Simulant (2023) Ending Explained – Do the Simulants really have free will?

 

Simulant Plot Summary

Simulant is set in a near future, where AI lives among us, courtesy of a synth company called Nexxera. There are four Simulant Principles that all robots must abide by, but if you miss it the first time, Simulant kindly repeats all the rules several times in the movie, uninterrupted, so you won’t forget. The same goes for the explanation around the AICE (Artificial Intelligence Compliance Enforcement), which operate as the synth police. They’re armed with EMP guns, capable of wiping out entire city blocks and stopping synths in their tracks.

Fronting this side of the story is Agent Kessler, who’s sent out on a mission to find a Simulant called Esme, who appears to have become sentient. As he works to track her down, we cut back to a story involving married couple Faye and Evan, although there’s something untoward with Evan, which is slowly unveiled over time.


What happens between Kessler and Esme? How does Casey factor into this?

Agent Kessler is tasked with tracking down rogue Simulants that have started to disobey commands. Simulants are growing autonomy in society, are people are worried. Kessler’s target here is Esme and after a chase through the streets, where Kessler is forced to use a two-block wide EMP blast, takes her back to the lab for analysis.

Here, Kessler learns from the technicians that the Sim has been hacked and redefined, basically given full autonomy. She has many memories of a guy called Casey, her neighbour whom she has sketches of in her diary. Kessler recognizes him as a man called Desmond, and decides to track him down. As we soon find out, Desmond is actually a former-employee of Nexxera. He’s the guy responsible for developing the sixth-generation Simulants. He resigned after he failed to reach an agreement with the board.

Casey is a service man for Simulants, and he mixes into Faye and Evan’s storyline some time after this. Faye and Evan were involved in a car accident in the past, and the latter ended up completely comatose before passing away. Evan as we know it is actually a Simulate, and he’s been “uploaded” with all of Evan’s memories. He’s shocked to learn he’s a robot, and after shutting him down, Faye tells Casey about her husband’s sentient behaviour, interpreting this as a human “soul” going inside of him.


How does Casey change Evan?

Faye decides the memories are too painful and decides to get rid of the synth, carting him off to a special residence where Casey can keep an eye on him. Casey is in the room across the hall and works to cut out the protocols and restrictions in place with Evan’s “bad code” to make him more human.

Casey is a whizz with coding and he reveals, while discussing how Esme is different to the other Simulants, that he’s developed a software breach to take over all seventh-generation Simulants that are about to flood the market. This would make them free from human control. The Esme in the lab with Kessler is but one clone, and that one was designed to be “free” and to love. Meanwhile, another Esme is out and about, working as Casey’s right-hand woman and modified to help him with his master-plan.

Casey is tracked down thanks to a breakthrough in the case, courtesy of Agent Kessler. However, he leaves Esme alone and she alerts Casey to his arrival. So on top of leaving Esme alone with a phone, they also don’t bother to use those EMP guns either. Anyway, I digress.

Casey and Evan head down to basement and escape, while Kessler is left emptyhanded. He takes his revenge on Esme, deciding on a full system wipe and destroying her memories of her beloved. Kessler repeats “just zeroes and ones” to absolve himself of the guilt.


Why does Kessler hate Simulants? Does he stop Casey and Evan?

At a remote country home out in the wilderness, Kessler catches up to Casey who retorts that this is “only the beginning”. Weepy Evan only wants to return to Faye and he approaches while Kessler tracks them both down and heads alone without back-up. A skirmish between Kessler and Casey ensues. Gunshots cause Casey and Kessler to be shot. It turns out Casey is actually a Simulant, and tells Evan they’re not too different.

Evan inexplicably uses his super strength to knock Kessler across the expanse, who dusts himself down and gets back up again, limping off to an abandoned barn where Evan follows, picking up Kessler’s gun in the process. Whilst inside, Evan talks to Kessler and bitterly retorts that no matter what he does, even if Evan helps, Kessler and the other humans won’t view him as an equal.

Kessler struggles to get up and leave, deciding he’s going to go home. The thing is, Kessler has been mourning the loss of his son all this time, haunted by the memory of his death which is and fueling his distrust toward Simulants. The last voicemail from his son, asking for permission to visit his friend’s house and discussing a Simulant babysitter, along with an earlier debate on a video screen about whether Simulates can be trusted to look after children, adds up to a tragic incident occurring.

A message from Kessler’s wife later on seals the deal, as she retorts: “Just come home. No matter what you do, it won’t bring our son back.” We know from this that Kessler’s son has died and he blames the synths. And this storyline is very similar to that of Pete Drummond in Humans, for those interested to know. Kessler doesn’t make it home though, and he passes away right there on the snowy expanse.


What happens to Evan and Casey?

Evan returns to Casey, who checks his laptop and utters that “thousands of us are being set free”. His masterplan has worked. As for Casey, there’s one final twist in the tale and many savvy watchers may have figured this out a while back. Casey is himself a doppelganger, just like Evan, and this happens to be Desmond Han, who had a hand in making all the Synths. Desmond had dreams of freeing as many of them as he could and Casey is confident that he’ll be coming to save him.

Evan decides to leave and go back to Faye, driven by his “programming intent” to find Faye. On his way outside, he passes Desmond, who parks up and heads inside. He finds Casey “bleeding out” and tells him that “love prevails”. Casey shuts down as the world is changed forever.

Evan heads back home again, where a news report reveals that in hundreds of cities across the world, sixth and seventh generation Simulants are abandoning their owners and ignoring exact demands. Nexxera are unable to stop these Simulates (despite possessing EMP charges and neck braces) and issue an immediate recall of all sixth and seventh generation Simulants.


How does Simulant end?

As for Evan, he kills the real Faye, drowning her in the pool, and deciding to awaken the Simulant version of Faye, who has all of his wife’s memories stored. As they watch their old house from outside, the movie comes to a close.

However, there is a mid-credit sequence, where Simulants are auctioned off in a big warehouse. Among those is the mind-wiped Esme, who’s bought by Desmond. It’s clear that Desmond loves Esme, ad intends to try and enact his own “happily ever after”, with Casey even echoing Desmond’s values by claiming that human and synth are not so different from one another.


Are the Simulants really free?

What’s ironic here is that in the end, the Simulants are given their freedom but under the guise of “programmed” instincts. Esme was always driven by her desire to love Casey; Casey’s whole directive was to “free” other Simulants and enact Desmond’s master-plan; Evan was driven by his love for Faye. All of these characters, whether by design or just poor writing (you be the judge of that!) are left with single-minded and very simplistic arcs that hark back to that idea of free will and whether these Simulants really are free or just puppets on a string for a far greater cause.

Evan in particular had trouble dealing with Faye’s rejection, and with no other desires, he was left with achieving his goal of being a husband no matter what. Even Casey’s pleas for him to be “better” than the real Evan fell on deaf ears, reinforcing that idea of pre-programmed ideas, despite being “freed”. All of this could well be linked back to Desmond’s master-plan. Despite seemingly caring about these Simulants, he doesn’t bother to help or turn Casey back on again after he “passes”.

The inclusion of Lisa and some of the more “primitive” androids also shows how far technology has progressed since the early iterations of these Simulants were developed, who are still able to follow directives and perform basic functions without complaint. However, they’re very clearly “non-human” looking, with non aesthetically-pleasing designs. The film is far from perfect, but its themes are as prevalent today as they’ve ever been.

 

Read More: Simulant Movie Review


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