Paula In ‘The Signal’ Explained: Is The German Astronaut Dead Or Alive?

In Netflix’s The Signal, German astronaut Paula Groth hears a voice while on a mission at the International Space Station. What she does after that is the crux of the story, which keeps oscillating between the past and the present. Paula’s activities in the show are often confusing and sometimes questionable, but as the narrative progresses, they start to make a lot of sense. The character has less screentime than Sven, Paula’s husband and the de facto male lead, or even Charlie, the couple’s nine-year-old daughter, but she is still the most important character in this story. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at Paula Groth.


Spoilers Ahead

What Does Paula Suffer From?

The Signal doesn’t shy away from the fact that the lead character of the show suffers from a kind of mental illness. There is no name for the disease, but it is most likely some form of schizophrenia. But Paula’s mental health condition can’t stop her from pursuing greatness at work. She would even go to the extent of lying about her blood report, which clearly has samples of psychotropic drugs, to be eligible for the space mission. It’s all for a great cause, though: Paula is looking to prolong human life as well as find a way to cure her deaf daughter, Charlie. Paula’s determination and indomitable spirit are the things that keep her going, despite all the struggle she faces because of her condition.


What Happens To Paula At The International Space Station?

Funded by billionaire Benisha Mudhi, Paula does end up at the International Space Station (ISS) along with her friend, astronaut Hadi. She soon comes across something that she didn’t expect—the voice of a child from nowhere. And it is not her daughter Charlie, with whom she regularly speaks through radio channels. Paula finds the signal while crossing through the dead zone, from where it’s impossible to contact the Earth. As any smart person would do, she records the transmition and shares it with her partner, Hadi. But Hadi turns out to be a snake, who somehow tries to make Paula believe that none of what she has experienced is real. 

Is The Signal Real Or A Figment Of Paula’s Imagination?

There’s one pretty neat trick The Signal plays on the audience, which is due to Paula’s condition, even though we’re unsure of what’s real and what’s not, at least for a while. As we see Paula hallucinating about a weird-looking blister on her hand and, subsequently, bugs coming out of it, it becomes a bit of a stretch to put faith in her. It is especially hard because we are seeing things from Paula’s perspective only. But instead of circling around it, the show quickly provides us with the answers as well. Despite her mental condition and all the hallucinations, the signal is very real. It was Hadi who tried to keep her away from it and looked into the matter by himself. The signal is not only real; Paula also deduces that it is heading towards the Earth and going to hit pretty soon. All Hadi was trying to do was find out when the signal (whatever it is) would hit the Earth—information that he had to deliver to the people for whom he’s working. All these people, including Hadi, are part of this huge government conspiracy where the state wants to take care of the spaceship (assuming there’s one) the minute it enters the Earth. Paula, being an explorer as well as a free-thinker, is obviously against this very stupid idea, and she confides in her very encouraging boss, Mudhi, about her fears and aspirations. Mudhi assures her that she will do everything to help Paula, but sadly, she turns out to be a rotten apple as well.


Is Paula Dead Or Alive?

It’s pretty ironic that after managing to survive such a grueling mission in space, Paula becomes the victim of a plane crash. It’s not a random unfortunate event, though, but rather a very calculated move by Mudhi, who obviously doesn’t want Paula to remain alive. For someone as smart as Paula, it was not too hard to figure out that Mudhi was the one who was running the whole thing. Paula making everything public would have definitely become a huge problem for the billionaire, so the evil women had to bomb the plane and kill so many innocent people. It is a no-brainer that Paula is dead. We even get to hear her in her final moments, when she’s desperately trying to contact her husband, Sven, from the cockpit. The Signal is clearly not the kind of show where a character would magically survive something as horrifying as a plane crash. So there’s no chance of Paula being alive, in case you’re wondering.

What Does Paula’s Death Symbolize?

What is really admirable here is that Paula managed to make an impact even after her death. The series keeps using the fox and the hare game as metaphors. It is a game that Paula never gets to win, and that too against her nine-year-old kid. For someone with an IQ as high as Paula’s, that’s a really strange thing. Paula’s husband, Sven, explains the reason as well: to win in the game, one needs to be clever first, before everything else. And Paula finally pulls that off when she finds herself in the most difficult situation of her life. She gives Hadi the false coordinates of the landing site, which effectively destroys the conspiracy. As far as the real coordinates go, Paula splits that into two halves and gives one to her daughter through the remote radio channel where nobody else could listen, and the other to her husband through a message that he’s smart enough to decipher.


And considering the thing that finally hits Earth happens to be one of our very own Voyager Golden Records, it can fairly be said that all of Paula’s effort didn’t go in vain. For the unintended, the Golden Record is a message that contains all of Earth’s culture and life. It was sent to space back in 1977 with the hope that if an extraterrestrial being ever finds it, they will be able to know something about our planet. In The Signal,  it is implied that someone has actually found it out in space, and now they’ve sent it back to Earth. Without Paula, it would have been destroyed even before anyone got to know about it. If there is anything that Paula’s death symbolizes, then it is both courage and hope. Her tragic ending is heartbreaking, especially for Sven and Charlie, but she is always going to be remembered by the world for her effort to bring back the message that basically says, It’s us who can change the world if we get united.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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