Netflix’s latest original is a tense thriller set in space, as a small crew of three head to Mars and are faced with an impossible moral dilemma. Stowaway is packed with a small but incredibly talented cast, including Anna Kendrick’s medical researcher (Zoe), Daniel Dae Kim’s biologist (David), and Toni Collette’s ship commander (Marina). What happens when the skeleton crew is burdened with one more crew member (Shamier Anderson’s Michael) with their limited resources? Let’s get into the Stowaway ending.
The movie, which dropped on Netflix alongside a host of exciting April releases, was co-written and directed by Joe Penna, a Brazilian director who previously made Arctic in 2018 with Mads Mikkelsen. Before we get into Stowaway, be warned that this article includes major SPOILERS for the Netflix film. Stream it before reading on:
What Happened At The End Of Stowaway?
Stowaway has a somber ending that involves the crew struggling to save themselves after Michael accidentally makes his way onto their spacecraft. Once Michael is found as a stowaway on their mission to Mars, the three-person crew find out that by simply existing on the craft with them, he will sabotage the mission and none of them will able to survive. After exhausting a number of options (which we’ll get to in a moment), Zoe decides that she will go out during a deadly solar storm to retrieve the oxygen needed for at least three of them to survive.
Stowaway is a story of sacrifice for the greater good, and that comes at the expense of Anna Kendrick’s character. At the beginning of the movie, Zoe recalls that she joined the program as a joke to watch herself get rejected. As the movie reaches it’s final moments, she realizes that it allowed her to “truly give life meaning” beyond anything she could ever imagine. While sci-fi fans may have expected the film to turn into a bloodbath between the astronauts fighting for their own right to stay alive, the ending of Stowaway is based on what’s best for the entire crew. It’s a sad ending, but also one that focuses on the decision of a community, rather than highlighting the selfishness of human nature.
How Did The Stowaway Get Aboard The Kingfisher?
Let’s backtrack now. How was the problem of Stowaway created in the film? Basically, not soon after launch the crew found Michael in a compartment. He had mistakenly been stuck there since before the launch and no one knew about it. During his fall from the compartment, Toni Collette’s Marina tries to break his fall, but it ends up damaging the ship’s life support systems in a way that cannot be repaired.
Marina finds out that Michael is a launch support engineer. Him being aboard is a major mistake that was somehow made before lift off, leading the crew to question whether Michael was a purposeful stowaway. As the movie continues to unfold, we learn that Michael’s presence on the ship is innocent. He shares that he was arming the second-stage firing pins when he suffered a concussion and was knocked out on the ship as it launched. Michael’s disinterest in being there is made apparent by the fact that his younger sister has been left alone without him. The mission he finds himself on is set to be two-years long, and spacecrafts cannot simply turn back and go home. And, then comes the moral dilemma of Stowaway.
What Options Did The Crew Have?
Marina then learns that the damage to the life support systems caused on the ship will not sustain all four of them on the mission. In addition, they don’t have enough fuel to turn back around. Stowaway was actually fact-checked by NASA during the making of it, and they learned, according to Wired, that a stowaway could absolutely happen on a mission like this. The film’s director, Joe Penna, explained the crew’s dilemma further:
A lot of people think that space travel is like car travel, where if you're not accelerating you can just stop, turn around, and start accelerating the other way. You only bring enough fuel for adjustments in space. Because if you bring one pound of rocket fuel, you need two pounds of rocket fuel underneath that to just get it up into space. Every single gram counts and your margins are tiny, tiny, tiny.
What happens next is Daniel Dae Kim’s David tries to use his expertise in biology to algae scrub the carbon dioxide on the ship and create more oxygen for them. Half of his batch fails, leading Marina to come to the conclusion that the crew will asphyxiate on carbon dioxide just a few weeks before reaching Mars. This leads to David basically asking if Michael will kill himself for the good of the mission. Zoe comforts Michael by telling him they will find another way, which will be to nab a tank of oxygen (that was used for launch) 450 meters above their craft and will save all of them.
Why Did Anna Kendrick’s Zoe Make That Choice?
Zoe and David suit up and go out to space to grab the oxygen tank together (Marina has a fractured arm from Michael’s fall, so she sits it out). When the crew members reach the oxygen tank, they find out that there are over 500 litres of liquid inside, which would solve their problem and keep all four of them alive. But, then they get word about the solar storm and are forced to rush the tank onto the ship.
While Zoe is attempting to get the tank back to the ship, she loses control and the canister floats off into space. The final decision comes down to who will go out into the solar storm to save the remaining three crew members. Marina, once again is injured and cannot do it. Michael volunteers himself but he does not have the skills to complete the mission. David has a family back at home, so Zoe decides it’s the best decision for her to be the one to make the sacrifice.
In the end, Stowaway becomes a realistic depiction of how a real situation could play out during space travel. It may not particularly be the twisty turny space thriller we’d expect, but it does end up being an interesting thought experiment about the struggles that come with traveling among the stars. What did you think of the Stowaway ending? Vote in our poll below.