"How It Ends" Netflix movie discussion <spoilers in OP>

I just finished watching the Netflix movie “How It Ends” and would like to hear other people’s opinions about what actually happened. What WAS the disaster in the movie?

The features of the disaster that I remember:

  • earthquake at the beginning
  • frequent earthquakes after the first
  • power outage on West Coast, which quickly spread to Chicago and presumably the entire country
  • Cell phone outage, presumably nationwide
  • Intense electrical storms
  • Aurora Borealis much farther south than normal
  • Thick ash-fall in Seattle and surroundings
  • Tsunami on the West Coast
  • What appeared to be a pyroclastic flow at the end of the movie.
    (What else did I miss?)

What could have caused this? A bunch of things come to mind, but nothing seems to be the “perfect” fit:

  • Nuclear attack, including an EMP
  • Coronal Mass Ejection
  • Supervolcano
  • North and South Poles swapping polarity
  • Something else?

Nuclear attack with EMP: could explain the earthquake at the beginning, the power and cell phone outages and the Tsunami (underwater detonation), but too many electrical devices still worked for it actually to be an EMP.

Coronal Mass Ejection: could explain the power and cell phone outages, Aurora Borealis, intense electrical storms. I can’t see it causing the Tsunami and volcanic symptoms.

Super volcano: The ash fall was in the wrong place for the yellowstone supervolcano (they would have gotten heavy ash in Montana and Idaho, not primarily around Seattle. Could account for all earthquakes and pyroclastic flow, but not for Tsunami and maybe not for electro magnetic effects.

Poles swapping polarity: could account for electro-magnetic effects, maybe for power and cellphone outage. Would short-wave radio still work in this scenario? Can’t see it causing the Tsunami, and maybe not for volcanic effects.

What do you think?


Review of the movie on rogerebert.com includes this gem “Trust me, you’re better off not even beginning.”

Yeah, I wouldn’t call it a super movie – especially the ending – but I was entertained by it.


A high altitude (nuclear) electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) would not cause either earthquakes or tsunamis, and a subterranean or submerged nuclear explosion would not create a significant electromagnetic pulse. HEMP is the result of interactions between the X-ray radiation and charged particles in the upper atmosphere resonanting in the Earth’s magnetic field to produce an intense, semi-coherent radio frequency pulse. The radiation from and underground or underwater nuclear explosion would be absorbed and converted to acoustic and thermal energy long before it could interact with the atmosphere.

I have not seen this cinematic milestone but there are no natural phenomena or existing weapons that could create this combination of disasters, save for the imaginations of screenwriters uninformed by asctual science high produced such gems as a giant Earth-crack chasing John Cusack through Los Angeles or Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche fighting a volcano emerging from the La Brea Tar Pits with concrete barricades.


Yeah, I could have been clearer about that but this was late last night. My intention was to imply multiple nuclear detonations: 1 underwater for the tsunami, and 1 high altitude for the EMP.