Before the arrival of Eggsy Unwin and Roxy Morton, the Kingsman organization was full of rich, old white men — and not much has changed in the sequel. If you were expecting more poor people, minorities, and women in Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle, well, prepare to be disappointed. Spoilers for Kingsman 2 ahead. Sophie Cookson's Roxy dies within the first 20 minutes of the movie, Julianne Moore, as the villain Poppy Adams, dies anticlimactically with no men or robots left to protect her, and Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale has an arc is as thin as Roxy’s was in the first film. Instead of building on the momentum of change promised by the original, the Kingsman sequel jumps across the pond to Statesman, an American version of the same organization but with none of the progress. However, according to star Taron Egerton, that lack of progress may be the point of the film.
“Part of the theme of the first film is in fact that Roxy and Eggsy are two people from the new breed to make it… less dominated by old white guys,” he says, speaking to me on the phone a week and a half before the film's release. “And that’s what the feel of it was supposed to be, that the world of Kingsman is changing. So it’s thematic rather than neglectful of casting someone fairly.”
Egerton, who plays Eggsy, was hesitant to say “anything too political” about the sequel, especially since the development of female characters falls to co-writer, producer, and director Matthew Vaughn. (Bustle reached out to Vaughn for his opinion on Egerton's interpretation, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.) But Egerton's reading does beg the question: has Kingsman crossed the line from parodying sexism over reinforcing it?
Objectively speaking, the Kingsman sequel is not great for female representation — but neither was the first movie. In the first film, we have Roxy, Amelia, Eggsy’s mother and sister, Gazelle, and the Scandinavian princess Tilde. Tilde’s role was defying Valentine, getting locked up for it, and promising Eggsy sex if he saved the world; Gazelle was killed in a climactic show down with Eggsy; Eggsy’s mother lived under the financial thumb of her abusive husband from whom Eggsy rescues her and his sister at the end of the film; Amelia existed as a "scare tactic" who pretends to die during an exam only to disappear for the rest of the movie; and Roxy, despite competing alongside Eggsy, exceeding him, and being named the new Lancelot, missed the climax of the film entirely to float into the atmosphere because… reasons.
The sequel did little better. Along with every Kingsman agent except Eggsy, Roxy is blown up when Poppy Adams shoots bombs at Kingsman headquarters worldwide. Princess Tilde rises from a one-off hookup to the status of Eggsy’s live in girlfriend — whose life and arc seems to revolve around that alone and not, well, the repair and running of her country. Charlie’s ex-girlfriend Clara is introduced for Eggsy’s honeypot mission, and then blown up by said ex-boyfriend when Charlie discovers that she and Eggsy slept together. (Yikes.) Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale is the sole female Statesman shown and longs to be a field agent, but has been voted back into her place by Whiskey every time a position came up. When Whiskey is revealed as a traitor, Champ offers his now open position to Harry and Eggsy, and Ginger Ale literally has to demand to be considered. Finally, Julianne Moore’s Poppy Adams drives the film with her scheme, but she is easily defeated once she runs out of men and robots to throw at Harry and Eggsy.
For all that Kingsman 2 did to introduce more female characters than ever before, it certainly didn’t seem to know what to do with them. Worse yet, the writers still reserved the bulk of the action, development, and screen time for the men. But if that was the point, as Egerton assumes, then the film did a great job in illustrating that paramilitary government organizations are a patriarchal boys’ club.
“I’ve never really discussed with Matthew why he made that decision [to kill off Roxy]… but, for my experience, I really missed her being around,” says Egerton. “I guess all I can say to the fans is I think we have a great wealth and exciting characters. And obviously just not to reserve judgment on something like that until you’ve seen it and decide whether [Roxy’s death] is to the detriment to the movie or not.”
Female Kingsman fans know that Roxy Morton was the film’s biggest missed opportunity. Though there was a tenuous explanation for why she missed the main action of the first movie — she was introduced with a fear of heights that she had to overcome in order to do her part of the mission, giving her an arc of sorts — it hardly seemed fair that the actual agent was given what seemed like a light job elsewhere. Eggsy might have been the main character, but that he got fitted for a Kingsman suit before Roxy, before Lancelot, was hard for female fans to swallow. And certainly we looked forward to finally seeing her in action in this film, especially since the trailer showed that she had finally gotten a suit.
Worse still, there seemed no reason in universe for her to be killed off since the sequel brings not one but two male agents back from the dead. At first, Eggsy thinks that every Kingsman agent but him has been blown up; then Merlin shows up, unharmed. After they end up at Statesman, they quickly discover that their cousin organization has recovered a living Harry Hart — who was shot point blank through the eye in the last film. So why did Roxy, the only notable female Kingsman agent, have to be the one who was truly dead?
But there might be a behind-the-scenes explanation. Roxy actor Sophie Cookson was cast in Gypsy around August 31, 2016, and the Netflix series went into production in New York at the end of the same month. Kingsman 2 began production four months earlier, in April 2016, meaning that Roxy’s death in the film was likely due to her actor understandably choosing to focus on a series in which she played a main character. (Bustle reached out to Cookson for confirmation, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.)
Director Vaughn revealed in May 2017 that he had ideas for a third Kingsman film, and Egerton confirmed to DigitalSpy in September that Vaughn envisioned this story as a trilogy. And, though Egerton's suggested theme is interesting if in fact intentional, two movies is one movie too many to make the point that the Kingsman world needs to become more inclusive. It's time to deliver on the promise of change. It's time to make women more than supporting roles in the mission of saving the world. For that matter, it's time to bring Roxy back and let her live up to her on-screen potential. It's time to stop showing what a patriarchal boys' club Kingsman and Statesman are, and to start fixing it.