Kaleidoscope ending explained: who survived the heist and who didn't?

Peter Mark Kendall in Kaleidoscope
(Image credit: Netflix)

So you've finished watching Kaleidoscope, the Netflix series that can be watched in any order (not finished the show? Spoilers abound!). But what does it all mean?

Since Kaleidoscope plays out in different orders for different viewers, with Netflix effectively playing all but one of the episodes in shuffle mode ('White' always plays last), some viewers might be confused about what actually happens. 

Sure, we've got a guide on the Kaleidoscope best order, but if you see a character die in the first episode you watch, you might have forgotten about it eight episodes later when you reach the finale.

Now that you've met the Kaleidoscope cast you might be interested in confirming their fates, and understanding what actually happened in the heist. Read on as we answer your questions about the TV show.

Did the heist succeed?

Technically, yes and no.

The heist went off without much of a hitch, and the team managed to break into the SLS headquarters and get back out again without being thwarted by the anti-heist agency.

However, as we find out in Pink, Hannah Kim and her sister switched out the $7 billion in bonds with cardboard while no one was looking, so the team actually only ended up stealing... a load of cardboard. Let's hope they recycled it.

Kim did this so that the owner of the money wouldn't hunt down her father, Leo Pap, who also happened to be the mastermind of the heist.

Apparently Bob didn't receive the memo though, as the drama of the final episode revolves around his attempts to try and get his cut.

Who killed Ray Vernon / Leo Pap?

At the end of Pink, the final episode chronologically, we see Ray Vernon, otherwise known as Leo Pap, getting shot and dying. 

Many people think that the identity of the shooter is a mystery, but there's a big clue that suggests it's Roger Salas' son, Brad Salas. 

That's because the shooter wears exactly the same clothes as Brad when we see him at the end of White, talking to his father.

Sure, that's not outright confirmation — we're having to assume that Brad Salas happened to dress identically on these two occasions, and it seems an odd move for a criminal to wear clothes they can be recognized in like this. But without any alternative explanations, this seems like the best guess.

Giancarlo Esposito in Kaleidoscope

Giancarlo Esposito as Leo Pap in Kaleidoscope (Image credit: Netflix)

Who in the heist crew dies?

Leo Pap isn't the only member of the heist crew who dies.

In White the driver, RJ, gets killed by teammate Judy Goodwin in an argument.

Weapons expert Ava Mercer gets killed in Pink, the final episode chronologically, which takes place six months after the heist. She's gunned down by Bob Goodwin, who's on a killing spree to take out his ex-heist-mates, but before Bob can kill anyone else the FBI shoots him dead.

Who survives in Kaleidoscope?

Maybe better than asking who dies, is wondering who survives.

The 'bad guy' Roger Salas ends up in prison for 20 years, so he makes it out alive, as does Pap's daughter Hannah Kim.

Of the heist team, Judy Goodwin and Stan Loomis both make it through White and end up working together on more crimes by the time of Pink, though by the end of that episode, it's unclear whether Judy will abandon him with some new ill-gotten gains or not.

What happened in the true story Kaleidoscope is based on?

Lots of people are talking about how Kaleidoscope is partly based on a true story — so did the heist in that play out like it did in the TV show?

Unfortunately, there was no heist in the true story, making this a big ol' trick question. That's because, as explained by Eric Garcia in an article published by Netflix (opens in new tab), Kaleidoscope is quite far removed from its source material.

In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy reached New York City, a giant vault containing, amongst other things, $70 billion in bearer bonds, became flooded. A gargantuan effort resulted in these bonds being collected, transported to Texas for preservation and drying, and then returned to NYC — and reports suggest that 99.9% of the bonds completed the return trip intact.

According to Garcia, when he heard this story, he realized it'd be a great cover-up for a heist. So perhaps it's fair to say that Kaleidoscope is 'inspired by' rather than 'based on' a true story.

Tom Bedford
Streaming and Ecommerce Writer

Tom is the streaming and ecommerce writer at What to Watch, covering streaming services in the US and UK. His goal is to help you navigate the busy and confusing online video market, to help you find the TV, movies and sports that you're looking for without having to spend too much money.