Netflix’s latest space bound adventure is set in the near-future, depicting the first manned mission to Mars. The Kingfisher is helmed by three different astronauts. Bubbly and enthusiast doctor Zoe (Anna Kendrick), biochemist David (Daniel Dae Kim) and Captain Marina Barnett (Toni Collette), who oversees the whole operation.
There’s no NASA here though, and instead this space-bound flight is sponsored by a company known as Hyperion. It seems like they’ve taken some liberties with the ship, and it was originally only supposed to hold two passengers. They took a gamble by including Zoe, but this does seem like a calculated and reasonable choice, given Zoe’s medical background.
Shortly after lift-off (around 12 hours or so) a stowaway called Michael Adams is found aboard.
Who is Michael Adams? How did he end up aboard?
Michael Adams is just an ordinary worker, someone who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s no sabotage or espionage plot here, it’s simply down to dumb luck. When we first meet Michael he’s freaking out, realizing he’s stuck on this ship for 2 years. These fears stem from Michael’s current life back on Earth.
Michael works for Hyperion but he’s also studying a Master’s for structural engineering. In fact, he was actually hoping to be on the next manned mission after this one. His fears (and the reason for his earlier freak-out) stem from his family life.
Michael’s Father was killed in an apartment fire back when he was 9. Michael and his sister Ava survived, with the former eventually becoming her legal guardian. Through the movie we learn that she’s well looked after in Michael’s absence.
Why not just turn the ship around? Why can’t they go back?
This question is probably the biggest in the movie and something that’s addressed early on in a small bite of dialogue. Quite simply, there’s just not enough fuel.
The amount of fuel needed here to decelerate the rocket, turn it around and build up the thrust needed to get back to Earth is just too much and there’s no way now that the ship is speeding toward Mars.
Michael’s unintentional arrival not only takes more oxygen away from the others, it also uses more fuel too – especially given the artificial gravity the ship is expending.
Unfortunately the crew are put in a difficult position, with oxygen quickly running out and becoming a real problem. In fact, Daniel even attempts to convince Michael to kill himself – but that’s quickly disbanded when Zoe learns what’s happening.
How does Stowaway end?
The crew instead turn their attention toward the tank attached to the Kingfisher. This is a perilous and dangerous journey up a 450 meter tether outside the main part of the ship. Zoe and Daniel both volunteer but have to abandon their mission when a solar storm smashes into the ship.
The pair lose one cannister to the void of space while the other is leaking. The group have limited time before all the oxygen is gone.
The radiation is deadly to anyone exposed so Michael volunteers to sacrifice himself; if he can bring the full cannister back then the others can survive.
He’s not qualified though and given his inability to use the tether (highlighted by his clumsy falls earlier in the film) Zoe sacrifices herself. She makes Daniel promise to get back home to his wife and raise a family.
Zoe heads out on her own, onto the tethers and begins suffering from radiation poisoning. She obtains the oxygen tank and brings it back to the ship. The final shot of the movie pans up from Zoe’s face to show the faint, red outline of Mars in the distance.
What’s next for the crew?
The ending is left on a somewhat ambiguous note. Will the crew survive? And what awaits them on Mars?
The movie seems to hint that everything will be okay and gives a positive outlook. The uplifting orchestral score gives glimmers of hope, while the final monologue from Zoe confirms that this mission “gives her life meaning beyond anything she could imagine.”
However, if you keep listening the score changes to something more minor key, which could hint at an ill-fated journey. I guess it depends on how you interpret those final shots – and the music.
Presumably we’re left with the implication that the crew will start again on Mars, making it there in one piece but still mourning the loss of Zoe, who sacrificed herself for the mission.
(To read our full thoughts on this movie, check out our spoiler-free review HERE!)
Thanks for reading our Ending Explained article! What did you think of Stowaway’s ending? Do you think the crew made it to Mars after all? Let us know in the comments below!