The Ascension of David (And His Ultimate Fall)
Two movies in, it's clear that the Alien prequels' main concern is David. He's not been the lead in either films' narrative - he doesn't even appear until halfway through Covenant - yet in terms of the larger story he's now positioned as the driving force. Indeed, in going back to his creation, Covenant draws a line under everything - his feelings for Shaw, relationship with Weyland and Engineers, the creation of the xenomorph - and frames this duology as his ascension to a higher plane. Take his very first and very final actions: we see when he awakens that he is unable to play Wagner's "Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla" on Weyland's request, yet at the end has found a solution - instead of improving at the piano he manipulates other means and gets Mother to do it for him. Playing a track through voice-command isn't the most dangerous act but it is a representation of his higher-level, alternative thinking.
The future of the franchise is intrinsically linked to David and whatever plans Ridley Scott has, Fassbender is at the core of them. The ending of Covenant would seem to suggest we'll follow him on his further experimentation with the xenomorph, although given how Prometheus' final moments - Shaw and David flying off to find the Engineers - was a side-step to Covenant it could go in any tangential direction. Based on Scott's comments, though, it will be very much in the direction of Alien.
Regardless, David's now revealed as the series' big bad - or, perhaps more delicately, prime antagonist to humankind. But just because he's now ruler of hell-on-spaceship, it doesn't mean he's won. In fact, Covenant is making the case David is still flawed. Both the Engineers and, to a degree, humanity have fallen foul of their hubris and as the android has been shown to have similar human predilections (he misattributes a Shelley quote to Byron, a mistake Walter picks up on) we're left asking whether he'll pass to a greater plane or, like his makers, fail at the hands of his creation? Only time will tell, but it's unlikely the xenomorph will let him live.
The Ending Is A Reference To The Original Alien
As well as starting to bring the series full circle narratively, there is also a very cool behind-the-scenes aspect to Alien: Covenant's ending; it essentially resurrects a dropped concept from the 1979 classic.
That film's original script had a much darker final scene. Ripley would blow up the Nostromo as in the finished version, but when she came across the stowaway xenomorph it would kill her - decapitate her to be exact - before revealing the ability to mimic voices, signing off in Sigourney Weaver's voice before putting itself in cryo. Obviously that's a sudden tonal swerve (and is altogether ridiculous) so was cut.
But, 38 years later, it's finally been used; David's sign-off mimicking Walter's American accent is a direct callback to this idea, while his decapitation in Prometheus now likewise feels like an attempt to thread him subtly into the xenomorph geneology. Not just a cool reference for long-term fans, though, practically it puts David in the originally conceived alien position, revealing that he's as dangerous as the xenomorph we all fear.
Next: Alien: Covenant Review
- Alien: Covenant (2017) release date: May 19, 2017