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The ending of Stateless season 1 explained

From the very first episode to the last moments of the finale, the stakes for the characters on Netflix's original series Stateless were as high as they come. The show, which is an Australian production and was co-created by Cate Blanchett, follows four characters whose lives intersect at an immigration detention facility in the Australian desert in the mid-2000s. They all come from dramatically different walks of life, but are ultimately deeply affected by the country's policies towards refugees and asylum seekers.

Sofie Werner (Yvonne Strahovski) is a flight attendant who has a mental health crisis after becoming involved with a cult called GOPA. She tries to flee the country by stealing the identity of a German backpacker named Eva Hoffman, but ultimately ends up in the Barton immigration detention center. Also interred at Barton is Ameer (Fayssal Bazzi), a teacher from Afghanistan who is desperately trying to get visas for himself and his daughter, Mina (Soraya Heidari), who are the only two surviving members of their family. 

Sofie and Ameer are being monitored by Cam (Jai Courtney), a working-class husband and father who took a job as a guard at Barton after hearing how much more it pays than other gigs available to him. Cam works under Claire (Asher Keddie), a career bureaucrat who has been assigned to oversee Barton, despite the fact that she much prefers to work in the theoretical realm of policy, rather than the day-to-day realities of the situations those policies create.

In the final episode of the season, each character's story comes to a head as Barton prepares to have a Human Rights Council tour the facility. Here is how each of those narrative threads comes to an end on the finale of Stateless. Naturally, spoilers follow.

Cam has a reckoning

For the entirety of his tenure as a guard at Barton, Cam has struggled with wanting to do a good job to continue to provide a comfortable middle-class life for his family, while also recognizing that doing so often means dehumanizing and abusing the refugees at the center. This comes to a head in the penultimate episode, when he loses his temper at his sons after a double shift. His wife throws him out, and he ends up staying with his sister, Janice (Kate Box), who strongly disagrees with his decision to work at Barton and has been involved with numerous protests and attempts to break refugees out of the facility.

Despite feeling more conflicted than ever about his work, Cam gets promoted to coordinator of his fellow guards. When he's instructed to forcibly lock an elderly refugee in his cell ahead of the Human Rights Council visit, his unexamined anger gets the better of him. Two refugees who have been staging a protest by sitting on the roof of the facility urinate on Cam. Afterward, Javad (Phoenix Raei) tells Cam it's what he deserves for how he and his fellow guards have treated the refugees.

Cam flies into a rage and drags Javad to a camera blindspot, preparing to beat him the same way Cam witnessed his supervisor do to another detainee earlier in the season. But after Javad asks him how he's going to live with himself if he continues the way he is, Cam collapses to the ground in a moment of extreme emotional distress. Later in the episode, we see him walk out of Barton before the Human Rights Commission arrives, presumably quitting his job in the process. Janice takes him home to reconcile with his wife.

Claire attempts to clear her conscious

As it is with Cam, the dehumanizing nature of the job is beginning to wear on Claire. She is being pressured to put out a press release stating that Ameer is a people smuggler based on the evidence she's collected during her investigation into his asylum claim. However, she knows there is something more to the story, even though she can't get Ameer to tell her the truth.

Claire is devastated when she finds out that Ameer's daughter Mina is being put on suicide watch after the girl started self-harming as a result of the dual traumas of losing her mother and sister in the crossing to Australia and being locked in Barton. Ultimately, Claire is able to secure a visa for Mina, which means she can stay in Australia under the care of a foster family. However, even that small victory isn't enough to calm the emotional turmoil Claire is facing as a result of the job.

Before the Human Rights Commission's visit, Claire learns that Eva Hoffman is actually an Australian national named Sofie Werner. When she looks in the file for "Eva," she sees notes from various counselors who described her mental health issues and the fact that she's likely not the person she's claiming to be. Those concerns were never acted on, and as a result, Sofie has illegally been detained for months. Claire's boss asks her to make the problem go away. She has Sofie removed to a psychiatric hospital before the Human Rights commission comes. But her conscious still gets the better of her, so she also tips off a journalist, who then breaks the story during the press conference she's having. This eventually leads to a national scandal and inquiry into Australia's immigration system.

Sofie is rescued, but she doesn't want to be

By the final episode, Sofie's mental health has deteriorated considerably due to the abuse she has faced at Barton and her flashbacks to being sexually assaulted by Gordon (Dominic West), one of the leaders of GOPA. Meanwhile, her sister (Marta Dusseldorp) has been trying to find Sofie's whereabouts, and is close to tracking her down at Barton.

In the lead-up to the Human Rights Commission's visit, Sofie is dancing in the center's courtyard. In her mind, she's replaying the night of her failed performance at GOPA's dance competition. However, in her imagining now, she's doing everything correctly, and her fantasy ends with her winning the Trophy of Transformation. To her, this is a symbol of the recognition she never felt like she got from her family.

However, her celebration is short-lived. Guards come and inform her that they know she's not Eva Hoffman, and are going to take her to a psychiatric hospital. Sofie resists, saying that she wants to stay at the camp, because the people there are her family now. She is sedated, and when she comes to, she's in the psychiatric hospital. Her sister is there, relieved to see that she's okay. But the look on Sofie's face is blank.

Ameer must make an agonizing decision

Ameer begins to run out of road in the finale. Claire is investigating the lies he told his case officer about how he got to Australia. Ameer knows that if he tells her the full truth — that he got the money to pay for his boat passage during a robbery that involved someone getting stabbed to death — he'll have no chance at getting asylum. Ultimately, Ameer devises a heartbreaking plan. He changes his story, telling Claire that his wife and daughters aren't actually his own. He says they were traveling alone, and that he claimed they were his family to better his own chances of getting asylum.

Claire knows he's lying, but without any documentation to prove him wrong, she can't do anything about it. His lie ensures that Mina will get a visa and be sent to live with a foster family now that she will be classified as a child traveling alone. Ameer will remain in detention indefinitely, and will likely be deported back to Afghanistan, having lost his entire family in the process.

Mina is released from the camp after a tearjerking goodbye with her father. Ameer is devastated, and returns to camp, where he's comforted by his fellow refugees. In the final shot of the episode, we see Mina on the beach, having begun her new life. She stares at the water, her face a mix of sadness and hope.

Stateless is being billed as a limited series, so it's unlikely to have another season. Although many of the conclusions for its characters aren't happy ones, they do put a tragically human face on a very real political issue.