Breaking Down All of the Twists at the End of Netflix's 'Oxygen'

The French sci-fi keeps you guessing until its final moments.

netflix oxygen
Shanna Besson/Netflix
Shanna Besson/Netflix

This article contains major spoilers for Netflix's Oxygen. 

Waking up with no memory of who you are, trapped in a malfunctioning coffin-like cryovation chamber with only an hour and change of breathable air left inside is bad enough, but what Netflix's new sci-fi movie Oxygen presupposes is: What if it was way worse than that?? The twisty, claustrophobic thriller forces an amnesiac woman to fight for her life in space barely big enough for her to move her arms around, and tosses plot reveal after plot reveal her way, leading to an ending that's like three or four twists in one. 

Coming to inside a medical pod with a swiftly depleting oxygen supply and no way out is suspicious enough, but once the trapped woman finds out that she's a controversial scientist named Elizabeth Hansen (Liz for short), things start to get even weirder. Could an unknown enemy have done this to her? Is she stuck inside someone's closet while they're on the outside watching her freak out? Her constant memory flashes of rats in mazes aren't helping either, and neither is the policeman she called, who calls himself Captain Moreau, and keeps contradicting the memories she's slowly recovering that she knows are true. She knows she loved a man named Leo, even though Moreau tells her he doesn't exist. She remembers some research into the design of winged helicopter seeds, and that Leo eventually caught some mysterious, seemingly terminal illness. 

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Eventually, she figures out that Dr. Hansen is a cryogenicist with a company called Cryosalide—a play on the word "chrysalide," the French word for "chrysalis"—and has been doing research into preserving the human body in cold temperatures. Liz is inside one of these chambers now, and since her last memory seems to be of herself on a stretcher being wheeled through a hospital ward, she thinks she's in some hospital somewhere waiting for the staff to be notified of her malfunctioning pod. That's wild enough, but that's not where it ends. Oh, no. As it turns out, Liz is in a cryovation chamber in SPACE traveling to another PLANET to colonize it after Earth has been overrun with an unspecified DEADLY DISEASE.

Liz is part of a secret mission to save the human race from dying out within two generations, a mission so secret that Captain Moreau, in reality a ministry of defense officer, was only keeping her busy while talking to her so she wouldn't go around calling other people's phone numbers and freaking out the populace back on Earth. Only on the first leg of its journey, the spaceship had been hit by an asteroid and a bunch of the pods, all containing sleeping healthy humans, had been hit, hers included. The ministry of defense was trying to keep her busy until the ship's nuclear thrusters engaged as soon as it was out of range of the Moon, rocketing it forth on its decades-long journey to another star.

And not only THAT: she's a CLONE!! "Liz" is a copy of Dr. Elizabeth Hansen, and a clone of Leo, made presumably after his death from the scary virus, is also onboard (and, thankfully, not damaged by the asteroid). The old woman Liz spoke to on the phone who revealed to her that she's in space is the original Elizabeth Hansen, from decades after the point where the clone Liz's memories stop. And about those memories: The original Dr. Hansen was a "controversial" scientist because she was experimenting with ways to implant memories into different brains using muscle memory—trying it first on rats to see if she could implant one rat's memory of a maze into the brain of a different rat that had never run the maze before. Hence all the rat and maze imagery.

One would think that the pod's onboard A.I. system that Liz communicates with throughout the movie would maybe inform its inhabitant of that crucial information as soon as they woke up, but if every problem had been solved within the first five minutes, we wouldn't have much of a movie, would we. Liz figures out that she can put herself under again as the A.I. diverts the leftover oxygen from the damaged pods into her pod, saving her life, and then she and Leo wake up on the surface of Wolf 10-61c, humanity's new home. Let's hope those cryogenics scientists remembered to implant all the clones with some wilderness survival skills, too.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.