Warning: Spoilers ahead for Alien: Covenant
Alien: Covenant is many things. It’s an explanatory sequel to Prometheus, an expositional prequel to Alien, the reason we’ll never get Alien 5, the latest in a long line of Ridley Scott films exploring the nature of existence and one of 2017’s most unique tentpole releases. One thing it most definitely isn’t, though, is the end. Even now knowing where iconic xenomorph came from, we’re still a long way off the Nostromo crew making their unfortunate stop off on LV-426.
Scott hasn’t been coy about his grand plans for the franchise he created back in 1979. The Alien prequel series was always intended as a multi-part story and months before Covenant hit he was teasing as many as four more movies before we’re all said and done. Since then he’s calmed, reducing the number to a more manageable amount, but still plans to shoot the next installment in the next year or so.
What exactly this prequel-sequel will entail is unclear. For all the openness about filming schedules and explaining the movie at hand, in junket interviews Scott has been rather vague about where exactly he’s taking his horror-sci-fi franchise. However, based on the scant confirmations, as well as the themes and narrative already established, we can get a good idea of what to expect in the next film.
The Covenant Story Needs Resolving
Straight up there’s the basic story of Covenant. In the movie we followed the crew of the sub-titular ship as they explored the Engineer homeworld and were gradually picked off by the machinations of Prometheus’ android survivor-turned-God David. As we ended there were only two of the ship’s crew left alive – Katherine Waterston’s Daniels and Danny McBride’s Tennesse – who are put into cryosleep as David, snuck aboard pretending to be the ship’s resident Michael Fassbender Walter, begins to enact his scheme; he’s smuggled in two facehugger embryos and plans to experiment on the ship’s 2000-odd colonists.
So while the basic story is over, we still have a cliffhanger, both in the fate of our two surviving humans and what David does next. It’s not known if Waterston or McBride have sequel options in their contracts and it’s possible to kill them between films a la Shaw (in fact, James Franco’s fiery death builds in an easy way to execute them), although as the two most interesting non-Fassbender characters (slowly inching out Billy Crudup’s Captain Oram) they would be welcome returns, especially as in knowing David’s presence Daniels come with instant conflict.
Of course, there’s nothing to say a sequel will directly address all this. Covenant wasn’t a direct narrative continuation to Prometheus, with the traditional sequel elements – the reintroduction of David, the Engineers and Shaw – not coming until the mid-way point. It’s thus entirely possibly the third film will pick up somewhere else in the galaxy entirely and only deal with the outcome of the Covenant crew on a tangent. That said, it’s widely accepted the diverging story was mainly due to Scott trying to account for Prometheus’ backlash, so such a course correction is less necessary for the next sequel.
What Mythological Elements Will Return?
Covenant aside, David’s return as an essential player is a pretty strong bet. He’s the anti-hero of the whole prequel run and his arc isn’t close to finished; for all the Lucifer positioning (the film literally closes on him entering a hell to rule) he’s ultimately a flawed God, one who has shown human quirks in his programming (such as misattributing Shelley’s Ozymandias to Byron) and thus is destined to fall like his creation predecessors.
With that comes the xenomorph. Now we’ve had the neomorph and the protomorph, the groundwork is laid for the sort of alien carnage fans have been waiting for since the prequels began (and original script Alien: Engineers had in abundance). While Prometheus had horror elements, Covenant was much more confidently in the genre and you can only expect a sequel to go more in this direction. Indeed, one of Covenant‘s most interesting aspects is the balance of the terrifying and the philosophical, something sure to continue.
It’s less likely we’ll get any more of the Engineers. While Covenant is heavily informed by Prometheus, the only thing it directly takes and explores is David, who is established in such a way the previous film isn’t totally necessary. Humanity’s creators are only a passing fancy; they get a brief extinction scene, but, well, it’s their extinction. Especially now they’re established as having not created the xenomorph and their role in the saga feels fully explored, their direct impact is lessened and the focus of the series will surely shift to David. That said, there is still the matter of the Space Jockey, which brings us around to the original Alien…