In Part One of my (yes, long-winded) response to Toy Story 4, I wrote about how much I’d dreaded this film — and then about how it surprised and impressed me.

In Part Two, I wrote about one major storyline — the introduction and redemption of Forky — and how it substantially expands the Toy Story franchise’s exploration of childhood, imagination, and the meaning of life.

But now, in Part Three, I need to address that other major Toy Story 4 storyline: the one about Gabby Gabby, the movie’s antique pull-string antagonist, and her ventriloquist-dummy henchmen (all named Benson). Alas, I cannot write about this without without revealing certain knots that complicate this narrative thread.

So, in other words, I’m going to get into details best categorized as

Major End-of-the-Movie Spoilers.

If you haven’t seen Toy Story 4, I advise you to abandon this post and preserve the surprises.

As Woody tries to save the day when Bonnie (the child to whom Woody and the gang belong) and Forky (Bonnie’s first homemade toy) are separated, he stumbles onto an old flame: Bo Peep, with her sheep—Billy, Goat, and Gruff—in tow.

It turns out that the flirtatious Bo (voiced here by Annie Potts) was given away earlier in the saga; she didn’t end up in Bonnie’s toy box with the rest of the familiar heroes.

Still, she’s remained in Woody’s heart. And when he rediscovers her in an antique shop during his far-from-home adventure with Forky, he enlists her help in reuniting Bonnie with her prized plastic invention. But then Woody and the rest of us discover that we’re dealing with Bo Peep 2.0: a strong-willed, independent hero obviously inspired by Furiosa from Mad Max Fury Road.

This isn’t the Bo you think you know, Woody.

Woody doesn’t anticipate just how this reunion will complicate matters. Long story short, Forky is taken hostage by Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), who, stuck in an antique store for years and longing to be loved by a child, spends her days being treated like royalty by her voiceless dummy henchmen. Don’t worry about Forky: he’s too oblivious to understand that Gabby is using him to bait Woody into a trap. It’s Woody we need to worry about.

Why is Woody in danger? Gabby has rather unsettling ambitions here: She was defective “right out of the box,” and she knows that Woody contains the piece she needs: an old-fashioned pull-string voice box.

And so Toy Story 4 also becomes a movie about how we cope with the many and varied ways in which we are “broken”—or, at least, how we perceive brokenness.

In this sense, Gabby Gabby’s narrative reminds me of the classic children’s story Corduroy, about a department store teddy bear who loses a button and spends the night searching the store to get it back. Remember that story? Corduroy  tries too hard, seizes upon the wrong solution, and ends up back on the shelf—unsold, unloved, and despairing.

But Corduroy does find wholeness—not from finding a button, but from realizing that there is a love in the world big enough to embrace us for who we are… in spite of our missing pieces. He is eventually repaired, but only as a gesture of kindness after learning that Love doesn’t count our pieces and find us lacking.

Gabby doesn’t have the patience to learn that lesson. Not yet anyway. She’s determined to take what she wants, even if she has to dismember a stranger to get it.

Don’t let those baby-doll eyes deceive you: Gabby Gabby wants to tear Woody apart.

If it sounds upsetting, it is.

In fact, my friend and my favorite film critic Steven “SDG” Greydanus of The National Catholic Register and Decent Films—whose area of expertise is the realm of art and entertainment intended for all-ages—is particularly upset with how Gabby’s part in this story plays out. The fact that Gabby wants “wants to forcibly steal an organ from Woody” and that she finds “kidnapping and hostage-taking … acceptable means to that end” create, in SDG’s mind, certain obligations on the part of the storytellers.

In his review for The National Catholic Register, Greydanus laments that after Gabby’s selfish agenda is made clear, “the movie seamlessly transitions into quasi-redemption for poor Gabby, who has never been loved by a child and blames her defective voice box. And Woody, moved to pity despite himself, but still under duress, surrenders his voice box to get Forky back.”

He finds it “horrifying” that, after this disturbing deed is done, “[Gabby’s] story ends happily—all with no sign of real contrition or making amends to Forky or Woody.”

I confess that I read Greydanus’s review before seeing the movie (and suffered some spoilers as a result). So I was prepared, going in, to agree with him—as I almost always do. I was ready to be distraught and perhaps even a bit, um, furiosa.

I understand Greydanus’s objections. And I do think the film would have been stronger if it had given this particular twist a bit more attention. But as I watched the film, I experienced this sequence of events somewhat differently.

I found Gabby Gabby’s initial violence in trying to steal the voice box alarming—no doubt about it. And, in the back-and-forth, the push and the pull, Woody rightly resists her. But then (bless his cotton-stuffing heart!), Woody finds compassion for Gabby. He determines to treat her not as an enemy, but as a potential blessing for a needy child. He finds empathy for her. Just as he has counseled Forky that he can become more than trash, he sees the same potential in Gabby Gabby. The only difference is that she, unlike Forky, has always aspired to be loved.

Woody dissolves the conflict between them. He listens. And then, in an act of astonishing grace, he willingly and generously gives her the voice box.

This is significant for all kinds of reasons. Here are two:

Woody’s fears come out of the antique-store woodwork: These dummies want to take the stuffing out of him.

First, Woody’s sacrifice affirms what others have observed about Woody’s virtues. Bo herself defends his character, declaring, “He’s always trying to do right by his kid.” Bo’s tiny sidekick Giggle McDimples (who looks and sounds a lot like Peanuts‘ Lucy in Angry Mode) responds, “That kinda crazy loyalty?” Bo, who seems likely to scoff, instead answers with deep admiration, and maybe even a bit of a crush: “You gotta love him for it.

Second, Woody’s sacrifice reveals that he is turning a corner. He is beginning to accept that he is no longer the Top Toy. Andy doesn’t need him, and Bonnie seems almost indifferent to him in view of her new love of making toys. Woody has already learned to do what he can with whatever is in front of him to “do right by his kid.” But Woody doesn’t really have a kid anymore — not really. Bonnie doesn’t seem likely to notice if he’s gone. He realizes that the thing to do at this moment is to donate — to contribute a missing piece that only he can provide — so that another toy can have an experience he’s already had, and so that another child can find her perfect imaginary friend.

Greydanus argues,

The only way Gabby’s redemption could possibly have worked would be if she had a change of heart before taking Woody’s voice box, unconditionally liberated Forky, and perhaps made some effort to help reunite them with Bonnie, leaving Woody free to voluntarily donate his voice box without duress.

The idea that we’re meant to root for Gabby’s happiness with a child after her unconscionable actions, with no actual redemption on her part, is just bizarre…. especially given Pixar’s stellar track record on flawed characters taking responsibility for their actions.

But that’s just it: Gabby’s actions end up as something different than the theft that she endeavored, at first, to perform. The conversation changes. A contract is reached. Gabby isn’t dismembering a stranger and stealing from him. Instead, she makes a desperate plea — a plea that, while still brusque and self-centered, comes from a place of genuine longing. Woody, while uncomfortable, agrees. He makes the sacrifice. And he does it with the belief that it will be good for both a kid and for Gabby Gabby. It’s a revelation of his heart expanding, an increase in his understanding of the shapes that love can take.

Then what happens? As if to emphasize that this exchange is no longer coercion but consensual, Gabby Gabby thanks Woody. Repeatedly.

And Woody, smarting from the surgery, replies, “You’re welcome.”

What follows is a stroke of Pixar genius: Forky encourages Woody to stay and watch the big moment when the sacrifice is rewarded and the fully-functional Gabby is recognized as worthy of a child’s love. But instead of seeing Gabby, now technically “repaired,” receiving the love she’s always wanted, Forky and Woody are witness to a painful rejection. The child (her name, Harmony, turns out to be ironic) isn’t interested in Gabby. And Gabby learns that no self-alteration, no surgery, makes her any more worthy of love. (After all, if material perfection is what makes us lovable, how do we explain Forky?)

Woody could seize this moment and get loudly and rightfully righteous. He could demand his voice box back. He could launch into a sermon and seize this “teachable moment.” But he doesn’t. He sees the more immediate and urgent need. He sees Gabby in her desolation. Sure — we might all feel a surge of smug piety if this became a moment of reprimand. But that wouldn’t help anybody. When Gabby insists that Harmony was her “only chance” at, well, harmony, Woody assures her that it wasn’t. “A friend once told me, ‘There are plenty of kids out there.'”

And he’s right. While the whole ordeal seems to have been for naught, there is, in fact, a little girl nearby who needs to cope with her own dismaying experience of family separation by loving someone else.

All things, even the mistakes, end up working together for good. Gabby is shown mercy. And Woody sacrifice is blessed.

I’m reminded of another Disney story: “Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day,” an animated featurette included in the film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Do you remember this story? When a windstorm blows Owl’s house down from its tree, the Hundred-Acre Wood gang is distraught. Eeyore, however, happens upon a house that he announces as a solution. Everyone follows him and discovers that that gloomy donkey has mistaken Piglet’s house for an unclaimed domicile.

What to do? Should Eeyore be reprimanded for not paying attention? Should his mistake be announced? Should he learn a lesson about knowing what he’s talking about before creating a situation that’s awkward for everybody?

That’s not what this story is about. The community is careful not to embarrass or punish Eeyore for his ignorance. The real lesson here is in what comes next: Piglet, in an extravagant act of generosity, decides to congratulate Eeyore, give up his house to Owl (who really does need one, after all), and to move in with his friend Pooh. Pooh consents, and the Hundred-Acre Wood becomes a better place altogether for the remarkable exhibition of generosity on Piglet’s part.

Granted, Gabby Gabby’s behavior early in Toy Story 4 are selfish and wicked, where Eeyore’s are merely block-headed. But the folly of her disordered priorities becomes clear. And the moment becomes, like Eeyore’s mistake, an occasion that reveals another character’s large-heartedness.

Woody, having already known the ideal joy of a perfect child-and-toy relationship, accepts that those days are over, and invests in an opportunity for a neglected toy to become what she was meant to be. He sacrifices for someone else’s joy.

As we learn at the end, Woody’s decision was just a prelude to an even bigger decision indicating a shift happening in his heart: He’s determining not to go on as just another toy in a toy box. He knows he can do better than to sit forgotten in a closet longing to be Someone’s Special Someone again.

He sees that Bonnie’s engagement with toys is different than Andy’s. Forky is her #1, and the gang doesn’t really need Woody’s leadership the way that they did. He has to acknowledge, and wisely so, that he has better options than being the toy left in the toy cabinet (although that experience did inspire his capacity to feel for Gabby Gabby, who’s been left in a cabinet for many years).

Choosing to go with Bo, for whom he is a Special Someone, and too experience new adventures with her — adventures that are, in fact, shaped by her care for other toys and for children — strikes me as a brilliant new frontier for this ex-Sheriff. Like a father who realizes that his life won’t always be primarily about parenting, Woody is taking steps toward an adventurous retirement… with Bo.

And thank goodness that Woody isn’t rewarded for his heroics with the trophy of a female toy who can’t be complete without him. Woody doesn’t need a romantic accessory or an assistant, and neither does Bo. They choose an equal (and, yes, romantic) partnership that will increase the joy of their experiences beyond the parent/child… I mean, toy/child relationship.

Listening to Bo Peep, I’m reminded of how many women I admire who have escaped the ridiculous but prevalent notion that their value is determined by their attractiveness to men, by their capacity for motherhood, or other meaningful but limited avenues of identity. I’m also reminded of young people find the confidence to overcome feeble notions of inadequacy they’ve been taught by unloving families.

As Jessica Chastain’s character taught her children in The Tree of Life, “If you do not love, your life will pass you by.” How we interpret this wisdom depends on the largeness and versatility of our definition of love. In this surprising story of Bo Peep’s influence in Woody’s life, we see that love can take all kinds of shapes.

And maybe our favorite Sheriff is more versatile, more flexible, than he knew. At the end, he’s reaching for the sky.

Why complain if The Greatest Trilogy of All Time can expand to become a Tetralogy, one that, in taking some impressive risks, leaves characters in a place that you prefer to the place they end up at the end of Chapter Three?

What if it expands and deepens the poetic vocabulary of what the relationships between the toys and the kids who love them into life can really mean?

What if it’s the funniest chapter of the franchise so far, and—animation-wise—the most visually impressive?

I’ve come around. I’ve changed my mind. I’m willing to take more chances now with sequels, so long as storytellers know what they’re doing, and so long as they respect the integrity of the giants whose shoulders they’re standing upon.

But wait… what’s this?

There’s a new TV series coming that adds all-new chapters to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? And it’s being run by the guy who made Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom?!

No! This is too much! Make it stop! Why would anyone be so foolish as to mess with perfection? I’m against it. Don’t do this. Please. Nothing good can come from it at all.