There are feeble attempts to put the mysterious disaster in a larger socio-political context. We hear voices broadcast on ham radios asking if the Chinese or the North Koreans might be responsible for whatever happened out West. Earthquakes are reported, but later a character speculates that the entire event could be an act of war designed to "erase rational behavior with what appears to be a singular incident." The country is gripped with paranoia, terrified by the unknown, but it feels like cheap, knock-off hysteria.
In the current media climate, a movie like How It Ends doesn't just have to compete with all the other post-apocalyptic products available on Netflix or Amazon. It also has to distract viewers from every conspiracy theorist delivering an unending monologue on YouTube, posting on Reddit, or weaving a web of feverish speculation on Twitter. Increasingly, everyone seems to have ideas about how it ends -- just look around. The more useful question is when.