At the near end of the movie, when a box delivered to the trio in a deserted place is opened, David Mills' (played by Brad Pitt) wife Tracy Mill's face appears for a fraction of a second.

Wikipedia's plot summary of the movie suggests that his wife was murdered.

Doe claims to represent the sin of "Envy"; he was jealous of Mills' normal life, and killed Tracy after failing to "play husband" with her.

But the viewers don't have first hand account of whether the murder actually took place.

Is it possible that John Doe (played by Kevin Spacey) didn't actually kill his wife? If he really did, how can the viewer be sure of the murder other than the subliminal appearance of Tracy Mill's face when the box was opened and John Doe's account to David Mills?

  • 12
    So apart from the fact that John Doe had murdered 5 other people in a grisly and symbolic manner, and the brief glimpse of the head, David Mills murderous reaction, and zero evidence to the contrary. Wow, you could doubt pretty much any plot point in any movie on this basis.
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 28, 2012 at 13:20
  • Well you can happily delete this question if you think it is absurd.
    – jokerdino
    Jun 28, 2012 at 13:23
  • Well I tend to only close questions that are clearly off-topic. If people think its absurd or good can vote on it.
    – iandotkelly
    Jun 28, 2012 at 13:26
  • 1
    mill's wife dead and what character she supposed to be?
    – user4076
    Feb 7, 2013 at 15:54
  • Why else would David Mills be going so crazy after opening the box? The box was bloody, that was Cheryl Mills' face in there. Doe had killed his wife. It was to cause his final desire to push David Mills to commit the deadly sin of wrath, the seventh deadly sin. Jun 12, 2018 at 21:32

3 Answers 3


Given the "credibility" of the Kevin Spacey character (he hadn't failed to follow through...ever) I would think he can't possibly be "faking" his climax.


The context and the character of the participants makes it very clear

Note, as far as I recall the viewer never gets a glimpse inside the box, so, in one sense, the movie deliberately withholds evidence from the viewer. This might leave you doubting that Jon Doe had murdered Mills' wife.

But the context of the scene does not. We know the characters of the individuals: John Doe is clearly capable and motivated to commit the murder and, to make his epic point, he has to commit an act capable of inciting Mills to the sin of Wrath; Somerset has a deep understanding of human motivation and the specific pattern of Doe's crimes; Mills is in love with his wife and is not such a poorly controlled cop that he would react with vengeful wrath to many insults.

The scene plays out with Somerset opening the box. Somerset's reaction to seeing the contents suggests he knows immediately what Mills will do. He attempts to stop Mills obvious action by persuading him to disarm before looking in the box. What other possible content in the box could cause this reaction? Mills then looks and reacts with vengeance. What else could have persuaded him to do so? Mills has seen other atrocities committed by Doe and did not react this way.

The only possibility here is that Doe has done what he claimed and the box contains Mills' wife's head. The fact it is not shown explicitly actually makes the climax more tense. You don't need to see everything to know what has happened (subtlety is good and treats audiences as intelligent people).


It is possible, it could have been a fake head in the box etc. However, going on Mills's character I think it is more likely he actually killed her and sent the severed head.

  • I don't think this is a good edit. This edit pretty much changes the answer. It should have been either a comment or an entirely separate answer.
    – DA.
    Apr 22, 2015 at 3:02
  • Now who the hell approved an annonymous edit that should have been a comment since it totally contradicts the author's intention?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Apr 22, 2015 at 8:58

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