clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Friday Free Kick: How "The Departed" should have ended

Junko Kimura/Getty Images

*Editor's Note: This week's Friday Free Kick is brought to us by Once A Metro writer Huan Nguyen. You can find Huan on Twitter at @huanandonly

The Departed is known for three things: Boston accents, the brutal "ARE YOU A COP?" interrogation in the bar, and the bloody ending. Here is my problem with that crazy bloodbath: the second mole (who emerges to shoot Leonardo DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan) shouldn’t have been Barrigan (a completely random, forgettable character). The mole should’ve been Alec Baldwin’s Captain George Ellerby. Not only would it have been more memorable, but Matt Damon’s Colin Sullivan becomes 1000x more of a survive-at-any-cost cockroach if he has to shoot his boss in the face to save himself.

Let's break down why this would have been a better plot choice.

Who is Barrigan?

Detective Barrigan is technically in The Departed from the beginning. His highlights include… sitting on a bench while Matt Damon daydreams about firemen.

Knowing that Barrigan is a mole and re-watching the movie, nothing implicates him. Also that means Damon doesn’t remember a kid he saw go to the police academy with him and that Costello would attempt to sneak in two cadets at the same time. Having a second mole should show Costello’s criminal reach, instead it’s be a sign of Damon and Costello’s casual ineptitude.

Alec Baldwin is a memorable actor

Alec Baldwin steals scenes. His one scene in Glengarry Glen Ross is the most remembered in the movie and one of the most quoted scenes of all time. Baldwin provides at least five memorable/hilarious moments during his limited Departed screen time.


Alec Baldwin is not just a body in the room, but someone viewers remember. Barrigan’s only contribution is standing around stuff.

There’s a mole higher up than Colin Sullivan

Matt Damon's character (Sullivan) isn’t the only mole. That’s why Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg's characters don’t let anyone talk to the undercovers. So when Costello already knows about Sullivan’s promotion before Sullivan, that means there is a mole higher up than Damon. And it’s all part of his plan. As he says "with everyone looking up their own ass and you finding yourself, I put my money is nobody finds anything."

Immaculate Record

The whole point of internal affairs is to find the mole. Is it by pure chance Damon ends up in that position? Or is he placed there specifically?

Let’s break it down:

10 sec: Costello has at least one mole…

Translation: I’m a mole and you’re a mole.

20 sec: Some people don’t trust someone with an immaculate record... but I have one too.

Translation: Costello likes people with an immaculate record. Wink.

40 sec: Marriage and appearance are important to get ahead.

Translation: We need to both appear as we are doing our job. Appearance is everything.


The Departed won Best Picture at the Academy Awards and is beloved by most people. Is it foolish to go back and attempt to "fix" what is considered one of the best mafia/crime (or cop depending on your perspective) films of all time? Yes, but with one simple adjustment to the plot, the film could have had an even more memorable ending and given resolution to one of its best characters.