Travelers Season 3 Ending Explained

Travelers season 3 brought the story of future operatives trying to avoid a cataclysm to an unexpected conclusion — what does it all mean?

This article contains major spoilers for the entirety of Travelers season 3!

Travelers season 3 played a dangerous game in its finale by introducing a reset that could either pay off with an innovative re-imagining of the journey to the “Twenty-First” or alienate viewers by undoing all of the relationships, consequences, and tragic deaths of the past few years.  But perhaps a reset was necessary. Glimmers of doubt had already begun to appear as consciousnesses continued to be sent from the dark future; could there be any hope that the Director would ever succeed in its mission to avoid humanity’s extinction?

Whether you agree with the choice that the writers or the characters themselves made, there are plenty of questions surrounding what really happened in those final moments of the episode. Although some might argue that the finale could serve as series ending if Travelers is not renewed, the possibilities that are left open are as promising as they are disconcerting. Might we see a reunion of our team against all odds, or is the future that Traveler 3468 set in motion too different for that to happen again? Here’s what (we think) we know.

Marcy and David

The scene on the bus at the end of Travelers season 3 may have brought hope to those who would have wished for a happier ending for fallen hero, David Mailer, but was it really happy? This Marcy is not Traveler 3569; this is pre-brain damage Marcy Warton, the nurse. Sure, David may have had a soft spot for the Marcy that ended up in his care, and he does seem to forge relationships with all of his charges — he’s just a nice guy. But the Marcy he fell in love with was from the future, the bad-ass FBI doctor, not the nurse who, in this timeline, never ran afoul of Vincent Ingram a.k.a. Traveler 001.

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Now one might say that because this Marcy has more in common with David as one who seeks to help those less fortunate, the match is more suitable, and no one could blame David for starting from a physical attraction in either case. But as a viewer of three seasons of Travelers, is it enough for the social worker to be happy with a Marcy rather than our Marcy? If we agree with Agent Yates’ admonition to MacLaren that his team did more harm than good, then it has to be enough. David’s death, heroic or not, was caused by his involvement with the travelers. Maybe he’s better off this way.

Grant and Kat

The same could be said of Kathryn, who eventually caught on to the fact that her husband Grant was a different person. By naming the exact time and date of her meeting the original Grant, her regrets led to a way out for the failed mission, but they also provided a chance for Traveler 3468 to make amends for stealing his wife’s chance at a happy life. He could easily have started from the beginning and been the only Grant that Kat would ever know, but instead he walked away, allowing Kat to be with John the artist instead of someone who would still have to go on missions in secret.

Interestingly, Kat mentions to the 2001 Grant-reboot that John, who is late for their rendezvous, “gets caught up in his work,” so her marriage may end up being very similar to the one she had with Grant anyway. Perhaps that’s just her type! But does this mean we won’t see Leah Cairns in Travelers season 4? Or Patrick Gilmore from the above example? Creating the need for a restauranteur or social worker could be a challenge in a reset timeline, so this could be a goodbye for two beloved characters.

Grant and Kat in Travelers season 3

Helios and 9/11

Grant accomplishes two tasks in the final moments of the episode. The first is to hand an envelope to a young Samantha, the scientist who pioneered the clean energy breakthrough that had to be stopped in episode 8 of season 3, “Archive.” The envelope is emblazoned with the word, “Helios,” referring to the asteroid that was set to collide with Earth in 2018 if not for the intervention of MacLaren’s team in season one. Presumably, Grant’s thinking was that if Samantha was smart enough to create such an efficient means of powering the planet, she could also alert the scientific community about the deadly threat headed their way.

The second thing Grant does is head to the Twin Towers on September 11 to stop the arrival of Traveler 001. Keen viewers will recall that the test case was supposed to arrive in the body of Anthony Corrigan, whom we see here in the finale, but instead ended up in the body of IT guy, Vincent Ingram. How Grant was able to send the vital email when Vincent could not is anyone’s guess, but assuming he was successful in stopping the Director’s failed mission, there’s another question left up in the air…

Did Grant leave the World Trade Center before the devastation began? He looks at his watch and sees that it’s around ten minutes before the first plane hit. Technically, his job is done, and he has no reason to go into Protocol 5 and live out his life. But he does appear to make a move to leave the office before we cut to Marcy and David. Could we end up with a Grant MacLaren who paradoxically remembers the previous timeline in Travelers season 4, should the show be renewed? That actually might be just the catalyst that’s needed to bring more relevance to a soft reboot.

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Traveler 001

Presumably, Traveler 001 overwrote the other traveler inside Jeff Conniker after his interrogation but before he was found behind the cinder block wall. While this was a successful attempt to entrap Marcy and acquire her backdoor code to access the Director, the real question surrounds what Jeff meant when, after Marcy kills herself, he said, “The other way is going to take so much longer.” With his consciousness uploaded to the Internet, perhaps his takeover of the future progressed over decades of infiltration.

Does this mean the Faction was always led by a disembodied benefactor that was just as much technology-based as the Director they despised? If so, why bring down the Director who supposedly couldn’t be trusted to fix the future by accelerating the apocalypse? The use of nuclear devices to blind the Director may have been a hostile takeover of the Archives, but it also guaranteed that the future would still be post-nuclear winter with a leader who was just as dictatorial (and artificial) as the quantum AI they defeated. Ironic in the extreme.

Traveler Program Version 2

Fan discussion on Reddit and elsewhere speculates that the first three seasons of Travelers was merely a simulation run by the Director, and we’ve simply been watching the predictive algorithms of an artificial intelligence. The process of watching version one fail could have happened in nanoseconds in the far-flung future before even a single traveler was sent back. How else could the Director avoid the issue of only being able to send consciousnesses back to a point in time after the most recent traveler, making a reboot seem impossible?

Except in this new timeline, the failed mission never even started. Grant’s email ensures that the above question of Traveler 001’s presence in the Internet is completely moot because Traveler 001 as we know him was never sent. Grant may think that delivering the Helios warning and stopping the traveler program was enough to ensure a future in which the Director was never needed, but clearly climate change and other factors will still devastate the planet and necessitate time travel to fix the problem all over again.

So what will version 2 look like? That’s not a question that can be answered here, but is there a plan that can survive contact with the past? Can any iteration of the first traveler ensure that the mission won’t be off-track from the very start? And how can any scenario bring the specific team of Grant, Trevor, Philip, Carly, and Marcy and the actors that play them back together? Like the travelers themselves, we must put our trust in the Director. Or at least a lowercase-d director or two, a crack writing team, and Travelers‘ executive producers Brad Wright and Eric McCormack.

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Until then, Protocol 5, everybody…