- The Operative was always a paradoxical mixture of good and evil --
evil, but only because it was for a cause which he thought good -- in
his own mind.
The vid that he was forced to watch pulled the bottom out of his
world, in that it told him that all the good he had been striving to
achieve for others was a false dream, and so it was meaningless for
him to commit any further evil acts ... and had been meaningless when
he committed evil acts in the past.
I don't at all buy into the suggestion that his "there is nothing left
to see" line meant that he was going off camera to commit hara-kiri. I
instead interpret it as "everything which defined who I was has been
taken away, so the person you would kill no longer exists"; "I am a
blank slate, no longer a person".
At the end of the movie, The Operative had happen to him very much
what Mal had happen to him in Serenity Valley. He lost all his faith.
In Mal's case, he lost faith in the people who were meant to be
championing his cause, and in god. In The Operative's case he lost
faith in the very cause.
Mal had to find himself a new cause which he was prepared to fight
for. The Operative may well go on to find a new cause to believe in or
fight for, hopefully in a less horrific manner. It's the sort of life-
altering change that could well cause him to go and join a monastery
and swear off violence, since he will probably never again believe
that evil violence is justified for any cause.
The symmetry in the movie was not Operative urges someone else to
commit hara-kiri ==> Operative commits hara-kiri. It was that Mal went
from lacking belief to having belief in a cause ... whereas The
Operative went from having belief in a cause to lacking belief.
I think it's worth pointing out that The Operative never enjoyed doing
evil acts. He was prepared to sacrifice his goodness to support a
greater good as he saw it. This is as opposed to Jubal Early who had
no cause, claimed it was not personal and was all about the job / the
bounty, and actually enjoyed violence against others.
Oh. One more thing: I do not really think Serenity was about Mal's
redemption, though he was in somewhat of a moral downward spiral and
he was somewhat obliquely redeemed of that. It was about Mal regaining
belief. Faith. In something. Anything.
On a related note, I disagree with the poster who said this was
evidenced by the fact that he didn't kill The Operative at the end of
the movie but would have killed him earlier. I do not believe that
changed one bit. For one, Mal wouldn't either at the start or at the
end of the movie kill someone who was no longer a threat to him. For
another, Book's words about belief (for Mal and regarding The
Operative) had clearly got through to him. He wanted The Operative to
see that he had done these horrifying things for an unjust cause. He
wanted him to see that he had been wrong, and to be a broken man.