In Annihilation, Kane comes back as an alien from the Shimmer. We see this in the video, and he admits it in the end. Regarding Lena, she destroys the Shimmer and the alien, comes back, and at the end we see her eyes glowing.

Does this mean that the Shimmer's refraction slightly altered her DNA (and she's now part alien) or that she was an unreliable narrator and she didn't in fact kill the alien, but instead was the alien, killed Lena, and lied about it?

  • There is at least one other option; you may want to rephrase your question to be more open-ended. Mar 19, 2018 at 23:41
  • I assumed, it's the alien in the end and it killed Lena in the lighthouse and lied in the interrogation. Mar 20, 2018 at 6:21
  • 2
    It's all open to interpretation....I doubt if you could get straight answer of Alex Garland.
    – Paulie_D
    Mar 20, 2018 at 7:35
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    As soon as Lena's group entered the shimmer, they lost a few days. For all we know, they had been changed since then, and the alien was just learning from them. Mar 20, 2018 at 19:17
  • 1
    Important to note that this movie was based on a book and is intentionally open-ended. Mar 23, 2018 at 7:02

2 Answers 2


We have two possibilities like you mentioned:
1) Lena, like Kane is an alien doppelganger. She's lying about the alien dying
2) Lena is the original self that went in.

quoted source : Annihilation Explained

1) In the case that she's a doppelganger, it is possible that she's lying. But let's consider this:

Lena proceeds into the hole in the ground. She sees Ventress whose face is all liquid like. This is an altered Ventress. Most of her is now spliced with the alien cells. She says this - “I needed to know what was inside the lighthouse. That moment's passed. It's inside me now. It's not like us. It's unlike us. I don't know what it wants. Or if it wants. But it will grow until it encompasses everything. Our bodies and our minds will be fragmented into their smallest parts until not one part remains. Annihilation”. What she’s referring to is the nature similar to which cancer works. The cancer cells don’t want anything. But they grow until they encompass everything and annihilate the body.

This alien being doesn't have a purpose of world domination. What it's doing with the Earth's environment and the living beings is its nature. Lying will require a purpose and since there isn't one we can say that Lena is not lying.

Besides, the entire movie is a narration from this Lena. If she's lying about the lighthouse, by extension, she could be lying about all the events inside the Shimmer and we have no movie to go with.

2) The Lena in the end is not the doppelganger.

As they proceed further, they find trees in the shape of people. This is actually people who have mutated into trees, we’re shown this later on. Josie explains how everything inside the Shimmer is refracted down to the DNA. Everything is splicing up.

Based on what Josie tells Lena we know that as soon as they entered the Shimmer their DNAs have started getting altered. By the time Lena exits the Shimmer, her DNA has been altered enough to be part alien.

In the end,

Lena meets Kane. She asks him “You aren't Kane are you?”. He replies saying “I don't think so”. He asks her “Are you Lena?”. She doesn’t respond. Kane is an alien clone. Much of Lena is also spliced with alien cells. We are shown a Shimmer in Lena’s eyes.

Based on all this... I would like to summarize that Lena is not lying, she's not all alien, but she's got enough alien in her to not be able to answer a simple question "Are you Lena". She's not sure anymore and this is confirmed with that Shimmer in her eyes.

  • could it be she is not an alien but part of her mutated like x men?
    – rehan
    May 24, 2018 at 17:40
  • yes, but xmen don't necessarily lose their minds or identities, except Jean :)
    – John
    Jun 19, 2018 at 10:38

The movie is the kind of movie that relies on the power of doubt, so it's not crystal clear for us to tell what happened.

But, based on a few reasons, we can assume that Lena is not a clone:

The lie fact

The lie fact, pointed out by @John


Clones do not have memories, or at least not much of it. When Kane gets out and returns to his home, he seems to not to be able to remember anything, not even Lena. The only reason he was there was that he somehow found Lena's face familiar.

Notice that memory loss occurred after he returned from the shimmering. In the ending, Lena can remember Kane, she asks where her husband is. The only reason Kane remembers Lena again is that they met AFTER Kane left the shimmering. So, giving that Lena remembers Kane, and cares about him, is a clue that she is not a clone.

The Truth

Clones aren't afraid to tell the truth. It's pointed out by Dr.Ventress, and Lena herself, that they don't know what did the alien want, or if it wants anything at all. Kane also doesn't hesitate to answer any question, even when it puts him into danger by telling that he is not Kane. But when Lena doesn't answer, it can be a clue that she is not a clone but she is not sure.


Having a shimmering pupil doesn't necessarily mean that they are clones. Mutation is a side effect of the shimmering, so is growing leaves out of skin, but that doesn't mean you have to be a clone. Josie is affected by the same effects, but she is not a clone, and finally gives up her life, becoming a tree. Therefore you can't certainly say, shimmering pupils equal being an alien.

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