Jordan Peele made a name for himself with Get Out, and he continues to wow us with his new movie US. Us follows a girl, Adelaide who we will call Addie, and her family trying to escape people in red jumpsuits that look exactly like them and call themselves the tethered. And like Get Out, the movie is full of rich commentary on society, the United States, and family dynamics.
This article will have major major spoilers. If you haven’t seen it, please stop reading, go watch the movie, and come back to this page when you’re done.
I went to the movie theater practically giddy with excitement. These are the books and movies I love – a complicated storyline that promotes a conversation, leaves me with a few questions are the very end, and has a deeper meaning. When the movie was over, I sat in my seat, frozen, a dozen thoughts running through my head on what the ending could mean, how I didn’t see it coming, and all the social commentary Peele was making with this movie. And there was a lot which you can read here.
For this article, I’ll be covering some of the easter eggs you may have missed and answer some common questions.
US follows Addie and her family trying to get away from these people who call themselves “the tethered.” They are the product of a failed government experiment to clone humans. They could clone the body but not the soul, so it was like two people sharing one soul. The tethered lived in underground tunnels that have existed for years, and they have to mimic the movements of those who live above ground.
The movie starts with young Addie watching a commercial for Hands Across America and astute fans can see she’s cutting a piece of paper with scissors. Hands Across America was a movement made during the Reagan era which tried to end world hunger and poverty. According to Peele, he liked the symbolism because it was a happy image while a lot of negativity was going on in the background during that time.
Then we see Addie with her parents on the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. She and her family stop to play a game and her mother goes to the bathroom insisting that the father make sure to keep an eye on Addie. Of course, he doesn’t and she wanders off where she sees a man holding a sign saying Jeremiah 11:11 which we will get back to later. She gets lost inside a mirror maze and starts whistling to the tune of the itsy bitsy spider when she hears someone whistling it back to her.
She looks at a reflection of herself but it’s turned around so her reflection has its back to her. Then the scene cuts to her at a therapist’s office saying that Addie hasn’t spoken a word in months and it was probably due to some trauma she faced when she got lost. The therapist suggested she start using creative outlets such as dancing or drawing to break out of her shell.
We find out at the end of the movie that when Addie got lost in that mirror maze and looked at her reflection, she was looking at her tethered. Her tethered grabbed her around the throat and dragged her down to the tunnels where she handcuffed her to a bed. Addie’s tethered then took her place above ground.
This explains why she didn’t speak for so long – she couldn’t. The tethered don’t have a language, so she was learning a new language all on her own.
Then we see grown-up Addie with her husband, Greg, daughter, Zora, and son, Jason, driving to their vacation home. That’s when we get a hint that something is wrong. She’s trying to teach Jason how to stay on beat to a song and snaps along. But she’s snapping off beat – she’s always just one second off.
Which makes sense because as a tether she wouldn’t have been introduced to music until later in life and although she could have learned throughout the years, it may have been more difficult.
Throughout the movie, Jason wears a monster mask on his face – even when running away from the tethered. In the car ride, he talks about some new bad words he learned and at the house, he finds an old magic trick that creates a spark between his fingers. He says that he remembers doing the motions but doesn’t remember what the trick does.
We see later on while the rest of the family is having burgers and fries, Addie is eating strawberries and Jason is refusing to eat anything. It suggests that Addie is eating strawberries because she’s leading a vegan lifestyle. After years of having to eat raw rabbits for sustenance, it makes sense why she couldn’t stomach the thought of eating meat.
Zora mentions how although she is a gifted runner, she might not want to do track again next year. Her dad even talks about her making it to the Olympics one day.
They’re going to go meet their friends – a couple named Kitty and Josh and their twin daughters. Throughout the beginning of the movie, we see Greg constantly comparing himself to Josh, even going so far as to buy a boat.
While Addie and Greg seem to have a cute and loving relationship, Josh and Kitty can barely tolerate each other and have their individual issues. Kitty is concerned with her looks, getting botox injected in her face while Josh enjoys flaunting his wealth even at the expense of others.
Their two daughters wear the classic bikini top and shorts and try and fail to do cartwheels in the sand while Zora sits by herself on the beach listening to music and Jason tries to build a tunnel in the sand.
When Addie and her family are finally confronted by the tethers who are all wearing red jumpsuits. Addie’s tether refers to herself as Red. Of course, we find out at the end of the movie that “Red” is actually the real Addie who switched places with her tether at a young age. For simplicity sake, we’re going to call the one in the red jumpsuit Red even though she’s not the real tether.
Red has Addie handcuff herself to her furniture much like how Addie chained her to her bed as a child. Addie remains handcuffed throughout the entire movie until the very end when she kills Red – showing that she finally untethered.
She then introduces the rest of her family. Her husband, Abraham, is alluding to Abraham from the bible.
He is considered a patriarch because it is considered that Jewish people are descendants of his son, Isaac. God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son. Abraham gets ready to do it but in the last second, God allows Abraham to spare Isaac because he already showed his devotion.
Red’s son, Pluto, looks exactly like Jason except he wears a white mask to cover the burns around his face. Theoretically, she named him Pluto because Pluto is the name of the God of the underworld in Greek mythology. The underworld could be speaking to the system of tunnels that the tethers called their home.
And lastly, Zora’s tether is named Umbrae which is Latin for shade or shadow – exactly what the tethers represent. They are the shadow of those who live above the ground. They are forced to live in the shadows of those that have been gifted with a privileged life and act out the things that they could never experience.
While most of the tethers move in jerky motions as if they’re not used to controlling their own body, Red walks as if she is dancing. She has careful precise steps and seems absolutely in control.
They carry golden shears – similar to the ones we see the real young Addie cutting paper with in the opening sequence. Each tether chases down their counterpart trying to kill them with the shears and take their place above the ground.
Pluto takes Jordan into a closet and we see that the tethers have to mimic the actions of those above the ground. However, throughout the movie, it is only Pluto who consistently mimics Jordan – the other tethers seem to have volition of their own actions.
This might be because Jordan and Pluto are young and Pluto hasn’t learned how to control his own actions or Peele might be setting the stage for a conspiracy theory I will talk about later in the article.
We see that their friends, Kitty, Josh, and their kids, have also faced their tethers. But unlike Red and her family, they make quick work of killing their above-ground counterparts. When Addie and her family finally escape, they make their way to their friend’s vacation home where they find the tethers have effectively taken over their friends’ lives.
Kitty’s tether, Dahlia, uses Kitty’s makeup and helps herself to her clothes. When she ties Addie up, there is a moment where she goes to kill her and looks like she’s fighting with herself to hold back – as if she was not allowed to hurt Addie. This is our first clue that there is a master plan in play.
Josh’s tether, Tex, attacks Greg, but he manages to fight him off. When Dahlia sees her “husband” being brutally killed by Greg and starts laughing. Kitty could barely stand being in the same room as Josh, and it seems that Dahlia inherited that from her tether.
This is when I realized the tethers couldn’t speak – only Red. Her voice was gravelly and it sounded like it was difficult for her to get the words out. After watching the end, it makes sense that she is the only tether that could speak.
And there are two explanations as to why she had a hard time speaking. Either it was because the tethered Addie severely damaged her vocal cords when she choked young Addie and dragged her to the tunnel system or the simple fact that she hadn’t spoken in years and simply lost practice.
The thing that struck me when watching the movie was the duality of the tethers. Zora mentioned at the beginning of the movie that she might not want to do track the next year – saying that she wasn’t nearly good enough to excel the way she wanted to do.
Umbrae was much faster than her. Without even breaking a sweat. She had the makings of being an Olympic runner.
Kity and Josh’s twins tried to do handstands when they were on the beach, but couldn’t manage to get it quite right. Their tethers, however, practically used gymnastics as a mode of transportation.
Addie was put in dancing as a child to help her to speak but quit when she was 14. But Red moved with all the grace of a dancer who had been refining the craft for years.
Addie and her family sit in their friends’ home and figure out what they’re going to do next when they see a newscast of a bunch of tethers coming out and killing their above-ground counterparts. The tethers are holding hands, forming a chain, much like the commercial for Hands Across America that young Addie saw.
This is when the bible verse from earlier in the movie makes sense. She sees a man holding a sign reading Jeremiah 11:11.
“Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.”
A self-explanatory quote alluding to the disaster that the world will face when young Addie gets lost and gets kidnapped by her tether. If she had not wandered off, she would not have seen that quote, she would not have catapulted these events into motion.
When they see that the tethered uprising is happening, they panic and have to decide what to do. Addie suggests that they take a car and drive straight to Mexico – insinuating that she might know something that everyone else doesn’t.
She probably figured out as a young tether that the tethers only existed in America. This didn’t occur anywhere else – hence going to Mexico might be the safest option.
Greg tries to disagree with her and throws out some other options. She snaps and says something along the lines of he’s not going to be the one making decisions anymore. This speaks to her life as a tethered – having no option but to follow the actions and decisions of those who live above ground.
She would have done anything to protect her new life, the family she loves, and to never go back to the life of a tethered again.
They get into their friends’ car and start driving when they run into Umbrae. Literally. After some creative driving from Zora, they launch her a forest. Addie runs out of the car to check if she’s really dead when she comes across Umbrae impaled onto a tree. Umbrae is laughing and giggling and almost reaching towards Addie.
Addie only stares and turns back to the car. Honestly, I have no idea what this means. She knew that Umbrae was going to die so she might not have cared enough to finish the job. But the look on Addie’s face was one of pity. Maybe she felt bad for the tethered and her killing the tethered was survival – not malice. She was one of them and she knows how it feels to hold that resentment against those live above ground.
When they finally pull up to their old house, they see that they’re car is on fire and Pluto is standing in front of it. It’s Jason who realizes that it’s a trap and Pluto has lead a trail of gasoline to their car.
Jason gets out of the car, raises his arms, and starts walking, forcing Pluto to walk back as well. Right into the fire. While this is going on, Addie is standing in front of Pluto, reaching out a hand, as if she’s trying to communicate with him. When he enters the fire, she screams no and looks genuinely distressed at his death.
But Red had another plan in motion. She kidnapped Jason and took him to the underground tunnel system. Addie knew exactly where to go – another clue to viewers that something wasn’t exactly right.
She saw Red in a classroom and she began explaining what had happened. They get into an epic battle and Red has the upper hand through most of the fight. In the last second, Addie manages to kill Red and uses her handcuffs to choke Red. Finally, Addie is free from her handcuffs, showing that she is finally untethered.
She finds Jason in a locker and pulls him out, saying that everything is going to go back to how it was before. She meets up with her husband and daughter and they start driving towards Mexico. The last thing we see is a line of tethers, holding hands for miles and miles.
I’ll talk about one of the most popular and hotly contested theories over the internet – did Jason and Pluto switch places like Addie and Red? And I’ll say I have no idea. I definitely think there is something weird about the two and there are a lot of unanswered questions.
The theory is that sometimes the last summer, Jason and Pluto switched places and the person in the red jumpsuit is actually the real Jason. There are a lot of points in the film that disprove that theory but there are also a lot of places that this theory makes a lot of sense.
In the beginning, we see that Jason is using some bad language that he shouldn’t have heard before. This could explain if Red taught him those words and he was just repeating it. Of course, this could also mean that he’s a regular young boy who learns bad language through friends and the media.
Greg mentions that Jason’s been acting different since his grandparents died last summer. That could explain a transition period when Jason and Pluto switched and Pluto was getting used to life above ground. If Red had planned this all along, she might have taught Pluto some English so he would have an easier time assimilating.
Later on, he’s seen playing with his magic toy but he can’t seem to remember what it did or get it to work. This makes sense if he’s actually a tethered and he was only doing the motions but never knew what the trick did.
He also locks himself in a closet that can’t be opened from the inside. He made that exact same mistake the last summer and should have remembered to be more careful. Again, it shows that he might be a tethered because he wouldn’t have known that particular detail.
On the beach, Jason is seen not really socializing with other kids and when he’s playing in the sand, he’s not building a castle like most kids. He’s making a tunnel. As a tether, that would be the only thing that he would know.
In the closet, when Pluto and Jason are getting to know each other, Pluto makes a snapping motion with his fingers, asking Jason to do his magic trick. This could be Pluto just wanting to see what Jason was doing all this time, or it could be him trying to teach the switched Jason how to do the magic trick.
Of course, this begs a lot of questions. One of the most common is how could Jason control Pluto if they had been switched? The idea behind the tethered is not that only one can control the other. The scientists actually did this experiment in the first place to use the tethered to control those above ground.
The theory is that either one can control the other if they have the proper mindset and power. Perhaps Jason and Pluto were born special like Addie and Red were.
There are also other moments that might explain they had been switched. After the epic battle between Red and Addie, on the drive to Mexico, Jason is sitting next to his mother with a rabbit in his lap, giving his mother a suspicious look. He then turns back to look at the road and puts his monster maks back on.
This could also be an answer to another common question – if they had been switched why didn’t either one of them rebel against their new families? It makes sense that Red would have facilitated their switch and she would have done it with a purpose.
She might have planned to kidnap him all along. And he expected to be rescued by Red. He didn’t expect to be rescued by Addie, so when she came along, he was genuinely surprised. But he decided not to say anything and accept his new life as living above ground.
And another thing – why didn’t the switched Pluto who would’ve been the real Jason try to fight against Red. Honestly, I have no idea. That is the question that makes me doubt this theory and I don’t have a sound explanation.
Some people say argue that he chose not to fight back because he was always animalistic as shown by the mask he always wears and becoming Pluto allowed him to accept who he truly was.
I think that he always intended to fight back until he saw how savage his family really was. He played along to Red’s plan but wanted to escape above ground. He was the only one who never carried the scissors and he never seemed to want to truly hurt Jason.
The only place where he was violence was when he set fire to their car and even then, he did not succeed.
And US, as amazing as it was, is not a perfect, logically sound movie. There are a lot of questions. Such as: how did the tethers set up a rebellion if they had no form of communication? How did they get clothes that matched those above ground? Why do they sometimes have to mimic the movements of those above grounds and sometimes they don’t? Where did they get that kind of equipment? The underground tunnel system wouldn’t enough space for them… how did they even survive?
There are a lot of plot questions that will never be answered because it doesn’t matter. Peele made his point with this movie and the plot holes don’t take away from his message.