Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon: The Traveler, Explained

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon, now streaming.

Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon is a sci-fi film from director Jim Mickle that's one-part action and another part procedural, particularly in the way it uses Boyd Holbrook's Thomas Lockhart as a cop trying to stop a copycat killer who begins a spree in 1988. Subsequently, every nine years, the hooded killer resurfaces to take out select individuals, and following the death of his partner thanks to the assassin, Lockhart becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth.

However, as he inches closer to the killer's motives, Thomas discovers it's not an army of copycats, nor is the hooded assassin immortal. The assassin actually turns out to be, Rya (Cleopatra Coleman), a time-traveler who was sent back from 2024 and is working her way backwards in time as Thomas moves forward. The kicker is, she's got a very personal connection to the police officer we never see coming.

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Thomas has quite the challenge trying to stop her but what's all the more shocking is in '88, she dies after their brawl results in Rya getting crushed by a train. Thomas later traces some airport keys she had to '96, and by the time he understands she's from the future, his world is rocked when he places his partner, Winston (Bokeem Woodbine) in danger. Winston's accidentally killed trying to apprehend Rya nine years later and Thomas goes mad, ignoring his daughter Jean (Rachel Keller), and her depression, to find the assassin.

Every encounter ends the same, though, with Rya knowing exactly how to evade Thomas and escaping to a different timeline. By the time Lockhart gets to 2006, though, he realizes it's white supremacists being killed. Rya's mission is to take out the movement they started, which reached cataclysmic proportions in her era.

In 2006, Lockhart ends up trailing her and it's then and there that he sees Rya using a time machine to escape, revealing that a scientist he met and ignored at the precinct in '88, Dr. Rao (Rudi Dharmalingam), was right all along.

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Every nine years, the moon opens a rift in space and time allowing passage, and Rya's been exploiting this. Still, Thomas wants justice for Winston. But by the time 2015 rolls around, Rao incapacitates him as he doesn't want Rya's mission interrupted. It turns out in the future, Rao too is fighting for people of color, although Thomas escapes and just as Rya arrives, holds her at gunpoint. But before he can arrest or shoot her, Rya reveals the man who gave her this mission is none other than Thomas in 2024. He's her grandfather and he wants to stop a racial genocide that occurs in the future.

It's a mind-blowing moment that ranks up there with movies like Looper and Terminator as Rya explains that Jean is her mom. In fact, she's actually entering into labor at this time, with her black husband at her side, which is why Rya doesn't look like Thomas' family. He can't believe it until Rya shows him Jean's guitar necklace which he gave to her as a kid. It turns out Thomas trained Rya in the future and worked with Rao to send her back as a soldier as she was the only one equipped with the talent to pull off the kills. Thomas breaks down, admitting she'd die in '88 but Rya's main concern is the job at hand because even if it means self-sacrifice, she has to save the world from a dystopian future.

Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon stars Boyd Holbrook, Cleopatra Coleman, Bokeem Woodbine, Rudi Dharmalingam, Rachel Keller and Michael C. Hall. The film is now available to stream.

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