ITV’s Passenger Ending Explained: Pangaea, the Forest & What’s Really Going on at the Bread Factory

We need Passenger series two! And a lot of answers. Spoilers.

Wunmi Mosaku holding a flashlight on a snowy road for ITV's Passenger
Photo: ITV

Warning: binge-watchers only. Contains passenger finale spoilers.

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise … and if those woods happen to be in Chadder Vale, the fictional Northern setting for genre-crossing ITV mystery Passenger, that surprise may well be the end of you.

It was certainly the end of Mehmet, a Chadder Vale youngster lured in to the town’s deadly secret. It was very nearly the end of his pals John and Katie, and who knows how many others have fallen foul of The Pangaea Initiative’s strange experiment over the years?

With major spoilers for the Passenger finale, and more questions than there are stolen recycling bins in Tony’s lock-up, let’s pick apart what we know about this conspiracy.

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What’s Going on at the Bread Factory?

In the tunnels underneath it, deadly live-action game “Passenger” is being operated by shady organisation The Pangaea Initiative. Spread via the dark web, players pay £6k and sign waivers before entering a multi-level game that involves fighting their deepest fears, and gives them a chance to win a mysterious prize. The levers are pulled by a local lad who watches the players through CCTV in a basement underneath his house, where he pretends to live with his arguing parents.

Factory owner Derek Jackson and his waster brother Kane are also paid by The Pangaea Initiative to deliver mysterious creatures and dispose of the waste it creates (presumably the players who don’t survive). Kane was supposed to use a pricy machine for the disposal but found it easier to dissolve of the remains in stolen local wheelie bins, which aroused the interest of local police detective Riya and eventually led to Kane being arrested for local man Mehmet’s murder. Kane hadn’t killed Mehmet, but he had moved his body after he died in the game, so the DNA evidence was against him.

What Is The Pangaea Initiative Up To?

According to a woman we’ll call Melissa Dean (in the world of the show, that’s the name of the “Black Rocks” true crime podcaster – listened to by Katie – who shares her voice) Pangaea is running a kind of… youth training scheme/cult.

“I devised an experiment, Passenger, that would help tease young people out of their caves and put them back on the main stage, harnessing all those unique gaming skills and putting them to use. If we can bring all your fears to the fore, maybe, just maybe, you’ll emerge stronger.”

In the autoplay video that greets players of Passenger under the bread factory, Melissa (played by Doctor Who‘s Nadia Albina) says the point is for them to face their fears and emerge stronger. To her co-conspirator Derek Jackson (Daniel Ryan) of Jumbo Breads though, Melissa says that the point of Passenger is to “recruit” young minds.

Recruit them for what purpose, we don’t know but to judge by the hazmat-suited Pangaea crew that arrived to round up whatever it was that escaped from Kane Jackson’s delivery van and put it back into level 8 of the game, some kind of fear-based brainwashing is involved.

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“We had a chance, Derek, to take our anxiety-ridden youth and give them purpose, to turn all those hours sitting at a keyboard into a strength, entice them with the prize then recruit their minds.”

Is Chadder Vale Cursed?

That’s the legend and the explanation for any bad things that happen, which is convenient for Pangaea. There is a lot of superstition in the town, as we saw when Jim gave Riya a protective egg talisman for her birthday, supposedly to protect her from the curse. The town is also home to tourist attraction The Tree of Good Hope, the roots of which are supposed to banish said curse. The tree is what The Pangaea Initiative tell international players to give as a cover story for why they’ve travelled so far to visit Chadder Vale.

What Was the Jim and Eddie Story All About?

Jim (David Threlfall) runs the local fracking operation, which The Pangaea Initiative wants closed down because it could interfere with and expose the game operating in the tunnels underneath Chadder Vale. Five years ago, Derek paid Tony (Sean Gilder) to attack Jim in an attempt to get him to leave town. Tony glassed Jim and framed a drunk Eddie Wells, whom Riya arrested and sent to prison. Jakob witnessed Tony committing the attack but Tony threatened him into staying silent.

Why Did Derek and Kane Move Mehmet’s Body?

To frame Jim for his murder. Mehmet was a regular protestor against the fracking and a thorn in Jim’s side. When Mehmet drowned inside the game, instead of disposing of his body, Derek and Kane broke into the fracking site and left it there, to incriminate Jim in a further attempt to get the fracking stopped at The Pangaea Initiative’s behest.

However, that doesn’t explain why they also faked a suicide note from Mehmet – a draft of which was discovered in Kane’s house.

Who was the Californian Cowboy?

The cowboy hat-wearing visitor who took a taxi to Chadder Vale and met up with Mehmet must have been a fellow Passenger player, like Nina Karlsson. On the night that Mehmet died, Riya saw him looking beaten up in the local pub, injuries presumably sustained during the game.

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What Was Nina Karlsson’s Story?

Nina was a Swedish visitor to Chadder Vale who met Mehmet on the dark web Passenger forums, and who had previously played and survived the game. Did it leave her stronger? Who knows. Judging by her current circumstances, she doesn’t seem to be enjoying a cash windfall, but neither is she one of the Pangaea cult members by the looks of it. When Riya first approached Nina in a neighbouring village, she pretended to be an Englishwoman named Claire who had invented the Nina identity to disguise herself while she cheated on her husband, but she really does appear to be Nina.

How is Riya’s Mother-in-Law Sue Involved?

According to a chart on the wall of The Pangaea Initiative kit room under the bread factory, Sue Goodheart was a previous player of the game (though as she doesn’t quite fit the usual demographic, perhaps it was tested on her?). Riya believes that Sue is suffering from a degenerative psychological condition treated by medication sourced from a Harley Street clinic, but could it be that Sue’s mind was damaged by her experiences in the game? Perhaps The Pangaea Initiative are behind the medication she takes, keeping her incoherent and quiet.

What Escaped from Kane’s Delivery Van?

Something with the ability to melt through metal, tear apart stags and goats, create potholes, induce fearful hallucinations and leave behind a black gooey residue that infects people who are exposed to it. When the Pangaea operatives went hunting for whatever it was, they wore gas masks to protect them from the effects of the gas, which is made from an extremely rare (and fictional) Indonesian plant known as “Devil’s Door”,  and which affects the part of the brain that regulates fear. Are we talking a terrifying triffid-like plant with a taste for venison, a creature that feeds on the Devil’s Door plant and emits its hallucinatory gas, or something…else?

What Was the Black Liquid?

Something unnatural linked to whatever it was escaped from Kane’s delivery van, and a symptom of exposure to the Devil’s Door plant gas, as seen in Katie, John and on the dead deer.

What Happened to Katie, John and Riya in the Woods?

Thanks to the escaped *something*, when they went wandering around the woods, they were unwittingly exposed to the hallucinatory gas used in the game that makes players face their worst fears. Katie saw visions of herself in a wedding dress and handcuffs, and of her aged-up mother in a wheelchair – showing that her greatest fear is remaining trapped in Chadder Vale and living the same life as her mother. John had visions of his abusive father telling him that he was worthless, while Riya had traumatic childhood flashbacks about hiding under a bed.

Where Was Everybody Left?

As the closing credits rolled on Passenger, Riya had been delayed on her way out of Chadder Vale and back to Manchester Met Police by Eddie Wells and the mob’s revenge attack on Jakob. She’d stopped Jakob from being glassed and was sending him off in an ambulance when junior police officers Ali and Nish called her to say that they were under the bread factory and had discovered the game. On the horizon, Riya saw the factory burning after Derek had set it on fire rather than face his worst fears and play the game, as Melissa had insisted. Ali is hoping that her coder and gaming skills will help her and Nish survive the game, we’re all hoping they don’t burn to death before they get a chance, while Derek must be hoping that this whole mess will just go away.

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Will There Be a Second Series?

There needs to be. It’s too early for one to have been announced yet, but fingers crossed. We’ll bring you any news as soon as it arrives.

All episodes of Passenger are available to stream now on ITVX in the UK. It’s coming to BritBox in the US at a later date.