Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith in the store as Jay and Silent Bob

Kevin Smith’s career began with "Clerks," his 1994 debut feature about a pair of convenience store workers shooting the breeze while trying to navigate their middling lives. The film was an unexpected success, leading to Smith revisiting the characters numerous times across his various "View Askewniverse" movies, as well as a proper sequel, "Clerks II," released in 2006. Now, nearly 30 years after introducing the world to Dante Hicks and Randal Graves, Smith brings their story to a close with "Clerks III." The film ends the trilogy and sees Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson reprise their roles as Dante and Randal, respectively, alongside many other returning actors, as well as some surprise guest stars.

Unlike Smith’s previous film, the wildly wacky "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot," "Clerks III" brings things back to basics, ditching (some of) the over-the-top shenanigans for a story defined by grief and mid-life woes. While certainly still a comedy, it’s more grounded in its sensibilities, hearkening back to the original "Clerks" more than any of Smith’s other films. So how does the story of Dante and Randal end? Read on as we explain the ending of "Clerks III" and dissect its themes.

Welcome to the Black Parade

Dante and Randal talking at work

"Clerks III" begins with a music video sequence set to "Welcome to the Black Parade" by My Chemical Romance. The sequence sees Randal and Dante open up the Quick Stop convenience store, the same place they’ve been working for decades. At least they own the store as equal partners. But why My Chemical Romance? The song was released in 2006, the same year that "Clerks II" hit theaters, suggesting that time has stood still for Dante and Randal since the events of that film.

"Welcome to the Black Parade" hails from the album "The Black Parade," a post-"American Idiot" concept album comprised of rock songs about a young man’s imminent death from cancer. Its moody content isn’t exactly uncharted territory in the emo and hard rock scene, but it was nonetheless a big hit for My Chemical Romance, and the song fits the tone of "Clerks III." While not immediately apparent from its first scene, "Clerks III" spends much of its runtime ruminating on death and dying, with the different characters showcasing their perspectives on their own mortality and the people they’ve lost along the way. But for the opening scene, they’re content to play hockey on the roof of the Quick Stop, just as they always have.

Randal’s heart attack

Randal in the hospital

The film’s inciting incident sees Randal collapse from a heart attack while working at the Quick Stop while discussing religion with Elias (Trevor Fehrman). Elias’ belief in God is strong enough that he calls upon the Almighty to strike down Randal for his blasphemous dismissal of Elias’ Christian beliefs. In any case, Dante calls an ambulance for his best friend.

At the hospital, Randal is treated by a doctor (Amy Sedaris), who explains that he’s suffering a "widowmaker" heart attack and only has a 20% chance to live. Speaking to Dante, she blames Randal’s poor diet for his heart attack while hinting that Dante should be careful with his own diet; it doesn’t take knowledge of Kevin Smith’s own real-life health problems or basic rules of foreshadowing to see how this plot point about Dante’s health will become relevant later on in the film.

Meanwhile, Elias believes he’s responsible for Randal’s heart attack, and at the hospital he prays to Satan, swearing allegiance to the dark lord if Randal survives, which he does. Elias, former God-fearing crypto and NFT enthusiast, is now a full-tilt Satanist.

Randal writes a movie about his life

The cast of "Clerks III" making their movie

Spurred by his near-death experience, Randal decides he needs to do something more with his life than just talk about "Star Wars" with Dante all day. When Dante mentions that he always thought Randal would be able to make a good movie, he takes it to heart and decides to make an autobiographical film, drawing on his life and experiences to turn his daily grind into a comedic slice-of-life adventure.

While Randal initially intends to hire actors (leading to a lengthy montage full of high-profile cameos including Ben Affleck, Melissa Benoist, Freddie Prinze, Jr., and Sarah Michelle Gellar), he ultimately decides to have everybody play themselves for maximum authenticity. All the while, Randal insists that his movie is his story, not the shared experience of Randal and Dante. While hurt and annoyed by Randal’s selfishness, Dante mostly brushes aside his grievances for the sake of helping his friend make his movie.

At this point, it’s obvious that the movie Randal wants to make is effectively the story of the original "Clerks," adding a meta touch that already makes "Clerks III" feel like Kevin Smith going full circle with his cinematic body of work.

Becky died in 2006

Rosario Dawson and Brian O'Halloran in Clerks II

While Dante is supportive of Randal and his filmmaking ambitions, he’s quietly spent the last 16 years grieving the death of his wife, Becky. Rosario Dawson first played the character in "Clerks II" and returns for "Clerks III," though her role is limited to appearances as either a ghost or a figment of Dante’s imagination. The movie doesn’t specify which, so it’s open to interpretation. "Clerks II" ends with Dante proposing to Becky, who was pregnant with his baby.

"Clerks III" reveals that Becky and her unborn child were killed in a traffic accident involving a drunk driver just months after the events of "Clerks II." Even all these years later, Dante has never gotten over her sudden and heartbreaking death, while Randal tries his hardest to avoid mentioning her; he doesn’t know how to handle loss, so he chooses to ignore it completely. When Dante and Randal get into a fight over the film, with Randal asking of him the impossible task of securing funding for the movie, Dante has a nervous breakdown and runs off to visit Becky’s grave. An apparition of her tries to tell him to forget about her and move on, but he can’t bring himself to move on from his tragic loss. Nevertheless, he continues working on the film with Randal. He even goes to his ex-fiancee, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), and begs her for the money, going so far as to put up his half of the Quick Stop as collateral on the loan.

Dante and Randal fight

Dante and Randal manning their stations

While the movie proceeds through shooting — with none other than Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) as cinematographer — Dante eventually has enough. Sick of Randal’s narcissism (and under the influence of a too much alcohol), he lashes out and gets a whole host of grievances off of his chest. Randal tries to deflect the criticism, insisting that the film is the story of his life. In response, Dante rightly points out that they’ve always been together; a story about one of them is inherently a story about both of them. Within the context of the real-life "Clerks" movies, this has always been the case, though Dante is generally seen as the main character, with Randal as the secondary protagonist.

Following their heated exchange, Dante collapses to the floor. Like Randal at the beginning of the film, Dante has suffered a massive heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, his prognosis is not as optimistic as Randal’s was, and he’s at high risk of actually dying from his coronary incident.

Randal sneaks into the hospital … with help

Silent Bob filming with the "Clerks III" cast

Since Dante is in critical condition at the hospital, Randal is not allowed to visit him. At first, he decides to continue shooting the movie, but he’s rightly called out by his friends. After all, Dante waited at the hospital when Randal was laid up, and now Randal can’t be bothered to do the same for his best friend? At home, alone, Randal finishes editing the movie on his laptop, or at least a rough cut of it, and concocts a plan to sneak into the hospital and show it to Dante.

Randal gets Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob to improvise a distraction in order to get security out of the way, at which point Randal sneaks into Dante’s hospital room. Dante is in rough shape, with tubes and other medical equipment strapped to him, barely keeping him alive. It’s a deeply haunting sight, especially for fans who have been following the adventures of Dante and Randal since their 1994 debut.

Randal’s movie has its first screening

Dante and Becky watch "Clerk"

Finally alone with Dante, Randal shows him their movie. Though barely conscious, Dante is able to understand. To visualize Dante’s perspective, he’s shown watching the film in an empty movie theater. The clips shown on the giant screen are actually taken directly from the original "Clerks." While Dante and Randal were middle-aged when they shot the movie, the fact that "Clerks III" shows footage from the original film instead of the present-day recreations has significance. Making art together and remembering all the good times they had made Dante feel young again, hence the footage from the classic "Clerks." Randal, with tears in his eyes, explains that Dante’s always been the true hero of their story.

As he watches the film alone in the theater of his mind’s eye, Dante is joined by Becky. After watching some more scenes, Dante decides to leave the theater. Becky asks him why he won’t stay to see the rest of the film, to which he smiles and replies, "I trust the director. He wasn’t just my favorite filmmaker; he was my best friend." Together, Dante and Becky leave the theater, at which point Dante dies in his hospital bed. At his funeral, Randal eulogizes his best friend, saying, "You’re not even supposed to be here today."

Life goes on after Dante

Dante in his work uniform talking

Following the death of Dante, life goes on at the Quick Stop. Randal hires Elias to take Dante’s place at the store. Meanwhile, a running subplot through the story involves Elias and his friend, Blockchain Coltrane (Austin Zajur), and their cryptocurrency ambitions, selling Buddy Christ-themed kites and NFT representatives of said kites. In a bit of a deus ex machina (or Satan ex machina, as it were), Elias and Blockchain Coltrane strike it rich when their crypto kites sell like hotcakes, allowing them to pay off the loan Dante took from his ex-fiancee to fund Randal’s movie. Though Dante’s gone, everything else managed to work itself out.

Randal completed his film and learned his lesson, to appreciate not just life’s adventures, but the people with whom those adventures are shared. The ending feels similar to that of "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot," in which Jay explains to his estranged daughter how important it was for him to have Silent Bob in his life. Notably, as Jay delivers his speech in "Reboot," Dante appears in the background, preparing to open up the Quick Stop for another day of work. The sentiment is the same in "Clerks III," but with Dante as a spiritual presence. Randal thinks of his friend, musing, "Wish you were here." Dante’s ghostly presence appears next to Randal one last time, though lacking the blue "Star Wars" Force Ghost effect, which might have been too funny for the sincere and serious final seconds of the film.

The final chapter of the Clerks saga?

Randal and Dante in a convenience store in "Clerks"

Though Kevin Smith has said he doesn’t want to stop making "Clerks" movies (per Yahoo Entertainment), things will never be the same after "Clerks III." While Dante has plenty of cousins seen across Kevin Smith’s various films (all of whom are played by Brian O’Halloran), there’s only one Dante, and he’s gone now. Kevin Smith has plans for more View Askewniverse projects, including the long-gestating "Mallrats" sequel and ideas for a new "Dogma" movie. While "Clerks III" has a definitive conclusion, there’s always room for more sequels, especially since Randal hires Elias to be his new co-worker. It’s like Becky’s ghost says to Dante: "As long as you’re alive, you can always start another chapter."

"Clerks" is about the dull reality of living a status quo existence. "Clerks II" shakes things up by taking its characters on a bigger adventure than they’ve ever experienced, culminating in Dante getting engaged. "Clerks III" is about how things don’t always turn out the way we planned, but that life goes on, whether we want it to or not. Though he never gets over Becky, Dante learns that lesson, and he even gets to rekindle a spark of romance with his ex, Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti). Randal also learns to live again following the death of Dante, whose memory carries on with the Quick Stop and the art of Randal’s movie.

Elias’ loyalty to God … or Satan

Blockchain pointing to Elias' shirt

Life is chaotic, and it’s up to each individual to maintain their faith through the trials and tribulations that come our way. This is exemplified through the character of Elias, who starts out as an evangelical Christian and closeted gay man; when Randal first starts having his heart attack, Elias offers to try "mouth stuff," conflating CPR with making out. When Randal is taken to the hospital, Elias rethinks his life choices, believing that maybe he wasted his time dedicating his life to God. However, instead of self-actualizing and living for himself, Elias decides to pray to Satan instead. When Randal recovers from his heart attack, Elias believes it’s because his prayers to Satan were answered, and so he becomes a devout Satanist.

Obviously, Elias is a weak-willed individual, unable or unwilling to take responsibility for himself. For all his faults, Randal decided to take charge of his life after his near-death experience. It’s unlikely Elias would have done the same. After all, he dedicated years of his life to proselytizing for God, only to turn his back on his faith when things didn’t go his way, instantly switching allegiance to Satan. Elias is not a leader but a follower. If Kevin Smith ever gets to make a proper sequel to "Dogma," it’s possible the film could focus on Elias and his witless devotion to whatever higher power happens to be in front of him.

The quest for meaning

Jay and Silent Bob selling weed

In "Clerks III," Randal and Dante have been working at the Quick Stop for decades. They own the store together, but is that all they’re meant for in this world? Dante thought he found meaning when he fell in love with Becky, but when she died so quickly, it was like life teased him, showing him what happiness could be like before snatching it away senselessly.

Randal loves movies and uses his creativity as an outlet to seek meaning. If he can turn his life’s experiences into art that people enjoy, then maybe it will all have been worth it. However, in his pursuit of artistic meaning, he loses sight of what’s really important and alienates his closest friend, Dante. It’s only at the very end that he realizes what’s truly important. The adventures were fun, sure, but it was really about sharing the experience with his best friend. Perhaps the message of "Clerks III" is this: It’s impossible to know the meaning of life, but if you find someone who loves "Star Wars" as much as you do, then you’re well on your way.

Don’t miss the special message in the credits!

Kevin Smith gesturing to camera

"Clerks III" doesn’t end with a traditional post-credits scene, but it does feature a special message from Kevin Smith, which plays over the second half of the credits. First, he thanks the audience for coming to see his new movie and briefly reflects on his life and career and how he used to hate working at the Quick Stop when he was just a young wannabe filmmaker. Then, he explains that "Clerks III" originally ended with a narration explaining what happened to Randal after the end of the movie. However, due to his love of the film’s final moments and the song "I’m From New Jersey" by John Gorka, he decided to remove the narration.

Smith then proceeds to read his original closing narration. Following the success of Randal’s movie, "Clerk," he spent the rest of his life working two jobs: He continued to own and operate the Quick Stop, and he went on to make many more movies, each one funded by Crimson Crypto Studios, the company owned by Elias and Blockchain Coltrane. In the distant future, at 90 years old, Randal reflects on his life, calling back to a line from the original "Clerks." He says, "I always thought the jobs would have been great if it weren’t for the f****** customers, but it turns out, these jobs are great because of the f****** customers."