Predestination Ending Explained: The Complex Time Paradox Solved

The meaning of the movie Predestination

What did I just watch? What is the point of predestination? .. throbbed in my head as the credits of Predestination ran across the laptop screen. To be honest, the ending of the film was not clear the first time, even to me. But, when I figured out the plot twists and time paradoxes, bewilderment gave way to admiration. I hope that my article will help you understand the meaning of the movie “Time Patrol” and its ending.

What prevents you from understanding the meaning of the film Predestination the first time

I suppose you were confused the same as me. It’s hard to believe that all the major films are the same person. There are four of them: Jane, John, a time agent (he spends most of the screen time at the bar, so I’ll call him the Bartender) and a bomber who is being hunted by an agent. All four are one and the same person at different ages, moving in time and repeatedly intersecting with himself.

It gets in the way of understanding this, first of all, that Jane and John are played by the actress Sarah Snook, and the Bartender and the Demoman by Ethan Hawke, and the actors are completely different from each other. It can be considered a mistake by the creators, but, in my opinion, otherwise it would not have been possible to keep the intrigue to the end.

In addition, it is difficult to comprehend the temporal paradoxes on which the plot is based. Let’s first understand the sequence and relationship of events, and then I’ll explain how the paradoxes of time work in the film.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

The sequence and relationship of events in the film

1970 – Time Agent John tries to stop Demoman, but at the last moment the explosives ignite and burn the skin on John’s face. It seems that John is doomed, but a stranger suddenly appears (later it becomes clear that it was the Bartender) and helps John get to the time machine.

1992 – John moves to the future at the Bureau of Time. It is revealed that he is a valuable member of the Bureau. He has an important mission – going back in time to kill the Demoman and thus prevent the 1975 terrorist attack in New York, which killed 11 thousand people. But the Demoman is elusive (not surprising since he is a former Time Agent).

The doctor restores John’s face, but warns that the new face will not look like the one he is used to. From that moment on, he takes on a new look and voice and becomes what I call the Bartender.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

1970 – A time agent disguised as a Bartender meets John at the bar. John tells his story (which the Bartender naturally knows, but doesn’t show it and listens with interest). John, on the other hand, does not realize that he is from the future in front of him. However, when the Bartender gives John a light, you can see that they share the same lighter.

The bartender offers John an exchange: The bartender will take John to the past and show the man who ruined John / Jane’s life. John can kill him and go unpunished. In return, John undertakes to try himself in the role of a Time Agent. The bartender, of course, doesn’t tell John the whole truth about who actually seduced Jane.

1963 – The Bartender and John travel back in time, the Bartender gives John a large sum of money that will help him to live several months in New York without any problems. John goes to the college building, confident that he will meet Jane’s seducer and kill him. However, instead, he confronts Jane and realizes that he was himself from the future who seduced her.

Knowing perfectly well what will make Jane suffer, he still goes on a date and starts dating her. During this time, he wastes money that the Bartender gave him, and Jane thinks that he is very rich. This continues until John notices the Bartender watching him in the park. John goes to talk to the Bartender, and he convinces him to become an Agent of Time. John leaves Jane and moves to the future with the Bartender.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

1970 – Bartender moves to 1970 to stop Demoman, but loses in a fight. When he wakes up, he finds John with a burnt face and helps him return to the future.

1964 – Jane gives birth to a child. The bartender steals the girl and goes with her to the past.

1945 – The bartender takes the little girl to the past and throws her into the orphanage. Thus, it becomes clear that Jane and John’s daughter is Jane herself. At the same time, the girl’s mom and dad are one and the same person.

1985 – The year of the invention of the time machine and the founding of the Time Bureau. The bartender brings John to the Bureau so that he can become a Time Agent.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

1975 – The bartender expresses his desire to retire precisely in 1975, shortly before the terrorist attack. His service ended, although he never completed his last mission. First of all, he tries to deactivate his time machine, but he fails – the machine continues to work.

The bartender tracks down and finds the Demoman, in whom he recognizes himself from the future. According to Demoman’s account, he realizes that Demoman continued to use the time machine after retirement, and this led to serious mental problems. Now the Demoman is confident that with his terrorist attack he will save the lives of other people, as he did before in the Bureau of Time. The Demoman tries to convince the Bartender that killing him is useless – this will only lead to the Bartender himself repeating his fate and becoming a Demoman.

The bartender kills the Demoman. The final remains open. There are two possible scenarios for the development of events:

  1. The bartender begins to use the time machine for his own purposes, eventually repeats the fate of the Demoman, and the cycle closes. The whole story repeats itself over and over again ad infinitum.
  2. The bartender does not repeat the Demoman’s actions (does not use the time machine, does not meet with Alice), breaks the cycle and ceases to exist. Why the Bartender will cease to exist if he does not become a Demoman – I will explain in the following sections.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the filmTime Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

Time paradoxes in the movie Predestination

The predestination paradox

In the original, the film is called Predestination . The plot of the film is based on the eponymous paradox of predestination ( predestination paradox ). The essence of this paradox can be formulated as follows:

The events of the past cannot be changed. If a traveler from the future wants to prevent any event in the past, the paradox of predestination will lead to the traveler himself contributing to this event (or taking a direct part in it).

Let’s say you travel back in time to rescue your friend who was hit by a car. You move at the same time to the same unfortunate intersection. Only bad luck – the time machine sends you not to the side of the road, but right behind the wheel of the car. You do not have time to understand what’s what, and confuse the person. Congratulations, you just killed the friend you intended to save. The same thing happens with the Time Agent. John tries to save Jane from the seducer, but instead seduces her himself. The bartender tries to stop the Demoman, but takes his place instead.

There are many points in the storyline of the film at which events could take a different direction if the hero changed his mind. John might not have spoken to Jane; The bartender could have let the Demoman go. However, you need to understand that if the hero made a different decision, he would – how to put it mildly? – annihilated. The agent of time is forced to repeat the same sequence of actions in order to continue its existence inside the causal loop.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

Causal loop

The causal loop is another plot-forming temporal paradox. The simplest and most understandable example of such a loop is given by Wikipedia : imagine that you, playing billiards, decided to move one of the balls back in time. The ball collides with itself and changes its own trajectory. Cause and effect, as it were, are closed in a circle – a cause is impossible without an effect, therefore the paradox is called a cause-and-effect loop.

Back to the Time Agent: if Jane hadn’t been found at the door of the orphanage in 1945, she wouldn’t have met John in 1963. Right? Yes, but the opposite is also true: if Jane had not met John, she would not have been born and could not have ended up in an orphanage in 1945. Jane’s birth is both a cause and a consequence of her romance with John.

The loop has no beginning or end, so it is not possible to restore the course of events to the beginning of the loop. However, the Astronomy Trek website offers an interesting version of this . Perhaps in the original time, Jane was actually born in 1945, grew up and became pregnant with another man. However, this is not necessary: ​​she might need gender reassignment surgery due to health problems. This was used by Robertson, who knew about the peculiarities of Jane’s development. He used the time machine to put Jane / John in a causal loop, and thus got the perfect Time Agent for his Bureau – without the past and future locked forever inside the loop.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

The Kill Hitler Paradox

Why was it necessary to create a causal loop? As an explanation, the authors of Astronomy Trek cite another time paradox – “kill Hitler” ( let’s kill Hitler paradox ).

Let’s say we decide to travel back in time and kill Hitler. As soon as this happened, the future changed, which means that in our time there is no longer any reason to go back to the past and kill Hitler. In order to overcome this contradiction, a causal loop comes in handy. In it we will place a person who has agreed to become Hitler’s killer. To solve this problem, he can freely move in time inside the loop. But, unlike people living in linear time, he will remember why kill Hitler , even when the future changes.

Now replace Hitler with the Demoman and Hitler’s killer with the Time Agent, and it becomes clear why the Bureau of Time put the Agent in a causal loop.

But does Robertson really want to get rid of the Demoman? Let’s not forget that the Demoman is the Agent of Time, and if we destroy one, then the other will not be. Robertson uses the image of the Demoman as bait for the Agent, just as the Bartender entices John with the promise of finding Jane’s seducer.

If the Agent, after retiring, does not continue to use the time machine, does not lose his mind and does not become a Demoman, his existence inside the causal loop will cease, and the Bureau of Time will lose its most valuable employee. The Time Bureau does not hunt Demoman; it uses it to maintain the integrity of the causal loop.

Time Patrol (Predestination) - the meaning of the film

Talking details

Although the relationship between the characters only becomes clear after the final plot twist, there are telling clues throughout the film. I doubt that you can guess the denouement from them, they rather work to create an atmosphere. Since we are talking about the meaning of the movie Predestination, it is worth listing these subtle hints:

  • A song is played in the bar with the words I’m my own grandpa , and the Bartender picks it up.
  • The bartender asks John: “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” John replies: “Rooster.” First, this is another example of a causal loop; secondly, a hint of gender reassignment surgery that John went through.
  • The bartender mentions “a snake that devours its own tail.” This is a reference to Ouroboros, the ancient Greek mythological image of infinity.

Questions I don’t know the answer to

Above, I tried to explain everything that I know about the meaning of the film Predestination. There are, however, questions that I cannot answer. I suppose you just have to come to terms with the fact that even the most thoughtful fantasy plot will be imperfect, because it violates the laws of reality. Here are some inconsistencies that I could not explain for myself:

  • Jane did not know the name of the man she got pregnant with. But she, of course, perfectly remembered his face. Didn’t John realize after the operation that he was the stranger who seduced Jane? True, John confesses to the Bartender that he never liked his appearance and tried not to look in the mirror. But, in my opinion, this is a rather weak explanation – it is difficult to imagine that in the twentieth century a person may not know what he looks like.
  • The doctor is restoring John’s face from scratch, but his body and vocal cords are intact. However, after the treatment, the Agent’s voice and physique completely change. The Bartender has dark hair on his head and body, while Jane was born red, and John has blonde, reddish hair. In general, it remains a mystery how the terrible scars after skin transplantation were able to completely heal and leave no marks on the Barman’s face.
  • The doctor’s decision to change Jane’s gender does not seem very well-reasoned. Her female reproductive system was severely damaged during childbirth, but, however, doctors could save her life without changing her sex. I’m not sure that in reality the doctor has the right to change the sex of the patient without her consent. But, of course, without this twist, the plot would not have worked out – so you have to accept the forced sex change and the fact that John was able to have children after that (this is not available even to modern medicine, and the action takes place, as we remember, in the seventies).
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