×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The ending of Origin explained

Gather around, sci-fi fans — YouTube wants to tell you an Origin story. Six months after stunning the world with the surprisingly rousing Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai, the paid streaming platform YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) is upping its game with the big-budget outer-space series Origin, which released all 10 episodes of its ambitious first season on November 14, 2018. 

Created and largely written by first-time showrunner Mika Watkins, the series is a child of many influences, quite justifiably being described left and right as "Lost in space." But the promising program has more to offer than just warmed-over genre pastiche — especially as the first season wraps up, and things get complicated. 

Far from a self-contained story, the season ends with the whole cast on a cliffhanger, plummeting toward unknown fates that might not be the fresh start they're all looking for. If you're confused about how things wrapped up, and what the developments may potentially mean for the story to come, keep reading as we break down the twist-filled ending of Origin. (Warning: Spoilers detected.)

Second chances

Before we get into the final episodes of Origin, let's be clear about the basic premise. The series starts on a spaceship supposedly en route to another world, carrying a very small number of people following a hasty evacuation of most of the passengers and crew. As the season unfolds, each episode serves two purposes: Advancing the present-day story, and introducing us to the cast of characters via extensive flashbacks. 

Much like Lost — okay, exactly like Lost — the flashbacks serve as deep dives into the secret lives of each protagonist, exploring who they were before they boarded the Origin ship, and what led them to seek the clean slate promised by the mysterious SIREN organization's colonization mission on the planet Thea. 

It's a framework that provides perfect excuses as to why the passengers don't really trust each other, generally taking a few episodes to even share their names all around. It's the kind of thing that can make the show hard to keep track of in the early going, with everyone holding their motivations close to the vest.

First two up

The show throws viewers in the deep end by introducing its characters in a distressing situation, disoriented after waking up on the abandoned Origin ship. Over the course of the season, they come to find out that the ship was evacuated one hour before they all woke up, leaving behind what eventually gets culled down to an ensemble of ten. (It takes a handful of fatalities for us to really figure out who we're supposed to be paying attention to.)

The first two characters we meet are former Yakuza member Shun Kenzaki and former bodyguard for the U.S. federal government Lana Pierce, encountering each other wandering around the empty halls of the ship. It's a relationship immediately founded on skepticism and distrust, and though the two have little choice but to work together in order to puzzle out the circumstances of their abandonment, there's always that small itch of paranoia coloring their every interaction. 

While Shun and Lana go on to form their own relationships with the other eight survivors, these two soon form a sort of adversarial bond as the group's de facto badass leaders, always willing to point guns, make decisions, and ask the hard questions when the pressure's on. The closing act of the season narrows the story down to this relationship, with the two forming a tentative trust that ends in brutal betrayal.

The alien thing

Very early into the season, Origin introduces a concept that's equal parts Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing. When the passengers come across injured crew members Evelyn Rey and Dr. Max Taylor (with their wounds clearly stemming from a battle with each other), they're initially unsure which one of them they should trust. That changes when the supposed doctor fails to prove his medical bona fides, resulting in the chilling reveal that he's infected by an alien parasite, trying to mimic the behavior of a normal human being. 

A later autopsy reveals the alien to be a slender worm that installs itself in the brain, where it can live and reproduce. While the one attached to Taylor dies, one more lives on, taking up residence in the head of the crewman who calls himself Eric.

After "Eric" is discovered to be another alien host, the passenger Henri makes an attempt to blast him out into space. The plan fails, but Eric is still defeated shortly after, being found dead in a shallow pool after fleeing from Henri. His death occurs offscreen between the fourth and fifth episodes, with a subsequent autopsy revealing that the parasite fled his brain before he died. Thus begins a mystery that pervades the remainder of the season — who among the passengers did the surviving alien jump to? 

Protocol 47

When the show begins, the Origin ship is only nine days away from finishing its 27-month journey, giving the survivors what should be a strong chance of surviving their predicament — if not for that pesky alien element. Their approach to the alien mystery is completely relatable, with characters choosing to basically just ignore the threat as much as possible in between occasional armed standoffs. Screw it, right? "Who cares who this alien is! Let's just get to this planet so we never, ever have to talk to each other again." 

Would that it were so simple. As the Origin approaches Thea with the survivors making no progress in the mystery of the alien mimic, the passengers' best hope for salvation lies in simply getting the hell off of the ship. Unfortunately, the ship itself has other plans. (As the hacker Lee's flashback episode delves into, artificial intelligence in this future world is so capable of running laps around human intellect that it generally needs to be significantly hobbled with artificial safeguards.) 

As the vessel draws nearer to Thea with the mystery of the alien still unresolved, the ship's AI goes into a sort of failsafe mode, activating a lethal security plan called Protocol 47. Detecting the presence of an alien life form, the ship begins emitting a lethal gas, moving ring-by-ring through the craft with the aim of killing everything on board. Now they've got to solve the mystery — or die trying.

The Lana revelation

With Origin barreling down on Thea with no easy answers in sight, the passengers get together as many oxygen tanks as possible, preparing to just let the nerve gas wash over them while they try and wait things out. It's a desperate, last-minute plan that gets complicated by a horrifying discovery from Shun. 

Separate from the other passengers, Shun comes across two vital pieces of information: a video diary of Max Taylor reciting a childhood memory that Lana later presented as her own, and an audio recording of "Lana" rehearsing her own humanity, memorizing the names of herself and her fellow passengers. 

After suspicions previously fell on both Baum Arndt — a duplicitous con man — and Katie Devlin — a nice, sweet girl who just happens to have murdered somebody — the truth is finally indisputable. Lana is the alien. But when did she become infected? Was she ever a regular human? Yes, she was — but it's been a minute.

New perspectives

After Shun discovers the recording of Taylor reciting the childhood memory that Lana borrowed for herself, he realizes that it's been a few days since Lana was actually, well, Lana

At the beginning of the show, she really is the character she says she is, despite the suspicious nature of Shun's first encounter with her. Instead, she eventually carries the parasite that originally existed in the crewman who claimed to be named Eric. To fill in the blanks in the narrative, the season's final episode takes viewers back to a few crucial moments from the story, showing new perspectives of what really happened on Origin while most of the characters weren't looking. 

When "Eric" escaped from Henri's attempted airlock attack at the end of episode four, he fled to some sort of relaxing, pool-filled chamber where Lana happened to be taking a dip. Hunted, in an injured host body and desperate to survive, the alien attacked Lana. Forcing its wormy way out of its crewman host's throat, the alien promptly squirmed into Lana's body after a brief struggle, latching onto her brain and corrupting her almost instantly. This means that our heroine turned evil offscreen sometime in between episodes four and five. Ever since, we've been watching a Lana working to deceive the others and keep its alien self alive.

Persistent flashbacks

After the reveal of Lana's true nature, we get a look at the alien's perspective on the story so far, revisiting the previously unseen moments in which it — among other things — killed Lee and framed Katie. Despite all the homicide, the perspective shift almost makes one sympathetic to the alien. In its own way, the creature seems to always be just trying to survive, all the while being puzzled by the complexities of the human condition that it's mostly discovering on the fly. It's grateful for its life and continued existence, curious, and inquisitive. It's even scared to die. And, most interestingly, it can't stop Lana's memories from emerging, which naturally causes it some distress. 

During one of the autopsies Henri performs in the season's early episodes, Henri comes to the conclusion that the brain-borne alien worm ruins the host's hippocampus, compromising the ability of an infected person to remember anything about their lives. But in Lana's case at least, this doesn't seem so clear-cut. Indeed, Lana seems to still be in there somewhere — not just bringing up old memories, but actually fighting for physical control of her body. With that info in mind, the question of whether the Lana we knew is truly gone seems to answer itself. If this series gets a second season, you can bet our heroine will figure out a way to vacuum out that alien worm.

Another world

Before all this happens, Rey and the ship's resident party animal Abigail Garcia make a discovery that's arguably even more chilling than their recent encounter with violent, extraterrestrial life. A terrifying alien species running around thinking it's people is one thing — the fact that SIREN seemed to know about the aliens? That's another thing entirely, throwing every bit of faith the crew and passengers had in this expedition into serious doubt.

Specifically, Rey and Abigail discover that the star system in which Thea resides is host to a planet they were not previously informed about — a planet called Iris, which seems like it may be the alien homeworld. 

As Rey deduces, SIREN knew the planet was populated by aliens, had some knowledge that the aliens were hostile, and sent the Origin ship toward Thea anyway. The company also prepared for possible encounters with the aliens without telling most of the people on board. The obvious defense mechanism, as Rey points out, is Protocol 47 itself — a measure clearly designed to purge the whole ship of life in the event of a parasite encounter. But the show also hints at the secret in more subtle ways. In the third episode Rey flashback, Dr. Taylor is surprised to discover that the ship has guns on board. Also, Captain Sanchez seems extremely certain that Cell 50 is a lost cause when it's breached by an asteroid impact — almost as though she knew that asteroid might carry hostile life.

Henri's health crisis

For the majority of the Origin cast, the final moments of the season feel relatively triumphant. When poor Lana and her brain worm get shuttled off into space, the ship instantly detects the departure of the alien life form, and subsequently shuts down the "kill literally everyone" protocol without a moment to spare. Almost immediately after, the ship does what Lee predicted it was capable of still doing, and begins an automatic landing sequence. To the assembled survivors still left standing, it seems like they've all made it — for a minute, at least. 

As everyone celebrates, Henri suddenly begins to feel extremely ill, collapsing onto the ground to everyone else's shock. While the group was grabbing oxygen tanks, he had the misfortune of getting a few lungfuls of toxic nerve gas, but the effects were supposed to be in the process of being cured by the atropine that Lana helped him inject to counteract the toxin. But now that we know that Lana wasn't Lana… was that atropine dose really atropine? What exactly did Lana put in him?

As the season comes to a close, we're not exactly sure what's going on. Either the antidote was really bunk, or it's some other toxin entirely. Either way, Henri is descending to the planet in a condition that needs immediate medical attention. The question is, given what they now know about SIREN's secrecy, are they going to find any help on Thea waiting for them?

'Don't land on Thea'

The season ends with an ominous recording from a previous expedition to Thea, and it couldn't be more of a warning — "Don't land on Thea." While we don't know exactly what's going on down on the planet's surface when the season ends, we do know that the passengers and crew have been fed a bunch of lies, either through omission or outright deception.

As the first episode establishes with Shun's SIREN-sponsored, virtual reality Q&A session, the passengers of Origin have been convinced to sign up for the Thea Project for very specific reasons. The planet, we're told, is in the midst of being colonized, with hopes of establishing a permanent residence there for millions of settlers. We're led to believe that this colonization process is well under way, with the Earth-born castoffs invited to help forge humanity's future on a whole new world. But with the discovery of the hidden Iris planet, as well as logs of at least two expeditions to the world which ended in brutal fatalities, all of these lofty promises about Thea become questionable at best.

Reviewing footage from the Iris planet, Rey and Abigail watch one expedition's violent end, with up-close and personal footage showing some explorers' grisly demise. The expedition seems to be under attack by the same species the Origin passengers have spent the last week evading, with its members going out in exactly the same body-contorting way that we previously saw the aliens inflict onboard the ship.

This is really happening

The comparisons between Origin and Lost don't just cover the character archetypes and flashback structure. Origin is also inviting viewers to ask some of the same questions. Questions like: "Is this show being straight with us?" 

The concept of Origin, with strangers in a strange locale suffering through a series of sometimes lethal trials, can cause the mind to wander to questions of what really might be going on. Is this honestly a ship in outer space? Or is there something even more fantastical going on? 

On two occasions, the characters in the show pointedly wonder aloud to each other whether they're in some kind of purgatory, or possibly just actually in Hell. But by the end of the first season, all the evidence points to the show's basic premise as being true. Until we're shown something that pretty dramatically contradicts things, it seems safe to assume that the Origin really is a transport ship in outer space, truly making its way from Earth to Thea. 

Of course, with the reveals of a fake planet, documented alien contact, and the violent deaths of several prior expeditions, there remain plenty of aspects of this mission that are pretty unclear.  

Unanswered questions

Obviously, Origin doesn't end in a way that wraps up conclusively. It really feels like it's just getting started. The finale leaves so much hanging. What is SIREN's real goal here, if it's not the straight-up colonization of Thea? What's the situation on the ground? Does the planet have the same alien infestation as Iris, or is there a whole new threat down there? Is Henri going to survive the landing? What will become of Lana? And, most intriguingly to us, is that episode 3 conversation about FTL experiments and time travel between Rey and Taylor ever going to amount to anything?

One way or another, it seems guaranteed that life ain't paradise down on Thea. Here's our bet — unless the show wants to considerably up its already impressive budget for a second season, there ain't no way this ship is going to land safely on a world with a robust and growing society. After a full season's worth of claustrophobic hallways, rings, and yawning elevator shafts, the idea of this show fully opening up on another planet just seems unlikely. What seems more plausible is that the welcome to Thea will be an extremely hostile one, whether it's due to the aliens we know about or some other danger that we don't. Maybe they'll just turn the ship around, and try an attempt at returning to Earth. Who knows? The possibilities seem endless, and we're honestly intrigued to see what all these Origin stories are building to.