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In the Shadow of the Moon ending explained: An in-depth breakdown of Netflix’s sci-fi thriller

Boyd Holbrook in Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon
Boyd Holbrook in Netflix’s In the Shadow of the Moon. Pic credit: Sabrina Lantos/Netflix

Netflix dropped its latest sci-fi thriller In the Shadow of the Moon this weekend and it contains some of the best mind-bending writing from the streaming service in quite some time.

The story centers around a police officer named Locke (Boyd Holbrook) who is hunting down a serial killer that reemerges every 9 years. And as he hunts the killer down, his life becomes consumed by trying to do so. What he discovers is that there’s something more to this person he is tracking down and the reveal is one that leaves the head-spinning long after the movie ends.

And while the reveal of who and why this is happening is straight forward, the overall story is rather complicated to piece together given the structure of the screenplay.

Here is an in-depth explanation of the In the Shadow of the Moon ending and how it all fits together.

In the Shadow of the Moon ending explained

The Twist

From this point forward, major Spoilers for In the Shadow of the Moon will follow.

The best way to explain this film is to work backward. In the Shadow of the Moon is basically a Terminator film told in the same vein as Memento. This means the ending can easily be interpreted as the beginning.

First, we need to break down who the serial killer is in case that is unclear. The mass murdering woman Locke is chasing down over the span of three decades turns out to be a time traveler. And as he moves forward in time, she is going backward. That’s why, in 2006 when he shoots her in the hand, she has the same injury in 1997 and 1988.

So every time he meets Rya or is hunting her, it’s actually a younger version of the person that he is trying to stop. To make matters more complicated, this time-traveling killer turns out to be his granddaughter. And she proves this by showing him the bracelet he gave to his daughter, who is also Rya’s mother.

When the film begins in 1988, with Locke hunting down Rya, him killing her in the 80s is the end of her story. Juxtaposed to the last 10 minutes of the movie when Rya finally reveals who she is, that’s the beginning of her story. Because on that day, as she tells him this, she is being born. This devastates Locke because it means he killed his granddaughter in 1988.

This makes the writing extremely fascinating because one could easily see a whole separate film made from her perspective. A granddaughter going back through time and being chased by her grandfather–as she watches him go from being an overly obsessed ex-police officer in 2015 to being the level-headed officer and family man in 1988 who kills her.

Cleopatra Coleman in Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon
Cleopatra Coleman in Netflix’s In the Shadow of the Moon. Pic credit: Sabrina Lantos/Netflix

Rya’s Mission

So why was Rya killing all those people? Well, Rya explains a political movement in the future causes a civil war that leads to the death of many. As she explains in the film, it started with “an ordinary man” parking a van in a public place with a bomb inside and killing 11,000 people. And the event led to division and soon after a civil war.

She takes a job to go back in time under the advisement of her granddad Locke to stop it. And she tracks down every ancestor linked to the start of whatever political movement that ended most of humanity.

Unfortunately, it also led to a consequence of her being killed by the same man who said she should take the mission. And it also caused Locke to become estranged from his family chasing his granddaughter for 27 years.

While there are elements in the film that still remain confusing, In the Shadow of the Moon is undoubtedly clever. Some elements, however, remain frustrating. Such as why didn’t she show Locke the bracelet that proves he is related to her in 2006 or 1996. Seems like it might’ve made both of their lives easier going forward and backward.

Still, In the Shadow of the Moon is compelling and thought-provoking sci-fi and well-worth a watch this weekend on Netflix.

In the Shadow of the Moon is now streaming on Netflix.

John Dotson is a film and television reviewer and commentator from Texas. His favorite part of what he does is getting to discuss film and... read more
John Dotson

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