‘Anthracite’ Recap & Ending Explained: What Is Arcacia? What Is Valerie’s Secret?

The Netflix series Anthracite is a French Thriller depicting a gruesome cult conspiracy in the French Alps. Honestly, this series had me on my toes through to the end and I have a feeling that Anthracite is about to be one of the top thrillers to come out this year. Moreover, Alpine France truly is a sight to behold; I wouldn’t lie if I told you the serene background had me distracted for a few minutes there. Anthracite is loosely inspired by a real-life mass suicide incident in the French Alps in the 1990s linked to a cult named the Order of the Solar Temple. Even though this series is highly dramatized, its association with real-life events adds another layer of intrigue to the series. 


In 1994, a squad of the French special police force, or the GIGN, raided an isolated mansion near the fictional resort town of Levionna. Before the police could enter this mansion, Caleb Johannson, the leader of the mysterious Ecrines cult, stepped out and collapsed while coughing blood. The police subdued the leader and entered the mansion, only to find that the rest of the 12 members of the cult were lying dead. The cause of their deaths was ruled out as ritualistic suicide. The Ecrines cult had been deemed responsible for the gruesome murder of 17-year-old Roxane Vial because of the circumstances of her death: she was bludgeoned to death along with anthracite smeared across her face. As for Caleb, he was admitted to a mental institution and was kept under strict observation. 

Spoilers Ahead


Why Does Ida Go To Levionna?

The plot of the series picks up 30 years later in the present day when investigative journalist Solal Heilman gets kidnapped in Levionna while on call with his daughter, Ida. Ida Heilman, like her father, is a freelance journalist who has created an online forum, ‘iData,’ for like-minded people who call themselves ‘sleuths.’ Ida can use this extensive community to find information on anything that can help with her investigations. Moreover, Ida has stage-four leukemia and has stopped chemotherapy because she couldn’t take it anymore. Her father had been searching for a compatible bone marrow donor for her, but they weren’t able to find anyone. Following her father’s abduction, Ida immediately visits the resort town to find the whereabouts of her father and gets her hands on Solal’s cult investigation folder. Seeking answers, Ida meets Jaro, a staff member at a local skiing equipment store who’s just started working there two days ago. 

Who Is Jaro?

Jaro Gatsi is a young man of mixed ethnicity, starting fresh in Levionna. His mother, Juliette, took her own life when Jaro was only a child. Later in life, Jaro used to be a medical student, but after having a child with his girlfriend, Anais, he was compelled to quit school and look for jobs. While working as a bartender, he mixed in with the wrong crowd and got involved in a drug trafficking ring. To save his skin, he ratted out to the police about the ring, which got him a 6-month parole, and he was ordered to leave Paris for the time being, leaving his now ex-girlfriend and his daughter behind. In Levionna, Jaro meets Emma Marcais, a young woman from the town who tries to kiss him, implying a hookup, after luring him to the nearby forest and pretending to look for a snowboard she rented from his shop. Jaro, fearing getting laid off from his new job, turns her down, disappointing Emma. Emma heads off, but is kidnapped and murdered in a ritualistic manner. Later on, her corpse is found under the ice in a frozen lake by some figure skaters, which further draws the suspicions of the police towards Jaro. 


Who Is Giovanna?

Giovanna Dulec is a GIGN officer stationed at Levionna with her husband Erwan. She was assigned as Jaro’s parole officer once he moved to Levionna. However, like Ida and Jaro, even she is embroiled in the Ecrines conspiracy. Giovanna had been following the annual disappearances around the region and had a theory of her own that something was off. However, everyone in her precinct seems to doubt her speculations and think of her as delusional, given her history of depression following a terminated pregnancy. 

What Happens When Ida And Jaro Visit Caleb?

While in Solal’s hotel room, Ida receives a mysterious phone call from Caleb requesting to see Jaro. Seeking answers, Ida takes an unwilling Jaro to visit Caleb in his mental institution nearby. Posing as psychology students and with the help of a fellow sleuth, Ida and Jaro gain access to Caleb’s ward. Caleb, who has presumably been on anti-psychotic medication for 30 years, seems quite unresponsive to Ida’s questions but responds upon seeing Jaro. Caleb reveals that he knew his mother, Juliette, suggesting that she was one of his disciples. In reality, Caleb had sexual relationships with multiple women who were naturally drawn to him because of his charismatic nature, and Juliette might’ve been one of these young women. 


Caleb calls Jaro the son of the chosen one and cryptically tells him that, like his mother, he must fight the darkness or the flames will consume him and his daughter. It is revealed that when Jaro was a child, his mother set fire to their house and succumbed to the fire. The memories of this incident trigger Jaro, and he leaves anxiously, while Ida’s questions about her father are left unanswered. 

After finding her father’s storage unit in Levionna, she finds a bunch of VHS tapes of interviews with Caleb and even Juliette, taken by Solal. Meanwhile, at a rave party at the Ecrines’ mansion, Jaro finds out about Emma’s death and is attacked by some townsfolk who accuse him of murdering her. Seeking help to prove himself innocent, he visits Ida in her hotel room, who in turn shows him the videos of his mother. These videos reveal a massive conspiracy suggesting that Caleb might’ve been innocent of Roxane’s murder and that it was the murderer who might’ve killed Juliette too, ruling out suicide as her cause of death. As soon as they realize this, there’s a massive explosion next to Ida’s room. 


Why Does Monnier Poison Everyone At The Festival?

Meanwhile, in one of Solal’s videos, Jaro and Romeo Dulec, his colleague and Giovanna’s younger brother, identify Denis Monnier, the captain of the precinct at the time of the Ecrines’ murders. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Monnier is now retired and lives under the care of a nurse. After the strange occurrences start happening again in the town, he and his nurse are attacked by a mysterious man wearing a goat skull as a mask. When Jaro shows him a picture of Vassili Derevko, Monnier admits that it is indeed this man who has been trying to attack him. The group comes to believe that Vassili is the 13th member of Caleb’s cult who killed the other twelve members and even framed Caleb for Roxane’s death on Caleb after killing her himself. Moreover, it was Vassili who had been trying to kill Ida and Jaro. 

During the midsummer festival, Ida lures the masked man to the festival by putting up a story of herself with Jaro, hoping they will bait the killer into showing up. As expected, Ida spots the masked man, but by this time, he has already poisoned the water at the festival. Because of this, many people end up succumbing to the poison. Jaro and Giovanna apprehend this man, only to be revealed that it is Denis Monnier himself. Amidst the chaos, when everyone is collapsing due to the poison, Monnier escapes from Giovanna’s grasp. Later, Giovanna heads to the Ecrines’ mansion and catches Monnier, who reveals a body hidden inside a wall. It turns out that the body in fact belonged to Vassili. 


Years ago, when Monnier’s Alzheimer’s had only started developing, he began to associate with Caleb in hopes of being cured. However, as a part of the induction ritual, Caleb ended up killing Vassili. Fearing that the rest of the members were going to tell on him, he poisoned their water supply and killed them. It was indeed he who was the killer. However, he was not responsible for Roxane, Emma, or even Juliette’s deaths. He poisoned the summer festival as a result of his Alzheimer’s. The delusional man confused the festival gathering for the events from 30 years ago and poisoned the water. As Giovanna proceeds to arrest the man who was once her hero, he ingests his poison and dies. 

What Is Arcacia?

Arcacia is a private firm conducting research deep in the coal mines around the mountains of Levionna. Their presence in the valley is met with severe protests from local folks who believe that Arcacia is poisoning their water and even conducting research trials on people. These claims are not entirely false, though. During Emma’s autopsy, from behind her ear, the coroner removes a microchip made by Arcacia. One of Arcacia’s doctors was Hari Faure, a doctor who treated Giovanna during her second pregnancy and was also Romeo’s love interest. 


Hari further reveals that in Levionna’s mines, Arcacia’s scientists have found a bacteria called Levia borrelis, which shows anti-inflammatory properties. Arcacia’s discovery is a scientific breakthrough; however, the problem is that this microbe cannot be cultured outside its natural habitat, which has led to financial problems for the company. 

The owner of this firm was Emmanuel Bachlard, who turns out to be Mani, son of Vassili Derevko. He was found by the GIGN at the Ecrines mansion during the raid in 1994; however, he went missing and was presumed dead after a few years. Unlike his parents, who were religious fanatics, Mani/Bachelard grew up to be a scientist to oppose his parents’ hereticism. However, when the scientists conducting research inside the mines are attacked by what they claim to be a creature, Bachelard begins to believe that maybe there is something supernatural about the mine. 


Does Ida Find Her Father? 

Following the mass poisoning during the summer festival, Giovanna is suspended by her superiors as a scapegoat. Regardless, she continues her investigation to find out the truth about the disappearances. Later, finding common ground, she joins forces with Ida and searches for her father, as Solal is the only one who can give her a clue about what’s happening. Even though they fail to find Solal, they uncover unethical medical trials on sheep instead. Meanwhile, Jaro, accompanied by Romeo, heads off to find Detraz, an anti-pagan Christian fanatic who attended Juliette’s school. At one point, Detraz, trying to help Juliette, was attacked by her, who then proceeded to stab herself. This disturbing ordeal was recorded by Solal back then. At Detraz’s house, Jaro and Romeo finally find Solal with one leg amputated and escort him to the hospital. 

Is Ida Solal’s Real Daughter? 

Solal remains unconscious for the next few days in the hospital while Ida, trying to uncover the secrets, goes through her father’s bag and gets her hand on another VHS cassette. This cassette contains a video of Juliette being interviewed by Solal when suddenly her water breaks, revealing that the teenager was pregnant and had kept it a secret. In the video, Juliette gives birth to a baby girl but doesn’t want to keep it and asks Solal to take the baby away. It turns out that this girl was adopted by Solal as Ida. This revelation shifts Ida’s reality and makes her more depressed. Moreover, finding out that Jaro is her brother repulses her even more because they previously had a sexual encounter together. 


What Is Valerie’s Secret? 

In 1994, following Caleb’s arrest and his admission into the mental asylum, Solal shut down his investigation, leaving all the evidence in his storage. Valerie was the manager of these storage units, and out of curiosity, she went through the footage. Almost immediately, Valerie found herself drawn to Caleb and developed an obsession with the man. In fact, she began to despise Juliette as well because of Caleb’s special treatment of her. In the video, Caleb referred to Juliette as the chosen one and said that she would give birth to two children; one would represent the dark and the other would represent the would represent the light. These children, according to Caleb’s delusions, would be the saviors of the world. 

Sometime later, she starts working as a nurse at the asylum and meets Caleb, who turns her down coldly, even though Valerie only wanted to help him. However, to fulfill Caleb’s prophecy about the two children saving the world, she sexually assaults Caleb and has herself impregnated, ultimately giving birth to twins—a boy and a girl. It turns out the boy is none other than Hari, Romeo’s lover. For these children to replace the children of the prophecy, she must eliminate them, which is why Valerie intends to kill Jaro. 


Romeo finds out about the truth when he visits Hari’s house and eavesdrops on Hari and Valerie’s conversation about the cult. Convinced that Valerie was the one behind the disappearances, he finds a notebook belonging to Hari and his sister. Hari was the child of the light, which is why he became a doctor, since his responsibility was to save lives, and his sister became the child of the dark, with the responsibility to take lives for every life that Hari saved. From a young age, Hari and his twin had been indoctrinated by Valerie. In fact, it was his sister who killed Emma as a sacrifice and was responsible for the disappearances. When Romeo finds out about this, he is shot non-fatally by Hari to prevent his mother from killing Romeo instead. However, he survives when Hari brings him to the hospital in time. 

Why Did Solal Really Visit Levionna? 

Solal never really wanted to open the investigation, which had shut down years ago. He only cared about one thing: his daughter. Even though she was not his biological daughter, Ida was his world, and with her having leukemia, she was running out of time as well. Knowing that Ida had family in Levionna, he visited the town in search of people compatible for a bone marrow donation. This is the sole reason why he visited Caleb at the asylum. However, even Caleb, being the presumed father, was incompatible. In a tragic turn of events, Solal ends up getting abducted instead, setting off the chain of events. 


How Do Jaro And Ida Save Malia? 

At Jaro’s uncle’s house, his aunt Marie funds an audio tape from the 90s by Juliette. The next thing we know, Marie was found dead in her house. Infuriated by his wife’s death, his uncle Claude asks him to leave the house, blaming Jaro for all the misfortunes he has brought to his family. Jaro leaves for Romeo’s to find Giovanna. Later, Erwan arrives there as well, revealing that their son found a bracelet belonging to Jaro’s daughter, Malia, in the mines. They make it to the mines, where all the corpses of the disappeared people are lying. Jaro and Giovanna are attacked and injured by Hari’s sister. They’re saved by Erwan, who followed them. Seeing Giovanna injured, he suggests she leave, but Jaro is adamant on heading on alone. 

Meanwhile, Ida, who is depressed after realizing that her life is a lie, prepares to jump off a bridge to take her life, but is saved by Caleb. Caleb reveals that Jaro’s life is in danger, and only she can save him. Even though reluctantly, Ida believes Caleb and follows him to the mines. Inside the mine, Jaro is discovered by Valerie and her daughter, who are preparing to kill Malia. He is tied down by Valerie and her daughter before being saved by Caleb. Caleb steps in and tries to calm her, while Ida frees Jaro. Realizing that Caleb was only pretending to distract them while Ida frees Jaro, Valerie’s daughter stabs Caleb dead. 


At the same time, at Arcacia’s laboratory entrance, Bachelard, who has become delusional following the events that transpired inside with his workers, is hellbent on blowing up the mines. Even though Giovanna talks him down, a rioter who entered the lab earlier shoots Bachelard, who drops the detonator, triggering the explosion. Valerie and her daughter, who are inside the mine, succumb to the falling debris, while Jaro, Ida, and Malia make an escape from the mines but get trapped inside. Fortunately, they’re saved some time later by the authorities. 

What Really Happened To Juliette?

With everything falling back into place and Valerie and her daughter now dead, Jaro was settling back into his life again. As Ida is leaving Levionna with her father, she receives a call from one of her sleuths indicating that Caleb was not her father either. Caleb never had any physical relationship with Juliette in the first place. 


Jaro, invited back to his uncle’s house, finds his mother’s cassette, which Marie was listening to before she was killed. In a harrowing turn of events, it is revealed that it was Claude, Jaro’s uncle, who had sexually assaulted his own sister, leading to the unwanted pregnancy. This was the reason why Juliette stabbed herself as well. When Roxane found out about this, Claude killed her and smudged her face with anthracite to put the blame on the cult to escape imprisonment. Years after Juliette started living in Paris, she took therapy and began to remember what Claude had done, prompting Claude to murder her as well and making it seem like suicide. When Solal returned to Levionna, Claude got scared of being found out and abducted the journalist. Following a brief confrontation, Jaro gets his uncle arrested. 

Anthracite ends with Jaro passing the compatibility test for Ida’s bone marrow transplant, giving Ida hope for another chance at life. With Ida back on track as a web-sleuth, she receives a video about a woman receiving a cardboard box on her doorstep. The box contains something that horrifies her. My bet is that it might contain someone’s severed head or something similar. This scene suggests that, in this world, crime never ends, and people like Ida will always be there to find the truth.


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Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

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