Spiderhead Ending, Explained: Is Steve Abnesti Dead or Alive?

The Thor Odinson of the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes a villainous turn in ‘Spiderhead,’ a taut sci-fi thriller film directed by ‘Top Gun: Maverick‘s Joseph Kosinski. Chris Hemsworth portrays Steve Abnesti, a prison overseer and scientist, running a human trial on the convicts at Spiderhead Penitentiary and Research Center, a facility located on a remote island. Miles Teller, who previously worked with Kosinski in ‘Only the Brave’ and ‘Maverick,’ stars as Jeff, one of the inmates at ‘Spiderhead.’ Like other inmates, he has volunteered for the program and initially seems to be its most willing participant. As the series progresses, his connection with fellow inmate Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett) deepens, and together, they discover Steve’s sinister intentions. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Spiderhead.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.

Spiderhead Plot Synopsis

The story of ‘Spiderhead’ is set in an unspecified time, but it’s safe to assume it’s the near future. The film has seaplanes and muscle cars, and the technology isn’t farfetched. The only science fiction aspects about ‘Spiderhead’ are the drugs administered to the convicts turned volunteers and MobiPaks, the surgically implanted devices through which the said drugs are administered.

Steve Abnesti is evidently a visionary and genius in the field of medical science and biochemistry. His drugs alter the human psyche fundamentally, albeit temporarily. For example, N-40 or Luvactin seems like a drug that heightens emotions and makes the subject euphoric. In contrast, administering Darkenfloxx results in extreme mental and physical distress. There is also a drug to remedy the loss of words, Verbaluce.

Jeff, Lizzy, and the others are at Spiderhead and taking part in the human trials in hopes of commuted sentences and certain privileges. The inmates at the facility enjoy a certain among of freedom. There are no locked doors or orange jumpsuits. Inmates can potentially have their own living spaces and time outside. Jeff gradually realizes that all this comes at a steep price he is unwilling to pay.

The notion of free will is arguably the most important aspect of the narrative. Steve’s drugs directly violate it through the illusion of choice. Every time a drug is administered, a subject must verbally give consent. But they are convicts. Some of them have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Most of them enjoy the freedom that Spiderhead grants. They know that if they decline a drug, they can potentially be sent back to the State prison. So, in reality, there is no choice here. Every inmate at Spiderhead must be the guinea pig Steve wants them to be.

We get Jeff’s backstory in stages throughout the film. Initially, we are led to believe that he was convicted for the death of one of his friends. Jeff was heavily intoxicated and driving the car when it hit a tree. At first, he seems to genuinely believe that Steve wants to change the world and seeks his own redemption by participating in the tests. Meanwhile, he grows close to Lizzy, whose reasons for incarceration aren’t revealed until the movie’s climactic sequence.

During one of the tests, Jeff is placed together with Heather (Tess Haubrich). Neither appears to be particularly attracted to the other person, but after the administration of N-40, their behavior dramatically changes. They have sex and claim that they love each other. After coming off the high that the drug had given them, their mutual romantic feelings quickly disappear. Steve repeats the experiment with Jeff and another subject named Sarah. He then puts Heather and Sarah together and invites Jeff to the observation room. Steve then asks Jeff to choose between Sarah and Heather as the subject for Darkenfloxx. Jeff, who has been previously administered the drug and doesn’t particularly have any romantic sentiment for either woman, refuses. But his denial tells Steve enough things. Later, Darkenfloxx is administered to Heather, and she kills herself.

Spiderhead Ending: Is Steve Abnesti Dead?

Steve keeps excusing his dubious trials by saying he is being ordered to conduct them by the Protocol Committee of the pharmaceutical company he works for. After Heather’s violent death, Jeff reads Steve’s notes and discovers that there is no Protocol Committee. The company’s name is Abnesti Pharmaceuticals — it’s Steve’s own company. He is the one who created the drugs and is now experimenting them on the inmates with the help of his associate Mark, who handles the technical aspects of the drugs. In Steve’s notes, Jeff finds a Bingo card with gold stars marking most boxes. He realizes that the boxes represent various drugs. Luvactin is N-40, whereas I-16 is Darkenfloxx. The gold stars mark all the boxes except two: N-40 and B-6.

After Heather’s death, Mark becomes disillusioned with the program and works with Jeff to bring Steve down. In the climactic scene, Mark is apparently on sick leave, which Steve thinks is due to what he (Steve) is planning to do on the day. Steve has figured out the connection between Jeff and Lizzy and now wants to use the latter as a subject for Darkenfloxx, He reveals why Lizzy has been incarcerated, forcing her to break down and plead to Jeff to go through the trial.

Steve also has a MobiPak and uses it to experience the drugs, N-40 in particular. His excuse is that the drugs will inevitably come under scrutiny at some point, so he needs to be ready for them by experimenting with them on himself. In reality, it seems that he is addicted to the euphoric sensation that N-40 gives him.

During Lizzy’s session, Steve suddenly starts laughing. It is revealed that Mark has spiked Steve’s MobiPak, connecting it to the smartphone/controlling device given to Jeff. As Jeff confronts Steve, Mark is on his way to Spiderhead with the authorities. Steve admits the drug he has been actually testing is B-6 or OBDX or Obediex, which gives an administrator an amount of control over the subject. But it is not absolute. Obediex is powerful enough to let Steve live among killers, but it hasn’t been effective enough to earn a gold star on the Bingo card.

Eventually, as the authorities arrive, Steve sends the rest of the inmates after Jeff and Lizzy while he tries to escape on the seaplane. However, during his fight with Jeff, his MobiPak has become flooded with the drugs, and he crashes against a rock face and dies. Although the moment of his death is not shown, Jeff and Lizzy see the explosion resulting from the crash. Moreover, Steve didn’t have any means of escape and was heavily under the influence of the drugs.

Why Are Jeff and Lizzy at Spiderhead?

Like the other volunteers, Jeff and Lizzie are convicted individuals trying to commute their sentences. When the accident happened, Jeff’s wife, Emma (BeBe Bettencourt), was in the car with him and his friend. Both Emma and the friend were killed, and Jeff was sentenced for two counts of voluntary manslaughter. Lizzy was incarcerated because her nine-month-old daughter died after Lizzy left her locked in a car for three hours in a Walmart parking lot. She received sentences for one count of reckless endangerment and one count of manslaughter.

Both Jeff and Lizzie seem to think that they deserve what is happening to them, at least at first. But as it appears, if there is redemption through suffering, they have already achieved it. Jeff and Lizzy have been free to leave for seven months and a week, respectively, but Steve didn’t tell them. However, as the film ends, they are alive and together. Now, they can begin the next chapter of their lives.

Read More: Will There be a Spiderhead Sequel?