I don't understand the final scene of memento (so the first one in events). Short description from wikipedia:

After hearing Teddy's exposition, Leonard consciously burns Jimmy's photograph, writes a message to himself on Teddy's photograph to not trust Teddy, and drives off in Jimmy's car. He has Teddy's license plate number tattooed as the second attacker, leading to his eventual death.

Q: Why doesn't Leonard kill Teddy right then and there? It seems to me that he believes (or wants to believe since he can't handle the truth of himself killing his wife) that Teddy might be his actual "John G.", but why is he tattooing his plate number as a new fact on his body? If it is a fact leading to the killer, he could have killed him right away.

My only explanation is that he's still not entirely sure about Teddy. But this contradicts with the plate number being a fact about the killer in his mind.

3 Answers 3


The key is that Lenny is not a natural killer... he is a regular guy, and the only thing that can motivate him to kill someone is avenging his wife.

Teddy straight-up says this: when he confesses to using Lenny, he also says something like "you won't hurt me... you're not a killer."

But Lenny knows that vengeance for his wife is the one thing that will motivate him to kill... so he figures out a way to punish Teddy after all. He knows that he will soon forget the Teddy's confession, and that the tattoo of Teddy's license plate will make him think Teddy is John G... which will be enough motivation to kill Teddy. Indeed, that is what happens later in the storyline.


Because Leonard's wife is gone and his life is a wreck, he appears to feel like the pursuit of the killer is the only thing that gives his life any meaning, any reason to go on.

As he is driving away from the murder scene he thinks to himself: "I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can't remember them."

He chooses to use Teddy as his next target of vengeance because Teddy used him to make money from the bogus drug deal and has probably done other things like that as well. Teddy prodded him to kill someone who was innocent of the crime he cared about and it doesn't matter that he was a bad guy.

  • 1
    But he eventually kills him leading to the exact same scenario he would have been in if he killed him earlier. If he needs a reason he wouldn't have tattooed the plate number to stay away from solving the crime. And even if he kills Teddy, he can't remember what Teddy told him anyway. So he would forget in 5 minutes that now his life doesn't have meaning anymore. I still don't understand that scene.
    – user424862
    Jul 13, 2017 at 7:37
  • He doesn't want to remember about Teddy. He wants to keep on searching because that's all he has now. Oct 20, 2017 at 16:48

Ref: Memento Explanation

Lenny believes in two things:

1) When he kills his wife's murderer he will somehow remember that he's avenged her death.

"Somehow it will be different"

2) It doesn't matter to him if he remembers or not. He feels his wife's death has to be avenged for her sake. For her justice. This is his purpose.

When Lenny is in the process of killing Jimmy, Jimmy whispers "Sammy" just before dying.

Lenny drops Jimmy surprised that he knew about Sammy. Lenny suspects that if Jimmy knows about Sammy, then it’s someone who Lenny might have met in a completely different circumstance. That Jimmy may have nothing to do with his wife’s murder.

At this point, Lenny realizes that he's killed some guy who has nothing to do with his wife's murder. When Teddy comes there he roughs him up and asks for answers. Teddy tells him that a year ago he already avenged his wife's death. That even Teddy thought Lenny would remember this moment. But Lenny forgot.

Both things that Lenny believes in is invalidated.
1) He didn't remember the revenge.
2) His wife has been avenged and he has no purpose now.

However, he's angry that Teddy has been using him for a year to get rid of people. He's not in a position to trust Teddy with the information he has just received. Lenny has two choices:

1) Believe Teddy and write all of that down but wake up with no purpose left in life. Perhaps this has already happened.

Teddy also accuses of Lenny pulling out 12 pages from a full police report that he’d given him. He says that Lenny removed 12 pages to create a puzzle that he couldn’t solve.

2) Discard what Teddy had to say and continue looking for a John G.

Lenny feels that if Teddy thinks it’s all only about puzzle solving, another John G to look for, then Teddy is a John G. He thinks Teddy can be his John G. He thinks “Do I lie to myself to be happy? In your case, Teddy, Yes, I will”.

Why doesn't he kill Teddy right then and there? At that point he knows that Teddy is not his wife's killer. He knows, just like Jimmy, he will not feel the revenge if he kills Teddy right there. He needs to lie to himself to let circumstantial evidence lead to Teddy as his wife's murderer. Easiest evidence that will lead to Teddy is his License Plate Number.

This is the climax of the film. The irony is that Teddy himself gets marked as a false clue. A false clue that Lenny leaves himself. This moment here leads up to Teddy getting shot.

Does this mean that once he's killed Teddy he's going to stop? Perhaps not, because he's still going to forget the feeling of the revenge that he has taken. He's going feel the lack of purpose in his life. He might just keep going on like this, creating puzzles that he can't solve.

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