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Maze Runner: The Death Cure's Ending Explained

Maze Runner: The Death Cure brings the YA dystopian film series based on James Dashner's novels to an end, but not in the most clear and resolute way. Today, we break down the conclusion to the trilogy.

The Death Cure is the third and (most likely) final installment in 20th Century Fox's sci-fi movie franchise. It follows The Maze Runner, which premiered in 2014 amid the popularity of fellow YA dystopian trilogy-based series The Hunger Games and Divergent, and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials in 2015. The third movie in the series, based on the Dashner's The Death Cure, was originally intended to debut in 2017, but The Death Cure was delayed after star Dylan O'Brien was injured on set in early 2016.

Read More: Why Maze Runner: The Death Cure Was Delayed

For its part, The Death Cure wraps up the storylines of the franchise's main characters. Thomas (O'Brien) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) attempt to rescue their friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee) from the clutches of WCKD, where he's being experimented on along with other teenaged Immunes - those who are immune to the Flare virus that turns humans into zombie-like Cranks. Minho is only WCKD's prisoner because Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) betrayed Thomas and their friends by telling WCKD's leader Ava Page (Patricia Clarkson) and head of security Janson (Aidan Gillen) about their location after they had escaped.

As a result, Thomas, Newt, Frypan (Dexter Darden), Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito), and Brenda (Rosa Salazar) leave Vince (Barry Pepper) and the rest of the resistance group the Right Arm in order to infiltrate the last standing city and save Minho. The Right Arm saved a number of Immunes and planned to find a safe haven away from the reach of the Flare and WCKD. Although Thomas and his friends - who meet up with former Glader Gally (Will Poulter) on the outskirts of the city - are successful in rescuing Minho from WCKD, they're unable to get the cure to save Newt, who isn't immune like his friends thought. When Theresa convinces Thomas he may be the only answer to producing a viable cure, he goes back. But thanks to an uprising led by Lawrence (Walton Goggins) and a hostile takeover of WCKD led by Janson, Thomas barely makes it out of the city alive and flees with his remaining friends to the safe haven Vince has found where those immune from the Flare will attempt to rebuild society.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure builds on story threads established in both The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, but also introduces new key concepts that become integral to the concluding chapter. Since there's a great deal going on, we unpack the trilogy capper and attempt to make sense of Maze Runner: The Death Cure's ending.

What Happened to The Cure? (This Page)

What Happened to The Cure At The End?

To understand The Death Cure, we must first establish what we learned in the previous films. The concepts of the Flare and the cure weren't truly introduced until the end of The Maze Runner. Since Thomas and the rest of the Gladers were put into the Maze after having their memories wiped, they didn't discover the purpose for the Maze until after they had escaped. At the end of the first movie, Ava Paige appears on a video screen and explains to the Gladers that Earth was devastated by a solar flare, and then humankind's already dwindling numbers were ravaged by the Flare virus. The Gladers are told they're part of an experiment looking for a cure. In a later scene, Paige reveals to fellow WCKD scientists that the first phase of their experiment was a success, as the teens move into phase 2.

Related: Maze Runner: The Death Cure Review

At the start of The Scorch Trials, Thomas and his friends are housed at a facility with survivors of other Maze experiments, but they soon learn it's actually run by WCKD, which they believed they had escaped. When Thomas learns this, he and his friends escape and search out the Right Arm. Along the way, they meet Brenda and Jorge, and eventually meet up with the group. Brenda is infected with the Flare virus, but one of the members of the Right Arm, a former WCKD scientist, uses an enzyme cure that fully heals Brenda. The scientist reveals to Thomas that the cure can only be harvested from an Immune's body, not manufactured. The scientist disagreed with Paige about how to harvest the cure and reveals that's why she left WCKD. She's later killed when WCKD attacks the Right Arm.

When The Death Cure begins, we see Theresa struggling to discover a viable cure. Despite harvesting blood and enzymes from Immunes, she and Paige are only able to develop a "cure" that slows down the Flare virus. However, after Theresa sees a healed Brenda, she has suspicions Thomas might be the solution to developing an actual viable cure. She tests his blood and proves her hypothesis, then convinces him to return in order to help her create the cure. Amid the uprising, Janson - now infected - takes the opportunity of Thomas being defenseless to force him and Theresa to create the cure. Instead, Thomas and Theresa fight back, then Theresa helps Thomas flee with the Right Arm, sacrificing herself in the process. At the end of the film, it's revealed Thomas did escape with a vial of the cure.

In the third act of The Death Cure, the actual cure becomes somewhat secondary to the other crises playing out. Lawrence's uprising raizes the last remaining civilized city, and though WCKD attempts to evacuate in order to keep pursuing a cure, Janson killing Paige - then being killed by Cranks - seemingly leaves the organization in chaos. Plus, with Thomas unable to get the "cure" to Newt in time to save his life, Thomas doesn't actually have much personal stake in producing the cure since everyone else he cares about is immune. Thomas offering himself up to Theresa and WCKD is a move of self-sacrifice with little hope for his own future or freedom.

By the time The Death Cure ends, it seems the majority of humanity has descended into the chaotic world we've seen outside the city walls throughout the entire film franchise. Meanwhile, the Right Arm, Thomas, and the remainder of his friends attempt to build a new society on an island away from the rest of the world. Presumably, they'll let the rest of humanity die off - either through violence or by way of the Flare - and try to rebuild anew. Thomas still has that vial of the viable cure at the end, but it seemingly becomes moot as many of the survivors are Immunes. Further, everyone who knows how to harvest the cure, as far as we know - Theresa, Paige, the defected WCKD scientist - are all dead. Between not needing the cure, and no one being capable of harvesting it, Thomas's vial of the cure is essentially just symbolic of everything he went through in order to gain his freedom and build a better life.

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Maze Runner: The Death Cure's Ending Explained