The Hateful Eight : Marquis Warren the Traitor. (2600 words)
It is really difficult after having seen the movie several times to imagine Marquis Warren being stupid enough to find himself caught in a blizzard. The Lincoln letter and his numerous guesses portray him as a smart man who thinks things through before he acts. He wouldn’t get caught in a blizzard with an old horse AND three corpses to slow him down and get him killed by the cold.
He is more likely to be there for a precise reason. But what reason, I can’t tell for certain.
There is a huge difference between how the coach could never have missed or passed by Warren and how Mannix is intensely lucky to manage to catch it...
Obviously, we can imagine that Warren would be there for the 10 000$ that Daisy Domergue represents. The “I got lost in the blizzard,” the three corpses worth 8000$ and the Lincoln letter, represent three perfect elements skillfully laid down in order to manipulate John Ruth. I mean, if I can steal 10 000$ from you, what difference does it make that I already have 8000$ ? Ruth and Warren talk about these numbers as if it was question of the difference between them, not of adding them (Until Mannix shows up and John Ruth suddenly starts counting properly).
More, we could easily imagine that Warren knows a lot about Jody Domergue’s gang and that he has guessed that its members are definitely going to attempt at freeing his sister, which means more outlaws to kill and money to make.
But there are several problems that make things a bit complicated.
At the end of the film, Warren is surprised when told the names of his enemies. He knows them and the rewards attached to their head, but he did not recognise them that which invalidate the idea of a completely conceived plan. Also, why making the mexican’s head burst if his intention was to get… oh fuck… that’s why he does it.
When he blows Bob’s head up, it seems quite uncalled for. Yes, he is avenging Minnie and Sweat Dave, but he’s already shot the guy twice, uttering their names while killing him. When he blows the mexican's head up it’s because he knows he is killing a guy on whom there’s a reward that he does not want. He is doing this “for free” because the execution is personal. “I’m not asking for any money to avenge Minnie and Sweat Dave.”
So, the theory that he is here for the money that some killed gang members may provide stands. It’s just that Bob becomes a special case.
But before Minnie’s Haberdashery, there already are some ambiguous elements. As I said, it’s not likely that a guy like Warren would find himself caught in a storm because he stupidly travelled with a bad horse. There’s also the letter which we learn to be a lie later on. And there’s this moment when he twice asks Ruth to help him put his dead outlaws on the roof of the coach when it is already strange that he would ask once. Ruth is overly suspicious and quite annoyed by Warren’s presence, it is clumsy of the black bounty hunter to ask for anything more of him, all the more so as John Ruth is attached to Daisy Domergue and helping Warren carry the bodies on the roof of the coach would require him to untie her.
My point here is that Warren might just be trying to have John Ruth put down his weapon to create an opportunity to shoot him. O.B. doesn’t represent any kind of danger and neither does Daisy so Warren would just need to shoot John Ruth first.
When Chris Mannix appears, John asks Warren to put on handcuffs. Warren accepts under the threat and gives John an angry look before turning to Mannix. If his anger was only about the handcuffs, he would have first looked at Mannix and then at John. There it is more like Chris Mannix’ presence is ruining something more than his liberty to move his hands. The fact that the scene should end on this gaze too hints at the cancelation of a secret plan of Warren. After all, he has obtained what should be the most important: a ride for him and his dead outlaws. He could be a bit more understanding towards his saviour who is bringing a dangerous criminal to the rope and not be so pissed off about the handcuffs, all the more so as Ruth asks Mannix to wear handcuffs too. => No racism on Ruth's side.
So, Chris Mannix’ arrival makes it harder to kill John Ruth and they all arrive at Minnie’s Haberdashery before any serious opportunity shows up again.
One more thing now that I think; Daisy spits on Warren’s letter, she knows it’s a fake (Later on in the film she is surprised and laughs, not because it is a fake but because Ruth fell for it). Warren slaps her, she and John Ruth fall from the coach.
Obviously, if the story of the letter was true, Warren would have either shot her or kicked the shit out of her. Instead, he just throws some snow at her. What a violent revenge ! She knows it’s fake, he knows she knows and he cannot do anything against her as long as they’re not arrived at Minnie Haberdashery for fear Ruth would throw him out of the coach. Being satisfied with throwing some snow at a woman who’s just spat blood on his letter from the president is very suspicious (Ruth should notice it but he doesn't) and Warren would definitely hurt her more in order to protect his cover if he could, which means, she truly has a hold on him.
Now, why does Daisy remain quiet ? She calls him a negro several times throughout the movie and it is easily believable that she should be racist (although I don’t think she is). She compliments Mannix on many racist things he says and could get Warren thrown out of the coach just by talking about the letter at the right time (When Mannix is strongly questioning Warren’s war achievements for example.) But she never does, and never talks about the letter again.
When they arrive at Minnie’s, Warren is very quickly aware of how seriously threatening the situation is. But he never tells anything to Ruth with whom he is supposed to have a deal. No word about Bob’s obvious lying, no word about the hat policy, the candy on the floor that doesn’t match the bowl, no word about Sweat Dave’s potential blood on the chair, and no word about the poisoned coffee.
Yes, Warren knows about the poisoned coffee and doesn’t tell Ruth about it. He doesn’t tell Ruth, he doesn’t tell O.B. and he doesn’t tell Chris Mannix, which means he was ready to watch everyone who was not on Daisy’s side die.
What makes me think he knows about the coffee is that, as John Ruth pointed out, the undercover killers are tensely looking for an opportunity to act and Warren provides it to them by telling his sinister torture porn assassination story and then killing the old guy.
This happens just after Ruth and he have argued about the letter (and this because of Chris Mannix who reveres the general Smithers and wants to humiliate Warren).
So, I think that the killing of the man is triggered by several things. Warren, who is disappointed to witness his “friendship” with John Ruth fall apart, wants to hurt Mannix as a revenge. But also, because of Ruth’s last words ("I call that a dirty trick"), he doesn’t care about the bounty hunter’s fate anymore and triggers what he already knows is coming that is, the poisoning of their drinks or food. (Also, Warren could kill Smithers because that’s the real reason he was there in the first place, and the “I killed your son” story would be a lie. It's a strong coincidence that Smithers and Warren should meet by accident).
What makes Warren even more of an accomplice to Daisy is the look he gives Bob after he’s killed Smithers. Why would the Mexican play “silent night” while Warren is telling his story and killing the old man ? Because Bob knows someone is taking a murderous initiative and he needs a strong alibi to exonerate him as Warren is already suspecting him. He needs to play the piano to be able to say "hey ! It can't be me I was playing the piano" five minutes later and he chooses “silent night” because he’s not a piano player; he has to find the notes of this easy song that he is playing at the most inappropriate moment. Isn’t he showing off an extreme lack of sensitivity by doing so ? Isn’t he pointing a finger at himself, through this inappropriate behavior, as a potential criminal ? Yes, but that’s because he does not have much of a choice at this point.
So after he’s killed Smithers, Warren gives Bob an intense look “I know why you were playing.” The title of the following chapter “Daisy’s got a secret” induces us to believe that she is the only one to know about the poisoning (apart from the actual poisoner). But the voice over states that she is simply one of the few witnesses. More, its description of the situation is heavy with insinuations when it comes to Warren’s character: “While Warren was captivating the crowd with tales of black dicks and white mouths, somebody poisoned the coffee.” “Warren sat at a table by himself and drank Brandy.”
The specification of Brandy suggests that Warren knows something was poisoned and that his choice of a very specific drink is a safety one. But his attitude is also the attitude of a person who knows and doesn’t mean to interfere. He is just waiting for the tragic events to take place, drinking to make them easier to swallow maybe.
When John Ruth slowly understands that the coffee was poisoned, Warren’s behaviour is one of the things that drive him anxious: The general silence and the withdrawn position of the black bounty hunter make the atmosphere quite ominous.
Another thing that suggests that Warren perfectly knows what’s going on is that there isn’t a shot to show us his surprise. O.B. and Ruth are obviously surprised and Mannix too. But that’s all. No round eyes for Warren, no “My fucking god ! The bastard who did this is dead !” Marquis Warren doesn’t blink an eye while John Ruth and O.B. are spitting blood everywhere and as soon as they’re dead he takes control of the situation very calmly.
He could have saved them but didn’t. Why ? Could it be because Daisy, by remaining quiet about the letter, chose to spare his life ? Is it what makes her stupid enough to kill John Ruth, the only “official” who was against her immediate execution ? Because she overestimates Warren’s complicity and maybe that’s why he makes it obvious after Ruth’s death: “He was the only one committed to bring you to Red Rock alive.”
Warren considered he couldn’t interfere with Daisy and her accomplices’ attempts at freeing her because, after their argument, John Ruth’s life wasn’t more valuable to him than hers. But after they’ve killed Ruth, It’s all about O.B., Minnie and Sweat Dave.
And after they’ve killed John Ruth, Warren changes the pace of the action drastically. He checks on Sweat Dave’s blood, why didn’t he do it before ? Why not telling Ruth about this ? He kills Bob for no more reasons than the ones he already had an hour ago. The stew story and the “no Mexican or dog allowed” are both lies he makes up in order to convince Chris Mannix that Bob is being discovered now and wasn’t a long time earlier. Before he talks about the stew, Warren starts with the coffee: he wanted to make the exact same argument of “I recognised Minnie’s coffee” but was surprised by the fact that it was John Ruth who made it, which is quite symbolic too. Luckily, Mannix is an idiot and is only surprised that it is not the man who made the coffee who poisoned it, as if it made things more intricate. The new sheriff completely believes that Warren was as surprised as him by the poisoning.
Jody shoots Warren in the balls, and the important thing here is that Daisy is not aware of Jody’s presence. Warren could not foresee what Daisy couldn’t foresee. It is quite strange. I’m sure that if she had been aware of her brother’s presence under their feet, Warren would have guessed too.
Mannix is truly about to betray Warren at the end of the film. The “it’s only about the negro, you still haven’t done anything that can’t be forgiven” is relevant. Mannix is about to kill Joe Gage when he hears Warren’s scream of pain and interrupts his action. If Warren is wounded, it becomes too dangerous to act against these criminals.
So Mannix is seriously interested in getting the money from the rewards. Eventually he chooses Warren’s side for several reasons. One, Daisy doesn’t want him to have Jody’s body who’s worth 50 000$. And second, he comes back to “you would have let me drink that coffee !” Daisy’s grimace of incomprehension is funny. Mannix’ argument is completely out of place. More, Warren too would have let him drink that coffee, but this Mannix doesn’t know. The bounty killer states “Ruth saved your life with his last words” which to us means he truly wouldn’t have moved a finger to save Mannix and more, he states “we’re both going to die” which means that he believes in Daisy’s fifteen gang members and thus betrayed Mannix who is going to get killed as soon as the blizzard ends.
So, Warren is a pretty "sneaky" character who trusts no one and can’t be trusted. He is very smart but makes one mistake: He actually believes that John Ruth is a sadistic asshole and didn’t spot the guy’s sensitivity, and also that without the Lincoln letter Ruth wouldn’t have accepted him on the coach when the simple fact that Ruth would believe him shows how much respect he has for Warren (The story of the handcuffs too shows how Ruth doesn't give a shit about Warren's skin colour). Chris Mannix, the village idiot, didn’t believe in the Lincoln letter but John Ruth did because he has respect for and faith in human beings.
John Ruth complimenting Daisy for her singing that he's already noticed when they were on the coach.
At the end, when they hang Daisy Domergue in the name of John Ruth, the hate they show for her character is totally undeserved. She did not poison the coffee, she did not shoot Warren’s balls, she did not wound Mannix, she did not kill Minnie or Sweat Dave and wasn’t even aware of these events. She saw her brother and her “lover” (Joe Gage) die, she is disfigured from John Ruth’s beating. She just happens to be at the centre of everything but she is a scapegoat. They hang her thinking that it is what John Ruth would have wanted but I’m not sure he would have wanted that.
I hope this interpretation intrigued you, amused you and made you think "Oh damn ! He's right" when I explained why Warren makes Bob's head explode !
And also, I hope that it seems now acceptable for you that Warren should be a complete traitor. And if it doesn't. Well, actually, it's not that important is it ?