‘Skylines,’ the third installment in the indie sci-fi franchise ‘Skyline,’ imparts a lesson of plot development to its engrossed audience by showing how to avoid the risk of repeating itself and keep telling a continuously evolving and original story. If the first two films are horror science fiction depicting humanity’s desperate fight against an overwhelmingly powerful alien force that seeks its complete extermination, the third film maintains that and adds an extra layer of space opera.
Essentially, ‘Skylines’ (stylistically written as ‘SKYLIN3S’) is ‘Cloverfield’ meets ‘Star Trek.’ And like those two projects, writer-director Liam O’Donnell’s movie is brimming with philosophical questions about humanity, race, war, and peace. Here is everything you need to know about ‘Skylines’s ending. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Skylines Plot Synopsis
If the first two films are predominantly set in Los Angeles, California, almost all of ‘Skylines’ Earth scenes occur in a dystopic version of London, England. In his characteristic grand-old-man voice, James Cosmo, who portrays Grant, narrates everything that has happened between the second film’s conclusion and the beginning of the third. Rose (Lindsey Morgan), the daughter of the first film’s protagonists Jarrod and Elaine, gave humanity a fighting chance when she freed all the Pilots, the biomechanical soldiers with human brains, from the Harvesters’ control.
Ten years later, Rose, already an adult due to her rapid aging, led an attack against the invaders’ mightiest weapon, the Armada Vessel, that could harvest all lives on Earth. Right when she was about to take the shot, she hesitated. She eventually did destroy the Armada but had to kill several of her own soldiers whose ship was caught in the crossfire.
Guilt-ridden, Rose has been on the run ever since. Five years pass, and she is finally found by the elite tracker Leon (Jonathan Howard), who takes her to his commander, General Radford (Alexander Siddig). Since the Harvesters’ defeat, the two subspecies of humanity, the Originals and the Pilots, have found a way of co-existing together. That tentative peace is threatened when a dangerous pandemic began raging among the Pilots.
In the absence of the Harvesters’ technology, the Pilots have seemingly reverted to their base instincts and have started killing indiscriminately. But Radford has a plan. Accompanied by Rose and a select group of experts, he sets out for the Harvesters’ homeworld, codenamed Cobalt-1, to retrieve the Armada’s core drive, which he says can prevent Earth’s 3 billion Pilots from transforming for the next hundred years.
Skylines Ending: How Are the Pilots Saved?
Rose was born on a Harvesters’ ship. After her biological parents’ death, Mark Corley (Frank Grillo), the second film’s protagonist, brought her up. A sibling bond formed between Rose and Mark’s son Trent, who had been transformed into a Pilot. That bond persisted through their war days as Trent served as Rose’s second-in-command. After the war ended and Rose left, it strained their relationship, especially with Trent working with the people pursuing her.
However, the moment she returns and reunites with her brother, their relationship returns to its default, easy-going phase. Rose knows that she doesn’t have much time left because of how fast she is aging. Her trigger hand has already been affected by the process, turning dry and weathered. Blood transfusion keeps the changes under control, but it is increasingly proving to be not enough. With the limited time she has, she wants to ensure, more than anything else, that her brother doesn’t turn into a mindless killer.
She also sees the mission to Cobalt-1 as a way of finding redemption, not just for the deaths of Leon’s sister and other soldiers who were caught in the crossfire, but for the Pilots inside Harvesters’ ships as well. Having grown up with Trent around her and being a hybrid herself, she has developed a unique empathy for the Pilots and ardently hopes to help find the path to salvation for them in what she believes to be the final days of her life.
Radford released the virus among the Pilot population to euthanize them peacefully. Instead, it changed them back to their original, murderous programming. Realizing that his genocidal plan has ricocheted towards the baseline humans in a perfect example of karmic justice, he decides to use the Armada core drive to wipe out the Pilots. This is the main hidden reason of the mission, known in its entirety only by Radford and Colonel Owens (Daniel Bernhardt). After learning the extent of Radford’s betrayal and his diabolical intention, Rose manages to defeat him with Trent, Leon, and Zhi’s (Cha-Lee Yoon) help.
Back on Earth, the imminent danger stems from the prospect of London’s impending destruction by infected Pilots. Racing against time and protected by Kate (Naomi Tankel) and Huana (Yayan Ruhian), Dr. Mal (Rhona Mitra) develops a serum that can subdue the effects of the virus. When Rose and the others return to Earth’s atmosphere, they pull the infected Pilots into the ship with the blue light. Ironically, the erstwhile tool of human destruction is used to protect both the Pilots and the Originals. Using both the core drive and the serum, Dr. Mal and Rose cure the infected Pilots.
The Spectrum of Emotions
‘Skylines’ is an ambitious film, and not just in terms of its grand scope. It’s courageous enough to address questions regarding the human condition and identity, a trait that makes the film quite relatable. Like ‘District 9,’ ‘Skylines’ delves deep into human nature and tries to enunciate the aspects that make us who we are, both good and bad. Despite his transformation, Trent has managed to hold on to the inherently good part of human nature, including his humor and deep love for his sister.
That love also brings him back from the brink of utter savagery. In the climactic scenes of the film, Trent nearly sacrifices himself by grabbing the Matriarch, the Harvesters’ apparent leader, and pushing her toward the ship’s outer wall as it goes through the warm hole. Although he survives, it diminishes neither the sacrifice itself nor the intent behind it.
Radford exists on the opposite side of the spectrum and resonates with hatred for both the Harvesters and the Pilots and a certain mass-murdering intent. It is revealed that the probe he sent to Cobalt-1 before the mission was actually a bomb that killed almost all of the Harvester population. As he watches the second bomb detonate and destroy Cobalt-1 for good, he ominously quotes the ‘Bhagavad Gita,’ reciting the very lines that the real-life scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled while watching a successful nuclear test in 1945.
Although that line has a much deeper meaning in the Hindu scripture’s overall context, Radford adheres to its literal interpretation. And unlike Oppenheimer, who appeared broken and disillusioned in every interview afterward, Radford revels in the cataclysmic event he causes. Both Leon and Rose are positioned somewhere between Trent and Radford. Leon lost his sister because Rose hesitated before shooting at the Armada and hated her because of it.
But after meeting her and getting to know Trent, he finally comes to understand Rose’s perspective, which in turn triggers his redemption, and he chooses her and Trent over his orders. As for the protagonist herself, Rose is capable of incredible kindness and generosity, despite being a superpowered being who can control Harvesters’ technology. Like Trent, she momentarily loses herself while confronting the Matriarch, who heals her hand and completes Rose’s transition. However, the deep connection that she formed with Trent brings her back to her senses.
Will Rose and Trent Find Their Father?
In the closing moments of the film, Zhi tells Rose and Trent that he has found a secret facility where Radford imprisoned all his enemies, including their father. The film ends as the siblings, Leon, Zhi, and Violet, embark on a new course to find Mark. Considering how resilient and determined the siblings are and the fact that they are surrounded by people who genuinely care for them, they will find their father, even though it might take a while. Mark vanished without a trace not long after Rose and evidently got caught by Radford’s agents at some point.
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