‘The Signal’ (2024) Ending Explained & Series Recap: Where Did The Signal Really Come From?

The Signal, Netflix’s latest German original series, subtly raises a very important question throughout its four hour-long episodes: What are we going to do if aliens really visit us? But instead of providing a straight answer, it gives us an argument between two sides: the curious and the cunning. And for the most part, it is quite fascinating to watch. The central idea doesn’t seem completely original, as it borrows from both Arrival (2016) and Interstellar (2014), arguably the two most celebrated sci-fi films of our time. But the way The Signal pulls it off is really commendable. The family dynamic, which is always an issue in genre shows and movies, works out really well here. And instead of opting for a major twist that thrives on shock value, the show chooses to take a very logical, righteous path, which is praiseworthy. One interesting enough thing, though: The Signal has an Indian villain (played by veteran Bollywood actress Sheeba Chaddha) who is called “Mudhi” and worships some kind of Hindu deity. I absolutely don’t think it’s intentional, but I do hope the Indian viewers take this sportingly instead of pelting stones at the Netflix headquarters. That would actually beat the whole purpose of the show and the message it’s trying to give to the audience, if you know what I mean.

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While The Signal is a definitive miniseries with a proper beginning and ending, it is quite obvious for you to have many questions. Hopefully, this article will be able to answer every single one of them. As you know, the narrative of The Signal is non-linear, and I’m also not following a chronological structure of the events here. But I will be focusing on answering the most obvious questions, which will simplify a lot of things, hopefully.

Spoilers Ahead

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Plot Synopsis—What Happens In The Series?

Astronauts Paula Groth and Hadi Hiraj are about to return from a top-secret mission from the International Space Station (ISS). Their mission was funded by Indian billionaire Benisha Mudhi, who runs the private space research company Visions. The company telecasts the astronauts landing on Earth, and Paula’s extremely inquisitive daughter, Charlie, notices that her mother is taking more than the usual time to deploy the parachutes. Nonetheless, they still land safely in Santiago, Chile, and the families—Charlie and Paula’s history teacher husband, Sven, along with Hadi’s wife Mira and their two kids—can’t wait for them to return home. The night before taking the flight back home, Paula acts sort of strange on a phone call with Sven, where she tells him that he was right about something. She also mentions a fox and hare game where she usually loses, despite being the smartest person in the room. While waiting for Paula at the airport, a strange-looking old woman waves at Charlie, which creeps her out. Sven and Mira also notice her. She disappears in a moment, and neither the characters nor the audience knows who she is!

Paula’s flight takes off, but it goes missing all of a sudden and eventually crashes in the Atlantic, which we find out much later. A very distressed Sven vents his frustration about telling Paula not to do something to a random woman. The woman turns out to be police detective Friederike, who, along with her partner Timme, brings in Sven to interrogate and find out if there was anything fishy behind the disappearance of the flight.

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What Was It That Sven Wanted Paula Not To Do?

In the past, we saw Paula, Sven, Mira, and Hadi hanging out together, just before the astronauts were about to go on their mission. Everything is fine until Paula has a severe episode and ends up at the hospital. The series never really tells us what exactly it is that Paula suffers from, but it looks a lot like schizophrenia, although I don’t claim to be an expert here. Paula does recover, but Sven is obviously concerned and tries to convince her not to go on the mission. He doesn’t want to lose her, and while she validates the fear (and love), she also tells him that if she doesn’t go to space, life will become pretty much pointless to her anyway. Paula tells Sven that there are certain things that are much bigger than them, and she has major reasons to go on this mission, like finding something that would help their deaf daughter hear without aid. Paula eventually goes to space, and she doesn’t hesitate to conceal her report that clearly says her blood has psychotropic substances (from the medicine she has to take for her condition)—something that would have prevented her from joining the mission.


Did Paula Find Anything Strange In Space?

At the ISS, Paula and Hadi meet two British astronauts who have been working there for quite some time. One of them, Jake, seems to be overly friendly but ultimately turns out to be a good guy. From the ISS, Paula is able to contact the world as well as her daughter Charlie through a radio channel. But when she hears the voice of a child saying “Hello,”  she gets really surprised. Paula first thinks it might be her own daughter’s voice breaking up. But she soon realizes that it is appearing when they’re in the dead zone, over the Atlantic Ocean, where the Earth cannot contact them. Paula records the whole thing and shares it with Hadi. Both of them are initially skeptical about sharing it with their co-astronauts, but they eventually agree on the fact that it’s too big of a discovery to not share. But when Paula tries to tell Jake and the other astronaut about the voice and play her recording tape, she finds out there’s no voice. Hadi controls the situation by telling the British astronauts that they’re only playing a prank. 

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Following this, Paula finds herself in a state of agony where she struggles with her mental health and starts hallucinating things. She finds it difficult to believe whatever she heard is inside her head only, as Hadi is trying to convince her. Thankfully, it doesn’t take her long to figure out it was all real after all, and it is Hadi who’s sabotaging her. She shares the whole thing with Mudhi, who motivates her to discretely look into the matter. Paula also confesses that she lied in order to get into the mission, but Mudhi doesn’t get angry with her at all; she also reassures her that she did the very right thing. 


Who Was The Old Woman?

On Earth, life gets further worse for Sven and Charlie when a cryptic recording from the doomed flight’s cockpit gets out in the open. In the recording, Paula is apologizing to Sven and telling him that it is not possible for him to do something (which she refers to as “it”) alone. It is also evident that Paula and Hadi forcefully entered the cockpit of the flight just before it went down. People in grief often try to find someone to blame, and the relatives of the ill-fated passengers on the flight clearly find it easy to put the dead astronauts in that seat and attack their families. Sven is obviously frustrated to see all these angry people outside their home at a time like this and concerned about his child’s well-being. Mudhi’s assistant, Nora, visits him and assures him that everything will be taken care of, while presenting him with a direct channel button for the billionaire herself.

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While Sven gets closer to believing what the angry mob is saying about his wife, Charlie is still under the impression that her mother is still alive. Charlie even claims that Paula is contacting her from somewhere, which frustrates Sven further, and the two get into a fight. Charlie eventually goes missing, and a paranoid, heartbroken Sven discovers that his daughter was indeed receiving something over the radio from an address. The address happens to be in the middle of nowhere, where he finally meets the old woman who waved at Charlie at the airport and was also outside his house with the enraged crowd. Charlie and Sven are obviously disappointed to find out that it is not Paula but this old woman who was trying to contact them. She happens to be an anti-government space enthusiast who follows the Russian channels, and she also heard the same “hello” in a child’s voice signal that Paula picked up in space. The woman also picked up a conversation between a mother and child, who are obviously Paula and Charlie. Since then, she’s been trying to contact Charlie and warn her about this government conspiracy that is going on at a much higher level.


What Was The Government Conspiracy?

We’re calling it a conspiracy, but it is really quite simple. The state is too scared of handling aliens, so if they get the slightest bit of indication that a UFO is coming in the way of Earth, they’re going to shoot it down. That is a logical safety measure, but also not a particularly wise one because it takes away the chance of exploration, which can also benefit our world. When Paula realizes the signal is actually coming from a possible spaceship that is heading towards the Earth, she quickly informs Mudhi about it. She is also smart enough to deduce the coordinates of exactly when and where this alien spaceship is going to land. But the main obstacle in her path is her friend and colleague, Hadi, who’s clearly up to no good. The reason Hadi tried sabotaging Paula is that he clearly doesn’t want the whole world to hear about this. Hadi is not the mastermind, though, as he’s part of a larger government conspiracy whose purpose is to shoot down whatever comes at the world in order to protect us.

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But what Hadi lacks is Paula’s smartness to actually decipher the landing details of the spaceship that’s coming towards us. And when Paula lets him know that she’s aware of what he’s doing, Hadi has no other option but to forcefully make her tell the coordinates by keeping her stuck in the airlock with a severe shortage of oxygen. Paula gives up the coordinates, but she also makes sure the entire world gets to know about it. That can’t stop the state military from doing what they’re meant to do—gunning down whatever is coming to “attack” the Earth. But they fail to realize that the coordinates they received from Hadi were wrong all along, as Paula has finally realized how to win in the fox and the hare game—by being a step ahead of the “fox.” It becomes abundantly clear with time that the fox and hare are metaphors used for the gray and white sides of the series, and it is a good one, I would say.


Who Was Behind The Plane Crash?

Paula’s only mistake, perhaps, was to trust Mudhi, who was smart enough to deceive her by making her believe in her goodness. Mudhi being a billionaire with a heart of gold would have been too good to be true anyway, and given that The Signal is a series that takes a very grounded, closer-to-reality approach, it wouldn’t have worked out anyway.

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So it turns out Hadi was only a pawn, and Mudhi was the ringleader, who was very much in cahoots with the state. But Paula did figure that out right after landing on Earth, which also became the reason for her death. Mudhi knew she wouldn’t be able to buy Paula’s silence, so the only way she could take care of her was by bombing her plane and killing more than 100 innocent people for absolutely no reason. Mudhi, like every megalomaniac leader, doesn’t want to accept that she’s just a murderer and actually believes whatever she’s doing is for a greater purpose.

Realizing Paula has deceived everyone, Mudhi realizes that the only people who would know the actual coordinates are Sven and Charlie, two of the most important people in Paula’s life. So she first appears to the father and daughter as a friend, but thanks to Friederike’s investigation, Sven soon gets to know that Mudhi is not who she seems to be. After that, Mudhi is obviously in no mood to play nice with the father and the daughter. She has no reason left for the pretension anymore. So Mudhi, along with Nora and her army, ends up in the middle of a desert with Charlie and Sven captive. We get to see a lot of deities and chant over the arrival of a spaceship, which never really arrives. For Sven, the realization of his wife fooling everyone comes as no surprise, and even with death breathing down his neck, he is overjoyed about that. He does manage to escape death, though, thanks to Nora having a moment of conscience and deceiving Mudhi about fixing the father-daughter problem. After that, it was only a matter of time before Mudhi got apprehended for all her sins. 

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Where Did The Signal Really Come From?

As it turns out, something was indeed heading towards Earth after all. And the only two people who knew the location of the landing were Charlie, who had the place, and Sven, who had the time. What seemed like Paula acting strange on a phone call earlier was actually her brave attempt to deliver a message to her husband—about the exact day when the historic thing was going to happen. She had faith in her husband’s ability to figure out puzzles, and Paula was not wrong, after all.

So on St. Nicholas Day, a Voyager spacecraft crashes in the desert, and inside of it, Charlie and Sven discover a golden-colored record. The “Hello” in the child’s voice comes from that record only. It was something that was actually sent into space back in 1977, with the purpose of finding extraterrestrial life and demonstrating the culture of the Earth to them. The record contained voices and images from our Earth only, where many countries came together to represent one single human community. In case you’re wondering, this is where fact and fiction get together, as the Golden Record is a real thing, about which you can find out on the Internet. Instead of bringing on aliens, The Signal chose to walk on this path and deliver a strong message of unity at a time when the world we live in is in so much chaos. That’s a very courageous move, and the creators of the show should be lauded for that. 

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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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