SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains massive spoilers for Palm Springs. If you have not yet seen the film, continue at your own risk!
What would you do if you woke up one morning and realized that it was yesterday? What if it then happened again the next day? And the next day? And the next? That high-concept premise has been at the heart of many fantastic films over the years – from Groundhog Day to Edge Of Tomorrow to Happy Death Day – and now the latest addition to the time loop legacy is Max Barbakow’s Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, which has its own greats twists, turns, and ideas to add to subgenre, as well as an excellent, original ending.
It’s that ending specifically that we are here to discuss today in this feature (which you probably gathered from the headline of the article). We’ll discuss both the events that transpire in the Hulu movie and address the questions Palm Springs leaves us with – and that’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s dig in!
What Happens At The End Of Palm Springs
Making the writing of this editorial pretty easy is that Palm Springs offers a very easy convenient point to start talking about the ending: the final day that the protagonists spend in the loop. It begins with Sarah waking Nyles up in bed, and telling him that, after months of studying quantum physics, she has discovered a way that they can escape their ever-repeating lives. The procedure involves a very specifically timed explosion at the cave that caused the whole mess to begin with, and there exists the possibility that they could just blow themselves up, but Sarah believes it is worth taking the risk following her experiments.
Unfortunately, Nyles does not – and it has nothing to do with fearing the possibility of death. While he acknowledges his love for Sarah, he also has become institutionalized to a certain extent, and has reached far too great a comfortability level within the loop. Sarah leaves, and Nyles breaks up with Misty, who then delivers one of her over-the-top emotional reactions despite her own infidelity and insists that she breaks up with him first.
While Nyles skips the wedding, Sarah attends, and in contrast to her unpreparedness at the start of the film she delivers a loving speech to her sister during the reception. As the party wraps up, Sarah leaves a voicemail for somebody, and has a sweet moment with her grandmother.
As for what Nyles has been up to, the answer is hanging out at the bar – though instead of getting drunk, he emotionally wallows. He comes to the realization that living as an immortal in a never-ending time loop is not something he can live with if it means not being with Sarah. He purposefully gets in a fight with the bartender, a.k.a. “Ted With The Pickup Truck,” and during the scuffle successfully lifts a set of car keys. He steals the car parked out front and starts to drive towards the cave, but the engine breaks down in the middle of the trip.
On foot, Nyles finds a strange man taking target practice in the middle of the desert, but because of his eternal experience he knows exactly what to do. Nyles convinces the man that he is the son he never knew he had, and the two embrace – presumably leading Nyles to get the stranger to give him a ride.
He arrives just as Sarah is about to enter the cave wearing a suicide vest, and while she is impatient with him at the start, Nyles successfully convinces her of his feelings with a punctuation-heavy run-on sentence. Together they enter the cave, and just as they are about to be swallowed by the time vortex Sarah hits the switch in her hand to trigger the explosion.
In the wake of the explosion, Nyles and Sarah are together once again floating together in a pool on a pair of pizza-shaped inflatables. She asks him what they should do now, and he explains that it would probably best if he went to pick up his dog. The existence of the canine is a revolution to Sarah who asks about its name and type (“Fred,” “One of those shaggy dogs”)… but the conversation is cut short by a family shouting at them and asking what they are doing in the pool. Nyles has a moment of clarity: “I guess they come back November 10th.” The camera pans up to reveal the herd of dinosaurs still roaming the desert – possibly trapped in a time loop of their own.
And in case you watched Palm Springs’ ending thinking, “But what happened to Roy?” the good news is that a mid-credits scene offers a bit of closure. We reunite with the character at the wedding as he approaches Nyles at the bar. He tells his frequent homicide victim that he got the voice mail that Sarah left (see above) and expresses a degree of incredulity about the idea. All of this, however, is lost on Nyles, though, who swears that he and Roy have never met. Realizing that this means that Nyles has escaped the loop, he smiles as the film cuts to black.
Obviously there is a fair amount about Palm Springs’ ending that doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation, but there are certain details worth unpacking – so let’s dig in!
Do Nyles And Sarah Escape The Time Loop?
Let’s start with the easiest subject to address, which is the question of whether or not Nyles and Sarah manage to escape the time loop. While the urge to attach some kind of Twilight Zone-esque bent on the story is understandable in this day and age of pop culture exploration, and that the genre certainly invites the speculation, it’s fair to definitively say that our two heroes in Palm Springs do get to see their lives continue as previously scheduled prior to the destination wedding – albeit together as a couple.
Without over-explaining things, the presence of the back-from-vacation family proves that Nyles and Sarah were successfully blown into tomorrow, as the movie goes out of its way in an earlier scene to explain via dialogue that Nyles doesn’t know when the owners of the pool will be getting back (he just knows that its’ not November 9th a.k.a. the looped day.
Rather than leaving audiences with questions about the nature of reality at the end of Palm Springs, director Max Barbakow and writer Andy Siara make it pretty clear where things stand – but there does still exist some open ended-ness in regards to how character’s lives might continue from where things are left at the end of the movie.
Will Roy Get Out?
While audiences have seen time loop stories explored in many different ways on the big screen, we have not yet seen a film about the situation that Roy finds himself in at the end of Palm Springs – which is a shame because it’s a fascinating scenario. As many characters as we’ve seen stuck repeating the same day and searching for their way out, what we have not seen is how that situation would play out with a character who knows where the exit door is.
The idea is especially interesting when you consider the arc experienced by Roy over the course of the film. At the start he is filled with nothing but resentment, hence him spending his days getting revenge on Nyles, but over time he eventually finds peace in having the opportunity to eternally spend the same day with his loving family.
It’s in acknowledgement of that peace that Roy’s future beyond his final moment in Palm Springs is a compelling question mark. Nyles finds the motivation to leave the loop because he doesn’t view an existence without Sarah worth living, but Roy doesn’t have anything like that. On the contrary, leaving the loop would mean reentering a life with the existence of real pain and consequence. How much of looped life – even when happiness is found – is tolerable before the need for the unfamiliar and everything that comes with it is worth it?
Perhaps it is something that could be explored in a Palm Springs 2, should the filmmakers feel so inclined. Plus, there is still a lot to be wondered about when it comes to the lives of Nyles and Sarah as well.
What Does The Future Look Like?
Have you ever run into someone from long in your past and marveled at the kind of person that their life experiences have molded them into? Now imagine having that feeling about a friend who you just saw yesterday. At the end of Palm Springs, that’s essentially the set-up in the relationship between Sarah and Nyles and everybody in their respective pre-wedding lives. All of the personal growth that we see them witness over the course of the movie is going to feel instantaneous to those around them, and that’s a bona fide recipe for weirdness.
With Sarah, she has a reputation among her family as a screw-up, and even though she has legitimately changed as a person following the time loop it surely won’t be easy convincing everyone of that (plus, as lovely as her reception speech is, she still slept with her sister’s husband on the night of their wedding, and that can’t not cause drama). That kind of pressure can cause some bad habits to return – but fortunately she has Nyles for support.
At the same time, though, Nyles will surely be dealing with a lot of his own shit – and not just those involving the important people in his life. While we don’t know for sure how long he was in the time loop, his experience was far longer than Sarah’s, and therefore he may have that much harder a time adjusting to normalcy. Do repetitive tasks take on a weird kind of comfort? Are big life changes – like moving or a friend’s death – insurmountably hard to adjust to?
Things are certainly good for Nyles and Sarah at the end of Palm Springs, but they will also need to lean on each other for the rest of their lives – particularly because any other person they tell about their experience would probably result in them being put in padded cells.
Are you sufficiently bummed out now? Hopefully I didn’t just kill all of the loveliness and funniness in this wonderful film.
If you don’t want to think about what lies ahead for the characters, you can always just loop the experience of watching Palm Springs over and over again and live with Nyles and Sarah in their budding romance. The movie is now available to stream exclusively on Hulu, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more features inspired by the romantic comedy.