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On re-watching Se7en I couldn't help but question what purpose Somerset's switchblade had. We see Somerset practice with it and it was also shown a couple more times on screen, and hence make it feel like an important item. But there doesn't seem to be made anything out of it later. It seemed like it failed the Chekhov's gun principle.

For those of you who are not familiar with Chekhov's gun, it is a dramatic principle that states that every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed.

Now I do understand that this isn't a hard rule and that one of the alternative endings had Somerset use it to disarm Mills, but I wondered if Fincher forgot to remove the earlier blade scenes when changing the ending. Or is there something else that I missed?

I also came across this Reddit post which was interesting enough, but I just wanted to hear more ideas about what the purpose of the switchblade scenes was for the rest of the story.

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    "Chekhov's gun" isn't a hard-and-fast rule. Even Chekhov himself broke it on one occasion. – F1Krazy Sep 25 at 9:41
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    It might not be a hard rule, but that doesn't really invalidate the question what point the switchblade had in the story, even if it maybe concentrates a bit much on "Chekhov's gun" and could use some elaboration what switchblade it is referring to. I don't think we need to weight every single word up with gold here rather than just moving our brains a little more to see what questions are actually asking. – Napoleon Wilson Sep 25 at 9:58
  • @NapoleonWilson Thank you for you'r corrections; yes i think i could'v asked it better let me see if i can fix it – ma_jafari Sep 25 at 10:02
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    I tried to flesh out the question a little more and giving it more of a motivational red thread. – Napoleon Wilson Sep 25 at 10:04
  • @NapoleonWilson couldn't have done it any better myself. thanks – ma_jafari Sep 25 at 10:06
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It is not completely irrelevant. Somerset used it various times in the film: to cut crime scene tape; remove the backing of a painting; shatter a metronome; and finally, to open the box at the end.

Many other on-screen detectives have used pens, or other objects to handle, or move evidence. Fincher, on the other hand, decided that Somerset had a switchblade, which he is shown using any time he doesn't want to actually touch something. I like to believe that the backstory (that Freeman created for his character) was along the lines of: as a young beat cop, he (Somerset) may have stopped and frisked a street-hood, confiscating his knife. It would have been a relatively minor thing to not turn it in to property and keep it to use as he is shown doing.

The whole switch-blade as a Checkov's gun thing would have been more accurate, if Somerset was shown with it at the beginning and then never again, I suppose, but to me, it is shown enough to be a personal device that Detective Somerset uses, keeping himself at more than an arm's distance away from everything.

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  • Him using the switchblade because he doesn't want to touch some things is interesting +1 for that; But again given that he was shown practicing throwing it and the alternative ending where he throws it to disarm Mills makes me think that maybe it was an unnecessary scene for the version they decided to go for. – ma_jafari Sep 25 at 11:50
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    One of my points was that the knife was actually shown in multiple scenes, which would have all had to be cut/reshot, if Fincher wanted to remove it. – CGCampbell Sep 25 at 12:00

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