Primary Ending Defined
On the backside of the ocean, Selene finds the “entity” that continues to resurrect her after every loss of life. The display screen cuts to black, after which we see a automobile touring by way of a darkish forest at night time.
A toddler within the backseat of the automobile holds Octo, the plushie squid that you could be be aware of should you performed by way of the haunted houses segments earlier within the recreation. Within the background, Do not Concern the Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult performs on the automobile radio.
The kid says “Mother, do you see the White Shadow?” moments earlier than the radio begins to fizz out with static. The digital camera turns to the radio, which is dialed to the sign 107.7. The automobile’s clock additionally reads 8:36 PM, and the surface temperature is 52 levels Fahrenheit.
Trivia: Every of those motifs (the tune, the numbers, the surroundings) present up all through Returnal, however the numbers 8:36 are particularly prevalent. They first seem on the finish of Act 1 because the information broadcast of Selene’s obvious return from Atropos is performed at 8:36 AM. Selene can also be stated to have lived for 63 years and eight days after returning to Earth, which, backwards, is 836. The that means of 836 could be interpreted in any variety of methods, however a number of Web searches counsel that its commonest interpretation amongst Numerologists is one thing alongside the strains of “your prayers have been obtained, be able to obtain rewards”, or simply common good luck and success.
As the driving force (revealed to be Selene, or somebody who seems to be similar to Selene) seems to be up from the radio, she narrowly spots an astronaut in the course of the highway. Braking laborious and spinning the wheel sharply as to keep away from hitting the astronaut, she loses management over the automobile, which crashes by way of the railing of a bridge and into the water beneath.
The automobile sinks to the underside of the river, and the scene skips ahead a number of moments to indicate each passengers unconscious in a automobile now stuffed with water. A mysterious entity, presumably the one we noticed earlier, seems and shines a vibrant pink mild on Selene, waking her up.
Selene makes an attempt to seize the kid’s hand, however is sucked out of the automobile by the mysterious entity earlier than she will get a grip. The kid is presumably left within the inside of the automobile on the backside of the river.
A remaining underwater shot of the water’s floor is interrupted as a thick foggy mass seems to dam out the display screen, slicing the shot to black earlier than Returnal’s title card seems on display screen and the credit roll.
In it, Selene returns to the automobile that she left underwater within the earlier ending. This time, she’s teleported to a wierd void the place she finds a skeletal alien sitting in a wheelchair. The alien seems to be up at Selene simply lengthy sufficient for the 2 to make eye contact. Properly, eye socket contact if you wish to get particular about it.
Then the alien leaps up and weak-handedly makes an attempt to strangle Selene, who cries out “I advised you to go away me alone!” earlier than pushing the alien off of her.
The alien calls out for Selene, revealing itself to be Theia (however provided that you are taking part in with subtitles turned on). For those who did not decide it up earlier within the marketing campaign, Theia is Selene’s mom, who appeared in a number of earlier haunted houses. It is clear now that Theia is some extent of guilt for Selene.
The digital camera zooms into Selene’s head, and we now see issues from her perspective. She seems to be down at her arms, then turns left to see the oncoming automobile that we noticed within the first ending. It is obvious that we are actually seeing issues from the angle of the astronaut that the automobile narrowly swerved to keep away from.
We skip to an underwater shot from the angle of Selene, who’s now attempting to swim to the water’s floor. The display screen fades to white, then cuts to black, and we hear Selene gasp the ultimate phrase, “Helios.”
What It All Means
Returnal leaves us with extra questions than solutions. Its true ending appears to counsel that Selene is each the driving force and the astronaut that runs her off the highway, which additional suggests the existence of parallel realities even on Returnal’s model of Earth.
Additional, we see proof all through Returnal that, at totally different closing dates, Selene is clearly each responsible concerning the lack of her little one and of her mom. We already know that Selene’s mom is Theia, who we encounter within the secret ending, nevertheless it’s additionally extremely possible that Selene’s little one is known as Helios, which can also be the title of Selene’s spaceship.
As soon as extra, we’re not solely positive that there is a concrete approach to tie the whole lot collectively. But it surely’s not troublesome to theorize that Selene not solely exists in numerous iterations throughout a number of dimensions, however that your complete world of Atropos is one prolonged dream sequence woven collectively out of the traumas skilled by every of these totally different Selenes.
Moreover, Scout Logs all through the marketing campaign counsel that Selene (fairly, astronaut Selene) is responsible about leaving her household behind on Earth to enterprise off into house. It is also advised that Theia herself was as soon as an astronaut from the “Apollo Period”, who might have proven a youthful Selene photographs of herself absolutely kitted out in astronaut gear. All of those bits might probably clarify the guilt that Selene feels associated to Theia, who she would have presumably left behind when going off to discover house herself. And based mostly on the motif of the wheelchair, Theia might not have been in adequate well being to stay lengthy sufficient to see her daughter return.
You might take that practice of thought even deeper: if Theia was the unique astronaut, and Selene noticed photos of her in full astronaut garb, then it is also attainable that Theia is the astronaut in the course of the highway, not Selene. In reality, you can theorize that Selene was so traumatized by the lack of her mom that she started to hallucinate, even as far as to utterly think about the astronaut within the highway and the kid within the backseat asking about White Shadow.
A number of issues are constant regardless of the way you interpret the endings: the recurring crash on the planet’s floor is clearly a stand-in for the actual automobile crash that is central to Selene’s trauma, the “White Shadow” represents an astronaut in the course of a darkish highway, and the Abyssal Scar represents the underside of the river which is the automobile’s remaining resting place.