The pandemic has been good for Netflix. More people are home streaming, and with movie theaters still questionable options partly due to area restrictions, mask mandates, or lack of film releases, streamers are filling that void. Before the pandemic, Netflix was losing traction. They had made some questionable choices in programming and canceled some series that had fans scratching their heads. The glut of other streaming services was encroaching on their space. Flash forward two years, and they have become the home of the supernatural foreign series. Things like Katla, Tribes of Europa, Curon, and the incomparable Dark have found a home on the streamer and a whole new audience. Open Your Eyes on Netflix right now is the latest mind-trip.
The series adapted from Katarzyna Berenika Miszczuk’s novel Drug Szansa or Second Chance is a clever spin on sci-fi themes of the rich and entitled using science to take whatever they want. In Gattaca, your DNA was your ID, and if you weren’t one of the elite, you weren’t even given a chance to work and succeed. The science may be a little hazy in Open Your Eyes, but the concept is the same. If the rich want an exceptional talent, they take it. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t belong to them or hurts anyone in the process.
A teenage girl Julia wakes up in a strange place with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Her doctor tells her she was involved in a fire, and her parents died. She has no memory of anything. A recording plays the limited amount of information she has recovered from the days before. She appears to be at an institution designed to nurture the kids’ unique talents and supposedly help them recover their memories. The Second Chance facility maybe a second chance for some, but it definitely isn’t for the teens who reside there. Here’s everything you need to know about the ending of Open Your Eyes and what it means for season 2.
The ending of Open Your Eyes
Fairly quickly, Julia realizes all of the residents of the memory facility have talents. Some are dancers, athletes, computer experts, musicians, or artists. They all have different talents, but they are all special. One older patient, Magda, is a talented singer, but her paranoid schizophrenia has sidelined her abilities. The patients are all given medication to help their memories return and brains to heal. Little by little, she begins to suspect the facility isn’t what it seems. It is, in fact, run by a supercomputer, not a human.
Julia has been told her parents died in a house fire, and when the police come to question her, she begins to suspect that they think she was involved. After Magda dies and Szymon loses his will to live, she desperately searches for answers. What she finds is the age-old story of the “haves” and the “have nots”.
The facility has human caretakers, but the talent stealing technology comes from the supercomputer. For some reason, the computer needs to create a simulation that keeps all parties compliant and engaged to complete the harvest process. Karolina listens to the voice of her sister, who has been pleading with her to wake up and drowns herself in the lake, thus waking her from the simulation. She finds herself in the hospital and is informed she has been in a coma for four weeks. She also finds Magda, who is really Janina is not dead.
In reality, Julia/Karolina needed to embrace the real world and listen to her sister’s voice. Only after accepting her “death” in the simulation could she return to the real world and her sister in the hospital. Unfortunately, she has lost her ability to play the piano. She also visits Magda, whose real name is Janina. Magda does not have schizophrenia. She had her talent stolen by Second Chance too. She woke up from her coma when Julia/Karolina registered her as dying in the simulation earlier.
When Karolina visits Janina outside of the simulation, she recognizes her but won’t admit much more. Janina gives her a book called Druga Szansa by Zygmunt Tanatowski, where she finds a picture of a building that looks like Second Chance. When Karolina visits the house, she finds Anielin, who she recognized from Second Chance. She has Janina’s vocal ability. She also learns that part of the house she visits has been rented to Second Chance, which supposedly nurtures talents in young children. Dr. Tantowski, a neuroscientist, owned the home, which raises all kinds of questions about his involvement that should be answered in Season 2.
Dr. Zofia comes to Karolina supposedly for revenge on Second Chance for firing her and cutting her out of her own project but also to help Karolina save her friends. Whether she is telling the truth is up for debate. In any case, she provides Karolina with a black box to renter the simulation.
Julia/Karolina returns to Second Chance because she wants to free her friends. She realizes that not only is the loss of talent cruel, but it can be deadly. Szymon is dead following the harvest, likely because he was heartbroken by the loss of his passion. The only reason she and Magda/Janina are still alive is they found the power to fight and return to the real world, even if it meant that they wouldn’t have their gifts anymore. Unfortunately, her friends may not be so lucky.
What do the crows mean in Open Your Eyes?
The ravens or crows always show up when Julia needs to turn her attention to something. A prime example is in episode 3 when the bird appears at her window just as the young blonde girl she saw earlier watching Szymon dance was carried to a car and driven away. Shortly after, Juia learns Szymon didn’t get the part he was auditioning for and was no longer dancing. The birds act as spirit guides helping Karolina figure out what is happening. Think of the birds as glitches in the system. Like a ghost in the machine, they help Julia see clues and essential details. They are the black cat deja vu Neo sees in The Matrix. The murder of crows also symbolizes death. They are leading Karolina to her death in the simulation but life in the real world. This is why they attack Dr. Zofia and not Karolina in the simulation.
The visions and voices are important
Throughout Open Your Eyes, Julia/Karolina has vivid, disturbing dreams and visions of a red-haired girl who calls for Karolina. That girl is her sister Patrycja who has been trying to get her sister to wake up. Julia/Karolina has been in a hospital this entire time in a coma. She is having flashbacks of her time in Second Chance. At the beginning of the second episode, she remembers arriving at the hospital. However, this is not a dream but a memory of what happened before falling into a coma. Julia/Karolina mistakenly thinks this is a nightmare or a memory from the house fire that killed her parents.
Julia/Karolina’s parents did not die in a fire, nor did she set that fictional fire. That was a story made up by Dr. Zofia to keep her compliant. However, Julia/Karolina had a strong mind, and the story wasn’t enough, which is why Dr. Zofia also kept the lie going with the police questioning. Not only was Julia/Karolina’s behavior a problem to others around her, but it tasked the computer too much to keep her in line. This is why Piotr and Dr. Zofia talk about the computer overheating early in the season.
Is this the real-life or just a fantasy?
Are all the kids in a Matrix-style simulation, or are all of Karolina’s experiences in Second Chance a memory or fever dream? When she gives her recital at the facility, a possible clue can be seen. Her collapse and vision of Adam with the headgear indicate that she is in a simulation played out while in the coma. Adam is as well and is receiving her talent.
Second Chance has developed the technology to steal talents from children and implant them into the rich and powerful. Part of that process requires the victim to fall into a coma during the talent harvesting process. Those talented children fall into a coma and lose their abilities while the child on the receiving end gets the victim’s talent. Adam, who’s really Xavier, knew instinctively something was wrong and kept running away.
He didn’t realize he was on the receiving end of the talent, not the giving end. His father is Piotr, even though he doesn’t know it inside Second Chance. Piotr hand-picked Julia/Karolina’s talent for Adam. Piotr had Adam’s memories removed so he wouldn’t remember Second Chance or Julia/Karolina outside the simulation. When Magda committed suicide by drowning in the simulation, she short-circuited the computer and escaped. Julia used this same idea to escape by drowning in the lake.
The black box
The little black box in Julia’s room each morning and seen briefly in the hospital next to Karolina’s bed is a portal to the simulated world of Second Chance. Magda is aware of it and its power and tells Julia to look for it. After Magda and Julia broke free of the simulation, Piotr wiped Adam’s memories and probably fired Dr. Zofia. Dr. Zofia was angry and went to Julia/Karolina for help. She brings her a black box and informs her she can save the others stuck in the simulation by re-inserting herself via the box. The two are now apparently working together, although it might also just be another way for Dr. Zofia to gain the upper hand and get Julia/Karolina back before she exposes everything. She shows genuine concern for her before Karolina jumps into the lake, so it is possible that she does want to help her even if she has lost her way a bit. The flashback to the bathtub scene also makes me wonder if somehow the two are related?
How much does Karolina’s mother know?
It’s strongly implied Karolina’s mother not only knew about what second Chance did but sanctioned her child’s demise. In one of Julia/Karolina’s dreams, she remembers being forced to play as a little girl. She is hooked up to headgear, similar to what we see Magda hooked up to earlier. Although it isn’t explained, there are really only two conclusions. The first is that Karolina’s mother needed her to show her talent to be enrolled in the school, and her mother could get money.
The second is much more complex. If Karolina didn’t have any talent before that memory, she could have been a recipient of someone else’s tale. Which would mean Adam, who no has Karolina’s gift, got it from some other unknown third party. It might explain why Karolina is extraordinary and can fight the simulation. It also explains how Karolina’s mother knows Dr. Zofia. Nothing is a coincidence, and she probably met her when Karolina was first implanted into the system. If Karolina’s childhood friend Janek is involved, it gets even murkier. He is studying neurosurgery at University. That is too coincidental.
Open Your Eyes is an intriguing sci-fi concept that places human greed at the forefront. Similar to greats like Alien, science is less fictional than it is futuristic. But, in a time with designer babies, is it that far-fetched to assume talents can be supplanted from those less fortunate? Open Your Eyes Season 1 is available on Netflix right now, and I would expect Season 2 to get confirmed in the next few months.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.