To say that the ending of Code Geass was a punch would be an understatement. The mecha anime captured the hearts of thousands of fans, and it keeps doing so, remaining one of the most popular anime long after its completion. While a Code Geass Season 3 is rather unlikely, several spinoff movies have been made, including Code Geass: Lelouch of the Resurrection. But nothing has managed to reach the complexity and emotional intensity of the original show. So, if you have questions, here's the Code Geass ending explained:
Code Geass Ending Explained
Code Geass R2 strikes the perfect balance between a satisfying ending with few loose plot threads and one that demands work from the viewers and, ultimately, lets them reach their own conclusions. It is quite rare to find an ambiguous ending in which arguments for and against something feel equally valid. This is largely achieved because of Lelouch, one of the most well-rounded, complex, and smart anime characters ever made. Let's delve more deeply into his final choices.
Zero's Requiem Explained
Already from R1, when Lelouch's loss of control resulted in the death of many innocent Japanese people and his sister, Euphemia, it had been foreshadowed that, one day, the Geass would take over for good, leaving Lelouch unable to function properly. After several devastating losses, abandonments, and despair, Lelouch concludes that he can only achieve his goal to make a better world for Nunnally in an unorthodox way.
After eliminating the threat of Charles and Marianne - his and Nunnally's own parents - Lelouch becomes emperor of Brittania and resolves to act as much like a tyrant as possible. At first, this seems perplexing to everyone involved but, a little before the end, it's revealed to all be part of Zero's Requiem - a plan orchestrated by Lelouch, CC, and Suzaku.
At this point, Lelouch has realized that there's no easy way to undo all the hatred and division in the world, so he does something extreme. He becomes nothing short of a demon so that all the hatred will be addressed against his person, and everyone will unite against him.
The climactic moment of Zero's Requiem comes at the date of the supposed execution of Lelouch's enemies - which include his sister Nunnally. At that point, Suzaku appears disguised as Zero, and mortally wounds Lelouch. Everyone thus accepts Zero as a hero, believing Lelouch was never the real Zero. With everyone thinking the worst about Lelouch, his death facilitates relative peace.
Nunally, who becomes Empress of Brittania following her brother's death, is one of the few people who know the truth.
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Is Lelouch Really Dead?
The ending of Code Geass might be complicated, clever, and heartbreaking, but, at a second viewing, it can be understood fairly easily. The post-credit scene, however, is where things get ambiguous. In it, CC is being transported by a mysterious coachman whose face is concealed. CC talks about the Geass, concluding her monologue by addressing Lelouch.
Due to this, many fans, especially those who wanted Lelouch and CC to end up together, love to speculate that the coachman is actually Lelouch, and that he's still alive. After all, CC used to talk to Lelouch's mother, Marianne, in a similar manner, and Marianne also proved to have faked her death.
Lelouch of the Resurrection and the Code Geass movies that preceded it created an alternative universe whereby Lelouch is, in fact, alive. In a sense, it's good that the resurrection of Lelouch happens in another universe. In the context of the main story, firmly confirming or denying Lelouch's death doesn't seem like a good idea.
While heartbreaking, Lelouch's death was, in many ways, the perfect ending to his character arc. The very first episode of the anime, had him deliver one of his signature lines, saying that only those prepared to be killed should kill others. By the end of the series, Lelouch is not the person he was at the beginning. The atrocities he's committed for his goal have changed him. But if he's prepared to die to give his sister a better future - just as he was prepared to kill for her - he comes off as a morally grey but consistent character.
Such a character arc also demonstrates that there are certain actions you can't walk back from unchanged. Lelouch overused his geass and manipulated others along the way. To die fervently despised by anyone is an extreme punishment, but not many people apart from his sister would be able to forgive him, and there was no way out of the chaos he created. In sacrificing himself, he hoped to give the people who mattered to him one final chance even though he would not be there for them anymore.
Of course, wanting Lelouch to survive, and creating theories in which he's alive is perfectly acceptable - and the post-credit scene caters to those who want to imagine a better future for Lelouch.
In that sense, creating additional canon content in which Lelouch lives removes the audience's agency to decide what ending they want for Lelouch. That audience agency is, after all, what makes the ending of Code Geass so enduring fifteen years later.