How It Ends (2018) Ending, Explained

David M. Rosenthal, the director of ‘Janie Jones’ and ‘Jacob’s Ladder,’ helmed the understated 2018 disaster movie ‘How It Ends.’ The story paints a slice of a tangible apocalypse, chronicling a sprawling road trip from Chicago to Seattle. As Samantha is pregnant, her husband Will heads to meet Samantha’s parents in Chicago.

When an unknown cosmic event disables all contact with the west coast, Will is compelled to undertake a journey of approximately 2043 miles, teaming up with Samantha’s ailing father, Tom. While the story conceals a realistic depiction of a nationwide catastrophe and its surrounding confusion and fear, the hastily drawn finale does not give us closure. If you have questions popping up in your mind, let us create meaning out of chaos. SPOILERS AHEAD.

How It Ends Plot Synopsis

The opening scenes transition from cosmic events to a sonogram feed. Samantha “Sam” Sutherland is pregnant, and she wants to know the gender of the child. The doctor tells Sam and her husband Will that they are about to have a baby boy. Will takes his leave from Samantha with the news since he has to head to Chicago to meet her parents. Will promises not to talk about the boat, but he becomes anxious and does it anyway. Ex-military Tom is increasingly condescending at the dining table, as Will did not have employment the last time he checked.

After a heated conversation, Will returns to his hotel room near the airport. Samantha is Will’s wake-up call at the hotel, who reminds him that he has a flight to catch. Shortly after, the call drops and Will reaches the airport to learn that Flight 23 to Seattle has been delayed until further notice. Looking at the ominous TV broadcast, Will gathers there is a seismic event off the southern California coast before the feed gets disconnected. Will heads back to Tom’s house, and together, they head to Seattle in Tom’s Cadillac, picking up the catastrophic repercussions of the event on the way.

How It Ends Ending: What Becomes of Seattle?

The journey is painstaking and full of unknown perils. It takes the duo to abandoned settlements or places with hostile people. In some towns, the law enforcement closes all entry, while some cities remain empty, with only food and gas to salvage. Tom and Will find a girl named Ricki at a car repair shop, and Tom convinces her to come on board for the journey. After an incident involving reclaiming stolen fuel, Will ends up killing a family.

Ricki, nervous and distraught, take leave without saying her farewell. Afterward, Tom dies, seemingly from the ash particles contaminating his lungs. Tom seems to have an underlying respiratory condition and thus carries his medications on the journey. But the injection is not of much help, and Tom dies on the road. Will burns the car with Tom’s body in it (as a funeral, maybe) and continues the journey on foot on the fifth day.

Will hitchhikes with a family heading up north, taking them to his father’s house in the woods full of supplies. Against providing comfort, Will wants the keys of the jeep from the patriarch of the family, to which the patriarch complies. Will then takes the jeep to Seattle. Thirty miles from Seattle, the air has turned almost unbreathable, and the road is white from ash particles. From the rumors of the catastrophe, the movie provides a steady transition to the actual image of the apocalypse.

As he crosses what seems to be Lake Washington, Will sees a dread-inducing image of the city. Seattle has been virtually destroyed due to the impact of the catastrophe. Rogue militants guard the entry points to the town, with whom Will has a moment of a skirmish. As Samantha’s savior, Jeremiah, theorizes, the impact seems to be caused by a nuclear attack. He sounds like a conspiracy theorist when he says that the government is attempting a massive cover-up.

What Caused The Catastrophe?

This million-dollar question is what the movie wants us to speculate about since it gives no reasonable explanation behind the apocalypse. Jeremiah thinks it to be a government conspiracy to scare people. He also toys with the idea that the catastrophe may result from the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. Some people say that the frequent tremors are caused by earthquakes, while nobody omits the possibility of a volcanic eruption. However, looking at the indicators, it would be fair to tag the catastrophe as a solar storm (or a geomagnetic storm).

According to NASA scientists, the repercussions of a solar storm (caused by disturbances on the Sun’s surface) may be deadly for humans. While it may not directly lead to deaths, it can cause situations that may result in mass casualties. For instance, a large-scale solar storm may destroy all the artificial satellites circling the earth, cause destruction to the power grids, and virtually leave us without communication and electricity.

What further validates our point is the aurora that Will perceives as only solar storms can cause them. They are not mythical, as the last large-scale solar storm (known as the Carrington Event) took place in 1859. Auroras were seen worldwide, and Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed. Moreover, on  July 23, 2012, a Carrington-class solar superstorm missed Earth by an inch. Therefore, humanity may not be as immune to a geomagnetic storm as you would imagine.

Why Does Will Kill Jeremiah? Are Will and Samantha Dead or Alive?

In the end, Will finds Samantha in good health. Will heads to their residence in Seattle to find that the structure has collapsed, along with the other houses in the neighborhood. However, Samantha has left a note for Will, asking him to see her at a given address. With the information, Will reaches the house of Jeremiah, Samantha’s savior. However, with a third man in the equation, things get a little uneasy for Will. Samantha expresses her love and gratitude for the reunion with Will, but an awkward campfire party follows.

Jeremiah toys with conspiracy theories. Will maintains that Jeremiah is as much in the dark as the rest of them. Samantha failingly tries to mediate, but to no avail. The following morning, Will shoots down Jeremiah in a frontal encounter before the latter can point the gun at the former. Therefore, within a moment, Will’s “heroism” goes down the drain, as it seems that Will takes an anxious decision in the heat of the moment.

Although it is difficult to know whether Samantha and Jeremiah were intimate in the absence of Will, Will can jump to a conclusion. It is difficult for Will to point the finger at Samantha, his pregnant wife, and shooting down Jeremiah may be the only option in his mind. Moreover, as there is no framework of justice in a world of anarchy, pulling the trigger seems easy, even liberating.

After the death of Jeremiah, Sam and Will drive out of the town. However, another visceral storm follows them, hoping to engulf everything on its way. Will changes the gears and kisses Samantha. While the movie ends here, the final fate of Samantha and Will seems uncertain. Looking at the storm’s speed, it is perhaps not possible for them to escape its fatal repercussions. Therefore, we conclude that Will and Samantha die in the end.

Read More: Where Was How It Ends (2018) Filmed?