This post contains spoilers for Bird Box: Barcelona.
The Bird Box franchise is all about what you don’t see. That’s true for the characters in the movie, who wear blindfolds to avoid seeing monsters that will otherwise cause you to commit suicide on sight. Yet it’s also true for the viewers, who also never see the monsters. At their best, Bird Box and the sequel Bird Box: Barcelona follow the principles of Jaws and Alien: They keep the creepy thing out of sight to let the viewer’s imagination do the work.
However, Bird Box: Barcelona does break from its predecessor with a radically different type of protagonist, Sebastián (Mario Casas) and his young daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard). Despite presenting themselves as a desperate father and child, we soon learn that Sebastián has seen the monsters and instead of committing suicide, he’s obsessed with forcing others to see them so they can kill themselves. Furthermore, the Anna who travels with him isn’t real; she’s a hallucination of his daughter, who died after being exposed to the creatures by a religious cult led by Padre Esteban (Leonardo Sbaraglia).
More than a change in scenery and protagonist, Bird Box: Barcelona also gives us some more information about the threat, offering surprising, and possibly hopeful, revisions to the lore.
Bird Box and the Revelations About Seers
The first Bird Box included people like Sebastián, most notably Gary, played by Tom Hollander. Before he revealed his true nature, Gary theorized that only “crazy” people could survive seeing the monsters, even if they became destructive afterwards.
By making Sebastián its protagonist, Bird Box: Barcelona provides much more insight into these “crazy” people, eventually called “Seers.” Borrowing the split timeline approach of the first film, Bird Box: Barcelona shows us Sebastián before and after his encounter with the creatures, including his response to the initial invasion. After losing his wife to the monsters, Sebastián hides away with Anna, hoping to not only avoid looking at the monsters, but to also escape the attention of Padre Esteban. However, the corrupted priest eventually finds Anna and Sebastián, and the padre forces Anna to look first at the creatures. She responds by throwing herself from a rooftop. Sebastián hurls himself toward his daughter but cannot reach her in time. The experience exposes himself to the creatures, making him a Seer.
Toward the end of the movie, a scientist theorizes that Seers experience extreme stress or trauma, giving them a different response to the sight of the monsters. That makes sense, given Sebastián’s experience. But it doesn’t completely line up with the other main Seer, Padre Esteban.
Before the arrival of the creatures, Esteban laments that he lives in a time without miracles or signs from God. He interprets the creatures to be angels, and thus thinks that he does God’s will when he forces others to see. Later in the movie, Sebastián encounters someone saying the creatures are aliens who want to make contact with us. Sebastián argues with him, insisting that they’re angels. Yet they both seem to be saying the same thing. The creatures are otherwordly and deserve to be seen. Of course Sebastián finds the man banging his head against a window, trying to die, so he’s not a Seer, but he may have overheard and accepted the rhetoric of an angel-obsessed Seer.
Sebastián does initially consider the creatures to be angels and after each death he causes, he sees a golden light leave the victim’s bodies and float to the sky. More importantly, he sees and hears Anna throughout the movie, only once with the wounds from her fateful fall. So while stress and trauma certainly play a part in a Seer’s conversion, it seems that dogma does as well, whether its Padre Estaban’s faith in the existence of angels or Sebastián’s conviction that his daughter still lives.
The Ending Offers the Franchise New Hope
By the end of Bird Box: Barcelona, we get another suggestion for resistance to the monsters, one with potentially hopeful implications. After Sebastián snaps out of it, he sacrifices himself to save two survivors: English woman Claire (Georgina Campbell) and young German girl Sophia (Naila Schuberth). Soldiers arrive and take Claire and Sophia to Montjuïc Castle, where survivors live in peace. Sophia reunites with her mother, and Claire meets a medical examiner.
A former doctor herself, Claire talks with the examiner about the scientific response to the creatures. The examiner not only explains the connection between trauma and becoming a Seer, but also theorizes that the change occurs on a biological (as opposed to simply mental) level. According to the medical examiner, the stress actually creates a change in the DNA of soon-to-be Seers. In other words, they have physical evidence of the distinction between Seers and victims.
Based on that evidence, the medical examiner and her colleagues have been trying to synthesize a vaccine for the creatures. The movie ends with images of the scientists drawing blood from a captured Seer and preparing a possible vaccine. They inject the serum into mice and then expose them to a creature that they they have somehow captured and keep locked in a chamber. From an adjoining room, scientists study sensors and see the heart rate of the mice spike and then flatline, suggesting that the vaccine didn’t work.
Despite this particular failure, the ending of Bird Box: Barcelona is surprisingly hopeful. Not only does it prove that humans can rebuild some type of society and that they have more understanding of the monsters’ effects, but they also apparently have the ability to capture a monster.
Which, of course, raises a huge question.
Will Bird Box Ever Show Us the Monsters?
Probably not, no. Two movies in, the Bird Box franchise has taken the Jaws and Alien models to their extreme and seems committed to not showing the monsters. One might wonder how long filmmakers can prolong the story without showing the central threat, particularly if humans can catch these things. Surely, logic dictates that the creatures will have to become visible at some point, right?
No, not necessarily. Whatever pleasures the Bird Box movies provide, it isn’t sound internal logic. We watch these films for the melodrama and the over-the-top deaths. More importantly, they’ve given viewers plenty of time to decide upon the monsters’ appearance for themselves. Whatever the filmmakers come up with would surely be a disappointment.
So fans will probably need to be content with the world-building in each movie, and not worrying about what we can’t see. After all, that’s the whole point of Bird Box.