Dual: the ending & meaning, explained


There is a place where clones and cloning are acceptable, but it comes with dire consequences if things go wrong. A fight till death determines who will live- and it can be only 1. Riley Stearns sci-fi comedy movie Dual, released January 22, 2022, follows the choices a young woman Sarah makes when it’s the time of death and life.

This review and ending explanation will contain spoilers, so don’t read it before you see the movie.

Who is Sarah and what happens to her?

Sarah is leading a pretty mediocre and dull life with a boyfriend, Peter, who’s away for work and their impersonal calls and her mother whom she doesn’t call much. One day she wakes up with blood smeared across her pillow and bedsheets. Although the scenes look gore, she is seen to behave oblivious to the nauseous feeling it would otherwise have.

The doctor’s visit continues in the dull and darkly humorous way where Sarah gets to know that she has a rare incurable disease and a 0% chance of living, even with a 2% margin of error in death rates. The doctor advises Sarah to prepare for her funeral and gives her a pamphlet from a cloning company, Replacement.


Why does she clone herself?

Although Sarah seems cold in the doctor’s office, once in her car and driving, she starts to cry. That is the only emotional reaction we see from her throughout the movie. She looks up Replacement and books an appointment. They claim that clones are a gift and help the family deal with the loss.

She wants her clone to take over her life just like her so that her boyfriend and mother doesn’t feel the loss of her gone. And since it will pay for itself after she dies, she takes it up. She keeps both her illness and the clone hidden from them. Sarah’s Double is ready in an hour but apart from everything, has blue eyes due to a coding error.

On the way home, she and Sarah talk about her likes and dislikes. Sometimes, we see the clone deprecate Sarah in subtle ways.

The miraculous recovery

The story moves forward at a rapid pace. Soon, 10 months have passed and Sarah is merely a bystander, while Peter and Sarah’s Double have formed an intimate relationship. Again, we see her taking jabs at Sarah and her love life. Sarah’s expressions in those particular scenes show her insecurity and frustration and a desire to have back the life which she thought was dull.

That same day, Sarah gets to know that she’s in remission. Sarah is shocked because she went ahead with the cloning because she was told that she’s certain she’ll die. The doctor remarks on the margin of error which she previously dismissed. She advises Sarah that she can have her clone decommissioned.

Later on, Sarah gets a call from the clone facility that her clone can’t be decommissioned. In cases where time has elapsed and the clones have made their own life, they can choose this option to live. But it comes with conditions.

The Motion to Stay and the date of the Dual

Now, the original and the clone are to cease contact immediately. A duel is set after approximately 1 year where both of them would have to fight till death. Whoever wins, will be the original from then on. Sarah enrolls in combat training lessons to give the best fight.


Her instructor, Trent, makes her believe that she wants to live and gives her workouts, weapons and hand-to-hand battle training. He also gives her videos to remove her disgust at murderous gory stuff and pictures to determine the cause of death. There was only one in it she couldn’t identify- death by poison. A slow death which is rarely used as a weapon.

Sarah also meets up with Peter to tie up loose ends but says that she’ll definitely try to kill her Double.

However, the duel gets postponed for one month due to weather conditions. He advises her to stay alert and use this time as an opportunity. After a situation where he tells her to kill his dog but she doesn’t, he says that he’s disappointed in her killer instinct.

A heart to heart with the clone

That same time with Trent and his dog, she sees the Double spying on her. She instinctively shoots her crossbow towards her through the window, but misses, instead hitting a pet dog. She catches her in a small playhouse in the park and they talk about their situations- the Double telling Sarah that she has run into problems with Peter and her mother.

She takes Sarah to a Dual Survivors meeting which Sarah assumes is a mind game. In the meeting, the Double says that the dual is a wrong way to live by and is just a spectator show for fun. She asks Sarah why can’t they both live and why do they have to follow this society’s ridiculous rules. They both decide that they won’t show up and would cross the border and run away.

Little did she know that this heart to heart would be her demise.

The day of elopement and deceit

Early on the day of dual, Sarah picks up the Double and they drive to the forest. In the car, the double talks about how she never took up driving but it seems easy enough. She asks questions about it and once they reach the point, they check on the list of things. Comfortable clothes, ration, backpack, no weapons and water. They decide to check their bags for weapons for peace of mind.

Before beginning, the Double offers Sarah water from a bottle she packed and drinks from another. She insists they take a bigger sip just in case. While passing through the forest, Sarah seems excited and happy and talks about how what the double said about the rules is stupid. She feels proud to not be following them.

Suddenly, she stops. When the Double looks back, she deadpan stares at Sarah’s face where blood is leaking from her lips, being poisoned from the water.

Claiming Sarah’s life

The scene cuts to the location of the dual and we see Sarah limping across from the forest. She admits that she had some car troubles and describes it in the way the Double inquired about the car. That’s when we realize that she is the Double. She is, however, wearing Sarah’s clothes and claims to be the original. She says that the double (original) eloped, perhaps to avoid the dual.

The next scenes involve the judge in a trial asking Peter and Sarah’s mother whether she is the original one. Both of them say yes. I still wanted to believe that this was Sarah even though the coming scenes totally described who it was.

Did the Double get the life she killed to have?

In the last scenes, we see the Double live like Sarah and even behave like her to an extent. She gets irritated by Peter’s petty taunts and jabs and avoids picking up her mother’s phone. When her car comes out of the drive-way, it’s totally battered as if having been hit way too many times. Her mother’s long voicemail is playing throughout where she says that she misses her and that she’s picked up a supply of contact lenses for her. This seems to have been the plan all along, especially knowing that Sarah wasn’t giving up on the fight.

She starts tearing up in the car and downright sobs in the middle of the road. That’s the only time when we see the Double show emotions. It seems as if the life she took from Sarah was useless since she is stuck in a mediocre, loveless and dull life. Not having Sarah to fight for her life has made this win a loss for the Double.

Director Riley Stearns explains why he focussed the 2 breakdowns in cars in an interview with Polygon. He said,

“The movie tends to focus on the minute details and the minor annoyances in our lives, and how those all those minor things can build to the bigger question of Do I like my life? Do I feel like I’m giving enough or getting enough from it? Going with that minor thing, a lot of us do tend to find safety inside of our vehicle.”

Alternative endings

The movie was predictable but intriguing, and gave out a befitting full-circle ending to the Double by plunging her into a dull life. However, it might have been interesting to see some other alternative. Perhaps they both could seriously have eloped together and enjoyed their lives away from the people who suffocate them. Away and defying the rules of this society as they originally planned to

Or, perhaps the last one standing should’ve been the original Sarah posing as the Double, had she not fallen for the fake empathy. She could’ve made her boyfriend’s and her mother’s life hell for their devious little plan to kill her. Or my favorite: Sarah eloping with Trent. So much for romance, eh?