Martin Scorsese’s newest epic, Killers of the Flower Moon, ends with a prescient kind of warning to an industry that would explode 100 years after the events of the film: true crime. It seemingly tells the viewer that, in a realm focused on death and destruction, it’s vital to remember the people behind all the pain — the victims and survivors of rampant evil.

Based on the 2017 book of the same name by David Grann, the film centers on the Osage people of Oklahoma after the discovery of oil on their land leads white settlers to target them for their money. Led by seemingly upstanding community member William Hale (Robert De Niro), white interlopers systematically marry Osage women, killing off relatives — and eventually their wives — to secure their oil money. It’s a stark and terrible story, a brutal retelling of how Indigenous people were seen as less-than, even to the white people who claimed to love them.

The tone shifts at the end of the film, and after more than three hours of seeing the Osage tribe destroyed, we end on a jaunty old radio show in which a white audience listens, rapt, as a cast of similarly caucasian actors (including Jack White) recap a very different story than we just saw unfold. This one centered on the nascent FBI and their agents’ daring takedown of the titular Killers of the Flower Moon

The show is retitled in the film, but according to Grann’s book, it’s based on a program that launched in 1932 in partnership with the FBI to dramatize their cases called The Lucky Strike Hour. One of the first episodes was about the Osage murders and includes fictional scenes in which Ernest Burkhart (played in the film by Leonard DiCaprio) plots the murders of the family of his Osage wife, Mollie (Lily Gladstone). Burkhart and his uncle, Hale, were arrested for their crimes, though they were eventually released and lived out their final days as free men. As such, the original program ended with the words: “So another story ends and the moral is identical with that set forth in all the others of this series….[The criminal] was no match for the Federal Agent of Washington in a battle of wits.” 


In the film, though, Scorsese appears after the bawdy show wraps up to remind the audience of the true heart of the story — the Osage people — highlighting that even in Mollie’s obituary, her family’s deaths were papered over, their murders unreported. She died of diabetes, long before Hale. Grann told Rolling Stone that while he did not discuss the decision with Scorsese, he understands why the director chose to end the film this way. “The reason it’s in the book is that it really gets at this idea of how stories get told. For a long time, the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover offered a sanitized version of what had happened, and never disclosed that there really was this much deeper and darker conspiracy that the Bureau never exposed,” he says. “By showing this radio play, with these white actors with these very racist fake accents pretending to be Native Americans, it gets at the way this story was not just told, but mistold and misremembered. My own interpretation of Scorsese breaking that fourth wall at the end is his own sense of moral responsibility in trying to tell this story.”

Intended or not, the final frames of the film call to mind the current true crime podcast industry, which has long grappled with whose stories get told and how. In recent years, the plight of Indigenous people has come to light thanks to reporters like Connie Walker and her Stolen podcast series, but there’s still a long way to go. As Walker, a member of the Cree people, previously told Rolling Stone: “I used to think that we were trying to subvert the popularity of true crime and tell a bigger story about indigenous people, and that that was a tool that we could use to try to get people to listen to our podcasts. … Then I realized, at a certain point, ‘I need this, too, actually.’”