WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Netflix's In the Shadow of the Moon, now streaming.
Director Jim Mickle makes a huge sociopolitical statement via Netflix's sci-fi action-drama In the Shadow of the Moon. The time-travel procedural sees Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook) as a cop who, in 1988, discovers a copycat killer is traversing the timestream every nine years to murder people. As the assassin, Rya (Cleopatra Coleman) goes back in time, Thomas is moving forward, obsessed with finding out her motives. The big twist in the finale is that Rya is actually Thomas' granddaughter from the future, but what ensues is a paradox that's way worse than the one in Avengers: Endgame.
Now, it's clear from the many explanations from writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and directors Joe and Anthony Russo that there are flaws in the MCU's time travel logic. Endgame changed multiple things in the past, such as Captain America meeting himself in 2012 and Thanos' army from 2014 being taken out, which meant the present should have been altered once Tony Stark snapped the Mad Titan away. The timestream was clearly broken, but Marvel Studios ignored that in favor of maintaining one consistent cinematic universe on screen. We never got to see any of the clear-cut branches that spawned, such as Old Man Rogers' life.
In the Shadow of the Moon creates an even worse paradox. It turns out Rya is traveling back in time to kill the white supremacists that cause a mass genocide in America in the future. She reveals an older Thomas is actually the person who trains her in 2024 and sends her back Terminator-style, because the neo-Nazis would perform a terrorist act which killed her parents, who were of different ethnicities. Thomas would lose his daughter and this is why he conditions Rya, as she's in optimal shape as a soldier to conduct the mission.
But the paradoxes are crazy and simply drawn out for plot convenience. Firstly, when Rya meets an unwitting Lockhart and discusses the mission in 2015, that drastically changes the timeline. She wasn't supposed to interact with him because he could have ended up giving her sensitive information that would alter the past. And so he does when he informs her she'd kill his partner in 1997 and, more so, die in a subway crash in the '80s.
What makes it worse is that, in the end, once Rya completes her mission, the civil war is averted in the future, as she's taken out the terrorist cell. If that's the case, a new timeline should be created, but we never get to see what happened in this new world where there's no attack. In fact, we don't even see the branched reality where Thomas recruited his team to get Rya ready to become the Traveler.
In the Shadow of the Moon concludes with Rya succeeding and us expected to believe the future is safe again. The thing is, if the war doesn't occur, Rya won't get sent back and Thomas doesn't become a temporal general -- like in the film's main timeline. In other words, this timeline is supposed to cease and be destroyed, yet it exists still and, somehow, the movie ends on it, leaving us wondering what exactly did Rya fix. This reality shouldn't be alive and breathing, yet it is, which means In the Shadow of the Moon has a massive paradox. Rya's mission created a whole new timeline and the movie doesn't even mention it, reaffirming it has no clue how time-travel and the Butterfly Effect (if you change the past, you alter the future) works.
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.