This is alternative/re-envisioned conclusion to P.T. Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece film There Will Be Blood. Notorious for its shocking, abrupt finale, I wanted to extend it further and see what happens after the bloody scene in the bowling alley.
“We’re gonna ask you some questions now, H.W, ok?” says an older, hefty police officer, breathing heavily with overwrought concern.
H.W Plainview was pulled away from his family by two officers at the train station for reasons he couldn’t hear. Still furious at his father, he couldn’t imagine any other force in the world that would bring him here. He had been so close to getting away for good.
Bastard in a basket, he thought.
The words had reverberated through his head since storming away from his father’s house. He had told the grizzled drunkard with the oily-black soul that he was glad he had none of him in his blood. He thought this, knew this. But he didn’t feel it. For he was too an oil man. But a good oil man. Right?
That makes you my competitor
H.W had to leave, to finally begin a new life with Mary away from his father, away from the rock-strewn, barren Californian oil plains. No bread. Not for the average people, anyway. Just potatoes. The terrain can’t support the grain. Of course, H.W was never poor; but when he was a boy, he wanted to be.
“Uh, H.W? You there, friend?”
H.W stares blankly at the hefty officer from across a large, thick wooden table underneath a hanging lamp that glares in his eyes. He could see another tall, lanky officer in conversation through a window on the door to the room. The officer across from him had been motioning at him with his mouth and hands for a minute or two, but he was too tired and upset to try to explain why he couldn’t answer.
The lanky officer glances away from his conversation for a beat, looks through the window, and immediately opens the door and leans halfway in.
“Hey hold up a sec, Tom. We’re still waitin’ on the signer.”
“The what, now?”
The lanky officer nervously glances at H.W and then back at Tom, who’s looking around and squinting in confusion.
Hesitantly, under his breathe, he mutters “The man’s deaf, sir, I… thought I told you.”
“Then why the fuck’re you whisperin’ to me?”
At just that moment, a stocky, roundish man with a brown suit and square glasses pushes past the officer and bursts through the doorway.
“H.W, my God,” says the man, flicking his fingers quickly in his direction
Turning to Tom, “My name is George Callis, I’m H.W’s therapist and translator. Just what in the hell are we doing here?”
“Let me get this straight,” Tom says with dry confusion, “I talk to you,” pointing at George, “and you-ah, I see.”
“Well at least you’re the one who has to tell him, then.”
“Tell him what, exactly?” says George, concerned.
H.W, growing agitated and confused at the empty speech around him, blurts in an off-tongue “Whas gong on!?” resoundingly pounding his fist against the table. He only spoke when necessary, aware of the oddity of his voice.
All three men look over at H.W, his eyes nervously twitching and scanning back and forth between them.
Tom sighs and uneasily looks at the papers in front of him on the table.
“Ya ready to be the bearer of the bad news, Georgie?”
George solemnly nods in return.
“Look, H.W, we ran ya down on your way outta town because we got some bad news and we need your help.”
George flicks signs at H.W, who watches intently with concern.
He finishes signing and H.W immediately signs back. George quickly shakes his head and continues exchanging signs.
“Hey, Hey- what’re you two saying there?” Tom chimes in.
“He asked if you had taken Mary to the station,” said George, turning back to sign H.W.
Glancing back momentarily, “Mary’s his wife.”
“That’s…Mary Sunday is it?”
George, still communicating with H.W, turns back, “What? Yes, Yes. Mary Sunday.”
Christ, Tom thinks to himself, shaking his head a bit.
George and H.W continue to sign intently while Tom sits, staring idly into the distance, incessantly tapping his shoe against the leg of the table next to him.
Tension boils in Tom’s stomach as he watches the silent fingers flick about the room, dancing in impossible conversation. The ceiling lamp sways back and forth in off-patterns, creaking slightly at each pendulum-like sway through the middle of the table.
“Alright, damn it, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it, Georgie, so get your damn magic hands ready to woof these words to our poor friend here.”
Both George and H.W abandon their talk and look up at Tom.
“H.W, your father, Daniel Plainview, murdered a priest, Eli Sunday, in his home this mornin’ after you left. His butler found the bloody scene and called the police. Once Daniel learned this he killed the butler too. We found him bloodied and pissed drunk in his bowling alley.”
George’s eyes widen as he stares back at Tom.
H.W looks around the room in confusion and starts tapping George on the shoulder to get his attention. For a beat, George pretended not to notice.
“Well, George? I got more to say, so you wanna drop this first bomb or not?”
H.W confusedly darts his attention between the two men.
George finally drags his eyes over to H.W and begins slowly, methodically signing him the news.
H.W’s face immediately goes pale and rigid, clenching every muscle in his body.
A monster. A devil. How could he do this? How could my father kill a priest? A friend? Why? Oh Mary…
“So did he get all that?” asks Tom
George studies H.W’s blank, pale expression, squinting his brow, analyzing his reaction.
“Yes, I believe he did.”
“How?” chimed H.W. The words blurt from his mouth, almost out of his control.
“Uh, how what, son?”
Keeping a blank face and without turning to George, he errantly offers a clarifying message with a flick of his hands.
George twitches his head to the side upon interpreting the message, squinting in concerned confusion. Without breaking his stare at the wall, H.W slowly closed his eyes and nodded his head, confirming.
“Umm,” George’s voice quivered with hesitancy. “How did Daniel do it?”
“What, now? That’s your first question?” Tom scoffed, shaking his head at George.
“It’s not my question, officer.”
Tom takes a deep breath and exhales, his body creaking like weary, old gears.
“Well, fine, I spose’, but it ain’t pretty.”
“Just tell me so we can move on.”
“Fair enough. I’ll just say it, and you’ll know I ain’t lyin’.”
He breathes through his nose a couple of times, looking about the room, preparing himself.
“He used a damn bowlin’ pin.”
“We found him passed out in his bowlin’ alley surrounded by two bodies and empty liquor bottles. This was in his hand.”
Tom reaches under the table and pulls up a clear bag soaked in blood from the inside. Sure enough, sloshing within is a once-pearly white bowling pin, tattered not just with blood, but dark chunks of flesh.
“Jesus!” says George, turning away. “How is that even…possible?”
H.W’s expression doesn’t shift a beat as he stares at the bag, shaking his head. No sign needed to explain this.
The work of a madman. The work of my father. He doesn’t deserve to breathe.
“Alright, well believe it or not, we got bigger things to do here than to stare at bloody pins” replied Tom, attempting to steer the conversation.
Silence. Still in shock at the impossible murder weapon.
Waiting a beat, Tom starts to lose his patience.
“Alright, fuck the pin, boys. George, I need H.W to speak to Daniel. He was the last person to see him before the murders. Daniel’s barely said a word to us since he’s started to sober up. A man of his wealth and importance to the town, the state…we gotta know a motive. We gotta get something out of him.”
“I don’t know if-”
“Just ask him, Georgie.”
H.W had kept his eyes gazed on the dark, red bowling pin. It had dents on its base. Glossed wood against skin and bone. The wood wins in his father’s hands.
I should’ve ended him. Long ago. If only I’d known he wasn’t my own. In his stupid, drunken sleep, I could have killed off the fiend. It should be his blood on this pin, his cracked flesh and bone.
George repeatedly taps H.W on the shoulder, trying to break his trance.
“H.W, come on, look at me.”
“He’s deaf, ya know,” barks Tom, chuckling to himself.
H.W finally breaks his hellish gaze and turns towards George, who immediately signs to him.
Without hesitation, H.W responds “Yes,” nodding with a darkness in his eyes.
The men had left H.W alone in the room with a pad of paper and a pen, the bloodied bowling pin hidden under the table next to him. A knock on the door, and it swings open. In walks Daniel Plainview looking like hell, cuffed, still stinking of booze in his bloody, grey cardigan. Without making eye contact, he nudges the door shut behind him then slowly saunters over to the seat across from H.W, plopping down with an airy grunt. He looks across the table and sees the pad of paper, still avoiding H.W’s eyes.
“Heh. I was curious what we would do without your dog here to bark for you,” finally looking up at H.W as he finishes the sentence. His voice sounds hoarse and dry.
H.W scribbles on the pad and slides it across the table.
“Well, let’s see what you have to say there, son,” heckles Daniel.
Is this yours?
As Daniel reads, H.W opens the bag next to him, pulls out the bloodied bowling pin and sets it on the table with an emphatic thump.
Daniel looks at the pin, expressionless, and then back at H.W, studying his dark, hollow-looking eyes.
“I’ve never seen you so calm around me, boy.”
H.W glares into the eyes of the paternal monster; eyes for so long he believed he shared.
I thank God I have none of you in me.
But was it true? Or something he wished for, convinced himself of?
H.W, eyes trained on Daniel, grabs the pin and quickly stands up, clenching it tightly in his right hand, causing the still-fresh blood to drip down his wrist.
Daniel’s face hardens, lowering his gaze like a preying wolf.
An oily, grizzled exhale;
“Do it, boy.”