Important Ending Defined
On the backside of the ocean, Selene finds the “entity” that continues to resurrect her after every dying. The display cuts to black, after which we see a automotive touring by a darkish forest at night time.
A toddler within the backseat of the automotive holds Octo, the plushie squid that you could be be acquainted with when you performed by the haunted homes segments earlier within the sport. Within the background, Do not Worry the Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult performs on the automotive radio.
The kid says “Mother, do you see the White Shadow?” moments earlier than the radio begins to fizz out with static. The digicam turns to the radio, which is dialed to the sign 107.7. The automotive’s clock additionally reads 8:36 PM, and the surface temperature is 52 levels Fahrenheit.
Trivia: Every of those motifs (the track, the numbers, the surroundings) present up all through Returnal, however the numbers 8:36 are particularly prevalent. They first seem on the finish of Act 1 because the information broadcast of Selene’s obvious return from Atropos is performed at 8:36 AM. Selene can be mentioned to have lived for 63 years and eight days after returning to Earth, which, backwards, is 836. The which means of 836 could be interpreted in any variety of methods, however a couple of Web searches recommend that its commonest interpretation amongst Numerologists is one thing alongside the traces of “your prayers have been obtained, be able to obtain rewards”, or simply normal good luck and success.
As the motive force (revealed to be Selene, or somebody who appears to be like identical to Selene) appears to be like up from the radio, she narrowly spots an astronaut in the midst of the street. Braking onerous and spinning the wheel sharply as to keep away from hitting the astronaut, she loses management over the automobile, which crashes by the railing of a bridge and into the water beneath.
The automotive sinks to the underside of the river, and the scene skips ahead a couple of moments to indicate each passengers unconscious in a automotive now stuffed with water. A mysterious entity, presumably the one we noticed earlier, seems and shines a vibrant purple gentle on Selene, waking her up.
Selene makes an attempt to seize the kid’s hand, however is sucked out of the automotive by the mysterious entity earlier than she will be able to get a grip. The kid is presumably left within the inside of the automotive on the backside of the river.
A last underwater shot of the water’s floor is interrupted as a thick foggy mass seems to dam out the display, slicing the shot to black earlier than Returnal’s title card seems on display and the credit roll.
Returnal’s true ending is hidden behind a complete third act.
In it, Selene returns to the automotive that she left underwater within the earlier ending. This time, she’s teleported to an odd void the place she finds a skeletal alien sitting in a wheelchair. The alien appears to be like up at Selene simply lengthy sufficient for the 2 to make eye contact. Properly, eye socket contact if you wish to get particular about it.
Then the alien leaps up and weak-handedly makes an attempt to strangle Selene, who cries out “I advised you to depart me alone!” earlier than pushing the alien off of her.
The alien calls out for Selene, revealing itself to be Theia (however provided that you are taking part in with subtitles turned on). In the event you did not choose it up earlier within the marketing campaign, Theia is Selene’s mom, who appeared in a number of earlier haunted homes. It is clear now that Theia is some extent of guilt for Selene.
The digicam zooms into Selene’s head, and we now see issues from her perspective. She appears to be like down at her fingers, then turns left to see the oncoming automotive that we noticed within the first ending. It is obvious that we at the moment are seeing issues from the angle of the astronaut that the automotive narrowly swerved to keep away from.
We skip to an underwater shot from the angle of Selene, who’s now making an attempt to swim to the water’s floor. The display fades to white, then cuts to black, and we hear Selene gasp the ultimate phrase, “Helios.”
What It All Means
Returnal leaves us with extra questions than solutions. Its true ending appears to recommend that Selene is each the motive force and the astronaut that runs her off the street, which additional suggests the existence of parallel realities even on Returnal’s model of Earth.
Additional, we see proof all through Returnal that, at completely different time limits, Selene is clearly each responsible concerning the lack of her little one and of her mom. We already know that Selene’s mom is Theia, who we encounter within the secret ending, nevertheless it’s additionally extremely possible that Selene’s little one is known as Helios, which can be the identify of Selene’s spaceship.
As soon as extra, we’re not solely certain that there is a concrete strategy to tie all the things collectively. Nevertheless it’s not tough to theorize that Selene not solely exists in several iterations throughout a number of dimensions, however that all the world of Atropos is one prolonged dream sequence woven collectively out of the traumas skilled by every of these completely different Selenes.
Moreover, Scout Logs all through the marketing campaign recommend that Selene (quite, astronaut Selene) is responsible about leaving her household behind on Earth to enterprise off into area. It is also instructed that Theia herself was as soon as an astronaut from the “Apollo Period”, who might have proven a youthful Selene pictures of herself totally kitted out in astronaut gear. All of those bits may doubtlessly clarify the guilt that Selene feels associated to Theia, who she would have presumably left behind when going off to discover area herself. And based mostly on the motif of the wheelchair, Theia might not have been in ok well being to dwell lengthy sufficient to see her daughter return.
You can take that practice of thought even deeper: if Theia was the unique astronaut, and Selene noticed photographs of her in full astronaut garb, then it is also potential that Theia is the astronaut in the midst of the street, not Selene. In reality, you possibly can theorize that Selene was so traumatized by the lack of her mom that she started to hallucinate, even as far as to utterly think about the astronaut within the street and the kid within the backseat asking about White Shadow.
A number of issues are constant regardless of the way you interpret the endings: the recurring crash on the planet’s floor is clearly a stand-in for the actual automotive crash that is central to Selene’s trauma, the “White Shadow” represents an astronaut in the midst of a darkish street, and the Abyssal Scar represents the underside of the river which is the automotive’s last resting place.