On this guide page, you will find a brief description of the secret ending of Returnal. We describe the ending from our point of view, but everyone can come to their own conclusions.
If you are interested in a description of the first ending of the Returnal, see the First ending page. If you do not yet know how to unlock the secret ending in Returnal, you will find the exact instructions on the page Secret ending - how to unlock?.
On this page, we describe the secret ending of Returnal and explain its meaning. If you want to get to know the alternative ending on your own, it can ruin the surprise.
After watching the last, sixth sequence related to Selene's house, the main character finds keys to the car in her hand, in which she and her mother fell into the lake. You may remember that Theia, entering the bridge, noticed an astronaut on the road and turned sharply, trying to avoid a mysterious figure. She broke through the barrier and the car fell into the water and sank.
After defeating the last boss in Returnal, Ophion, for the second time, Selene goes to the car and opens the driver's door, which activates other vague visions.
Selene meets a horrifying version of her mother (or maybe it's a reflection of herself?). The woman at first is sitting in a wheelchair, which confirms the spinal injury she suffered during a car accident. When Theia suddenly stands up and grabs Selene, she pushes her away and tells her to leave her alone.
It is worth noting here that the distorted figure looks as if it is pregnant, which confirms the information obtained during one of the sequences associated with Selene's house.
Shortly after that, Selene appears on the bridge, where a car accident occurred, and looks at everything from the astronaut's perspective. This could mean that Selene was the astronaut all along, and she was the one who caused the car accident - possibly on purpose.
It is worth noting that Theia in this scene looks exactly like Selene. The child who sits on the back seat and asks his mother about the White Shadow (the moon - Selene's unrealized desire to go into space) can really only be an excuse to cause an accident. The woman corrects the rearview mirror and does not respond to the question as if the child wasn't there.
This is confirmed by a fragment of the cut-scene, which you can watch after passing 5 sequences in Selene's house. The woman regains consciousness and sees the moment when the ship flies towards the ground. That's when Selene realizes that she is the one who crashed Helios and that she is to blame for all the other events.
Unlike the first ending of Returnal, this time we witness a scene in which Selene/Theia gets out of the car and swim towards the surface and the bright light (sun) shouting Helios. After a while, on the screen appears the astronaut.
Helios in Greek mythology is depicted as a god and the personification of the sun; he is also the brother of Selene (the goddess of the moon) - both are children of Theia, the goddess of sight and the brightening sky.
After this scene, Selene reappears on the planet Atropos. Unfortunately, it is impossible to say whether the events you are witnessing in the game Returnal happen in real-time or are a moment of the character's agony after the car accident. The moment in which a woman blames herself for what happened on the bridge, and the time loop in which she is stuck, is her penance.
Atropos in Greek mythology is a third of Moirai, the goddess of fate - she marked the end of the life of each of the people.
You can also theorize that Selene was obsessed with becoming an astronaut since childhood and blamed her unborn child (boy) for not realizing this plan. The woman is rejected from the Astra program (in one of the scenes, she finds a rejection letter from the corporation in her house) and does not go into space. A car accident could be deliberate and was intended to be a suicide act. The moment a woman swims to the surface and screams "Helios" may be the moment she changed her mind and accepted her unborn son. According to this theory, the child you can play as in one sequence at Selene's house can be her surviving son - he even listens to a voice record from Selene, in which the woman informs her child that she has not yet returned home and gives instructions on how to prepare a meal for herself.
The 8:36 hour, which appears on the radio display in the car, but also on the electronic clock on the dresser in the hallway and on the radio in the kitchen, may (but does not have to) refer to the gospel according to John 8:36 - " So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed"