What was up with those dinosaurs? Now that everyone has had time to watch Hulu's summer hit movie, fan theories about the Palm Springs ending are making the rounds online, and some go pretty deep into the multi-verse (just not the superhero kind). Palm Springs, which stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, follows Sarah, a cynical, messy thirty-something, who meets a nihilistic guest named Nyles at her sister's wedding. Their initial meet-cute goes awry when Nyles leads Sarah into a cave, triggering an infinite time loop, one that they are now trapped in together. The film, which owes a debt to Groundhog Day, follows a similar sci-fi logic — no matter what the two do, whether it's good deeds or getting into epic car crashes, they will wake up on the same morning and start all over again. Also, Nyles, who accidentally led another wedding guest named Roy into the cave earlier, is now being hunted by him around the clock.
Unlike Nyles, Sarah is less willing to accept their fate, and after studying up on physics, develops a theory that the two can escape the loop by entering the cave detonating an explosion at the exact point the two cross back over into the same day. Together, they decide to take the plunge and walk into the cave wearing an explosive device.
Later, the two are seen floating in a swimming pool owned by a family who was out of town during the infinite time loop. The family arrives home, and the two confirm it's finally the day after, seeming to suggest the plan to blast themselves out of the loop has worked. But, as fans noted, there is a pack of roaming dinosaurs in the distance. Also, during an end-credit sequence, Roy approaches Nyles to discuss Sarah's theory. And Nyles doesn't seem to know him.
It's all ambiguous enough to break your brain, and online, fans have created elaborate theories to explain the Palm Springs ending. Here are a few of the top ones, whether the two characters are in a parallel reality, purgatory, or everyone around them is looping as well.
1. The Happy Ending Theory
Of course, the most hopeful theory is that Sarah and Nyles escaped the loop and got on with life. Samberg himself subscribes to this theory, saying, "I am very happily married and there is a big part of this script that really resonated with me because of that idea of taking a big leap and that feeling that in the end it pays off," as per The Los Angeles Times. However, he noted this is not a definitive interpretation, adding: "But obviously everyone is different.”
2. The "Sarah's Nana Is A Future Version of Her" Theory
In the film, Sarah's Nana, played by June Squib, tells Sarah and Nyles that, she's "been to more weddings in my life than you can imagine." One popular fan theory on Reddit noted that Nana could be future Sarah, provided that the explosion, "sent different versions of Nyles and Sarah across the time stream." The fan also noted that Nana tells Sarah that her mother died very young, just like Sarah's. And, more tellingly, she bids Sarah goodbye by saying, "I guess you'll be leaving," just before Sarah goes to blow up the timestream. It's also possible that Nana herself is also stuck in the loop, but doesn't have an interest in leaving. Either way, it's clear something strange is happening with the grandma.
3. The Dinosaur Theory
Fans are pretty stumped about the reappearance of the dinosaurs, who first show up when Nyles and Sarah take mushrooms, at the end of the movie. Screenwriter Andy Siara noted that Nyles has been in the time loop for approximately forty years. Not exactly bringing him to the Jurassic period, but it's possible that the dinosaurs suggest the explosion has blasted the two protagonists into an alternate reality.
4.The Question of the Goat
Sarah, as a way to test her theory, sends a goat into the cave with an explosive. During the next loop, the goat is no longer present. Of course, Sarah can't necessarily confirm this halts the time loop — that goat could be anywhere — but on Reddit, some fans have pointed to the goat as either proof that the characters did or didn't escape the loop. (In other words, the goat could simply have died, and so could our protagonists.)
5. The Shukran Theory
Not really so much a theory as an observation, some fans have noted that both Nana and Jerry, a groomsman, use the word "shukran," which is an Arabic word for "thank you." This might suggest the two characters are also stuck in the time loop, or perhaps that everyone in the film is stuck in the time loop, but might just point more toward the greater themes of gratitude for life that the film is hitting on.
6. The "What About Roy?" Theory
Many fans have pointed out that the pool scene — which implies Sarah and Nyles escaped the loop but remember they were in it — is inconsistent with the scene with Roy at the end, where Nyles doesn't know who he is. This admittedly maddening plot inconsistency could suggest a variety of multi-verse related theories, and fans have discussed these Roy theories extensively on Reddit. The most common conclusion is that Sarah and Nyles escape to a different timeline, while Roy, who is still stuck in the loop, encounters an unaware version of themselves.
Really, there's a Palm Springs theory that can give fans any ending they want. What audiences chose to believe is up to them.