Prometheus Sequel? Screenwriter Solves the Mystery of the Final Scene

Here's a hint: yes, a robot can have a crush on a human being

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Warning: Contains Spoilers

The Prometheus debate rages on. Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller did big business this past weekend at the box office, but it also sparked a sprawling online debate as fans tried to break apart and dissect its cryptic themes. Some fans have focused on the film’s theories about human life (TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger surveyed Scott’s scientific grounding in a post published yesterday), while others were more interested in how Prometheus linked up to the existing Alien franchise.

(Spoilers ahead) I rambled for about 1,000 words yesterday, on how I connected the plot’s various points, in relation to the Alien universe. But still, at the end of the film, I was plagued by a big question that needed solving: In the very last shot of the film, we see a spaceship take flight away from an alien planet. It is being piloted by a robot — well, half a robot, as his torso was left behind on the planet surface — and he is accompanied by the last remaining survivor of a doomed human expedition.

The robot says he can take her back to Earth. But, disillusioned and having just witnessed both the murder of her lover and the obliteration of her personal and professional belief structures, the doctor says that she’d rather use the spaceship to travel to the home world of whatever aliens ruined her life. Where was the ship ultimately heading, in that final shot? It’s anybody’s guess.

(MORE: See TIME’s complete Prometheus coverage)

A few days before Prometheus opened, I had the chance to interview screenwriter Damon Lindelof, and I ended the Q&A (read his full thoughts on the movie here) with talk of that final scene.

I promised not to publish his answers until the film had already opened. Here’s the exchange:

TIME: In that final scene, David wants to go to Earth, and Elizabeth wants to go to the alien home world. Where do you think they’re going?

Lindelof: I think they’re going where she wants to go. His fundamental programming has been scrapped. Weyland [the man who built and programmed him] is dead and so now his programming is coming from God knows where. Is he being programmed by Elizabeth, or is it his own internal curiosity now that Weyland isn’t telling him what to do any more? He’s always been interested in Elizabeth, remember that: He’s watching her dreams when she’s sleeping in much the same way that he watches Lawrence of Arabia. He’s a strange robot that has a curious crush on a human being, and when Weyland is eliminated, I think he is genuinely interested in what she’s interested in. He reaches out partly for survival, but partly out of curiosity, and I think he’s sincere that he’ll take her wherever she wants to go.

(Steve again): Which means, of course, that she’s heading to the alien home world, in search of answers of why they created us, and then set out to destroy (or mutate) us. She’s headed for a confrontation, just as the alien monsters set out to spread across the universe, where the Nostromo will find them. Everything’s in motion — and a sequel can’t be far off.

Steven James Snyder is a Senior Editor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @thesnydes. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page, on Twitter at @TIME and on TIME’s Tumblr.

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