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Parallel: Breaking Down What Happens In The Multiverse-Crossing Sci-Fi Thriller

Contains major spoilers for Parallel

Over the course of a few short years, the multiverse has gone from an obscure idea to a well-known scientific hypothesis. The idea that there are infinite realities has been brought up in popular TV series like Rick and Morty — in which the titular duo travel from one hilarious reality to the next — as well as beloved films like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Versewhich is ultimately an animated adventure that tackles an immensely difficult-to-grasp concept. Fans will even get to see the notion come up in the biggest movie franchise currently in existence when Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness drops in a few years.

The idea of there being a multitude of alternate universes, in which every possible outcome of every decision is at some point expressed, is ripe for dramatic tension. That's made abundantly clear in the recent sci-fi drama Parallel. The film follows a group of four friends who stumbled across a mirror that's actually a portal into the multiverse. Over time, they went into these different realities and they took the knowledge they learn to improve their lives in their own world. 

The film was released on December 11, 2020, and considering the plot deals with alternate realities and different versions of the same characters, things can get kind of confusing fast. Don't worry, though: For those of you who have seen the movie, we've got you covered with a roadmap of exactly what went down in Parallel.

What happens in the opening scene of Parallel?

Parallel opens with a terrifying sequence depicting an elderly woman, Marissa (Kathleen Quinlan), encountering an intruder when she goes downstairs. The masked stranger had a gun and promptly murdered Marissa, with her husband being none the wiser. The intruder took off the mask revealing ... another Marissa!

This other Marissa then went up to bed and snuggled with her husband. As we learn later in the film via Marissa's diary, this was a different version of the Marissa we first met, one who hailed from another reality. She came through a portal because her husband in her reality died on a hiking trail; therefore, she took the place of another reality's Marissa, so that she could be reunited with the love of her life. 

Her husband was completely oblivious when this new Marissa joined him in bed, and the audience can tell she was the parallel version because when he told her he likes "the second one better" — referring to two photos his Marissa showed him earlier — she was completely at a loss as to what he's talking about. This confusion would come up when other doubles appear later in the film, but more on that later. 

What are the rules of the mirror in Parallel?

Fast-forward to the present: Viewers are introduced to a group of friends working to sell an app called Meter Maid. After they hit a roadblock in their path to a deal, they got into a confrontation, resulting in the discovery of a secret room in the house they'd been renting. It's here that they found a mirror, and Josh (Mark O'Brien) jumped headfirst into the alternate reality on the other side. While he believed he was on the other side for 15 minutes, he learned that he was only gone for five seconds when he got back to his own reality. 

Through an additional test, they discovered that there's a time dilation of 180 between the two dimensions. That means ten seconds in their world gave them 30 minutes in the other realm. They ultimately used this to their advantage by going to the other dimension to work on their app in order to meet a strict deadline to present their work to a potential buyer. 

After careful examination, they discovered the mirror also had to be at a given angle to serve as a portal. When it went upright, it turned into just a regular mirror. And one more thing: To travel to a parallel universe with a buddy, they needed to be holding hands or touching one another in some capacity. When they entered separately, they ended up at two different start points. Each time one of them entered the mirror, they came into a new timeline in which things are ever-so slightly varied. 

What's with the periscope in Parallel?

A mirror portal wasn't the only thing the group encountered in the secret room. They also came across a periscope, which allowed them to look into various rooms inside the house. It's not just there because someone who lived in the house previously was a peeping Tom; it potentially allowed any travelers across realities to avoid a collapse within the multiverse. 

Devin (Aml Ameen) explained it best: "You use it to get out of the house to avoid your double, so you avoid interacting." As is the case with many time-travel movies, they wanted to make sure they didn't make contact with their past selves (or, in this case, parallel selves) to avoid any paradoxes. Before the group ventured out into the alternate realities, they checked the periscope first to see where their other selves are. They then used the secret passageway to sneak out the back of the house, and could then, essentially, go about and do whatever they wanted without worry. 

After all, any consequences from their actions in the parallel universes wouldn't affect them in their own reality, so it's easy to see how that kind of power could instantly go to one's head.

How do Parallel's alternate universes differ?

It was made clear early on that the events between the different realities have at least some points of contrast. After all, the main group of friends was able to locate the mirror while the parallel group was cooking burgers around the same time. After failing to accurately predict lottery numbers, the gang set out to determine exactly how their universes are different. 

At first, it really seemed like they were nearly identical realities, with major historical events and geographic locations being the same. However, during one excursion, Josh and Noel (Martin Wallström) happened upon a DVD of Frankenstein, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Through this, they learned that any differentiations between the realities were most likely to occur when artistic inspiration was involved. 

As such, Noel started looking for advanced tech from other realities that he could bring into his world and essentially become the next Steve Jobs. Leena (Georgia King), as an aspiring artist, took artwork and passed it off as her own, which inevitably led to a serious case of imposter syndrome. All the while, Devin searched for something much different.

What did Devin want from his father in Parallel?

While everyone else was focused on getting rich, Devin had a much more personal reason for going through the portal. Each time he made the leap, he did a quick search on his father. The first time we learned of Devin's background, it's on a newspaper article with the following headline, "Crooked Businessman Chooses Suicide Over Prison," and it was followed by a story of how his dad got caught up in a scandal that resulted in two businesses going under. 

This was the same end result that happened in Devin's reality, as we learned when another character said, "Corruption runs in the family" right to his face. His father's death was the same across several different universes, until Devin finally encountered one in which his father was still alive. 

Devin was looking for closure because, in his reality, the last thing he told his dad in the midst of his scandal was, "I f***ing hate you." His dad went out right after that and ended up dead. Later, Devin managed to confront his father in a universe in which his suicide attempt had failed, and he got locked away in prison. Devin realized he could be a different man, in contrast to the various business plans he got involved in with Noel that weren't always ethical.

This didn't exactly gel with Noel's increasingly erratic and disturbing behavior, who replaced Devin with an alternate version — a technique he mastered earlier in the film. 

What's the deal with Parallel's New Josh?

Upon the scientific discovery of a lifetime, Josh did what a lot of people would do with that kind of power: he had a bunch of no-strings-attached sex. Unfortunately, one woman he got with in an other universe had a boyfriend who showed up at a very inopportune time and shot Josh. Devin managed to get Josh to their original reality, but it was too late — Josh died in the secret room. 

Noel believed getting the authorities involved with Josh's death would create too many complications, so, instead, they kidnapped a different Josh (whom we'll refer to as New Josh) to take his place. They set him up with a good job, but New Josh quickly started having problems. In a nod to the Mandela Effect, Josh pointed out how things were slightly different than how he remembered them. For example, New Josh pointed out how a children's book he loved earlier in life is spelled differently now in what's obviously a reference to the Berenstein Bears-Berenstain Bears debate. 

Josh snapped for real and confronted Noel about how he tried to sweep him under the rug, resulting in his death (for a second time).

What happened in that gas station bathroom in Parallel?

Once Leena and Devin took out Noel in a pretty gruesome fashion, they headed out toward the open road. Viewers learned through radio broadcasts that they gave all the technology they'd taken through the portal and donated it to better their own world. Everything should've been peachy keen from there on out, right?

Well, in a word: no. 

While the duo destroyed the mirror at their old house, that apparently wasn't the only way people can travel across the multiverse. During their trek, Leena washed up in what may be the cleanest gas station bathroom ever. It wasn't long until viewers heard the familiar noise the old mirror made any time someone went through the portal. In the next shot, Leena walked out of the bathroom and to the car. When trying to decide what to listen to next, she said she hadn't listened to a band called Dead Pixels in years; Devin promptly corrected her, saying that they'd listened to them an hour ago. 

It was clear this was a new version of Leena and the other one was either dead or pushed off into another reality. While they may have destroyed the mirror, they were dealing with an infinite number of realities in which their counterparts most likely still had access to the portal. Now, the wrong Devin and the wrong Leena could be in the reality in which they'd make a new life with one another. While there's no confirmation this was the case, there's a chance New Leena is from the reality New Devin was originally from, and in a parallel to the opening sequence, she traveled across realities to be with him once again. That's just speculation, though. 

All we know is that when given the keys to the multiverse, it's probably best to hand them back.