Riley Stearns’ latest venture into science fiction resembles an episode of Black Mirror. The ending of Dual (2022) collects a few breadcrumbs leading to the last shot of the lush grove and a range of interpretations waiting for analysis.
Let’s start with a concise story recap.
What is Dual (2022) about?
Karen Gillan stars as Sarah, a thirty-year-old who finds out she’s dying due to an unspecified rare disease. As a kind gesture for her close ones, Sarah purchases a clone that will, over her last days, learn to take on her identity.
In an unprecedented twist of events, Sarah goes into remission, but the law states clearly – there cannot be two versions of the same person. Therefore, Sarah and her double need to meet for a duel, which will see only one of them living.
Having a year to prepare, Sarah signs up for combat classes with Trent (Aaron Paul), who reveals to her the arcana of duel tactics. Yet the closer it gets to the duel itself, the more doubts and moral quandaries pop up in Sarah’s head. Eventually, Sarah refuses to follow the system blindly and plans to escape with her clone.
In the last scene, we see one of the two versions of Sarah arrive at the duel field, indicating that the other one is gone.
The Double poisons Sarah and wins the duel
Right after the screening, I was certain that the double survived. Presumably, that’s what director Riley Stearns wants us to believe – before we start digging deeper.
When Sarah signs up for the combat training, Trent teaches her how to use many kinds of weaponry. As part of the training, Sarah also learns how to recognize causes of death based on post-mortem photographs. One of the images, particularly the one she gets wrong, is the death caused by poison. Trent trivializes this issue, claiming that this is a very uncommon weapon used in the duels, for it is a long and unspectacular method of killing.
After Stearns brings both Sarahs to the point of mutual understanding and closeness, the two women meet near a forest entrance. Despite the overall awkwardness of Dual (2022), Sarah The Clone’s push for taking an extra sip of water seems misplaced and alarming. The original Sarah, however, takes the bottle and drinks the water.
Consequences arrive swiftly. Sarah falters on the way, and the last shot of her face reveals a trickle of blood flowing down her lip. Not only does it refer to the poisoning, but also symbolically emphasizes the “return” of the disease.
This interpretation of the ending of Dual (2022) further strengthens through the scenes after the day of the duel.
Sarah The Clone fits into Sarah’s life to allay any doubts concerning her identity. As she revealed in one of their last confrontations before their judgment day, Sarah The Clone despises the life of her original, because living with Peter (Beulah Koale) is a nightmare (one undisputable aspect of the film, right?).
Therefore, when the last scenes of Dual (2022) find her screaming in the car – eerily similar to Sarah’s breakdown earlier – it’s a symbol of the entrapment in the life she hates.
Perhaps the pivotal scene that validates this theory is when double and Peter chat about their restaurant date. She refuses to go to a Mexican joint, claiming that she doesn’t like the cuisine. That, however, contradicts the preferences of the original Sarah, who mentions Mexican as one of her favorite foods.
Sarah survived and got her life back
Okay, so Sarah The Clone surviving is the most plausible ending of Dual (2022). However, there is one technicality that confutes it.
Since the entire narrative exhibits the perspective of Sarah, her clone’s preparations remain cryptic. If we are to believe the theory that Sarah The Clone killed the original human being, then you’ve got to admit the coincidence regarding Sarah’s death is mind-boggling. Out of all the possible outcomes, the clone chooses the only method that – not only troubled Sarah in her training – but also was downplayed by Trent as one of the least common weapons given to the duelists.
A.k.a. no one would expect it coming.
Instead, let’s see what could have happened.
Since Sarah and her clone were identical, Trent was likely to confuse them. Having no deeper relationship with Sarah meant he could be training both of them in turns without even realizing it. This theory legitimizes the positive outcome of the duel for the clone. Furthermore, Trent could also be training them on purpose – Riley Stearns never paints his intentions or morality and leaves him as a carte blanche.
Now, we can reverse the concept.
We know that Sarah craved her life back, including the burnt-out relationship with Peter. Maybe it is because of her introverted nature, or the lack of meaningful relationships in her life. Either way, Sarah’s disease could have made her invulnerable to suffering from gastrointestinal pains, which would subsequently explain how she may have survived the poisoning. Another theory would indicate that she has been preparing herself for this scenario by microdosing some types of poisons.
While the latter is quite far-fetched, the world created by Riley Stearns would certainly accommodate that kind of weirdness. Eventually, the combat training enabled her to kill the clone. Trent’s words about the body being the sixth weapon on the table might further prove this right.
Does Riley Stearns want us to know what happened?
I’d say no, not really.
If you watch closely the limping version of Sarah that appears on the duel field, you might notice how her clothes mix the original and the clone’s hiking garments. To really dig into the details, there are other elements to analyze, such as the eye color of both versions of Sarah.
Even the post-duel scenes can be interpreted in duality.
On the one hand, Sarah might have tricked her Mom and Peter into thinking she’s the clone. The terrible driving skills, as well as the overprotective reaction when her mother calls (“she’s my mom!”) could mean she’s taking the faking onto a whole another level.
And her cry isn’t the realization that – as a clone – she will lead a life she hates. What it actually means is that both her Mom and Peter preferred the double over her – a tragic realization.
What were your interpretations of Dual (2022)? Share in the comments!
You can also check out other articles where I analyze movies from 2022.