Netflix’s ‘Where the Tracks End’ (also known as ‘El Ultimo Vagon’) is a Mexican drama movie directed by Ernesto Contreras. It is based on author Angeles Donate’s 2019 novel ‘El Ultimo Vagon.’ The Spanish-language movie tells an endangering tale of Ikal, a young boy’s experiences at a wagon school, where he finds meaningful friendships after he moves to rural Mexico with his family. Meanwhile, the local teacher does her best to impact the children’s lives positively. As the feel-good narrative concludes, the sense of innocence is left behind as the main characters approach the future. If you are wondering what the future holds for Ikal and his friends, here is everything you need to know about the ending of ‘Where the Tracks End.’ SPOILERS AHEAD!
Where the Tracks End Plot Synopsis
‘Where the Tracks End’ opens with a flash forward to a young boy leaving on a train while a young girl, Valeria, and a dog chase after him. The story then starts a few months before, as Ikal, the young boy from the train, arrives in a small Mexican town. Ikal investigates a dead body in a pond with his new friends, Chico, Valeria, and Tuerto. In the marshes, Ikal discovers a dog, and the children inform the local school teacher, Miss Georgina, about the dead body. As a result, Miss Georgina is introduced to Ikal and encourages him to attend school.
Ikal wants to adopt the dog and names it Quetzal. Miss Georgina meets Ikal’s parents. His father, Tomas, is a railroad worker, and his mother, Lucero, is recovering from an unnamed illness. The family moves around a lot because of Tomas’ job. As a result, Ikal hasn’t attended school regularly. Miss Georgina convinces Ikal and his parents to adopt the dog, and they agree on the condition that Ikal attends school. Quetzal follows Ikal to school on his first day at the wagon school.
Soon, Ikal starts exploring his new surroundings and bonds with his friends. Ikal and Chico initially clash with each other. Ikal also develops a crush on Valeria. However, Ikal struggles at school to learn reading and writing. As a result, Miss Georgina calls Ikal to her home and suggests he take extra classes. She gives Ikal a comic book and convinces him to take the extra classes. As a result, Ikal soon develops an interest in reading.
Meanwhile, a young man named Hugo, who works as an inspector, is instructed by the Ministry of Education to shut down the wagon schools. As a result, Hugo travels to the wagon schools, telling them the bad news. As Ikal becomes a better student, Chico starts getting into trouble for robbing. One day, Chico is caught stealing, and the townsfolk discuss punishment for him. Despite their differences, Ilak accepts Chico as his friend and goes to meet him.
Seeing Ilak’s progress, his parents consider settling down in the town. Ilak’s parents reveal that his father applied for a permanent position. However, his request was denied, but Tomas decided to quit his job so that Ikal could stay in the town with his new friends. Ikal is elated and runs around the town, sharing the news with everyone, including Miss Georgina. However, Ikal’s happiness is short-lived as he is forced to leave the town when a tragedy strikes his family.
Where the Tracks End Ending: Why Did Ikal Leave the Town?
In the movie, Ikal is a young boy who moves around a lot and struggles to find meaningful connections with his peers. However, when he arrives in rural Mexico and meets Chico, Valeria, and Tuerto, he finds a sense of belonging. Ikal also takes up an interest in reading and finds a purpose in life when he proclaims to become a teacher when he grows up. Ikal is overjoyed when he learns he will stay in the town with his new friends. However, Ikal’s world crashes when his father dies while working during the storm as he is struck by lightning. Ikal’s father’s death leaves a hole in his life, and the young boy is forced to leave the town. Ikal’s mother decides to move away to live with her siblings.
Tomas’s death leaves the family in a dire financial state, and since Ikal’s mother is sick, she cannot work. Hence, it makes sense for Ikal and Lucero to move in with their family. As a result, Ikal bids farewell to his friends. Before Ikal leaves, Miss Georgina arranges for the students to click their class photograph so that Ikal can be in it. Ultimately, Ikal part ways with his friends, and the train journey prolongs the farewell, underlining the undelaying sadness of the situation, which perhaps the children do not fully understand. Although Ikal dreams of being with his Chico, Valeria, Quetzal, and Tuerto forever, reality gets in the way. However, Ikal is forever changed because of his experiences with the group.
Who Is Hugo? Does He Save the School?
During the film’s final moments, we see Hugo, the inspector receiving the file of the last wagon school and finds the class photograph from Ikal’s childhood. Hugo arrives at the school with the instructions to shut it down as per the Ministry of Education’s orders. However, it is revealed that Hugo is none other than a grown-up Ikal. He changed his name after moving away to honor his mother and give himself a clean start.
In the end, Ikal returns to the school where he first learned to read and started his journey to becoming who he is today. He also reunites with Valeria, who has become a teacher at the school. The reunion between the childhood friends is heartwarming, and it leads to Hugo, aka Ikal deciding to quit his job and fulls his promise to become a teacher. Ultimately, Hugo resolves to save the school, as he recognizes many young children like himself need the institution to guide them into a better future.
What Happened to Miss Georgina and Chico?
The film showcases a heartwarming student-teacher relationship between Miss Georgina and Ikal. Miss Georgina teaches Ikal how to read and encourages him to find a purpose in life. She sees her deceased son in Ikal, adding another layer to their bond. Miss Georgina often gifts Ikal books that shape his worldview. The ending reveals that the school’s headmistress, presumably Miss Georgina died nearly seven years ago. However, she leaves one last gift for Ikal, which he receives from Valeria after she takes him to Miss Georgina’s house.
The gift is none other than the comics that first attracted Ikal to reading. The moment brings the story full circle and highlights Miss Georgina’s willingness to give her all for her students despite having very little to offer. In a broader context, Miss Georgina gives Ikal things such as purpose, clarity, and values that remain with him forever, and the comics serve as a physical representation of the same.
On the other hand, Ikal’s relationship with Chico is different as they start off as adversaries trying to one-up each other. However, Ikal soon understands the fundamental difference between him and Chico. While Ikal sees his new surroundings as a paradise, it is a prison for Chico, who dreams of escaping its poverty and harsh truths. However, he only ends up in scrapples and fights, and one such fight leads to his demise after a robbery. Thus, Chico never got his life together, which starkly contrasts Ikal’s fate, highlighting how the latter could have easily gone down the same path too.