10 Questions From The Scorch Trials That Need Answering In The Death Cure

By  · Published on September 18th, 2015

Scorch Trials

20th Century Fox

We’re now two movies into the Maze Runner trilogy and at the end of the second installment, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, I’m no more clear on what is going on in this post-apocalyptic world than I was at the start. As far as I can tell, none of the questions I posed a year ago were answered with the sequel, as hoped. Fortunately, The Scorch Trials is a little more straightforward with its plot and doesn’t add too much that needs answering in the trilogy’s conclusion, Maze Runner: The Death Cure. But there are some.

Most of my new questions unanswered by The Scorch Trials pertain to W.C.K.D., which I still find to be a ludicrous acronym for a ludicrously named organization (World Catastrophe Killzone Department). Half of them are directed at the first, surprisingly brief first act of the sequel, as I was already terribly frustrated before we even got into “the scorch.” Interestingly enough, to the sadness of fans I’m sure, this isn’t another case where anyone can tell me the answers are in the books, because as far as I can tell this adaptation is one of the loosest of all time.

It should be obvious, but everything below involves huge SPOILERS for Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, so proceed only if you’ve seen the movie or don’t care about such things.

Why Did Janson Bother Pretending His Facility Was Anti-W.C.K.D.?

It makes sense briefly for the Gladers to think they’re truly being rescued from W.C.K.D. and the maze at the end of the first movie. But why attempt to continue the charade? Why have a sit down with Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) to make sure he’s on “your side”? Quickly revealing that the facility, which is still seemingly a safe place compared to the zombie-infested wasteland outside, is also part of W.C.K.D. wouldn’t change much since the kids are already treated like prisoners for the most part. Prisoners who still get better food, beds, showers, etc. But if you do want to seem like the good guys, maybe you shouldn’t be so mysterious with certain new residents (Kaya Scodelario) who have protective and very inquisitive and very untrusting pals like Thomas.

Why Is Security At This Facility So Terrible?

Maybe the fact that you’re pretending your compound is all hunky dory has made your security judgments lax, but while Janson (Aidan Gillen) appears to think the facility is super tight, it fails with all the cliches. The guards don’t notice when their key cards are stolen, the vent grates are easily removed and lead too easily to areas that would otherwise require clearance and getting past armed men. And obviously there is no proper monitoring system in place. Let’s not forget, these are kids who survived and figured out complex labyrinths while living in mysterious circumstances they were supposed to question by thinking they weren’t supposed to.

Why Is the Only Way to Communicate With the Head of W.C.K.D. On a Screen In the Same Room As the Harvested Bodies?

This facility is huge, but there’s only one room that holds all the most important, most secret stuff, including mostly dead Gladers who are being hung and harvested very visually, which makes for good cinema (especially the first time, in Coma) but doesn’t benefit the fact that this is a very horrible thing to let be seen by any wandering Gladers led to believe this is a great place to live. This is the same room where you have to go to Skype with the head of your organization on a giant screen where you talk about your evil master plan in full. Okay, so you don’t know there are some hiding Gladers nearby seeing the whole communication, very conveniently. Wait, maybe that’s their plan all along.

Is This W.C.K.D.’s Plan All Along?

The previous three questions could be easily explained by W.C.K.D. intentionally making Thomas suspicious and intentionally letting him see and hear what’s going on, even that there’s a resistance group camped in the mountains, so that he’ll escape the complex, go out into the scorch and lead them to The Right Arm. Perhaps it’s always been the plan to make Thomas trust and have a thing for Theresa, who has actually always been part of W.C.K.D. and therefore a spy along the way. It did all work, if so, and I guess in the book that is what’s going on – hence the title implying this is another trial – but at least at this point that’s not the case in the movie version. Aside from Theresa being supportive of if not also in cahoots with W.C.K.D.

Wait, But Don’t They Need Thomas?

Thomas and his friends are important to finding the cure, so letting them out into the scorch where they could be killed by Cranks, storms or whatever else doesn’t seem logical. But if they are the most important subjects, why weren’t they or at least Thomas immediately harvested? But if they’re not then why does Thomas think blowing himself up at the end would matter to W.C.K.D.? But if they do need him why did they leave without him? I’m so confused about why Thomas might be important.

Why Does Anyone Trust Thomas To Lead Them?

The Gladers who go with Thomas into the scorch have some good reason to trust Thomas. He did lead them out of the maze, after all. Oh wait, he led them out of the maze and into nothing much better actually, as it turns out. And some of them died on the way. Now he’s leading them from showers and food – and maybe a painless death, whatever – into a desert filled with zombies and who knows what else to find a group who may also turn out to be no better. And then there are the new alliances. Sure, follow the kid who just got your cool secret hideout raided and destroyed or your secret rebel base and one of its beloved leaders shot up. The kid who is in love with a girl who just turned out to be a big traitor causing the death of your friends and family. Even if he’s right, he’s still pretty bad luck so far.

Scorch Trials

20th Century Fox

Speaking of Bad Luck, Poor Jack

That doesn’t look like a question, but Jack (Bryce Romero) deserves a statement first, question second. Here’s the question: what happened to Jack and why didn’t anyone care about him being killed? Now for your question: who the heck is Jack? He’s the Glader all the way to the right in the above image, and you may not have ever noticed he was there. He has no lines, and he’s killed off during the Crank attack at the mall. Only I’m pretty sure the footage of him being killed off has been cut – though it’s in one of the trailers. Regardless, his disappearance or death goes by without much mourning from the others, who shortly after get all emotional for Winston (Alexander Flores) and Minho (Ki Hong Lee). Why even give him a name (he didn’t have one in the first movie)? Why even have him on screen? Why doesn’t Thomas care that he led the kid to his demise?

Why Couldn’t W.C.K.D. Find The Right Arm On Their Own?

W.C.K.D. has a lot of power and a lot of resources, enough to build multiple giant mazes through which they test teens in just to pretend rescue them off to a compound where they’re strung up for harvesting in a way they could have just been utilized in the first place. They have men and machine guns that can easily defend against zombies. They have helicopters and other flying craft for transport and surveillance. Yet they can’t locate a resistance that’s camped in the mountains in relatively plain view.

Is W.C.K.D. So Wicked After All?

Is Theresa right? Should we give W.C.K.D. the benefit of the doubt? They want to create a cure, after all, and maybe to save the world they have to sacrifice some other people here and there. Except that they do seem pretty okay with shooting people and destroying things first and asking questions later. They’re not bad, just moronic and definitely not careful about anything. But they’re not just some dystopian government power that needs toppling, which seems to be where the final installment is headed.

What Are They Trying to Cure Again?

Really the “cure” thing is just a MacGuffin, in a narrative sense, but I keep getting confused about what W.C.K.D. is aiming to cure in the story. Do they want to cure the Crank zombies? Do they want it for protection from the Cranks, like as an antidote? Is it to provide immunity to whatever caused the zombie epidemic in the first place? So then is it a vaccine, not a cure? Is the original source of the flare virus the solar flares that caused the scorch (and is that even right?) or are these terms just too similar sounding in order to make us confused because nothing makes sense? Do the W.C.K.D. people who seem to be fine and dandy in their compounds need it for themselves or are they actually trying to help others? Does the following video help at all? (No.)

Bonus Question: Will The Death Cure Provide Any of the Answers We Seek?

Considering there are also prequel books, I’m going to assume the answer to this is no. And even when those movies are made, we’ll probably still be at a loss for most of our questions.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.