Ad Astra Ending Explained: What Happened And What It Means

Ad Astra Brad Pitt looking into the darkness of space

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Warning: spoilers for Ad Astra are in play. If you haven’t seen the film yet, return to Earth, and blast off once you’ve caught the film for yourself.

By the time Ad Astra’s ending sees Brad Pitt completing a mission that takes him to the depths of known space, an audience member wouldn’t be faulted for being confused about what just happened. What seems to start as a routine “mission into space” turns into a journey of emotional catharsis, with some punctuated moments of action.

So naturally, when you get to those last moments that see Pitt’s astronaut Roy McBride reevaluating life in light of learning the true legacy of his father, Clifford (Tommy Lee Jones), it might feel a bit blindsiding. Have no fear though, as we’re here to discuss not only what happened at the end of director James Gray’s Ad Astra, but also what it means in the entire structure of the larger story at work.

Ad Astra Tommy Lee Jones looking sad

What Happened At The End Of Ad Astra

Father and son clash on the outskirts of Neptune, as Roy, disobeying orders from his superiors at U.S. Space Command (SPACECOM), travels out to try and bring his father home. The only problem is, Clifford doesn’t want to return, as he readily admits he left his family and Earth for his “destiny”: to find intelligent life, no matter the cost.

Far beyond his original task of merely playing the role of bait to draw his father out of exile, Ad Astra’s mission to save the Earth from the supposedly mutinous Clifford turns out to be a big misunderstanding. The Surge that threatens Earth, and life in all of the universe, was a colossal accident, not some sort of villainous plot on the elder McBride’s part.

A scuffle between Roy and Clifford results in the son having to let go of the father, as Clifford would rather float into the vastness of space than live with the knowledge that there’s no intelligent life in the stars. Retrieving the vast treasure trove of data his father gathered for The Lima Project, the mission to find extra-terrestrial life out among the stars, Roy returns to Earth a changed man. He is able to reconnect with humanity in a way we haven’t seen before, with his marriage to estranged wife Eve (Liv Tyler) possibly being mended.

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