Warning: spoilers for The Midnight Sky are in play. If you haven’t seen the film just yet, commence a slingshot orbit out of here, and come back once you’ve experienced it for yourself.
It’s another bad day in space, with some complications on Earth making things even more perilous, as Netflix’s The Midnight Sky sees George Clooney trying to warn a crew of astronauts away from returning to Earth. To be fair, things are in pretty rough shape in this sci-fi film that’s made its debut on the streaming service, and with one particularly big twist in the works, the stakes are even greater. Which means it’s time to warn you, the reader, that we’re about to get pretty deep into The Midnight Sky’s ending. So if you don’t want those twists spoiled, this is the last call to change course before we start mapping the space that is the finale. And we’ll begin with a recap of what happened at the very end of the film.
What Happens At The End Of The Midnight Sky
Alone at a polar outpost, astronomer Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) is struggling to get through to the crew of the Aether, a spaceship that is returning from its mission into deep space. The Aether has explored K-23, a moon of Jupiter that’s a-ok for human colonization, and is returning home with the results. However, they hadn’t anticipated an apocalyptic disaster simply known as “The Event” would occur towards the tail end of their extended journey.
With a treacherous journey to the stronger antenna at the Arctic base complete, Augustine successfully warns the Aether’s crew that they shouldn’t return to Earth. Providing them with the data to slingshot around the Earth and return to K-23, it’s assumed that our lonely, and terminally ill astronomer finally passes on after finally “meeting” Sully (Felicity Jones), one of the astronauts on the Aether. It’s a moment that poignantly closes out Augustine’s story, as Sully means more to him than he could have ever known.
How Augustine’s Past Plays Into The Midnight Sky
Throughout The Midnight Sky, we see a series of flashbacks detailing a relationship between younger Augustine (Ethan Peck) and a woman he once loved. It starts at a lecture that eventually inspires the Aether mission, and its crew, but this romance ends as Augustine turns his back on human connection in favor of his work. Despite lying in a flashback, Augustine’s girlfriend actually did give birth to his child. Except for seeing her briefly one time, he doesn’t get to know her or become involved in her life.
As it turns out, his daughter is the little girl that he hallucinates as his companion on the journey to the antenna. Named Iris, she never speaks, but joins Augustine on his perilous quest. In the greatest twist to The Midnight Sky, we’re informed that Iris is actually part of Sully’s full name: Iris Sullivan. Through a great turn of fate, the pregnant Iris finally gets to encounter her father, for a brief moment in time, before becoming one of the potential saviors of humanity.
Why The Midnight Sky’s Big Reveal Was Such A Big Deal
Further developing the grand coincidence that The Midnight Sky has sitting right under the nose of its audience, Iris’s story actually brings the follies of Augustine’s youth full circle. While she didn’t know that he was her father, Iris very much looked up to Dr. Lofthouse’s work. In fact, it was what inspired her to become an astronaut, through the gift of a moon rock her mother passed down to her from him.
So while Augustine may have been absent for his daughter’s entire life, he was there when it really counted. Only, it really counted for humanity as well, as by saving Iris’s life, the good doctor may have saved the species. At the very least, he spared the life of her daughter and her partner, Commander Gordon Adewole (David Oyelowo,) who successfully slingshot around the Earth and head back on the road to K-23.
What Happened To The Rest Of The Aether’s Crew In The Midnight Sky
While The Midnight Sky’s Aether mission does start out with more personnel on the books, by time the film resolves its narrative, only Sully and Gordon are still alive and on board. After the unfortunate death of fellow crew member Maya (Tiffany Boone), Sanchez (Demian Bechir) decides to leave the Aether, to deliver her body to Earth out of respect. He makes this decision when revealing his backstory, as she was the same age that his deceased daughter would have been, were she still alive. As he always imagined the two would have been friends, he felt it was his duty to see her burial through.
But Sanchez also makes this decision because the re-entry pods on the Aether need two pilots to fully function. A fact that would have complicated the previous decision of crew member Mitchell (Kyle Chandler) to land on Earth, in an attempt to locate his family. The Midnight Sky reveals that his wife and two sons were evacuated to a shelter, according to the last message Mitchell received from his wife. So he figures it’s worth a shot to see if they’re out there, and decides to depart the Aether. Which leaves Sully, Commander Gordon Adewole (David Oyelowo), and their unborn child to head back to K-23 and start a new life, leaving one huge question hanging in the balance.
One Major Unanswered Question The Midnight Sky Leaves Hanging
For as much energy as The Midnight Sky puts into telling the audience that K-23 is the future of humanity, there’s one major problem that seems to prevent this ending from being totally hopeful. As we learn in the first act, The Event happened three weeks ago, and the world is pretty screwed as a result. You’d need to be underground, or in a pretty remote spot, like an Arctic outpost, to still be alive. These are all facts that complicate one scenario that’s mentioned, but never totally resolved, as Sully mentions to the Aether crew that a K-23 Colony flight was supposed to be in the air “a week ago.”
This puts the crew of this colony flight a good two weeks into the earthbound doomsday The Midnight Sky shows us, and we never hear of the mission, or hear from its crew, throughout the rest of the story. Of course, there’s a shot that this flight may have made it into space, given how quarantined space missions can be. But unless there were some massive changes made to the mission, or unless they left earlier, this doesn’t sound all that hopeful. Which puts the survival of our species on three people, one of which isn’t born yet. So how the hell is humanity going to be rebuilt on K-23?
We don’t know enough to really extrapolate a conclusion, based on The Midnight Sky’s course of events and how it unfolds. But it feels like that isn’t really the point of what this latest entry in George Clooney’s filmography is trying to do. As a tale of connecting in the name of survival, and making up for lost time with loved ones, The Midnight Sky’s ending works perfectly fine. Though the more you try to figure out a happy ending over all, the harder you may find yourself digging. Feel free to experience the space driven narrative for yourself, as the film is now streaming on Netflix. And should you have any further evidence or theories as to how those questions may be answered, don’t forget you can leave your input in our comments section below.