The Mystery From Arrival’s Ending Solved

Chris Tilly

BEWARE OF SPOILERS! We are going to be talking about the ending of Arrival in this article so THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD…

Arrival is smart, thought-provoking sci-fi that has you thinking long after the credits have rolled. The film asks big questions about lofty themes like the meaning of life and our place in the cosmos, some of which go unanswered. But during a post-screening Q&A for the film at Fantastic Fest in September, screenwriter Eric Heisserer did explain one mystery from the end of the film.

Spoiler Alert!

With global catastrophe fast approaching, Louise Banks needs to prove to General Shang that she can communicate with the aliens, and that they are here to save the human race rather than destroy it. She does this by whispering the General’s late wife’s final words into his ear in Mandarin. Only trouble is, we don’t hear them and there are no subtitles onscreen.

Heisserer said this came as something of a surprise to him, as director Denis Villeneuve had asked him to write a line good enough to save the world, and he spent days coming up with the right words, only for the audience to remain blissfully unaware. So he told that Austin audience the line, which we are now telling you.

If you want the line to remain a mystery, read no further!

Mrs Shang’s dying words were “In war there are no winners. Only widows.”

Pretty profound eh? Yet Villeneuve ultimately decided the audience didn’t need that knowledge, and Arrival definitely works with the words going unheard. But equally, it’s nice to know that a line really was written, especially one that good.


Arrival is still in cinemas, and you should check it out as it really is one of the best films of the year.

Chris Tilly
FANDOM Managing Editor in the UK. At this point my life is a combination of 1980s horror movies, Crystal Palace football matches, and episodes of I'm Alan Partridge. The first series. When he was in the travel tavern. Not the one after.
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