The full-throttle ending of Fury Road comes barreling in like a freight train, wrapping up storylines and blowing up rides left and right. In the final race back to the Citadel, we seem both Max and Furiosa achieve the redemption they've been seeking, the four remaining wives earn their freedom, and the oppressive society of the Citadel utterly upended. Let's break that down piece by piece:
Ride to Redemption
When Max wants to convince Furiosa to head back they way they came and take the Citadel from Immortan Joe, he says,
"At least that way, you know, we might be able to, together, come across some kind of redemption."
That's it—that's the argument that ultimately convinces Furiosa that her redemption can't be achieved until she does away with the man who was responsible for all her sins: Immortan Joe.
But check it out. Not only does Max offer Furiosa the redemption she's been seeking throughout the movie, he also suggests to her that he's looking for the same thing—and this will help him on that path. That means we go into the final climactic road battle with one, burning question: do Max and Furiosa achieve the redemption they so desperately want?
The answer, of course, is yes.
Let's start with Furiosa. During the crazy chase, she's deeply wounded. Still, she manages to summon her strength and makes her way to Immortan Joe's vehicle, the Gigahorse. After she makes her way along the side of his ride, she finally finds herself face to face with her oppressor. And what does she do? She growls, "Remember me?" and then rips his facemask off. It takes half his face with it, and there you have it, folks: Immortan Joe is done for. Furiosa FTW.
But what about Max? Well, as it turns out, that mortal wound in Furiosa's side provides our main man with the perfect opportunity to get the redemption he's been after, too. As they ride back to the Citadel in the Gigahorse, he proceeds to give her an impromptu (and may we say, very unsanitary) blood transfusion, thus saving her life. Ah, but that's not all. Clearly saving Furiosa provides Max with some sense of redemption, but the proof is in his final line: "Max. My name is Max. That's my name."
Finally. The fact that Max is finally able to share his name tells us that after all the crazy he's experienced, he has finally come back to himself. Now that he's redeemed himself by not leaving these women behind, he can acknowledge who he is and face himself again.
As a final note on redemption, we'd like to give a quick shout-out to Nux here, too. He's the unsung hero of this heroes' journey, and we think he deserves a little more credit. Desperately in need of redemption after living under Immortan Joe's cultish shadow for so many years, Nux proves himself to ultimately be a good guy by sacrificing himself—and the War Rig—to ensure that the women can escape back to the Citadel, and that the war party can no longer pursue them. Three cheers for Nux, amirite?
Freedom for the Four
The final car race scene is also all about the four remaining wives. This is their last chance for freedom. Heck, it's their last chance for survival. As such, each of them gets their own moment of focus—whether triumphant or tragic—at the end.
Cheedo gets a chance to show her strength by tricking Rictus into helping her onto the Gigahorse—so that she can help Furiosa finally do away with Immortan Joe. And once he is done away with, Toast Knowing gets a chance to defiantly spit on his corpse—and drive the Gigahorse. Capable, for her part, gets a more tragic way to shine, as she reaches back toward Nux, knowing he's about to sacrifice himself and jackknife the War Rig to save her life.
A New Citadel
So we all know by now that the reason our crew heads back to the Citadel is that it's the closest place with a reliable source of clean water and all the sustenance that comes with. That's the plot angle. But is there a way to symbolically interpret this triumph as well?
Think about it this way. For much of the movie, women have been associated with fertility and the earth. Some of the breeders are pregnant, and they dream of going to "The Green Place," which, though it doesn't exist, is a symbol of the earth's long lost fecundity. The Vuvalini, too, seek out green places—although they're hoping to create one, since they know the original is no more. The Keeper of the Seeds keeps trying, and keeps her very valuable cache of seeds in a bag that she—and eventually the Dag—protects at all costs.
All that greenness and fertility has been corrupted—turned sour—by the apocalyptic world they navigate. It's a world dominated by men, bullets, violence, and oppression. So pretty much the opposite of what we think of as the green places of the world. The Citadel is all about controlling what few resources the world has left to come under the power of one man, who hoards all that water and green goodness for himself. Bad news.
But that's precisely what makes the women's return to the Citadel so triumphant: it represents the victory of a particularly post-apocalyptic brand of ecofeminism in a world ravaged by war, militarism, and the wasting of resources. To borrow a metaphor from ecofeminism, Immortan Joe reaps what he sows. When you keep things all to yourself, it's only a matter of time before someone comes and takes it from you. Lucky in this case, it's Furiosa and co. who'll likely rule the Citadel from here on out. Something tells Shmoop they're a step up from Immortan Joe's tyranny.
"Where must we go… we who wander this Wasteland in search of our better selves?
Fury Road ultimately concludes with that quote, attributed to "The First History Man."
The quote acts as a sort of post-ending epigraph, but the weird thing is, the quote isn't from anywhere we know of. It's from within the Mad Max universe, which means the quote is yet another invention from George Miller's awesome brain.
So who were the history men and why quote them at the end of Fury Road? Well, according to Mad Max lore (and the accompanying comic books), the history men were historians (duh) who live in a time long after the likes of Max and Furiosa. Since the apocalypse likely destroyed all the books and recordings of history, the history men are left to share whatever stories can be recalled in the form of "wordburgers." The going theory is that Miss Giddy was one of these history women, because she's got words—perhaps wordburgers, even?—tattooed all over her skin. That set-up reinforces George Miller's idea of the Mad Max stories as being campfire tales—the kind of standalone stories of heroes and villains that get passed down from generation to generation.
In any case, the quote returns us to the beginning of the movie, too. After all, we begin with a lone wanderer in the wasteland who's clearly in search of his better self. Yes, that would be Max. As we travel with him along the Fury Road, we see that he's not the only wanderer, not the only person searching for a better self. In many ways—that's true of just about everybody in the apocalypse.
Well, maybe not Immortan Joe. He seems to like himself just fine.