‘Carol & The End Of The World’ Ending Explained: Did The Mystery Planet Hit Earth?


There are several kinds of stories centered around the apocalypse. Some of them feature humanity’s last attempts at avoiding the apocalypse. There are some movies and shows that take place after the apocalypse. Between these two extremes, there are those that show humanity slowly resigning to its fate because the apocalypse is inevitable, e.g., Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Don’t Look Up, and Dr. Strangelove. The Netflix limited series by Dan Guterman, Carol & The End of the World, squarely falls into this category. It follows the titular character as she spends the last few months on Earth, which is about to be obliterated by a gigantic mystery planet, reconnecting with her family, making new friends, and finding her purpose in life. The miniseries almost doesn’t have a strict narrative; it meanders a lot, and most of the episodes are a little dull. But that’s kind of the entire point of the show, and coupled with the beautiful animation and the chill voice-acting, it makes for a weirdly calming and anxiety-inducing viewing experience.

Spoiler Alert

Why Did Carol Join ‘The Distraction’?

Carol is a single woman. Her parents, Bernard and Pauline, are in a relationship with their caregiver, Michael. And she has a sister, Elena, who is touring the world before everything ceases to exist. By the way, I have seen this three-way relationship between a character’s parents and their caregiver in some other movie or show. I tried searching for it a lot on the internet, but I failed. So, those who are reading this article, if you know about a movie or a show that features a mother, a father, and a caregiver in a relationship with each other, please let me know in the comment section. 

Anyway, coming back to Carol, she is an introvert. She doesn’t go out a lot. She is righteous and wants to make sure that she doesn’t owe anyone anything, even though the world is coming to an end. One night, she tries to mingle with people, and she does find a man called Eric who matches her vibe. They eventually get intimate with each other. The next day, though, Carol finds out that Eric is a divorcee and has a kid. He starts to treat her like his new wife, and that scares the hell out of Carol, and she bails out of there. Later on, Eric tries to convince Carol to marry him, but she rejects his proposal. Her parents leave to spend the next few days on a cruise ship. Her car breaks down while waiting outside the Applebee’s, and she is forced to take the train.

At the train station, Carol spots a woman who is in professional attire. Given how the world is coming to an end, the people in the show have given up on wearing clothes and basic hygiene. Since Carol is someone who still likes to do her laundry and maintain some kind of routine, this stranger’s appearance piques her attention, so much so that she follows her all the way to a massive building. Carol loses track of her while entering the establishment. Hence, she stops at all the floors, only to find them in a state of disorder. Finally, she arrives at a floor that is full of employees on computers. As soon as she walks through the doors of this office, she is recruited and ordered to prepare for the role of admin assistant. She has no idea what everyone is doing or why everyone is working while the world is ending. But she feels a sense of belonging there, and that’s why she doesn’t run away from there, like she usually does while facing an uncomfortable situation, and decides to stay and work.

What Is The Meaning Of Each Of The Episodes?

As mentioned before, Carol & The End of the World doesn’t really have a narrative because it’s futile to have a narrative when Earth is going to be erased from existence. None of the characters, especially Carol, have any strict goals that they want to achieve before dying. It’s all seemingly based on instinct, thereby making the themes and subplots of the limited series a little scattershot. Again, that’s kind of the entire point of the miniseries. Much like the characters, we are hurtling towards oblivion. In real life, we have people who are responsible for the death of humankind, while the characters in this show don’t have anyone to blame for the arrival of a mysterious planet. But discussing solutions, in real life or in this fictional show, is meaningless because we have all gone past the point of no return. All we can do is chill or go about our daily lives doing something that satisfies us.

In the second episode of the miniseries, Carol searches for a toner cartridge. She takes some really extreme measures to get it, only to find that a floor in the building she works in is full of various kinds of cartridges. The underlying message is that, if you have to work at all, work smart instead of working hard. The third episode focuses on Carol’s attempts at befriending Donna and Luis by offering them banana bread, while dealing with the monotonous nature of the job. That is juxtaposed with the captain of the cruise ship—the one that Carol’s parents are on—abandoning his job because he suddenly realizes that his dedication to his profession has been rendered moot by the impending apocalypse. So, the underlying message is probably that there’s more to life than one’s job. The fourth episode is all about the hiking that Carol goes on with her sister Elena. Carol is unable to open up because Elena always records everything, and Elena isn’t honest about everything because she sees life through her camera. They do reach a middle ground where they are able to talk to each other and be a part of Elena’s never-ending documentary, thereby underscoring the fact that as long as you have a family that wants to spend time with you, you should cherish it.

The fifth episode is about the death of an employee at The Distraction whose name is David. This happens after Carol tries to learn the names of the employees to establish a sense of familiarity. Carol, Luis, and Donna’s efforts to dispose of David’s body actually galvanize the workforce, and they get together for a funeral, thereby showing that the apocalypse or the oppressive nature of a job doesn’t have to bring out our inhumanity. In the sixth episode, Carol randomly celebrates Halloween because of an enthusiastic kid, Donna celebrates Christmas with her family, and Luis celebrates his birthday. It just goes to show that these “holidays” don’t need to have some deep, historic meaning, until and unless they bring us closer as a species. The seventh episode is solely about searching for Luis’ broach in the lost and found, but every item there branches into a bigger story. The characters don’t get to see those stories, but we do, and that makes us realize how every single object has history and should be treasured instead of being mindlessly discarded. The episode does get a little creepy towards the end as we see one of the employees playing with a miniaturized replica of the office and its employees, and he seems to have a telepathic knowledge of Carol, Luis, and Donna’s movements. He is clearly obsessed with them, as he has Luis’ broach in his possession, but he isn’t brave enough to confront them. It means that Carol isn’t the most introverted person in The Distraction.

The eighth episode is about Eric reuniting with his son, Steven, under the pretext of taking Steven to Canada to stay with Eric’s ex-wife. That is juxtaposed with the hijacking of the abandoned cruise ship by a bunch of Somalian pirates who intend to kill the passengers initially and then unite with them to fight the greater danger: the tidal waves of the ocean. The penultimate episode features a fictional version of Carol, who is a surfer (something that Carol lied about to her parents) and is looking for the perfect wave. The character’s green eyes (the real Carol has brown eyes) are a dead giveaway that what we are seeing is either one of Carol’s vivid dreams or an alternate version of Carol who is living the life that the Carol we know wanted to live. It is the “happy ending” that the version of Carol that we are familiar with won’t get.

Did The Mystery Planet Hit Earth?

The final episode of Carol & The End of the World takes place largely from the perspective of HR head Kathleen. A case of mass hysteria takes over The Distraction, and Kathleen believes that Carol is behind all this. Since the weird twins in the office want someone to be penalized for this affair, Kathleen begins to build her case. She is angry about the fact that Carol has injected a sense of humanity into The Distraction. Everyone, from the boss to the janitor, used to work like robots until Carol arrived and started treating them like individuals. According to Kathleen, there were several small events (like the funeral, the personalization of one’s desk, etc.) that led to the aforementioned event. However, it was Carol’s decision to renovate the Applebee’s in the neighborhood and turn it into a spot for merriment that caused the debacle. There’s a lot of contradicting things happening here all at once, and that is what makes it quite interesting.

You see, the Earth is about to be destroyed. A major chunk of the population has started to fulfill their unresolved desires. However, people like Carol, Donna, and Luis aren’t into all that. They need a routine to justify their existence. When they find that in The Distraction (the name is purposely on the nose), they accept it blindly. But they start to believe that the Distraction has a purpose and is heading towards something. That’s not the case at all, no matter how much the higher-ups exude a self-serious attitude. It’s a distraction from the apocalypse; that’s it. When the employees understand that they aren’t getting paid to work at an imaginary job, but they also need the job to stop themselves from losing their minds, they start to improvise and have fun while facing extinction. I am sure all the “employees” are thankful to the founders of The Distraction, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an iteration of the capitalist structure that existed before the advent of the mysterious planet, especially when there’s nothing to benefit and everything to lose from this exercise. Yes, all these people wanted a version of a 9-to-5 job to live through the last few days of their lives. However, if they’ve become friends and they want to hang out with each other, instead of getting exhausted while doing an imaginary job, then they should totally do that. It’s the end of the world, for crying out loud.

During Carol & The End of the World‘s ending, Kathleen is hit with that realization, too, and she decides to join Carol and his group and live the rest of her days happily. As for the mysterious planet, it’s not clear if it destroys Earth or not. One of the news clippings do say that the gravitational pull of the planet is going to affect Earth’s days and nights. But, at this point, everyone is satisfied in one way or another. So, it doesn’t really matter if they live or die due to the arrival of the planet. If you do look at the closing moments of the show, you can see the clouds around Earth shifting due to the planet. That’s not a good sign, and the extinction of the planet is inevitable. That said, we can rest easy knowing that the characters we’ve followed over the course of 10 episodes have made their peace with their fate.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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