With its AI robots, Blade Runner-like world and opening action sequence, you might not be expecting Netflix's Jung_E to emotionally wallop you in the chest.
From Yeon Sang-ho, director of 2016 zombie horror Train to Busan, this sci-fi thriller follows a researcher and her team as they attempt to find the key to creating the greatest AI combat robot. A secret connection to the test subject and ethical questions of cloning human consciousness add complications. But mainly this is a heartfelt story about a mother-daughter relationship navigating a war-torn, dystopian Earth.
The ending of Jung_E, explained
In the year 2135, climate change and depleted resources have led humanity to survive on colony shelters built in space. For 40 years, three shelters that united as the Adrian Republic have been fighting Earth's Allied Forces.
Legendary Allied mercenary Captain Yun Jung-yi joins a mission to attack a fuel rod in an Adrian shelter. She has a chance to make a crucial shot but is distracted by a children's keychain. Her hand is shot, revealing that she's also really a robot.
Yun shuts down, and it's revealed that she's in a simulation. Thirty-five years beforehand, the real Yun failed the mission and ended up in a coma. A Kronoid Lab research team, led by Yun's daughter Dr. Yun Seo-hyun, cloned her consciousness, which can be repeatedly uploaded into androids.
For five years, they have been studying Captain Yun's brain map in a recreation of her final mission, attempting to use the data to create the greatest AI combat robot. Once the android is able to escape the simulation, the "Jung_E" program will be finalized. Then, Kronoid intends to manufacture the elite, loyal combat robot for the Allied Forces to gain a winning advantage. It will also make Captain Yun an "eternal hero."
In a flashback, it's revealed that Captain Yun became a mercenary to pay for her daughter Seo-hyun's lung tumor treatment. On the same day as Seo-hyun's surgery, Captain Yun ended up in a coma. As an adult, Seo-hyun still feels guilty that, because of her, her mother couldn't live her life.
After an ethics test to check she's not an android, a doctor reveals that Seo-hyun's cancer has now spread to the rest of her organs. She's told she has three months to live. She could copy her consciousness into a prosthetic body for free, just like her mother, but this would also mean her brain data can be sold to companies and used to make clones.
On a visit to the lab, Kronoid Chairman informs Seo-hyun that the Adrian War is coming to an end and that weapons manufacturing, including of the combat AIs, will cease. In an interview with Seo-hyun, Jung_E reveals the keychain that distracted her was given to her by her daughter for strength and protection. She had to find it because her daughter told her not to lose it. Realizing this is what caused her to fail her mission, Seo-hyun deletes all memory of herself from Jung_E's brain.
Before the simulations are brought to an end, Seo-hyun tells the last Jung_E android the truth of who she is, deleting any other original data so that it can no longer be used to create more Kronoid products, including Captain Yun sex dolls.
In the final simulation, Jung_E appears to be shot dead, but when her body is taken to be destroyed, she escapes thanks to Seo-hyun's guidance. Seo-hyun transfers her brain into a basic android and they leave on a train. In a fight with Director Kim, who is really an android of the young Kronoid chairman, Seo-hyun is shot. After Kim is killed, Seo-hyun tells Jung_E to leave her behind and live only for herself. Jung_E escapes and, now free of the lab's simulations, looks out onto a vast, open mountainous landscape.