‘Nightmares And Daydreams’ Episodes Recap & Ending Explained: Who Are The Beings From Agartha?

Prolific filmmaker Joko Anwar’s contribution to the Indonesian movie scene is unparalleled, especially the way he went about uplifting the country’s movie industry and bringing it to the international stage, where it deserves much attention. The innovative, daring, and culturally rooted style of filmmaking that the director has adopted in his over two decade-spanning career only enhances the diversity of vision he showcases, as seen in some of his most well-regarded ventures like Gundala, Dead Time: Kala, and Impetigore. The most recent example of the director’s innovative and diverse skillset as an auteur is showcased in his horror anthology streaming on Netflix, Nightmares and Daydreams, a series revolving around seven different stories that are tied into a single overarching narrative. 

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Breaking genre conventions while adhering to them, Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams unfolds like Junji Ito’s horror story collections, but the way it ends in an expected dramatic fashion might not gel with all viewers. Despite that, the gripping storytelling, intriguing characterization, and meticulous production design in each of the stories more than make up for it and make the anthology a must-watch.

Spoilers Ahead

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Old House: Was Panji Able to Rescue His Mother?

All seven stories of the anthology are set in Jakarta, across different points of a central timeline. The first story, “Old House,” is set in 2015, as we follow a taxi driver, Panji, who is asking  his regular customer, a nurse named Siti, about her workplace, a luxurious old-age home. Panji wants to admit his elderly mother, Ranti, in the old age home, as, with time, her intellectual capacity is fading away, and it is becoming tough for him and his working wife, Rara, to take care of their infant sons, Hagi and Ranti, at the same time. However, Panji is aware of the fact that the residents of the old age home come from a rich background and ponders whether someone of his social and financial status will be able to get his mother admitted. Nurse Siti sternly asks Panji to drop the idea of leaving his mother in the old age home. A guy named Bambong, belonging to Panji’s social standing, who had left his mother there as well, mentions that the management had considered his case and allowed him to admit his mother, but they only ever let him visit her when they decided to allow it. 

At home, Panji’s wife, Rara, is not fond of her husband’s idea and insists on letting Ranti stay with them. However, afflicted by short-term memory loss, as Ranti unwittingly puts Hagi’s life in mortal danger, Panji and Rara decide to leave her at the old age home. Ranti begs Panji to let her stay with them, but fails to convince her son, who leaves her all the same. Later that night, a guilt-ridden Panji experiences horrifying nightmares and decides to bring his mother back home. 

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Entering the old-age home at night, Panji finds it to be nearly vacant and sees a group of young socialites enjoying themselves in a room. One of the nurses tries to convince Panji to come later by making several excuses, prompting Panji to later sneak inside the old age home in search of his mother. Eventually, Panji secretly witnesses one of the members of the socialite group wearing a strange hooded attire and accessing a secret doorway to reach a hidden catacomb. Panji manages to remain hidden while the socialite group, dressed in similar cult member-like attire, gathers in a hall area. To Panji’s absolute horror, he witnesses a shackled Bambong being brought there to be judged for abandoning his mother, and two vicious, ginormous demonic creatures mystically transfer his youth into his mother’s body, leaving Bambong a lifeless husk. Terrified, Panji flees and meets Nurse Siti, who reveals that a cult of rich folks who are the original residents of the old age home lures poor people and assigns them to servitude after granting them their youth. As for the creatures, she knows nothing much except that they belong to a different, hellish world and can turn unwilling victims into gnarly zombified creatures known as Banished, who are on Panji’s trail at the moment. Siti shows kindness to Panji by assisting him in his attempt to escape with his mother by offering her attire and key to Ranti’s cell, as she mentions that she received her youth in exchange for her son’s life, and Panji reminds her of him. In order to save Panji, Siti sacrifices her life, but eventually Panji and Ranti get captured by the cult, who bring the duo for the final judgment. A distraught Panji reconciles with his mother, who finds it in her heart to forgive him and resists the mental hold of the creatures. With a final effort to break free, Panji sets the hall and the creatures on fire (remembering Siti’s advice of the creatures’ breath being flammable), and moments before the old age home gets blown to smithereens, he manages to escape to safety. Even though he wasn’t able to save his mother, he got another chance at life and learned a lesson he will never forget. 


The Orphan: Were Iyos and Ipah Able to Fulfill Their Dreams?

In 2024, Iyos and Ipah live miserable lives as scavengers, surviving at the bare minimum with local hoodlums threatening them to pay up their pending rent. Iyos dreams of living a luxurious life in a palatial home, whereas Ipah is content with a happy, secure life with her husband. Iyos learns about a strange situation: whoever adopts a particular boy from an orphanage becomes filthy rich within a week, with the catch being that on the seventh day, his adoptive parent(s) inexplicably die. Desperate to have a change of fortune, Iyos convinces his wife to agree to the deal, and he plans to kill the boy on the seventh day after getting rich to save their own lives. 

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As planned, Iyos and Ipah adopt Syafin, a mild-mannered, innocent kid, and learn that in order to get what they want, they have to keep Syafin happy. The couple tries their best to keep Syafin happy, and for four consecutive days, their wealth increases exponentially, changing their fate overnight. However, on the fourth day, Syafin gets ill after having an allergic reaction to restaurant food, and his medical bill wipes out all their savings at once. In the meantime, Ipah has started growing motherly feelings for Syafin, replacing the memory of their late son Rian with his. On the fifth day, their rundown shack gets battered in a downpour, and the flow of wealth suddenly stops. An enraged Iyos slaps Syafin, demanding what he considers his rightful claim for wealth, and Ipah somehow stops him. On the sixth day, the weather worsens further, and while trying to save Syafin from a debris landslide, Iyos and Ipah get trampled along with him. The trio later wakes up on the seventh day in a luxurious villa, and Iyos’ lifelong dream seems to have been fulfilled. He reconciles with Syafin and asks his forgiveness, only to abduct him later that night in order to kill him, as he considers Syafin a demon child who will inevitably become the reason for his and Ipah’s deaths. Ipah tries her desperate best to save Syafin and ends up killing Iyos, driven by her newfound love for her boy. However, a guilt-ridden, devastated Ipah takes her own life in remorse as well, as her dreams of living a peaceful life with her husband have been shattered forever, and this segment ends in a strange way, showing Syafin lamenting his adoptive mother’s death and using a mystical power in order to resurrect her. Whether Ipah and Iyos truly perish or not remains shrouded in mystery till the end. 


Poems and Pain: Was Rania Able To Protect Her Twin Sister?

Set in 2022, the story unravels creators’ connections with their creations as a commentary on the lopsided nature of societal values. Renowned author Rania is unwilling to write a sequel to her bestselling and most popular novel, “Poems and Pain,”  despite the constant requests from her publisher and friend, Hendra, as the novel shares a deeper, more malicious connection with her life . The narrative details an abusive relationship, and as the protagonist of the novel, Laras, gets physically tortured by her husband while being restrained inside a bunker, Rania experiences all the trauma on a physical and mental level as well. However, as the monetary problems start piling up, Rania decides to write the sequel after all and experiences similar situations all over again.

Rania shares the situation with Hendra as well, who is confused as to how to help her. However, as Rania goes into a trance-like state while depicting Laras’ predicament and experiencing her sorrows, she considers the possibility of someone actually suffering the exact same fate in reality. After seeing Laras’ face once, Rania notices a resemblance with her own, and upon questioning her parents, she finds out that Rania had a twin sister who was sent for adoption along with Rania, as the family tried to survive during a particularly tough time. Even though her parents regretted their actions later and tracked down Rania, they never found Laras, who is being held captive by her torturer along with her daughter, Asti. Rania uses her psychic connection to connect with Laras and finally manages to find the name and address of the captor, Adrian Rajasa. With Hendra’s help, she breaks into Rajasa’s house and locates the secret bunker but is disheartened to see her sister drawing her last breath. In her final moments, Laras remembers having fleeting memories and visions of Rania, and she passes away in a relieved state of mind, knowing that her sister is there to protect Asti. Rajasa is revealed not to be of human origin but rather a humanoid demonic creature who hails from a hellish world known as Agartha, as he easily beguiles the authorities by changing reality itself. Rania leaves and threatens Adrian with repercussions. At the end, Rania was able to protect Asti and decided to leave her life as a writer behind to turn over a new page along with her niece. 


Encounter: Did Wahyu Become the Prophet of His Village?

Set in 1985, “Encounter” shows the human tendency to deify ordinary people and the troubles that arise as a result. Wahyu, a reserved, detached, but generous fisherman, lives with his wife, Dijah, in a sprawling fishing community that has been facing the threat of eviction from real estate owners, promoters, and the government. Wahyu has been saving up money to travel to Saudi Arabia in hopes of meeting his mother, who abandoned her family during Wahyu’s childhood. Wahyu’s solitary, detached demeanor is not well liked in his community, but all that changes when he takes a photograph of a supposed angel at night, and the villagers start considering him a messenger of god, a prophet in the true sense of the term. Wahyu is reluctant, confused, and unwilling to pay heed to claims such as this, but the villagers are adamant that Wahyu has been given a divine responsibility and that he can protect the villagers from getting evicted.

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As the rumors start circling about Wahyu’s supposed mind-reading powers, Dijah leaves him, eloping with a villager and taking the entirety of Wahyu’s savings with her. As Wahyu laments in sorrow, a reporter approaches him and offers a hefty amount in exchange for the photograph. Wahyu accepts the deal, considering this will provide him another chance to fulfill his wish of reuniting with his mother. However, an opportunist villager who harbors hatred for Wahyu tries to extort him and get the photograph for himself. Additionally, villagers start putting their faith in Wahyu after his presence accidentally pushes back government operatives who were trying to evict the villagers. However, burdened by the expectations of the villagers, coupled with this newfound menace of extortion, Wahyu decides to ruin the photograph and lies to the villagers about the photo being fake, thereby renouncing his prophet title as he remains alone, wallowing in misery. Shockingly, as the government sends the military to evict the villagers and an imminent clash seems inevitable, Wahyu is visited by the supreme being —the angel whom he saw earlier—who appears before him in form of his mother, and provides him with enlightenment and knowledge. This segment ends with an empowered Wahyu stopping the conflict by showing his divine levitational powers, as spellbound villagers and the armed forces kneel before him. 


The Other Side: Did Dewi Find Bandi?

In 1997, a family of three—loving couple Bandi and Dewi and their young son Marhan—found it difficult to make ends meet due to financial troubles. Bandi still reminisces about his days of working in a luxurious theater, where he first met Dewi and fell in love with her. Despite having the prospect of better fortune, Dewi loves Bandi enough to stay with him, irrespective of the situation. However, things go awry when, one night, Bandi enters the dilapidated theater and finds it to be in its former state on the inside, bustling with people. The theater manager invites Bandi back to his job, and in a dream-like state, an elated Bandi spends a few hours in the theater as a dutiful attendant.

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However, after returning to his home, he gets the shock of his lifetime after knowing that two years have passed since he left, and his family believes that he has abandoned them. Bandi tries to convince them about his time-displaced condition, and eventually, Dewi trusts Bandi’s words, and he is accepted back to his family, only to be drawn once again into the theater by a cruel whim of fate. This time, Bandi spends the night in the theater, returns three years later, and finds that his family has moved on. Unable to convince them this time, Bandi returns to the theater, and later, on a TV channel broadcast, Dewi notices him wandering as a homeless person. Dewi and Bandi share a psychic connection, which confirms the truth of Bandi’s words. As she ventures to the same area where the theater once was, she finds Bandi and a number of homeless people in a trance, hypnotized by a strange humanoid being’s powers. Dewi manages to free them from the psychic hold of the being but fails to save Bandi at the end, who has lost his will to return after considering his family to be better off without him. 


Hypnotized: Did Ali Get His Life Back?

In 2022, Ali, a color-blind electronic technician who sees the world in binary (literally, not figuratively), lives a humble life with his loving family—his wife and two kids. However, due to his condition, it is challenging for him to get a job despite having expertise as a technician. One of his neighbors tries to convince him to use a hypnotic trick to beguile people in order to make serious cash, but Ali rejects the proposal. However, as Ali gets burdened with financial pressure, he considers using the trick after all and ends up using it on Dewi (the same person from the last segment) to gain some money. This act of deceit entraps him in a psychedelic, trippy psychic journey, as the distinction between reality and fiction gets blurred. At the end, Ali gathers his mind, snaps out of the hypnotic delusional state, and finds himself back in his known reality. Dewi confronts him about his past actions, but at the same time lauds his psychical capabilities and offers him a chance to join the ranks of a group of enforcers like her who are trying to save the world. 

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P.O. Box: What Happened to Valdya’s Sister, Dara?

The final story of the anthology, “P.O. Box,” is set in 2024, as we meet the expert diamond appraiser, Valdya, on her routine job of valuing the worth of diamonds at the customs office. While returning, she stumbles upon a mysterious elderly lady, who mentions that she has met someone who possesses eyes similar to Valdya. Creeped out by the interaction, Valdya hurriedly leaves. 

Later, we learn that Valdya’s elder sister, Dara, went missing five years ago, after going out for an interview. Valdya shared a strong bond with Dara and has not given up the hope of finding her. After some research, Valdya learns that the workplace Dara had applied to might have been connected with her disappearance, as she meets a person who had sent his application letter for the same job at the same address as P.O. Box 888 of a particular courier office and escaped the workplace in a paraplegic, lobotomized condition. Extremely worried for her sister’s well-being, Valdya decides to send the application herself, and by stealthily hiding herself in the company’s transport, she reaches the supposed address. Valdya finds out that aspirants from different sectors and walks of life have appeared for the job interview, all of whom are proficient in using one particular part of their body in their vocation. 

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Valdya and other job aspirants are knocked unconscious as an anesthetic gas is leaked inside their elevator, and upon waking up, they find themselves in an eerie hall, a sort of dining room where shady-looking rich members of a cult are seen feeding on the flesh of humans. Among the members, Adrian Rajasa is present as well, which conveys the fact that the members are in fact not humans and belong to the same place known as Agartha. Valdya and the recruits are brought as the most ‘prized’ part of their body is enjoyed by the cult members, one by one. An infuriated, disgusted Valdya questions them about their sister, and much to her horror, she finds out that Dara had met a similar fate as the recruits as well. 


Who are the beings from Agartha?

As Valdya’s final moment approaches, she sees a calming vision of Dara, who tells her sister that her time is not over yet. Moments later, a group of empowered enforcers break in and start blasting the devilish cult members using their weapons. The protagonists from the previous segments—Ali, Dewi, Wahyu, Panji, and Rania—and the mysterious lady whom Valdya met in the customs office are seen among them. Empowered with exceptional abilities, the enforcers manage to kill all the cult members and rescue Valdya just in time. The mysterious lady mentions to Valdya that she had met her elder sister, Dara, but failed to save her back then.

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Wahyu, the eldest and probably the leader of the group, mentions to Valdya that the devilish humanoids belong to the subterranean world of Agartha and are trying to take over the world by ending humanity. Wahyu and his team, most of whom have lost close ones to the atrocities of these creatures, are trying to protect the world from their clutches. Wahyu offers Valdya to join their ranks as well, and with vengeance for her sister in her mind, Valdya enthusiastically accepts the offer. 

Nightmares and Daydreams‘ ending, which straight up turns horror into a superheroic fanfare, teases a larger world-building, and a possible continuation of the storyline through an upcoming movie or series. Hopefully, the horror vibes will remain the same if a sequel to Joko Anwar’s Nightmares and Daydreams is released in the near future, which will help it retain a certain individuality amidst dozens of team-up movie ventures. 

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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