Hulu’s original Palm Springs, which premiered this week, is an adorable slacker view of Millennial Peter Pan syndrome and what it takes to break the cycle. Nyles and Andy are both attending a destination wedding of Sarah’s sister and Nyles’ girlfriend, bestie Tala. After a night’s worth of drinking, Nyles and Sarah find themselves in the desert when a cutthroat archer Roy(J.K. Simmons) with impressive aim starts taking shots at Nyles. Sarah follows him into a glowing cave inadvertently trapping her in an endless time loop with Nyles and the crazed hunter Roy. That begins a whole new wave of behaviors designed to either accept fate and embrace the suck, or good deed their way out of the loop (that one is Sarah exclusively).
Sarah wants out, but Nyles wants to wallow in the repeating here and now. Neither character is exactly likable. Sarah married a man she knew she didn’t love and escaped scarred and depressed from that marriage. She is miserable and wants everyone else to be. She goes so far as to ensure that unhappiness by sleeping with her sister’s fiance the night before the wedding, Nyles is a classic avoider. The responsibility of life is too much for the man child who is happiest drinking beer and wearing a swimsuit. When Sarah becomes trapped in the loop with Nyles and Roy, Nyles finds a partner in crime for a time.
Sarah is not content to live out eternity in a perpetual meaningless party. This is especially true after learning Nyles is a stalker, liar, and abuser. Taking a page from the 1993 classic Groundhog Day, Palm Springs’ male protagonist uses the glitch in the Matrix to seduce a woman. There is no getting around the fact that Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day (which I still love) glosses over the fact that Murray’s character Phil has systematically studied and adapted to fit what Andi MacDowell’s character Rita wants. At best, it is using an unfair advantage and, at worst, wildly creepy.
Shortly after Sarah and Nyles have sex, he confesses he has slept with her countless (he actually says 1000’s) of times before. She is predictably disgusted and thus begins her mission to get out of the loop and away from the super lurker come Hell or high water. Through a hilariously nerdy montage of online classes and high brow book reading, Sarah cracks the code to escape. Using a goat, some random C4, and a 3.2 second trip through a wormhole, she realizes she can escape the time box they are in and go on with her life. The specific hows and whys of Sarah’s physics aren’t important; it’s hazy at best. What does matter is the titular gentle giants and what they mean for our pair?
Anyone who has seen the charming Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti rom-com, was left scratching their heads and straining their eyes at the end. Dinosaurs are roaming wild in the desert. It’s not the first time we have seen these dinosaurs either. After potentially the millionth, Sarah and Nyles find themselves high as balls out in the desert. They think they are hallucinating Brachiosaurus walking by. The ending of Palm Springs, which finds our couple finally in the real world moving forward, throws all that into question when those same dinos are seen lumbering through the desert. Here’s what the dinosaurs mean at the end?
The dinosaurs were always real.
The rip in time has been in the cave for ages, maybe since the beginning of the Earth or before. The dinosaurs we see wandering in the drug-fueled vision earlier in the film are not the byproduct of one too many hits. They are actual living creatures stuck in time, just like Roy, Sarah, and Nyles. Somehow they wandered into the cave millions of years ago, and without Sarah’s ability to learn, they now live forever in the endless present. This means anyone could still fall into the cave rip, and Roy could use the same technique to blow himself out. It does beg the question why haven’t there been more creatures, animals, and humans fall into the rip?
What will happen with Roy, Sarah, and Nyles?
Roy seems to be the most enlightened of the trio after much contemplation. Before being sucked into the vortex, he was bitter, unsatisfied, and in the middle of a nasty mid-life crisis. He married or remarried later in life and found himself with an accidental set of twins. Feeling confined and missing his youth, he befriends Nyles in the early days of their loop. After countless years together, Roy finally realizes what he had and still, to some degree, still has.
It’s a profound acceptance of living in the moment and not wishing for days past. It also shows an admirable amount of forgiveness. Before Sarah and Nyles blew themselves out of the time box, she left Roy a message with instructions on how to escape. He finds himself back at the wedding where a clueless “other” Nyles is blissfully unaware of what his other self has been through. It is at that moment Roy knows Sarah’s plan worked. He wants to watch his children grow up and grow old with his wife. He will absolutely try to escape.
Sarah and Nyles probably won’t work IRL. Having studied astrophysics for years, she is legitimately brilliant and Nyles is still…not. Additionally, he isn’t exactly the king of self-disclosure. After thousands (or more) years together he only tells her about his dog Fred once released. There are only four options for this oversight and none of them are good. Either he doesn’t like the dog to begin with; dog-haters are the worst. He is an idiot and forgot about him. The pain of losing Fred has led to intense denial, or he is so shallow, that talking about his dog is too personal. None of those are conducive to being a good companion.
Sarah isn’t an angel, but the girl surely is going to kick him to the curb. Mainly because as the film ends, they are still squatting in someone else’s pool. Sarah may be taking a final victory lap after having studied her way out of the conundrum. She earned a day of fun. Nyles has not. What happens when her newfound maturity gets tired of his Fun-Bobby ways? For this couple to work, Nyles will need to communicate a lot more and grow the f up. As sunny as the final scene is, I am not optimistic about Nyles and Sarah and their future in Palm Springs.
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.