Spoilers below for the Peacock feature, Meet Cute, but you’d already know that if you’ve read this in the future.
Everyone’s mileage varies, but the mark of a good time-travel movie generally reflects the quality of the plot more so than that of the main characters, Bill and Ted’s magnificence notwithstanding. It’s almost always fun to continue talking long after the credits about a film’s specific use of time travel, and how it would apply to one’s own life. Starring Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson, who rocked wildly varying looks to the red carpet premiere, the dark and twisty rom-com, Meet Cute, fits that mold well, boasting a nail salon’s tanning bed as its logic-thwarting time machine.
The film follows Cuoco’s unreliable narrator, Sheila, and her doomed attempts to sidestep suicidal urges by “reliving” her ideal first date with the unwitting and non-consenting bar patron, Gary, as played by Davidson. Her particular scheme hinges on the sci-fi rules set in place by the Peacock original, as scripted by Noga Pnueli and directed by Alex Lehmann. The time machine lets Sheila relive a 24-hour period, inspiring her to near-endless repeats of the night she fell for Gary, complete with quasi-murdering her past self every time. Unsurprisingly, it only goes positively for a while before souring.
On its surface, the film’s conclusion appears to present the characters with a best case scenario, though that perception might be overlooking a potentially far less optimistic outcome. Let’s take a closer look at what the film showed us, and how we can view the Meet Cute ending in two different ways.
How Meet Cute Ended
The endgame scenario mostly accounts for its entire third act, following Sheila’s attempts to erase Gary’s past traumas via time travel, not realizing until too late that a complicated upbringing helped create the person she altered her existence for. She also didn’t realize her myriad resets were having cumulative effects on Gary himself, resulting in him finding the nail salon (run by Deborah S. Craig’s delightfully low-key, chaos-bringing June) and causing timeline shenanigans of his own. The influential cable repair guy that Sheila brought up during their date(s) was actually Gary, though a wholly different conversation would be needed to talk out those mechanics working.
When Gary returned from his nearly calamitous jaunt, Sheila was back to the self-destructive and suicidal mindset she was in at the point when she was first told about the time machine. After their biggest fight yet — only Sheila was privy to all their other less-than-wonderful moments together — he chose to trust in her underlying will to live by transparently fibbing about having traveled by time machine to a future where she was still alive. He then walked away, aiming to see her “on the other side” of daybreak.
Thankfully, whether by his influence or inner strength, she conquered her demons and eventually found Gary again just as the morning sun began its ascent. That point came presumably a couple of hours or so before Sheila hit the time machine’s 24-hour limit, assuming that detail wasn’t a lie. The pair walked off into the sunrise with the same jokey and flirty energy they shared in earlier scenes, but what would actually happen next for Sheila and Gary?
The Happy Ending Interpretation
When using optimism as a launch pad, Meet Cute’s ending can be viewed as positive for several reasons. For one, Sheila is truly happy in the film’s final moments, content once again with moving forward into the unknown instead of relying solely on past pleasures. She learned her lesson in regards to going back in time and messing with things that shouldn’t be messed with, and discovered that she was still totally into Gary even when she didn’t manufacture their experiences. But, even if Gary was just a figment of her imagination, the important thing is that she found a semblance of inner peace to expand upon.
Since audiences aren’t privy to what happens after the moments leading into the credits, one can go as far as one wishes with warm-hearted soothsaying. Could it somehow be possible that the characters remained a couple beyond that morning, with Sheila somehow breaking the tethered hold that time had on her? Everyone would like to think their relationship is the one that could completely shatter the rules of time, but Sheila and Gary may have actually done it.
But here’s the thing: even if Kaley Cuoco’s character did get zapped back into her own present after more than a year of reliving her character’s first date with Gary, the movie still set up enough narrative runway to hypothesize that he would be more cognitively aware of Sheila by that point. So she could feasibly just find him out in the world and reconnect that way, albeit with a very complicated conversation as part of the fun. So no matter how you slice it, it’s all good, right?
The Not-So-Happy Ending Interpretation
As awesome as it would be to believe that Sheila and Gary went off and lived shared lives to the fullest, movie characters don’t get to completely fuck with time and then get back to their daily grinds without consequences. She basically turned into a time travel addict during that lost year, which is probably the biggest punishment in and of itself, at least where morals of the story are concerned. Still, it’s not one that would stick with Sheila for very long.
The dark version of Meet Cute’s conclusion that’s easiest to imagine is the one that already played out time and again. Despite their date having finally lasted completely through the night, the rules of time may still pull her back into her original timeline. And, since she’s now likely evolved beyond the urge to repeat that even longer date night, that means Gary saw the new love of his life vanish into thin air (or whatever), which could definitely mess with a person’s brain. Especially if Sheila temporarily wiped herself out of existence within his timeline by consistently mowing down her past selves. (There’s also a case to be made for Gary not fully retaining his memory of her in this scenario.)
Or, in what may be the most hell-driven iteration of the ending, Sheila blips back into the present, leaving Gary alone, only for him to return to the nail salon later that morning to go back in time to the day before, thus setting up his own destructive time-travel cycles. Then it’s just Gary-headed turtles all the way down.
There are, of course, a variety of other endings that would come across as darker than necessary. For instance, perhaps Cuoco’s character is legitimately having a mental breakdown, and the time travel elements are only happening in her mind. Or maybe this is the ol’ Jacob’s Ladder party trick, where the entirety of Meet Cute takes place among Sheila’s fleeting final thoughts after she’d successfully jumped off the bridge. Or maybe there’s another time traveler out there who’s been purposefully trying to drive Sheila insane without her realizing it.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper. Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.