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Spoilers for the epilogue, Red Dead Redemption 2

Butch:

Here’s how Merriam Webster defines “epilogue:”

noun: a concluding section that rounds out the design of a literary work.

Game, I got questions.

How does betting on Charles, followed by a wagon chase, do that?

How does following that up almost directly with an ENDLESS shootout/bounty thing with Sadie do that?

How does pulling a house down and moping about Abigail with SOMEONE ELSE do that?

This isn’t an epilogue. It just isn’t.

I’m not sure what it actually is. I still think it may well be DLC that, for some reason, isn’t DLC. But shit, it’s starting to feel like a damn tutorial. “Calm the horse, now ride it to tire it out, now ride with Jack, now shoot some dudes, now shoot them from a wagon, now do a lasso thing….” Game, I KNOW! I even was ok with the lasso! Why, after, like, 497345987 hours, do I feel like I’m doing a tutorial?

This is just….. just……

But here’s what enrages me, like, white hot rage enrages me: Our last word on Arthur? Hey game, you remember him. He was the main character in this game we played a couple of months ago. Good guy. Had a really good story arc that we referred to as “THE GAME.” Our last word on him is Charles, in strolling banter, not even a cutscene, saying “I buried him AND MRS. GRIMSHAW (emphasis mine) on the side of the mountain. He’d be happy.” THAT’S. IT. Mentioning his fate in passing in the same sentence as an NPC NO ONE LIKED.

Game? Arthur is the main character of you. I checked the box last night. Arthur’s picture. Arthur’s. Arthur had a really good ending. Indeed, it should have been THE ending. And now we just get a throwaway line about him?

Just……just…….

Feminina:

With you, man. WITH YOU. About everything.

WHY WHY WHY game?! Why did you do this? Why did you follow Arthur’s perfect, tragic, grim, sliver-of-redemption arc with this endless series of chores and tutorials on stuff we already know how to do, with a character we barely care about? (Though, speaking again of DLC, if we hadn’t played the main game in a while, we might actually welcome a brief refresher on lassos or whatever. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN AN OPTIONAL ADD-ON, GAME.)

And yeah, that was a very casual way to slip in a reference to the ultimate fate of the character we DID actually care about. Oh, thanks, Charles, thanks for confirming that at least he wasn’t just eaten by crows, I guess (not that he would probably have cared). Nice of you to catch us up with a by-the-way reference to that one random dude we SPENT 700 HOURS PLAYING AS, as long as you’re filling in the news on everyone else anyway. No big deal, right? (Again: FINE IN DLC.)

Although honestly I did actually like Miss Grimshaw, so I’ll part ways with you there. She made some poor decisions, yeah, but who in this game did not? And she took care of business, man. That lady did not mess around. I respect that.

If you’ve met Sadie, you’ll have heard mention of Micah, and surmised that the “reason” we’re doing this whole bit is so we can hunt down Micah and settle our issues with him (i.e., murder the hell out of that bastard). Which…I mean, yeah. Micah was a loose end in Arthur’s story, we mentioned that. And he’s an unmitigated bastard, to be sure. But honestly it was not such a big, nagging narrative problem that I have to spend 10 hours of “epilogue” on it to find closure. A minute-long cutscene in an ACTUAL epilogue? Sure.

Sigh. It’s a shame, it really is. We had months of deep, thoughtful, intelligent discussion on this game, and now it’s going to wrap up with two weeks of solid WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL.

KALE SALAD IS NOT AN EPILOGUE, game.

Butch:

Right! Right! It’s what DLCs DO! And that’s ok! I’ve played DLCs. We played the one for Horizon, right? And we had put down the main game for a while and it was ok to get back into the groove with some basic monsters, basic fights, etc. Fine.

I tell you, this whole thing feels like a DLC. The way it’s set, the way it’s structured, all of it.

Not just fine, expected. If you’re gonna DLC as someone else, completely ignoring the main character of the first game would be so weird. That’s how DLCs do it. If we played a DLC as Ciri, say, and she never mentioned Geralt once, we’d wonder why. Or if she bumped into a mutual friend, Triss say, and neither of them mentioned Geralt, it would be odd. So ok, in a DLC, great, cuz it’s a NEW story referencing and old one THAT ENDED.

Well, ok, I’ll give you that, about Susan. But tossing her into the same sentence there elevates her character to a level of importance in the narrative equal to Arthur’s. Or lower’s Arthur to a level of importance equal to her, and, well, like her or not, they shouldn’t be equals in terms of importance to the narrative.

Or…..dare I say it…..A DLC!!!!! Shit, letting a baddie disappear is HOW DLCS oh I’m tired of saying it. Shit, people LOVED the DLC for DAI where you basically go after Solas, who, of course, disappears after betraying everyone like, oh I don’t know, Micah. It wrapped all sorts of shit up. Why didn’t we play it? Ah, well. Time has passed.

It really is as if they made a DLC and then had second thoughts about selling it. Maybe they thought it would step on the toes of the online thing that they keep hyping that I’m totally ignoring? After all, GTA Online has been a cash machine for them. Maybe the suits were all “But we don’t want people playing single player DLC, we want them online” and the developers were all “But we already made it…..”

Who knows?

I don’t know. But this sure feels like a well thought out, well designed DLC that isn’t a DLC.

We really did get a lot out of this, before now. I’m trying to get something here. Maybe thoughts of the transition to the future? How, ok, the “old ways” died watching the new day dawn and what is the new day, rock farming and being owned by the bank (“now you’re a real American?”). That might work. But it doesn’t explain the wagon chases, the bounties, the Abigail plot, any of it. All of that shit has no point, no themes, no nothing.

This in a game where we got themes from the fucking load screens.

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL sums it up perfectly.

Feminina:

Yeah, that’s actually a quite good theme that I was meaning to mention–the transition from riding the range as a free outlaw to (mostly) law-abiding man in debt to the bank he would once have robbed. That’s kind of meaningful! Like the west, the outlaw is tamed by rules and formal agreements to repay money.

It’s an interesting point. I don’t think it needed to be in this game right now, but it’s not bad stuff.

And speaking of repaying money and catching up on people, did you get the bit where we learned that Strauss died in jail without ever ratting out the gang?

Made me feel kind of bad about Arthur throwing him out of camp and all. I mean, I felt kind of bad about that anyway (although considering the fate of the camp, he may have been just as glad to be gone), because I genuinely didn’t think Strauss was an evil person, or no more so than anyone else in the gang. Moneylending was certainly presented as being an evil business, and I personally didn’t like collecting debts, but as I think we discussed, is threatening and beating someone up objectively any worse than shooting a bunch of guys and robbing a stagecoach?

They’re BOTH bad, and it’s an interesting line to draw, that Arthur eventually couldn’t take any more of the debt collecting, but never seemed to feel the same moral compunction about the robbing and murdering.

Anyway, I think one thing this epilogue does that’s interesting is tie back to that moneylending issue here by making John a borrower himself (although spoiler, they never really do anything explicit with it). He, of course, borrows from the bank that–presumably–wouldn’t lend to the sort of people Strauss lent to, but is that a sign of moral character in banks, or just business sense?

The main thing, I think, is that this borrowing is regulated by the law, and so by participating in this legal contract with the system, John is buying into the civilized way of life in a very literal way. And since this particular location was Abigail’s idea, it’s all, obviously, done for her sake, and we’re meant to see this as the saga of a wild man taming and civilizing himself for the sake of a woman.

Which is another kind of interesting thing we could talk about…the relationship between John and Abigail, and their sort of competing desires for their lives. I’m kind of glad they had Abigail just pack up and leave rather than stick around and complain all through this section. Her character rides the edge of ‘nagging wife caricature’ pretty hard for a bit there, and having her just say “I can’t do this, I’m out” I read as kind of a nice sign of initiative and unwillingness to stay stuck in a pattern that’s not making either of them happy. Plus we don’t have to listen to them bicker about the same damn thing for 5 hours straight.

Butch:

It’s a point, yes. But, again, how does Kevin killing add to this point? That Sadie shootout was LONG. LONG LONG LONG. And where’s Abigail fit in? (I have a feeling we’d care a lot more about her if we played the first game, which we DIDN’T game! You hear us? WE DIDN’T!)

I did hear that about Strauss. I also heard them throw in some comment like “I guess you can never tell how strong people are” or some shit. Great, guys. Great. You think he’s a weak little Jewish guy UNTIL HE DIES and then you’re all “Oh. My bad.”

I don’t think I’m gonna forgive the game about Strauss. Don’t like it.

As for the bank, the line “And now you’re a real American” certainly had something behind it. A something that has been lost in the rage, but something. And yes, tamed by the rules. Even Uncle is all “You haven’t robbed it yet?”

I found it interesting that he gets the loan under his real name. The Pinkertons could never stop John Marston with guns and horses, but the bank had John Marston come crawling to them, eager to give his freedom away.

That’s a themey thing, I guess.

Feminina:

Yes, I also thought it was interesting that he’s in hiding, shoots guys who overhear his name in the post office, but then just signs a loan at the bank as John Marston. As you say, the law, and the law’s hired hands in the form of the Pinkertons, can’t pin him down, but you can’t lie to the BANK, man!

Butch:

Nor do you HAVE to lie to the bank. Bank doesn’t care if you’re good or bad, white hat or black. Bank just wants its money.

Feminina:

True! The bank doesn’t care.

Are you going to repay that money? That’s all the bank cares about. You can repay it with honest labor, or by robbing trains, that’s up to you. Just as long as you don’t get busted and thrown in jail. That’ll interfere with your repayment schedule.

Although I guess then the bank can always just repossess the land, which you’ve improved with the addition of a house, so hey, you do you.

Oh, speaking of which, have you built a replacement house yet? If not, sorry, spoiler.

If so…that’s a faintly weird little mechanic.

Butch:

Exactly! And the threat of that, losing the house, disappointing the wife, etc., is more of a reason to be “good” than avoiding jail and hanging and all that.

Might get arrested and hung? Whatever. Lock and load. Might get arrested and lose the house? Can’t have that.

Again, a bank doing what no Pinkerton could.

Did you also catch, when running down the bounty in the ENDLESS shootout, John asking about the bank robber “He rob the place with a gun?” and Sadie saying “No, a pen.”

Sigh. Replacement house.

No, no I have not. Nope. I have not.

I have not.

Sigh.

Feminina:

Well, guess what!? You’re going to build a house!

It’s gonna be great. You’re gonna love it.

And yes, good point about the robbing with a pen. Another symbol of this shift from action/combat/freedom to laws/contracts/civilization.

Which, let’s be honest, most of us really prefer! I would rather sign a contract and pay money to the bank so I can stay in my house, than just settle somewhere and have to defend my territory with guns and constant vigilance from the encroachment of rival bands of outlaws. Just my personal preference.

But there’s no denying it doesn’t make for as exciting a game. Which is another instance where you feel the game is really willfully making this as dull as possible so that we, the players, can fully appreciate what John is sacrificing here. Wouldn’t we rather be out robbing trains and getting in gunfights? Isn’t that more what life (in a game) is ABOUT?

And then, interestingly, they flip THAT on its head by giving you an endless bounty chase that you just kind of wish would end. Like, even the adventure isn’t that exciting except for the two minutes when you’re actually shooting at people. If all you really wanted in a game was gunfights, this would be a disappointment too.

And I’m not sure what that’s about. The approach of civilization makes even exciting stuff less exciting? When it’s part of a bounty hunt conducted under the auspices of the law, even gunfighting doesn’t recapture the outlaw spirit of the old days? (Though remember how unglamorous those old days actually were to play, too.) Hm.

Butch:

Yes! If they wanted to make the boring, mundane shit the point, why was that fight SO FUCKING ENDLESS???????

Took me twenty seconds to pull the house down. Took me FOREVER to do that fight.

Cuz you know what Arthur didn’t put in his satchel before he gave it to John? Health cures.

Thanks for nothing, Arthur.

Feminina:

Scene that accidentally got cut: with his dying breath, Arthur pulls out his entire collection of food and health cures and gobbles it all down, vainly trying to stave off death for one. more. minute.

I actually assumed that John had used them up in the intervening “some years” since he got the satchel. As to why he never bothered to replenish them, though…well, my best guess is that he’s just not too bright.

Butch:

Miraculously, the apples and wild carrots stayed good!

I can hear Roach, from heaven, in his Mr. Ed voice:

“Thoooosssseee were miiiiiineee….biiiiitch…”

Feminina:

Sniffle. My poor horse.

I haven’t been able to let myself get close to a horse as John. I have a couple of nice ones, and I’ve done some bonding, I feed them apples, but it’s not the same. The pain of loss has scarred me.

Butch:

At least Roach got all the sugar cubes I had before the end.

(You do know that every horse I will ever have in video games will be named Roach.)

(Shit, if I ever get a real horse I’m gonna name it Roach.)

(But that is very unlikely.)

(But then, if you bought a house, anything can happen.)

Feminina:

Oh, dude, no doubt. Every horse will have to be named Roach forever. Hell, I think if you ever get anything kind of horseLIKE it will have to be named Roach.

Like if you ever own a donkey, or a zebra, or a donkey painted to look like a zebra? Roach.

Butch:

Everything. Anything.

If you’re foolish enough to have a third kid, name it Roach.

Feminina:

That would almost make it worth it!–but not quite.

Butch:

No, not quite.

Today got weird. Even by our standards.

Feminina:

Enh, we had some quite good game discussion in there earlier, which is more than we can count on here in the “epilogue.” We deserve to relax and start naming our hypothetical farm animals and children.

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