‘Finch’ is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama that follows one of the last surviving humans on earth as he embarks on an epic cross-country journey. Accompanied by his beloved dog and newly assembled humanoid robot, the film’s namesake (essayed by Tom Hanks) attempts to drive to safety while battling tremendous odds. The crushing solitude of being the only human for miles around — combined with the arid wasteland setting of the film — makes the narrative highly dramatic, while Finch’s canine and computerized companions add some much-needed comic relief.
The film ends on a predictable note, but not before revealing some intriguing details about the titular character and how he came to be in the situation we find him in. If you were left with some questions after the movie ended, we’re here to clear things up! Let’s take another look at the ending of ‘Finch.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
Finch Plot Synopsis
The film opens with Finch in a radiation suit on a food collection mission around a decimated city. He finds a few cans in the otherwise ransacked stores, but his search is cut short by a violent dust storm that forces him back to his shelter.
Once inside, we see the central character’s emaciated form and are given hints that he is suffering from radiation poisoning (which he is seen reading about). He fondly plays with his dog, Goodyear, before turning to work on a mechanical project.
In the background, his small mechanical helper scans book after book and uploads the information into a computer. Finally, Finch completes what he is building, which turns out to be a humanoid robot.
However, he soon gets a warning about a deadly storm approaching and is forced to finish his work in a hurry. Due to this, only 70% of the data (from the books) is uploaded onto the robot’s memory.
After a quick lesson in which he teaches it to walk, Finch loads Goodyear and Jeff (as the robot decides to call itself) into an R.V. and begins to head west. It is soon revealed that his goal is to reach San Francisco, which is outside the reach of the storm and promises to be a less hostile environment.
En route, the dying man tries to teach his new robot the basics of surviving in the harsh landscape even as Jeff clumsily completes the tasks assigned to him. Finch repeatedly reiterates that Jeff’s main function is to protect Goodyear from coming to danger.
The dog, however, remains suspicious of the large and lumbering mechanical robot who seems to break more things than it fixes. During a food-finding mission, Jeff fails to notice that a building shows signs of having other humans, which Finch has warned him against.
When the trio gets back on the road, they find themselves followed by an ominous car.
Finch Ending: Is Finch Dead?
Eventually, Finch and Jeff are able to lose their stalkers but damage the R.V. in the process. By now, the protagonist’s health has begun to deteriorate sharply, and he is seen coughing up blood multiple times.
Soon, Finch is unable to drive and is forced to rely on Jeff, who learns quickly but is still ignorant of the many basics of survival. Finch describes the apocalypse on Earth and various other important instances from his life as “stories” for Jeff to fill the time and teach his robotic creation about the past.
Eventually, still many miles from their destination, Finch collapses after a coughing fit. Jeff, who is driving, notices a butterfly on the windshield, and the dying man orders him to stop.
The two then sit outside their vehicle and watch the stark landscape while Finch attempts to teach Jeff how to play fetch with Goodyear. Soon, however, he becomes too weak to move and subsequently dies.
Jeff then loads up the R.V. and completes the journey to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the film closes with him and Goodyear walking down the historic structure.
As expected, Finch passes away and leaves his beloved dog in the care of Jeff. From the few details that we are given about his condition, it seems like Finch is suffering from acute radiation poisoning.
This is because of his repeated exposure to sunlight, which has become lethal due to Earth’s severely damaged ozone layer. With no possibility of a doctor or recovery, Finch’s death is a certainty that is made clear from the start.
This also means that the cross-country journey he embarks on is not to save himself but to save his dog, Goodyear. Thus, Finch dies in the end, but his legacy and teachings live on within his robot, Jeff.
Why Does Finch Make a Robot?
Finch’s singular reason for creating Jeff is so that there is someone to take care of Goodyear after he dies. In fact, the titular character makes this very clear when, during an angry outburst, he tells Jeff that he did not create a robot to give him company and that Jeff needs to “grow up” quickly so he can take care of Goodyear.
The books that are scanned and uploaded onto Jeff’s memory are to help him survive and make sense of the world around him.
In case you were wondering why Finch didn’t just use the internet to teach his robot, keep in mind that the apocalypse was accompanied by a massive electromagnetic pulse, which wiped out all electrical systems on the planet.
Therefore, the internet, and most other electrical systems, do not function in the world depicted in the film. The only exception is appliances that are powered by solar and wind energy.
Lastly, a brief scene near the end of the film shows us just how central to Jeff’s existence is his objective of taking care of Goodyear. Soon after Finch’s death, the robot realizes that his cushioned fingers are too clumsy to open cans of dog food.
However, the can is automatically sucked into a magnetic opening in his chest, which opens the can. Finch has, therefore, literally embedded a can opener in the center of his robot to ensure that he never forgets his primary objective — to ensure Goodyear’s well-being.
What Happens to Jeff and Goodyear? Do They Become Friends?
The film ends on a somber yet hopeful note, with Jeff and Goodyear walking together on the Golden Gate Bridge. Therefore, it seems like Finch’s two companions survive and are seemingly getting along much better than they were initially.
Even though Goodyear refuses to play fetch with Jeff — making the robot fret about the dog not liking him — he eventually realizes that Jeff means no harm and that the machine cares about Finch. Therefore, the film closes with the two as friends.
Combined with the fact that Jeff also now knows how to search for food, open cans, and has brought them to a place where the sun’s rays are not lethal, it seems like Goodyear has a good chance of survival.
The robot, of course, is built by Finch to withstand severe conditions and will likely be around for a long time, possibly even after Goodyear passes away. Their only concern at the moment is to stay wary of human scavengers that kill for food and resources.
What Caused the Apocalypse?
From the few hints given about the dismal post-apocalyptic state of the planet, we can infer that an abnormally large solar flare from the sun destroyed the Earth’s ozone layer, and a subsequent electromagnetic pulse (EMP) then destroyed all major electrical systems.
The shredded ozone layer, which Finch refers to as “swiss cheese,” now fails to block the sun’s radiation, causing all life that’s exposed to sunlight to die out.
However, as we see near the end of the film, there are still parts of the world over which the ozone layer is intact. San Francisco is apparently one such place, which is why Jeff sees a butterfly just as they begin to near the city. Since we also see grass growing around Finch’s grave, and knowing that the place where he died was arid at the time of death, we can also infer that the ozone layer is renewing itself. Therefore, the film ends on a hopeful note, not just for Jeff and Goodyear but also for the planet.