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Netflix’s The I-Land Ending, Explained

September 12, 2019
13 min read

There are some great sci-fi shows on Netflix. Their popularity has prodded the streaming service to invest more into such stories, the result of which is yet another show in the genre, ‘The I-Land’. It is reminiscent of shows like ‘Lost’, ‘Westworld’ and ‘Black Mirror’, all of them highly popular and deeply conceptual. ‘The I-Land’ starts with a bunch of people who find themselves on an island, knowing nothing about the place or one another. As the story is peeled, one layer after another, the show addresses the issues of morality, social structure and law, among other things. The plot becomes more convoluted as you move forward. Just when you think you have the grasp of one mystery, another is brought into its place. The show becomes an endless loop of solving one puzzle after another. If you haven’t yet seen it, head over to Netflix.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Summary of the Plot

‘The I-Land’ begins with ten people waking up on a beach. They have no memory, whatsoever. They don’t know each other; they don’t even know their own names. The tags on their shirts tell them who they are. Chase, the first one we meet, wakes up with a conch shell in her hand. The next is KC, who has a knife. This leads Chase to believe that the other eight people would have had something too. Sure enough, with a little digging, she succeeds in finding a bunch of other objects. However, that is not enough. They still need to find food, water and shelter, while wondering what this place is and what are they doing there? There is no sign of a plane crash or a ship run aground. They don’t have any cuts or bruises and the things they discover seem well-placed. It is like someone sent them there; as if a game was designed and they were put in as its players.

What’s the I-Land?

In the first couple of episodes, as we see friendships and rivalries quickly develop between the characters, there is one question that we can’t help but think about. What is this place and why are these people here? The picture begins to emerge after Brody is killed and everyone else attacks Chase, believing she had something to do with it. She is knocked unconscious and wakes place in a place that looks like a lab. She is bound to chair, by invisible bonds, and has a nurse by her side. Soon, she comes to know that she never really was on the island. Not physically, anyway. As the story moves forward, things begin to make a lot more sense, and we finally understand everything.

It has been twenty-five years since Chase was convicted for killing her mother. She is on a death row when an opportunity is presented to her. A new experiment has been created by a group of academics to find out if any criminal is redeemable. While she is locked inside, the world out there changes completely. It isn’t just the flying cars and the excellent use of virtual reality. The environment seems to have taken a turn for the worse, and there was a great flood that destroyed a lot of cities.

From the bits and pieces, we receive about this in the last episode, it looks like Houston is no more! From what the doctor tells her, we come to know that there is some sort of unrest in the public. People are unsatisfied with the current government (in whatever form it exists) and a minor uprising must be gaining momentum, which is why more and more people are being thrown into jail. There is a lot of speculation at this point because we hardly move beyond the I-Land and the prison. Hopefully, we’ll get to know more about that world in the next season.

So, the government seems to have taken a tyrannical turn and is throwing everyone who rebels into jail. Obviously, people are not happy with that, and knowing that they can’t take any action directly, they have come up with a plan to save the innocent people being thrown into jail. (At least, that’s what it looks like.) Through their experiments, they want to prove that these people are not the criminals they are made out to be. Another thing that could be happening is that the floods have deprived people of their basic necessities and the government isn’t paying any attention to them. This has led to an increase in crime. It is a result of their desperation rather than their innate violence. The academics who have come up with the plan of the I-Land want to help by giving them another chance. So that they can prove that in any other condition, they wouldn’t be what they are right now.

What happens here is that the prisoners are simulated into a deserted island, with no memory whatsoever of their past. This presents a clean slate and wipes away whatever motivation they might have had to commit a crime earlier. With no reason to hurt people, what remains to be seen is if they will still find a motivation to do something wrong. If so, then they will be executed like they were supposed to. If not, then this will be considered their rehabilitation and they will be sent back in the society.

Chase and the others are the first batch of people to receive the treatment. They had voluntarily agreed to it, believing it to be their only chance to escape the imminent death. But the prison is a big place and we see a number of other prisoners there. This means that the scope of the program is being expanded and more and more prisoners are signing up for this. This, in turn, means that they will need more than one island to make it happen. It is not a physical place, so they are not actually sending them to the same place. But, to be honest, we don’t completely know how it works. They need to keep tabs of everyone and a marker is needed for every island. Hence, Chase’s simulation is I-Land, i.e., Island One.

When Taylor tries to escape on a raft, she crashes at Island Two, i.e., II-Land. The prisoners are asked not to try to escape because this means they will try to get out of the boundaries of the simulation, which isn’t possible. In order to keep them from going away, dangerous situations have been staged. For example, the shark attack, in the beginning, was to keep them from swimming too far from the beach. If they become too comfortable with the water, then they will start thinking about crossing it. The shark attack keeps them away from the water.

This serves one more purpose. If the simulation has created a virtual world, where all the simulations are connected, then, it wouldn’t be good for the prisoners to cross over to each other’s territory. The idea of keeping them on the islands is just so they are confined to one place with a specific group of people. Crossing over to another island to meet another bunch of stranger beats that purpose. Moreover, the focus is to keep them together so that their behaviour can be studied. If they accept that they have to stay on the island, they will be thinking about socialising, which will turn them into either friends or foes. But if they have a purpose. If they know they can get out of the island, then their energies will be directed towards that goal. They won’t have the luxury to think about committing a crime because they have a bigger task to accomplish. The sign of “Find Your Way Back” is supposed to tell them that, but I don’t think it does a good job of expressing what it actually means. But then, the program is still in its early stages, so we are ready to let that go.

The I-Land Ending, Explained

The moment we meet the ten people on the island, a whole bunch of questions pop up in our heads. By the end of the season, most of those queries are answered and are replaced by another batch. We know what the I-Land is and why it is there. Or at least, we have a superficial idea of it. There might still be an underlying purpose that we are not aware of yet, but let’s shelve that thought for a while. In the end, five of the original prisoners are officially dead. Brody was killed a couple of episodes in the season. He was a rapist, and clearly, had no hope for rehabilitation. When Hayden came to know about what he had done to KC, she took the matter in her own hands and killed him. She had done something similar in real life, which is what landed her in prison in the first place. She is later killed by Clyde, who has been sent by the Warden to get rid of the people who commit any crime in the I-Land.

Donovan is a psychopath who becomes infatuated with women and believes that because he has feelings for them, they must feel the same about him. In real life, he liked a woman in his office. He would bring flowers for her and tried to appease her, but she was married and made it clear, time and again. But he couldn’t accept that and killed her. In the I-Land, after the shark incident, Blair takes care of him. He had thrown her to the sharks to protect himself, but she forgives him. Later, they become friends. Again, Donovan starts to think that Blair likes him. When she talks about a wedding on the island, in a gesture which he thinks is grand, he proposes her to marry him. Of course, she doesn’t accept. She barely knows him. Moreover, she is a lesbian, even though she realises it a little later. When she gets creeped out by him, she asks Mason to not leave her alone with him. Donovan interprets it as a threat. He thinks that something is going on between them which is why she won’t be with him. He kills Mason, and when Blair realises this, she kills him too.

The last person whose death we witness on screen is Moses. He had teamed up with KC and they meet Cooper and Chase at the abandoned hotel. Cooper has a hallucination where he realises that he was the one who killed Chase’s mother. Stuck in the trance, he fires at Moses thinking him to be his mother-in-law. This is when Bonnie and Clyde show up to exact the Warden’s justice. The ones left alive are Chase, Cooper, KC, Taylor and Blair. After Cooper confesses that he had framed Chase, she is allowed to leave the prison. She discovers everything about the program, as well as the fact that she is very different from what she remembers. It has been twenty-five years since her conviction and, in reality, she is an old woman. In the last shot, we see her walking towards the world that she knows nothing about.

Taylor is stranded on II-Land now, and there is another danger there. She is accompanied by a cannibal, who has already cut her fingers and fed it to her! The chances of her survival are slim, but we hope to be surprised. Blair is left alone, now that everyone has scattered and the two people she was friends with are dead. Because she killed another prisoner, it might be possible that Bonnie and Clyde found and killed her. Since we don’t actually see that happen, we will not accept this theory. Also, at almost the same time, Cooper had killed Moses, and Bonnie and Clyde showed up there, so we don’t think they could have travelled from one place to another so fast.

Cooper and KC team up, now that they know what this place is about. Cooper has already killed someone, but KC has a chance to redeem herself. In the last scene, they find a new prisoner washed up on the shore. In real life, after Bonnie and Clyde’s killing spree was brought to the board’s attention, they looked into the case. The Warden had instigated it, but he makes a deal with Chase to keep her mouth shut about it. She does so, asking him to allow her to speak to Cooper one last time. However, he doesn’t honour the deal and tries to kill her. He is caught in the act and convicted. Now, it might be a punishment that he is sent to the I-Land, or it could be that he agreed to go there, believing he could make it out alive. His memory is wiped clean and he is found by KC and Cooper.

The I-Land Season 2: What to Expect?

The first season builds the world of I-Land, and in its finale, gives us something to look forward to. In ‘The I-Land’ Season 2, we have a great number of things to look forward to. First and foremost, what is the new world like? Now that Chase has her freedom, will the show continue to follow her, or is her part done? To understand the I-Land, it is very important to understand the world that led to its inception. In the form of Chase, we have a character to take us through all that. Since she is also new to the world, her perspective is a great way to share the concept and the details of it with the audience. Moreover, there is another mystery regarding Chase that hasn’t been solved yet. She and Cooper were convicted for the crime of killing her mother. But she had been framed, and there was no clarity on what else Cooper did to land both of them on the death row. It looks like there is more to the story and the quest to find out the truth might lead her back to the I-Land.

Another thing that can be explored is II-Land. Taylor is already there and the cannibal is yet to make an appearance. But we already know that he is someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. He can literally eat you! So, does that mean that we already have a villain for the next season? Cooper, KC and Blair are still on I-Land. Taylor might find her way back to them, and possibly, the cannibal follows her. Or, it could be the other way around. Maybe the three of them discover II-Land and have to face the cannibal’s wrath. Not to forget, the Warden is also one of them now. What new angle will he serve in the story? Will he remember that he was the one to have sent the cannibal? Will he befriend him to gain superiority? We have another fact to consider in this situation. With most prisoners either dead or gone, the board might send more prisoners to the I-Land. Be ready to meet some new faces in the next season.

Also, what about that novel Taylor had found by the beach?

Read More in Explainer: I am Mother | Better Than Us

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