The ending of Maze Runner: The Death Cure explained

The third and final installment in the Maze Runner trilogy, The Death Cure, is just as action-packed as previous chapters in the film series inspired by James Dashner's bestselling books. Between the dizzying set pieces and the conclusion of the saga's narrative arc, it's easy to lose track of everything that went down in the explosive closing chapter for the sci-fi/adventure series — so with that in mind, here's a breakdown of what exactly happened to all those Greenies and Gladers in the end of Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

The rescue riot

A good chunk of the movie is dedicated to rescuing Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from the clutches of the scientists in the powerful WCKD labs — including our old frenemy Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) — who are treating him and other immune kids like lab rats in the hope of siphoning off a cure to the zombifying Flare virus. 

After their first wildly unbelievable train car heist fails to save him (with a few dozen other innocents sprung from harm instead as a consolation prize), they decide to storm the "Last City," a bona fide techno-fortress built to keep the uninfected population safe from the "cranks," and specifically designed to keep undesirables like Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), and Frypan (Dexter Darden) from getting in.

There's a big price to pay for getting through: they'll need to rely on the bitter, infection-riddled leader of a rogue group of insurgents that are lingering outside the wall, waiting for an opportunity to come in and wreck the place. And wreck it they do. With the help of Gally (Will Poulter), who's decided to be on Team Glader again, Thomas and friends infiltrate the wall through the tunnel system and make way to the WCKD lab building where Minho and others are being held. In return, Gally's boss Lawrence (Walton Goggins) basically gets the electronic keys to the city so he and his havoc-wreaking army can blow everything up just to spite those who've kept them out for so long. But skyscrapers and countless amounts of Last Citizens aren't the only ones lost in the fray.

The sacrifice

About halfway through the rescue mission for Minho, we learn Newt has been infected with the now-airborne virus that's plagued people around the globe. Oops. He manages to power through some difficult moments — including surviving a 20-some-odd-story fall into a water fountain — but before the group can make it back to their rendezvous point for rescue, he starts succumbing to the zombifying disease. Thomas tries his best to bring him back from infection haze so he can make it 'til some serum is dropped off, but when the now-mad Newt whips out a knife, it's hopeless. Thomas turns the weapon on his best friend, and that's that. And just when they got one of the crew back, too.

But, hey, at least Frypan and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) are able to save a literal busload of the other immune kids by literally hoisting them over the wall with a crane, so his sacrifice is well worth it. And besides, Thomas didn't know he could've cured him himself …

The death cure

The reunion between Thomas and Teresa is not a happy one at first. After the guys are able to nab her on the street, have her remove their tracking devices, and then lead them to Minho's holding chamber, it's clear she's not too tormented over whether what she's doing is ethical. As she sees it, there are people dying every day of this horrific disease, and she's desperate to find a cure for the infection, even if it means torturing kids like Minho.

While Minho's blood serum manages to stave off the infection temporarily, it doesn't work for long. Minho's not the answer, even if WCKD would still prefer to bleed him dry anyway. Realizing that, she's more earnest in her effort to help her old Maze pals rescue him and escape — until she realizes that Thomas' blood is what she's been looking for all along. After seeing that the enzyme serum produced from Thomas has basically cured Brenda, Teresa races back to the lab and manages to test his blood sample against the infection — and voila, we have the answer. But it may be too late.

The WCKD collapse

Just as Thomas is attempting to exit the city with his friends, Teresa decides to lure him back to the lab by telling him through a city-wide speaker system that his blood can save everyone from certain infection. It's a little disingenuous, of course, considering the whole city is on fire, but Thomas can't help but be the good guy — he tries heading back to turn himself in. Unfortunately, upon his arrival and Ava's (Patricia Clarkson) promise to take care of his friends in exchange for his cooperation, her sniveling henchman Janson (Aidan Gillen) decides it's the perfect time to betray the WCKD boss, and leaves her bleeding out on the floor. He then incapacitates Thomas and takes him hostage. As it turns out, Janson has become infected, too, and wants the cure for himself.

Although Teresa works to produce an injectable vial of the serum, she's not crazy about giving it to Janson, so she knocks him out (temporarily) before he can take it. This leads to a skirmish after Thomas removes his bindings, and the two have to throw Janson to a pair of infecteds to escape his terrible clutches. Unfortunately, "escape" is relative at this point — they find themselves on the roof of the burning building as mass chaos continues to erupt outside. 

Although Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) is able to get a hovercraft to the roof through a major movie miracle and rescue Thomas, it's too late for Teresa, who's caught in the building's collapse and perishes right before everyone's eyes. (Just when you thought they might be able to rekindle their romance after all.) And with that, apart from whomever may have been able to get airlifted to safety, WCKD as we know it is history.

The next run

Thomas is worse for wear by the time Jorge's hovercraft lifts him out of the inferno, but when he comes to, he's on a remote island with the rest of the runaways under Vince's care, and it's an actual paradise. The place is abutted by mountains and sea, and there appears to be no way the rest of the infected world can get to them now. It's a cheery note to end on, especially after everything these kids have been through, but as Thomas reflects on the sappy goodbye note Newt left him about wanting to stay himself and do his duty, he knows he isn't ready to settle down.

He takes one look at the giant boat that brought them to this seaside hideaway and, as he clutches the cure vial Teresa made him, he seems to start planning his next operation. We already know that the "Last City," the last relic of safety that was left, is toast. And the disease is airborne, so there's no chance of even this island avoiding infection forever. But will he share his secret — that he is the "Death Cure" — with anyone outside this tropical getaway? That's the question we're left with in the end, and without a cinematic sequel in sight, it's anyone's guess what happens next.