How No Time to Die’s Unprecedented Ending Sets Up the Future of the Bond Franchise

Warning: Major spoilers for No Time to Die ahead.

Bond is dead. Long live James Bond.

In the franchise’s storied 58-year history, 007 has never actually died. Bond movies usually end with the successful destruction of a villain’s lair, and the camera panning away as the hero beds a Bond girl—on a boat, in space, on a balcony, often with his would-be rescuers looking on. The next movie may star the same actor or a different one, but rarely does anything of real consequence—romances, villainous encounters—carry over from film to film. Even when Bond’s wife was murdered on their wedding day in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), she’s never even mentioned in the film’s sequel, Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Even when Bond hunts down Blofeld, the man he presumably holds responsible for his wife’s death, he never even mentions Tracy’s name.

That refusal to establish Bond film continuity changed in a big way with Casino Royale (2006), the first to star Daniel Craig in its title role. That film ends with the revelation that Bond’s first true love, Vesper, was being blackmailed by a villainous figure. At their behest, she worked to entrap Bond but later sacrificed her life in order to save his. In the final scene of Casino Royale, Bond begins his journey to discovering the man responsible for Vesper’s betrayal and death, and subsequent movies follow him down the rabbit hole of exposing the evil organization Spectre and its leader, Ernst Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). In 2015’s Spectre, 007 finally finds Blofeld and learns that this man was in fact the “architect” of all of Bond’s pain throughout the entire movie series. Everything is connected, alas.

And so No Time to Die, released in theaters Oct. 8, endeavors to bring this arc to a close with an actual finale. And, despite the movie’s title, James Bond—as played by Craig in his last outing as the famous spy—does, in fact, die. Here’s why 007 had to sacrifice himself and what it means for the future of the franchise.

Read More: No Time to Die Is an Imperfect Movie. But It’s a Perfect Finale for the Best James Bond EverHow James Bond dies

Safin (Rami Malek) in ‘No Time to Die’

Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The path to Bond’s demise starts with the movie’s first major twist, another departure for the famously unattached spy. Halfway through the film, Bond discovers that he has a daughter. It’s a first for any 007.

At the beginning of the movie, Bond finds himself deeply in love with Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), whom he met during the events of Spectre. Swann says that in order for the two of them to have a future together, Bond needs to let go of the memory of Vesper. Bond visits Vesper’s grave in Italy, only for the tomb to explode in an attempted assassination by Spectre goons.

Bond, of course, escapes the explosion relatively unscathed only to be greeted by the aforementioned goons. During a fight scene, one such thug insinuates that Madeleine betrayed him—just like Vesper had. A wounded Bond kills the bad guys and puts Madeleine on a train, planning to never see her again. He then heads to a remote island to live out his retirement in teeny, tiny swim trunks.

Five years later, Bond is dragged back into the spy game and collides with none other than Madeleine, who is now working as a therapist for MI6. And, surprise! She has a daughter. (MI6 apparently did not know about this child, which makes one seriously question the abilities of the Brits to gather intelligence. A dozen megalomaniacs have vendettas against Bond at this point. Maybe they should keep better track of his possible offspring, who would be obvious targets for kidnapping?)

Madeleine claims the child is not Bond’s. It’s a pretty obvious lie. As Bond points out, they share the same intense blue eyes. Madeleine will, of course, later in the movie confess that his suspicions are well-founded. Predictably, the movie’s villain, Safin (Rami Malek) kidnaps Madeleine and the child and takes them to his lair, an island where he harvests a bunch of different poisons because, well, he’s a creepy Bond villain.

Safin is mass-producing a bioweapon, a poison that is programmed to people’s specific DNA. If the targeted person is exposed to that poison, they will die, even though the carrier of the toxin will remain unharmed. He wants to use the poisons to target specific people and throw the world into chaos for vague bad-guy reasons.

With the help of another 00 agent, Nomi (Lashana Lynch), Bond gets Madeleine and their daughter off the island. Bond stays behind to open a bunch of missile silos so that the Brits can blow the place to smithereens, only to encounter Safin on his way out. Safin poisons Bond with a toxin that will specifically kill Madeleine and their daughter if Bond goes anywhere near them, which means Bond can never touch his love or child ever again. Tech genius Q (Ben Whishaw) tells Bond that there’s no way to remove the toxin once it’s been applied. How he can possibly know this—and whether some experimentation over the course of years could lead to a cure—is unclear, but Bond accepts this fate quickly.

Bond shoots Safin dead, and then calls Madeleine to wish her farewell as he watches several missiles approach the island. And then, boom, Bond is gone. Whether you’re a fan of Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Bond or not, it’s a rather poetic ending to the era. The five films that starred him successfully pivoted the franchise from one-off romps filled with fast cars, cool gadgets and, yes, the Bond woman, to a brutal epic of a hitman trying to find his soul.

But Bond’s death was also necessary for this franchise to survive.Was a permanent end necessary to let Daniel Craig finally bow out?

Daniel Craig thesays farewell to the storied franchise

Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

It’s no secret that Daniel Craig has wanted out from the Bond franchise for awhile now. He infamously declared in 2015 he’d rather “slash his wrists” than return the character and quipped that if he did come back it would only be for money. He did, of course, end up coming back for one more outing. One can’t help but speculate that he returned to the franchise on the condition that he be offed by the end of the film so a massive paycheck could never tempt him again.

He’s not the first actor to want out of an iconic role. Harrison Ford reportedly begged George Lucas to kill Han Solo before finally getting his wish at the hands of J.J. Abrams, decades later, in The Force Awakens. Leonard Nimoy reportedly wanted to kill off Spock in Wrath of Khan only to later change his mind. Even Sean Connery, the man who made James Bond an icon, wanted 007 dead after playing the character seven times (though he never got his wish). Onscreen deaths can not only offer an actor a reprieve from a role that offers diminishing creative returns, but a heroic and bittersweet demise can also engender sympathy for a character and cement their cinematic legacy.

Craig craved an identity beyond the Bond character. Thankfully, he has found it in other films, particularly as Detective Benoit Blanc in Knives Out, which is getting a whole series of movies on Netflix. Now, unless the Bond Cinematic Universe goes the way of superhero films and begins resurrecting characters using time travel, quantum mechanics and whatever other movie magic the writers can think up, he’ll be able to move on from Bond forever.Bond’s sacrifice gives him a redemptive arc that modern audiences need

Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in ‘No Time to Die’

Nicola Dove—© 2020 DANJAQ, LLC AND MGM. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

We all know that the character of James Bond is problematic. The character has a history of raping, objectifying and using women. And Bond movies often glamorized that behavior. The character taught generations of men that misogyny was cool. Just as little girls look to figures like Barbie to perceive what they should be, what they should value and how they should interact with men when they grow up, so too do little boys look for cues from famous, enduring figures like Bond.

To its credit, Casino Royale tried to reckon with the question of how, exactly, Bond became such a misogynist. A betrayal by a woman provided part of the answer, though misogyny seemed to be baked into Bond’s very character. Before Craig’s Bond ever meets Vesper, he sleeps with a woman for information and is hardly perturbed when he finds her brutally murdered the next day. By the end of the movie, when he finds out that Vesper both betrayed and saved him, he responds, infamously, “The bitch is dead.”

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