Passenger’s Blink-and-You’ll-Miss-It Finale Detail Explains a Lot

Spot the name on the wall? Spoilers.

Clare Burt playing Sue Goodheart holding a newspaper up and looking worried in ITV's Passenger
Photo: ITV

Warning: binge-watchers only. Contains major spoilers for ITV1’s Passenger.

As Passenger’s Riya (Wunmi Mosaku) says in her 40th birthday party speech at The Dog and Duck, life hasn’t gone quite as she’d hoped. Five years ago, Riya left her job and spacious city apartment to move in with her husband and his mother-in-law in the remote Lancashire town of Chadder Vale, where the most exciting crimes to investigate involve stolen wheelie bins. Her husband soon legged it to Spain with his mum Sue’s carer, leaving Riya alone in a tiny terraced house to look after Sue.

Sue Goodheart (Clare Burt) isn’t well. She’s paranoid and hallucinates, phones Riya roughly 20 times a day, and has to be administered specialist medication for her degenerative condition. But as the Passenger finale shows in the briefest of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments, there’s a very good reason for all that. Spoilers below.

In Passenger’s final episode (it’s airing weekly on ITV1 but all six instalments are available to stream now on ITVX), police officers Ali and Nish crack the code that grants them access to the life-or-death game that’s being played secretly in the tunnels under Chaddar Vale, as run by the mysterious Pangaea Initiative.

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Before entering the game, Ali and Nish enter a preliminary kit room where they’re greeted by an autoplay video featuring the Pangaea boss we just saw menacing Derek in a church. Played by Nadia Albina, this character appears to be Melissa Dean, the “Black Rocks” true crime podcaster Katie Wells has a framed poster of in her bedroom (at the very least, she and Melissa share the same voice and use of “black rocks” in pockets as a metaphor for fear). Melissa’s video tells the players to choose their equipment wisely before going through the next door to face their terror.

“Welcome, player, this time the game is real. If you win, a life-changing prize awaits. And if you fail, well, better to die greatly, no? Your journey begins through that little door on your right. Only those who are prepared to face their darkest fears will make it out the other side. We won’t say good luck cos luck will have nothing to do with it.”

Also in the room are protective clothing, weapons, and a scoreboard listing the names of five previous players. Four of those players made it through all eight levels of the game, but one – Mehmet Shah – didn’t last longer than level three. The finishers include: Oliver Wrzecionowski, Ed Ottoman, Nina Karlsson and at number one… Sue Goodheart.

Passenger ITV screengrab

It really is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment there at about the 45-minute mark, for freeze-framers rather than for casual viewers. What does it mean? Sue could have been the first player to face the Pangaea Initiative’s game (though Derek told Kane that all this had been going on for years, and £6k times five players total would barely pay the game’s electricity bills in that time, let alone for this whole, complex operation, so there have to have been others). Unlike Mehmet, Sue completed and survived the game, but it left her damaged. That could explain why Sue asked Riya about “missing girl” Nina Karlsson, the name next to hers on the list, and why she made repeated references to having signed mysterious paperwork.

The traumatic experience of the game, which involves a gas made from a rare Indonesian plant that induces fearful hallucinations, along with a deadly creature of an unspecified variety, could be what’s left Sue in the state we find her: anxious, incoherent and convinced that the end of the world is nigh.

Unless, that is, Sue was already psychologically unwell before she was put in the game (after all, in terms of gaming demographic, she seems to be more Candy Crush/Stardew Valley than retro text-based adventures/dark web). Did ‘Melissa’ use the already-vulnerable Sue as a guinea pig when devising her Passenger experiment? In Stranger Things terms, that would make Sue the Terry Ives of this story – a woman damaged by a shady initiative in whose ramblings may lie the key to unlocking the whole mystery.

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All episodes of Passenger are streaming now on ITVX, as well as airing weekly on ITV1 in the UK. The series will stream on BritBox in the US at a later date.