogy, and if it is ultimately M. Night Shyamalan’s return to glory or an unsatisfying dud.