By Megan McCluskey
September 7, 2019

Warning: This post contains spoilers for It Chapter Two.

After two years of waiting, fans of IT — well, those who never got around to reading Stephen King’s 1986 novel, at least can finally find out what happens to the Losers’ Club 27 years after they first battled Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) in the sewers of Derry.

IT Chapter Two, director Andy Muschietti’s follow-up to his hit 2017 adaptation of the first half of King’s book, sees the now-adult Bill Denbrough (James McAvoy), Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain), Richie Tozier (Bill Hader), Eddie Kaspbrak (James Ransone) and Ben Hanscom (Jay Ryan) return to their small Maine hometown at the call of their old friend Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) to face off with the chilling evil that has once again awoken.

But to defeat It for good, the Losers must first regain their memories of everything that happened during that fateful summer of 1989. It’s at that point in the story that the Ritual of Chüd, essentially a battle of wills against It and one of the strangest and most confusing aspects of King’s novel, comes into play. In the book, the ritual takes readers on a psychic journey into King’s macroverse, the realm in which It’s true form — the Deadlights that transfixed Bev when she saw inside Pennywise’s mouth in the first movie — coexists alongside a massive, benevolent turtle named Maturin who vomitted out the mainstream universe in King’s novels. Yeah, we know, it’s out there.

The movie simplifies many elements of King’s original ritual, but for viewers who haven’t read the book, it still may not be the easiest thing to grasp.

Since understanding the ritual is essential to making sense of how the Losers ultimately defeat It, here’s everything you need to know about the Ritual of Chüd to understand the ending of IT Chapter Two.

What is the Ritual of Chüd?

(L-r) James McAvoy as Bill Denbrough, James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak, Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh, Bill Hader as Richie Tozier, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon, and Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom in 'It Chapter Two'
Brooke Palmer—Warner Bros. Pictures

Although the Losers think that they defeated It during the battle in the sewers in the first movie, the vision that Bev saw in the Deadlights of all of them back in the cistern as adults makes them wary enough to swear a blood oath that they will all come back to Derry if It ever returns. However, they’re unaware that part of the hold that It has on Derry is It’s ability to make people forget the atrocities It has committed, especially those who move away from the town.

Cut to IT Chapter Two, a.k.a. 27 years after the events of the first movie, and we learn that the Losers have all moved away and forgotten nearly everything about their lives in Derry. That is, with the exception of Mike, who never left Derry and has found ways to force himself to remember what happened. Following Adrian Mellon’s (Xavier Dolan) murder in the opening scene of the movie, it’s Mike who calls up his fellow Losers to alert them of It’s return, kickstarting their memories.

The knowledge that It has returned proves too much for Stan (Andy Bean), who dies by suicide almost immediately after taking Mike’s call. But the rest of the group all makes plans to return to Derry right away.

Following the Losers’ Club reunion at the Jade of the Orient and their discovery that Stan has died, in a scene that diverges from the book, Mike takes Bill to the library in hopes of convincing him that it’s possible to defeat It once and for all. Once there, Mike drugs Bill’s drink with a hallucinogenic root that was given to him by a Native American tribe he visited to try to learn more about It. He goes on to reveal that he spent several years chasing down every possible lead on It, a search that led him to the descendants of the Native Americans who inhabited the future site of Derry at the time of It’s arrival.

Mike then pulls out a Native American artifact that he stole from the tribe, which is covered in markings that reveal the origins of It. What follows is a trippy animated sequence in which Bill sees a vision of It crash-landing on Earth in an event similar to an asteroid impact. Although It arrives in its true form of the Deadlights, Bill watches as It transforms into a bird before rapidly shifting between a number of grotesque forms while preying upon the ancestors of the Native American tribe that Mike sought out. The tribe is then shown standing around the artifact as a fire burns inside it, signifying that they are performing the Ritual of Chüd. Unfortunately, they are only able to trap It with the ceremony instead of killing It for good. (Or so Mike says — more on that later.)

Mike is convinced that if the Losers recreate the ritual, they will be able to stop It’s reign of terror forever. But to do this, they first need to each collect a token from their childhood that they can burn inside the artifact.

The scene from the movie in which Mike explains the Ritual of Chüd to Bill is based on a chapter in King’s book in which the child Losers decide to perform an “Indian ceremony” that involves filling up their clubhouse with smoke to create a “smoke-hole.” Once the others can no longer endure the smoke, Mike and Ritchie are left alone inside the clubhouse, and both experience a vision of It’s arrival on Earth.

In the book, there are no Native Americans who teach Mike about the Ritual of Chüd. It’s only mentioned in passing that the idea for the smoke-hole came from a book about Native Americans that Ben was reading while researching It. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t do much to update King’s depiction of Native Americans as faceless people used only to further IT‘s plot. (Some of King’s other works, including The Shining and Pet Sematary, have also been called out for their portrayals of indigenous people.)

How do the Losers defeat It?

(L-r) Jessica Chastain as Beverly Marsh, Isaiah Mustafa as Mike Hanlon and Jay Ryan as Ben Hanscom in 'It Chapter Two'
Brooke Palmer—Warner Bros. Pictures

Once everyone is back on board with defeating It and the group has retrieved Stan’s token — one of the shower caps that he stored in the Losers’ clubhouse to keep spiders out of his hair — each Loser sets out alone to find their own token. Despite the fact that nearly all of them have a solo encounter with It in the process, Bill makes it back with Georgie’s paper sailboat, Bev with the haiku that Ben wrote for her when they were kids, Richie with a literal token from the arcade, Eddie with his inhaler, Ben with the page from his yearbook that Bev signed and Mike with the rock that Bev hit Henry Bowers with to save him as a kid. In the process, they continue to regain their memories of what happened the first summer they battled It and how they defeated It back then.

After Dean (Luke Roessler) is killed by It in the fun house, the group follows Bill to the house on Neibolt Street and they again climb down the well into the sewers. This time though, they go deep enough in to reach the site where It first crash landed on Earth. It’s there that Mike brings out the artifact and they all burn their tokens inside of it while holding hands and chanting, “Turn dark to light!”

The ritual summons It in the form of the Deadlights and at first, it seems like the Losers may actually be successful in trapping It inside the artifact. However, It then breaks out and it’s revealed that Mike lied: The Native Americans who first attempted to trap It were all slaughtered by It because they didn’t truly believe the ritual would work. Mike was convinced that the Losers’ belief that they could defeat It would protect them just as it seemed to at the end of the first movie. It then transforms into its final form, a massive clown-spider hybrid, and the battle of wills between the Losers and It truly begins.

In the book, King emphasizes that the power of belief is the only thing that gives the Losers a fighting chance against It. But having lost their childish imaginations in the 27 years since they first battled It, to actually kill It as adults, the Losers need to dig a little deeper than they did as children.

Thanks to illusions created by It, each of the Losers finds him- or herself in a situation in which they’re forced to face down what they fear the most. Richie and Eddie end up back in front of the “Scary,” “Very Scary” and “Not Scary At All” doors from the first movie; Bev is locked in a bathroom stall flooding with blood while the bullies who have tormented her throughout her life try to break down the door; Ben is alone in the Losers’ clubhouse getting buried alive; and Bill is in the flooded basement of his childhood home with both Georgie and his younger self blaming him for Georgie’s death. We don’t see what Mike faces.

By accepting that the only way to overcome the traumas of their childhoods is to face them head on, they all manage break free of It’s traps. But they still have to face the clown-spider hybrid. When Richie gets caught in the Deadlights, Eddie hurls the fence post from the Neibolt house — that Bev told him “kills monsters if you believe it does” — at spider-Pennywise, wounding It and releasing Richie from his trance.

But while Eddie stands over Richie celebrating his triumph, It runs him through with a spiked tentacle and flings him through the air. The group is horrified, particularly Richie, and gathers around Eddie as he lays dying.

Spurred on by Eddie’s sacrifice, the group is more intent than ever to destroy It. After finally realizing that the key to It’s defeat is that It must abide by the laws of nature concerning whatever form it takes, the Losers channel their strengths of will to force It to take forms that they will be able to physically defeat, like that of the old woman and the clown. Just as It has always wielded the power of belief against the Losers by making them believe that it’s the incarnation of their greatest fears, the Losers are able to turn this power back around on It.

Like King’s novel, IT Chapter Two relies heavily on the idea that without belief, there’s no such thing as fear. And without fear as a weapon, It is powerless.

Because the Losers are no longer afraid of It and truly believe they can defeat it, they are able to mentally manipulate It until it’s beaten down into a powerless and decrepit version of itself, about the size of a baby. The Losers then rip out It’s heart and crush it between their hands as a group, ensuring that It is dead and will stay that way forever.

After It’s body disintegrates in front of them, they return to Eddie’s side only to discover that he’s already dead. Richie is beside himself and the others are forced to drag him away from Eddie’s body to escape It’s lair as it collapses in on itself. By retracing their steps, the surviving Losers are able to make it out of the Neibolt house just in time to avoid getting trapped forever.

What happens at the end of IT Chapter Two?

(L-r) Bill Hader as Richie Tozier and James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak in 'It Chapter Two'
Brooke Palmer—Warner Bros. Pictures

After finally defeating It, the Losers leave the Neibolt house and return to the quarry where they all swam together as kids in the first movie. Bev is once again the first to jump off the cliff into the water and the boys follow. As they wash the filth of the sewers off, Richie begins sobbing over Eddie’s death and the rest of the group hug and comfort him. In classic Richie style, he then cracks a joke about how his glasses are missing and Bev and Ben swim underwater to retrieve them. They kiss as a smiling Bill watches from afar and swims away.

After the Losers return home, it’s revealed that Stan wrote a letter before his death for each of them, explaining that he knew they wouldn’t be able to defeat It if every Loser who was still alive wasn’t involved in the final battle. He says that since he was too scared to return to Derry, he decided to “take [himself] off the board” instead.

The final montage of scenes shows Bill finishing the first chapter of a new novel, Richie going back over the “R + E” — a.k.a. Richie + Eddie — that he carved into Derry’s kissing bridge as a child, Bev telling Ben that she had a “beautiful dream” — implying that the nightmares she’s had since she was a child are gone — as they sit together on a boat, and Mike driving away from Derry.

The Losers’ Club can finally live out their lives in peace.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.

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