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The Ending Of The Peripheral Season 1 Explained

The first season finale of "The Peripheral" answers some questions, but it poses even more. Throughout Season 1, Flynne Fisher (Chloë Grace Moretz) has split her time between her world in rural America in 2032 and post-apocalyptic London in 2099. Yet, ever since the first episode when she broke into the powerful Research Institute with the mysterious Aelita (Charlotte Riley) in 2099, the head of that organization, Dr. Cherise Nuland (T'Nia Miller), has been sending assassins after Flynne and her veteran brother Burton (Jack Reynor) in 2032, disrupting their small town which was already under the sway of the unscrupulous Corbell Pickett (Louis Herthum).

By the end of Episode 7, Flynne and Burton have taken out the latest assassin sent after them by Nuland and Tommy (Alex Hernandez), the upstanding cop Flynne has been crushing on since high school, has killed Sheriff Jackman (Ben Dickey). At the same time, things are coming to a head in 2099. Lev Zubov (JJ Feild), who employs Aelita's brother Wilf (Gary Carr), has angered his brilliant employee Ash (Katie Leung) by threatening her ally Ossian (Julian Moore-Cook). Meanwhile, Nuland has approached Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer (Alexandra Billings) about helping her get rid of Flynne, Zubov, and everyone associated with them. When we arrive at the season finale, Flynne, Burton, and their friends remain in mortal danger. Here's an explanation for all the twists and turns that happen during the first season of "The Peripheral."

The finale starts with a flashback

The episode starts with a flashback to 2028. Flynne is sitting by Conner's (Eli Goree) bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center, where he's been since a bomb took his legs and one of his arms. Conner reflects on the virtual reality games Flynne is so good at and how if she makes a mistake, she can start again. "That's what makes life so hard," he observes. "No rebooting." While this could be seen as a commentary on life in general, it's actually foreshadowing the episode's big twist, making Conner's comments the perfect setup for the big swings Flynne takes by the end of the finale.

The story then shifts to 2032 in the aftermath of Tommy's actions at Pickett's house. As Tommy returns to his police cruiser, he seems incredulous at his actions and unsure of what to do. He puts the gun he used to kill Sheriff Jackman and the pulse weapon he used to kill Pickett in evidence bags. He then calls for backup and blames the escaped assassin Bob (Ned Dennehy) for the murder of the Sheriff and Pickett. Unfortunately for him, when the paramedics arrive, they discover that Pickett still has a pulse. The weapon Tommy used on Pickett may have dramatically knocked him through his sliding glass doors, but it didn't finish him off.

Inspector Lowbeer proposes an alliance

Flynne and Wilf, along with Burton and Conner, meet with Inspector Lowbeer in 2099. She proposes an alliance, explaining that Flynne's world is on the cusp of the apocalypse that they call the "Jackpot." In the previous episode, Flynne learns from Lowbeer that the timeline she currently occupies, which is referred to as a stub, has been like a lab for the Research Institute. It opened the stub years ago and has been using it to experiment with various technologies, such as the haptic implants Burton and his army buddies have. Because of the Institute's tinkering, the Jackpot is poised to happen in Flynne's stub far more quickly than it would have otherwise.

Lowbeer offers to help fend off the Jackpot in Flynne's stub in exchange for Flynne and her friends' assistance. However, Flynne wants Lowbeer to help one specific person: her mother Ella (Melinda Page Hamilton) who is suffering from cancer. Lowbeer says there's nothing else they can do. Ella has approximately 23 days to live and a distraught Flynne leaves 2099 without agreeing to anything.

That night, Ella tells Flynne that when she found out about her tumor, she thought that at least her death would mean that Flynne could finally live her life. Flynne protests that taking care of Ella is the life she wants, but Ella tells Flynne she deserves more and she's excited for her daughter to become whatever she wants.

Ash meets with someone unexpected

In Episode 7, Lev learns that Ash has found the data that was stolen from the Research Institute in the first episode. Ash figures out that it was downloaded into Flynne's brain as bacterial DNA, which explains her headaches and seizures. Ash is planning to give the data to the Neoprims, a group of violent freedom fighters that wants to change the post-Jackpot world order. Lev doesn't want the Neoprims to get their hands on the data, but he likes the idea of selling it to the highest bidder. So he instructs Ash to keep working on getting the data out of Flynne's head and threatens her and Ossian's lives if she fails.

Ash meets with Nuland about the data who has no interest in the Neoprims obtaining it because it would compromise the Research Institute and could be weaponized in terrible ways, Nuland wants to prevent anyone from getting their hands on it. So when Ash tells Nuland that Lev knows about the location of the data and that if he gets it, it will make him and the Klept even more powerful, Nuland knows she has to take extreme measures quickly. She plans to push the Jackpot up in Flynne's stub, taking out everyone and everything in it to prevent anyone from getting the data in Flynne's head. As a reward for bringing the information to her, Ash asks Nuland to kill Lev.

Flynne and Wilf put their heads together

Elsewhere in 2099, Flynne connects to her peripheral and wakes up next to Wilf who apologizes for giving her false hope about her mother. Flynne asks about Aelita but Wilf says he thinks she is dead. Still, even though he doesn't see any way that Aelita could be alive, he has a suspicion that he may be missing something. Wilf reminisces to Flynne about his early memories with Aelita — how they lived on the streets together, were captured and adopted, and ran away after a few years. While Aelita was happy to be free, Wilf got sick after eight months and Aelita took them back to their adopted parents to save his life.

Wilf then changes the subject, telling Flynne that Lowbeer has asked him to run the proposal of an alliance by her again. However, he doesn't quite know what to say, especially since Lowbeer could be listening at any time. Flynne proposes they link up with one another, something they did earlier in the season, so they can feel and see each other's thoughts without talking.

Wilf agrees and as they connect, Flynne mentions the names of people and lets Wilf respond through images. In the process, the pair confess their romantic feelings for one another without saying a word. As they grasp each others' hands, Flynne has an epiphany: Aelita could be hiding in the place where she and Wilf escaped when they ran away as kids.

Aelita reveals her plan

Wilf and Flynne walk to the location where they suspect they'll find Aelita. Wilf comments that the area looks nothing like it did when Wilf was a child, but he then sees the young peripheral of Aelita (Sophia Ally) sitting on a park bench. However, even though Wilf protests, Aelita won't let Flynne come with them. So Flynne returns to 2032 and Wilf follows the young Aelita to where the pair first met. 

The adult version of Aelita then appears and informs Wilf that his memories have been suppressed by an implant. She took hers out, and while that lowered her immunity, it also allowed her to remember things about her childhood the implant had made her forget. In particular, she now remembers that both her and Wilf's whole families were slaughtered by Lev's father.

Aelita explains that there was a sickness in the camps where her and Wilf's families lived, so Lev's father and the Klept wiped everyone there out to prevent it from spreading, slaughtering five million people in less than two weeks. Aelita has been amassing a small army of people who have also removed their implants and now remember their families were also murdered by the Klept. Together, they plan to get revenge, and Aelita wants to retrieve the data inside Flynne's head to do it.

Jasper makes a surprising choice

In Clanton in 2032, Jasper (Chris Coy) is hanging out with his uncle Corbell Pickett's three lackeys who don't seem to be torn up about what's happened to their leader. When Jasper reveals the doctors told him that he should prepare for the worst when it comes to his uncle, the trio argue about who should be their new leader while treating Jasper like a second-class citizen. They get drunk so Jasper drives them home, but they all pass out on the way, so Jasper parks his SUV at a railroad crossing and walks a safe distance away.

As he watches the vehicle on the tracks, he calls his wife Billy Ann (Adelind Horan). He wakes her up and she's confused as he reminds her of a time when she told him to stop mistaking weakness for kindness. Sensing Jasper is having some kind of crisis, Billy Ann tells Jasper she didn't mean it and that she loves how kind he is. Her words help him realize he's making a big mistake. He runs back to the SUV just as a train starts coming down the tracks. Unfortunately, he's locked the keys in the car, so the train hits it despite his change of heart.

While this interlude provides an update on Pickett's condition and represents an interesting turn in Jasper's story, neither he nor Billy Ann has been seen much in the past several episodes, making this scene feel, ahem, peripheral to the episode.

Flynne gets worrisome news from Tommy

The next scene returns to Flynne's story where we see her riding her bike home in Clanton when she comes upon Tommy, who's standing outside his police cruiser waiting for her. He informs her that he's received word from Homeland Security about a threat to blow up a nearby missile solo. Even though he still has no idea what's been going on with Flynne and Burton, Tommy's noticed they've been involved in something strange recently, so he asks if she knows anything about the threat. Flynne looks a little spooked, but she tells Tommy she knows nothing and rides away.

She connects to 2099 and finds Ash. Flynne tells Ash about the missile silo threat and, based on her reaction, learns that Ash is the cause of it. Ash explains that Flynne is carrying the data from the break-in at the Research Institute in her head, and Flynne realizes that the threat is intended to kill her.

Flynne briefly meets with Conner in 2099 to tell him about a plan she needs his help with, but their exchange is vague and confusing. Flynne then goes to see Lowbeer and asks her to open a new stub to avoid the fate Nuland has planned for her current timeline. While Lowbeer can't do what Flynne wants herself, she directs Flynne to one of the Research institute's so-called stub portals. Flynne breaks in and fights off the peripherals guarding the place before activating a new portal.

Flynne makes a drastic decision

We see Flynne walking along a path in 2032 as Connor waits in the woods with a rifle. She counts down from 10 and a shot rings out. Flynne wakes up in a peripheral and she is seen at a table with Lowbeer who asks "Shall we get to work?"

Wait, what? It's a cool twist but also pretty convoluted, especially since Flynne wasn't wearing a headset when she died so she had no way of connecting to a peripheral. It seems the Flynne who appeared at the end of the episode isn't quite the Flynne we've spent the past eight episodes with. She allows herself to be killed in the timeline we've been following, but by opening up the new stub in 2099, she's created a timeline where she isn't killed and still has all the same memories and knowledge. And most importantly the data from the Research Institute remains in her head. It's this version of Flynne that shows up in the episode's final moments — a rebooted Flynne, for all intents and purposes.

By taking herself out of her stub, Flynne removes Nuland's reason for destroying her world, saving her friends and family, while also moving to a new stub that Nuland doesn't have access to. Plus, because it looks like an assassination, Nuland's likely to think Lowbeer is behind Flynne's death, which will cause Nuland to believe the inspector is on her side, leaving Lowbeer free of the threat too.

The after credits scene

After the credits, we see Lev and his wife Dominika (Claire Cooper) arrive at a ritzy club and meet with three men. Lev sits down with them and they scold him about an asset he placed at the Research Institute. A nervous Lev apologizes and the group laughs. While vaguely threatening his wife and kids, they tell him they understand what he was trying to do but now he needs to cauterize the wound.

It appears that these are the elder statesmen of the Klept and they've gotten wind of the fact that Lev was paying Aelita to steal data from the Research Institute, as he admitted to Wilf back in Episode 4. However, when Aelita found out that Klept murdered her family, she turned on Lev. That makes Aelita a threat to the Klept and the elders want Lev to eliminate her and anyone who's working with her. Of course, Lev had hired Wilf to locate Aelita already with minimal success, but now, not only does Lev have extra incentive to find her, Wilf's discovered exactly where she is.

It's yet another rather puzzling cliffhanger in an episode that seems surprisingly preoccupied with setting up Season 2, which is yet to be announced. However in an interview with Digital Trends, "The Peripheral" executive producer Jonathan Nolan revealed that the writers have been "working for several months" and are looking ahead, which could see the return of one of the best sci-fi TV shows of 2022.