Is Asha Dead or Alive in Upgrade?

The science-fiction film ‘Upgrade’ follows the revenge story of a man seeking vengeance for his wife’s brutal murder. Grey and Asha Trace find themselves falling victim to an inexplicable targeted attack, wherein Asha loses her life while Grey sustains an injured spine that leaves him quadriplegic. As a result, desperate to track down his wife’s killers and find answers, the man agrees to become the host for his acquaintance, Eron Keen’s brand-new AI-powered brain chip, Stem. Renewed with the newfound ability and skills— as well as full control of his body— Grey finds himself embroiled in the middle of a bigger technological ploy. Even though Asha’s death sets the stage for the film’s premise, a few uncanny instances— especially toward the film’s end— bring the character’s fate into question. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Asha’s Predestined Fate

At its core, Asha’s death remains the driving force and central motivation behind Grey’s entire narrative. Initially, after her death and Grey’s paralyzation, the man loses out on all hope and simply awaits his own end. Nevertheless, Eron Keen enters the scene, offering Grey a chance to overcome his injuries and encouraging him to go through with the chip implantation to honor Asha’s memory. As such, Grey begins sharing his body with Stem, the chip that helps him control his limbs.

Soon after, Grey starts to realize that he can employ Stem’s help to investigate Asha’s murder— a case that has been stumping local detective Cortez for weeks now. In comparison, Stem finds a lead on the case in a matter of seconds. Therefore, Grey finds a newfound purpose to go on— exacting revenge on Asha’s killer. The self-appointed mission that Grey and Stem set out on brings them a fair amount of trouble. Even so, with Stem’s incredible abilities and Grey’s humanity, the two become a near-indestructible force.

Consequently, following each new lead to the next, Grey learns about Cobalt’s involvement in Asha’s death. The woman worked for the company, which specializes in providing robotic limbs for injured soldiers. While the concept sounds like a noble idea, a much sinister truth lies under the surface where soldiers have been “upgraded” with weapons installed in their hands, creating a small, lethal army. For the same reason, the narrative allows the viewers to entertain the idea that Asha’s death may have had something to do with the same before the entire truth comes out.

Eron had hired Cobalt to target Grey and Asha— precisely to slice open the former’s spine. By doing so— and killing Asha on top of the same— Eron orchestrated the circumstances that would make Grey desperate enough to agree to attach the Stem chip to his system. Furthermore, a final confrontation with Eron reveals that Stem itself is the real master behind the charade. Stem has been getting eager to inhabit a human form for some time now. As such, after Stem glimpses at Grey’s persona during his short visit, the robot decides he would make for the perfect host.

For the same reason, Stem compelled Eron to plan out the attack that killed Asha. Once Grey learns about the same, he becomes hostile, unwilling to carry out Stem’s wishes through his body. Nonetheless, by then, Stem has ensured he has full control over Grey’s brain through a brief hacking stint. Therefore, as Grey becomes an actual impediment in Stem’s path— verbally encouraging Eron and Detective Cortez to kill him— the robot decides to get rid of the human’s consciousness.

Consequently, Stem sends Grey into a dream scenario in his own head. In this world, Grey and Asha were never attacked. Instead, Grey got into a car accident that left him passed out in a hospital for a while. Nonetheless, once Grey wakes, it’s to a fully functioning body, and Asha’s presence— well and alive— is by his side. Within this dream, Grey can pretend that the past few days of his life have never happened and happily hide away in an ideal world. Meanwhile, without Grey’s consciousness, constantly fighting for control of his brain, Stem can use the man’s body as it pleases.

Thus, where Stem once used Asha’s death to motivate Grey into action, it now uses the same to mollify the man into silence. Grey’s desperate grief at Asha’s loss works as an effective tool, leaving the man a willing prisoner inside his own mind. Ultimately, while Asha remains dead, Grey is left to live with her memory while stuck in a dream inside his own head.

Read More: Was Grey Dreaming the Whole Time in Upgrade?