In ‘Spiderhead’ nothing is what it seems. Here’s an overview of that wild ending,
By Aurora Amidon Published on June 17, 2022
End explained is a recurring column in which we explore the finales, secrets and themes of interesting films and shows, both new and old. This time we consider the end of the new Netflix psychological thriller Spiderhead. Yes, prepare for spoilers.
If there was a drug that could make everything around you look beautiful, would you take it? What about one that made you think everything was funny? Or one you’ve fallen in love with? And what if there was a substance you could give someone that would make them do everything you said? Or one that caused them a lot of pain and discomfort?
These are the questions explored in spider headNetflix’s new sci-fi thriller directed by Top Gun: Maverick‘s Joseph Kosinskic and written by Deadpool co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick† Based on George Saunders’ 2010 short story “Escape from Spiderhead” from New York, the film follows Jeff (miles Counter), a young man serving time in an experimental prison called ‘Spiderhead’.
Created by pharma god Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth), Spiderhead is administering test drugs that create synthetic emotional states — such as love, laughter, or honesty — to inmates as part of a preliminary trial. In return, subjects are given a little more independence during their sentence. And if this all sounds a bit vague, don’t worry: Steve assures Jeff that he created these fabrics to ensure world peace. But, as you might expect, it doesn’t take long for the drugs to (really) start having adverse effects.
Through spider headIn the third act, Jeff is fed up with Steve’s threats to use the drug Darkenfloxx – which triggers acute suicidal thoughts – on inmates during the tests. So Jeff starts digging around and discovers Steve is testing a brand new drug: B6 or OBDX (sounds a bit like obedience, huh?). Meanwhile, Steve is putting B6 to his final test: is it strong enough to hurt someone you love?
So Steve fills Jeff with the subjugation juice and places his girlfriend, Lizzy (Jurnee smollett), in the test room. Then he orders Jeff to pump her with the dreaded Darkenfloxx. Jeff says no, proving that B6 isn’t as strong as Steve had hoped. Jeff then decides to stop his boss once and for all, and the two get into an argument, which leads to Steve’s drug box breaking down and then showering him with a cocktail of his own nefarious potions.
Meanwhile, Jeff rescues Lizzy and the two frantically run for the exit, but not before Steve orders the rest of the inmates, who have been unknowingly jacked up on B6, to stop the pair from leaving the facility. However, the two get out in the nick of time and race back to the mainland on a boat. To avoid being caught by the police, Steve has his plane fly off the island, but the Darkenfloxx forces him to crash into the side of a rocky mountain before he can make his grand escape.
So spider head ends with two characters literally riding into the sunset. But is it really a happy ending? On one level, this triumphant finale is undeniably about the perseverance of love above all else. After all, love is the only state of being that cannot overwhelm B6. And on a smaller scale, Jeff’s love for Lizzy is what ultimately gives him the strength to get out of Spiderhead’s grip, despite initially thinking he deserved his treatment at the facility due to the nature of the crime that sent him there.
So you can rest assured that once Jeff and Lizzy return to the mainland, they will live a happy life together. This is undeniably a less cynical ending than Saunders’ short story, in which Jeff not only kills himself with Darkenfloxx, but also completely forgoes a character with a love interest, completely off the table the issue of “love that endures over all”. .
But the end of spider head isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Behind the happily ever after shot, the film inevitably leaves the viewer with a bitter taste in the mouth. Earlier, Jeff mentioned that this isn’t the first experimental facility he’s been to. So while Steve’s death is undeniably a step in the right direction, one can assume that there are dozens of other Steves in this world who are hungry to step into his shoes and exploit prisoners.
This brings us to our next question: was Steve always corrupt? There are two plausible options. One: his company, Abnesti Pharmaceuticals, really did start as a company for world peace. Steve just wanted to make people laugh more, love more, and be more honest. But once he got a taste of being the puppeteer, he couldn’t stop until he was in complete control—that is, until B6 ran through the veins of the entire population.
Or maybe that theory gives Steve too much credit. Maybe B6 was always the end goal and the other drugs were just a means to an end. For example, the love drug has the potential to allow the administrator to test whether or not a subject will harm their loved one under the influence of B6. The honesty drug is also just another form of obedience, and Darkenfloxx is nothing more than a lofty form of torture. Ultimately, these substances may have all been conceived as baby steps towards the creation of B6.
The True Key to Understanding spider headThe ending, however, comes in a comparison between it and the source material. In “Escape from Spiderhead” the problem of exploitation remains in the foreground until the very end. Unlike in the movie, B6 doesn’t come in the form of a twist. Instead, it’s been there from day one. This confirms a kind of cynicism and inevitability inherent in Spiderhead, where Jeff starts in the film with a kind of naive optimism.
While the story is about abuse and exploitation, the film is about persevering in love. Perhaps the latter is the way it is because of Hollywood’s need for a happy ending. Perhaps it is more honest about the state of the world. Or maybe we’re just too scared to admit the ugly truth.
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Aurora Amidon spends her days directing the Great Expectations section trying to convince people that Hostel II is one of the greatest movies of all time. Read her most embarrassing tweets here: @aurora_amidon†