Warning: This post is not just spoiler-heavy. It’s basically all spoiler.
I put off playing Red Dead Redemption 2 for a long time. But it’s not like I singled the game out for special neglect. I just didn’t buy a PlayStation 4 until really late. After owning every generation’s PlayStation pretty much since launch, when it came to the PS4, I slacked. For a number of reasons, I didn’t get around to buying a PS4 until mid-2020–just a few months before the release of its successor. When it came to playing many of the most celebrated games of this generation, I was very much a latecomer to the party.
Rockstar’s Western epic was in good company. I’ve spent the past few months belatedly working my way through some of the finest games ever made in a rapid burst of dense gaming time. It’s been a lot of fun, and quite intense at times. There have been moments that have jumped out at me and made me realize just how much this medium can affect me, and how far we’ve come. But there was one particular scene that in terms of emotional involvement stands above all others. One moment that reduced me to a complete wreck, and now stands for me as one of the most impactful in all of gaming.
Red Dead Redemption 2 was released in 2018. I spent two years hearing and reading about how great of a game it was before I got to play it. I kept hearing how its protagonist was one of the best ever created in the medium. How it had a story–and especially a climax–that was knocking people off their feet left, right, and center. I didn’t want to believe the hype. Not because I thought they couldn’t pull off something great. I was in no doubt that Rockstar–away from their sillier Grand Theft Auto predilections anyway–would have done great work with the narrative. They’d proven they could do sincere, emotional character arcs before. The first Red Dead Redemption was a mature and heartfelt story centered on one of my favorite video game protagonists of all time. To this day John Marston’s story resonates with me powerfully, a decade after I first experienced it. Its ending–John’s ending–hit me like a ton of bricks. Stepping out of that barn into a hail of gunfire, staring down the barrel of fate as he made the decision to save the only family he had left, fully aware that his past had finally caught up with him and accepting it all in order to give someone else a chance at a future different from his–John Marston went out in tragic glory, in an ending matched by precious few in the medium. So while I knew that Rockstar could well pull off a story of great emotional resonance, I just couldn’t imagine them ever topping that achievement with whatever they might’ve had in store for Red Dead Redemption 2.
How wrong I was.
Before even sitting down to play it, I remember being annoyed that the game would be a prequel centered around John Marston’s old gang–even worse: That Marston himself would actually be around, and you could chat with him and interact with him, but that the game would involve you controlling another character. Marston would be confined to the peripheries, and this other guy would be the focus. Arthur Morgan, they called him. “Arthur Morgan,” I thought, like a petulant child. “Even the name doesn’t sound as good as John Marston. I don’t want Arthur. I want John!” I stepped out into the world of Red Dead Redemption 2 in Arthur’s feet and I didn’t like it. It felt wrong. This man was too stocky, his gait different from the lithe, snakelike dance-walk that John Marston enchanted me with. I wanted to be John, yet here I was, forced to be Arthur. I didn’t like it.
How incredibly, mind-blowingly wrong I was.
What a scarred, beautiful soul.
What a giant amongst men.
I finally finished Red Dead Redemption 2 recently, and it’s safe to say that as far as I’m concerned not only does Arthur Morgan easily take his place beside John Marston in the pantheon of All-Time Greatest Video Game Characters, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the characters that have elicited a stronger emotional connection from me than the gruff and grizzled doomed poet that is Mr. Arthur Morgan. By the end of Red Dead Redemption 2, after I had lived and seen Arthur Morgan’s story, I felt as John Marston himself must have: overflowing with love and respect for this tragic, wonderful man who in the end gave him everything.
I know, I know. Sounds like awful hyperbole. Arthur himself would likely smile and raise an eyebrow and make a sly remark about it if he heard.
Yet it’s all true.
Characters that Feel Real
It’s rare indeed for a fictional character to come flying off the page or screen in such a way as to feel as if they have always existed. As if the story we had witnessed them in wasn’t conjured by a writer but had simply been a glimpse into some real person’s life. One of the prime examples of this effect for me is always Richard Linklater’s wonderful Before films. I absolutely adore those movies. They mean the world to me. From the moment I first saw them on screen, Celene and Jesse have never felt like anything less than fully realized people. Now, decades later, they feel like old friends. Aside from the towering masterpiece, The Last Of Us Part 2, Red Dead Redemption 2 is the closest I’ve come to feeling that from a video game.
That’s quite a turnaround for a game the protagonist of which I didn’t care for at first. I think part of the reason Arthur Morgan made such a huge impact on me in the end is precisely because of that initial apathy I had toward him. When we first meet Arthur there doesn’t seem all that much to him. He comes across as essentially just a soldier, loyally following the orders of his captain, gang leader Dutch van der Linde, without much else to intrigue us. There are glimmers of individuality, humor, and empathy, but by and large what we’re presented with when we meet Arthur Morgan is a hulking outlaw; rough, hard, and willing to do what needs to be done for his boss.
Yet over the course of the tens of hours that it takes to play through Red Dead Redemption 2, we witness a miraculous, captivating thaw. Like the snows of winter receding from the birth of spring, the Arthur Morgan we see at the beginning of this game is gradually transformed before our very eyes into something warm and nurturing, sparkling with light, despite the deep shadow hanging over him. It’s this arc, this growth, that makes Arthur such a powerful character. In fiction, change is everything. A character’s journey is everything. And oh what a journey we see Arthur Morgan go on.
Arthur Morgan didn’t have an easy life. We might have assumed this when we first met him just going by his demeanor, and knowledge of the world he lives in, but we had it confirmed as we lived with him and lived as him during the momentous year of 1899.
Indeed, Arthur Morgan had had it rough. Even for a working class lad born into mid-nineteenth century America, he had it rough. Arthur’s mother passed when he was very young, while his criminal father would die in front of Arthur before the boy reached his teenage years. Taken in by charismatic outlaws Dutch van der Linde and Hosea Matthews, Arthur was given a new lease on life by these rough yet kindhearted surrogate father figures, being taught to read and hunt and fish.
In the nascent gang, Arthur would find purpose and belonging. He would find a family. It would come to mean everything to him. A few years after meeting Dutch and Hosea, Arthur would get a girl called Eliza pregnant, nine months later becoming a father to baby Isaac. The Van der Linde gang now in full swing, Eliza and Isaac settled down in a small house and lived apart from the outlaws, with Arthur visiting whenever he could, using his gang’s ill-gained earnings to help support them. Arthur responded positively to his new family. He began to feel a sense of meaning like never before, bubbling up somewhere deep inside him, hinting of the possibility of some other kind of life than that lived by the gun. Then, one day, on one of his regular visits, as Arthur rode up to the house where his little family lived, he saw two wooden crosses erected in the ground outside. The truth lanced Arthur’s heart. Eliza and Isaac had both been killed by robbers while Arthur was away living the outlaw life. The robbers had gotten away with ten dollars.
Hard as Iron
This is the Arthur we meet when we first start up Red Dead Redemption 2. A man hardened by life, reduced by circumstance to caring only about a small circle of people he has learned to trust, and love, in his own way. He may have briefly glimpsed another world, but that world was brutally extinguished. In Arthur’s world now, there’s the gang, and then there’s everybody else.
It’s understandable, of course, considering the cards that life had dealt Arthur. But we don’t know any of this when we start the game. We aren’t privy to the story behind the man. All we see is the man. And the man is not the most appealing or compelling of figures. Neither is the story that we do take part in–at least at first. Sure, the very start of the game is quite gripping. Arthur and Dutch are helping their band of outlaw travelers through a fierce blizzard on top of a mountain. They are fleeing the law following a botched robbery. They have lost people. The situation looks dire. On the way through the harsh snow they come across a widow, Sadie Adler, whose husband was just killed by a gang that’s long been a rival of Dutch’s. Arthur and Dutch take Sadie in without hesitation. There’s no denying that the hardship, camaraderie, and empathy on display in these scenes do make for quite a strong, captivating opening.
After that dramatic start, however, the game settles into a different rhythm. The gang descends from the mountain and escapes the snows and finds more temperate climes. They settle down in a secluded spot near some woods to recover. It’s at this point where for a long stretch of time Red Dead Redemption 2 pretty much becomes a camping simulator. A Wild West camping simulator, sure, but still. As Arthur, you have to hunt animals to ensure that your gang is fed; you have to keep track of the camp’s medical and ammo supplies; you hang out by the fire and eat stew and play cards with your comrades. You shave and you sleep and you contribute to the gang’s joint fund so as to upgrade the chicken coop, or the medicine wagon. The story does move ahead in halting steps, and there is the specter of the law that hunts you, but for the most part, the game takes its sweet time in absorbing you in the slow rhythms of this world and the familial bonds of your gang. It’s all executed with an industry-leading level of technical polish, but in terms of drama, it’s relatively sparse in these long initial stages.
By way of contrast, the story of the first Red Dead Redemption is far more immediately compelling. It opens with John Marston arriving in silence by train in a dusty town that looks lifted straight out of an Ennio Morricone movie. All the familiar markers are there: the dusty main street, the saloon. Decades of genre familiarity have primed us for the kind of story that will follow. Flanked and stewarded by two grim-looking agents of the law, we soon find out that Marston is being forced into hunting down members of his old gang, lest his wife and son, currently held by the law, pay the price. John’s face is marked by three dramatic scars that cut across his cheek and make gaps in his stubble. His face is an open book of emotion: A deep, permanent frown and a far-off glare in his eyes tell us this is a man trapped in an impossible situation, determined to find a way through a minefield. We are drawn to him, we share his rage, and we want to help. Right out of the gate, John Marston and his story in Red Dead Redemption grab you and don’t let go.
The tale of Arthur Morgan, on the other hand, is a slow burn. One of the slowest I’ve experienced in some time. John has to rescue his family immediately. Arthur’s job is to help his gang survive a halting run from the law. Whereas as John the player was immediately focused on the task of hunting down his old friends, as Arthur we are in a little bit of a limbo at the start of the game. The goals are more vague. There’s more to take in. Arthur and his gang have just escaped certain death and found a decent spot at which to set up camp and ponder their future. There are times it feels as if that future may not even have a chance of existing. Nobody is sure of anything. Despite the gnawing doubts among the gang, Arthur’s boss and friend, Dutch, has his eyes fixed firmly ahead with the conviction of a believer. Dutch’s will and his faith in himself and his plans holds the group together; allows them to believe that there is a light awaiting them all at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, that’s not the way things go, but it takes time before we see some movement.
The Fall of the House of Van Der Linde
The story of Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of slow decay. Of bonds fraying and hopes dwindling as a hostile, rapidly changing world closes in on a group of people who are realizing there may not be a place for them in it anymore. As Arthur himself says so succinctly: “We’re thieves in a world that don’t want us no more.” It’s no coincidence that Rockstar picked the year 1899 as the date for the game. The year itself hints at the feelings the narrative will engender in us and the themes that it will explore. 1899. The end of a century. A turning point. The cusp of something completely new. The old Wild West was on the way out. The loose and recklessly violent ways of the world would soon be replaced by more organized–and in many ways more ruthless and bloody–capitalist ways. There would be no room for rogue, vaguely anarchistic outlaws like Dutch, Hosea, and Arthur. The outlaws would either be incorporated into the system, or they would be snuffed out.
Throughout Red Dead Redemption 2 we see this snuffing out happen in excruciating slow motion. It takes some time for this story to hook you. Arthur and his gang are perpetually in retreat, the long arm of the law and the creeping frontier of civilization forcing them to shuffle periodically from one hiding spot to another, a trail of blood left in their wake. Yet during this decay, we see something happen to Arthur, and it’s this transformation that reveals the narrative’s masterstroke.
As the bodies pile up and the laughter and songs of the camp are replaced with arguments and tears, the leaders react in wildly divergent ways. Dutch, feeling trapped like a cornered animal, begins to froth at the mouth. The honey-voiced promises of good times and repeated affirmations of family above all else are slowly replaced by sworn oaths of vengeance, and broadsides against any and all “traitors,” real or perceived. After mob boss Angelo Bronte kidnaps John Marston’s son, Jack, from the gang’s camp then conspires with law enforcement to take down Dutch’s gang, Dutch snaps.
The gang storm Bronte’s mansion, massacre his bodyguards, and escape in a small boat with Bronte as their prisoner. Flying into an apoplectic rage, Dutch grabs the helpless Bronte by the hair, drowns him in the river, and leaves his body to the alligators. Those in the boat with Dutch are shocked by the ruthless nature of the execution, Arthur most of all. The two friends had been voicing their differences on the gang’s direction in the face of adversity for some time, but Dutch murdering Bronte brings something into stark relief for Arthur: This is either not the Dutch he knew, or he never really knew Dutch in the first place.
Later in the game, as events lead up to the final, bloody climax, Arthur confesses as much to one of the few gang members he still trusts: Maybe the new Dutch was really the same as the old Dutch, he was only now showing his true colors. It’s quite heartbreaking to see the realization gradually dawn on Arthur’s face over the course of the game, that his oldest and most trusted friend and father figure–the man who saved him and raised him and to whom he gave everything–may not be the man he thought he was.
All the blood and the doubt leaves its mark on Arthur, and we see him develop from a dry-humored, hardened criminal to a man with his soul exposed to the world, unafraid to admit that he’s afraid. Watching this journey, and being a part of it, is an incredibly poignant experience.
Video games have the ability to tell their stories in a way that is entirely unique and distinct from any other medium. As they have matured they’ve taken many cues from cinema–with “cinematic” being one of the most commonly used adjectives when it comes to video game storytelling. Red Dead Redemption 2 does this too. It has a wonderful script filled with dynamite performances. Its soundtrack, haunting and melancholy when it needs to be and kinetic and pulse-pounding when the moment calls for it, is perfect. The wide open vistas, beautiful natural scenes, and portraits of settlements on the Western frontier that the game’s engine recreates are some of the most breathtaking in all of video games, and it’s clear they have been inspired by the great cinematographers of the genre.
Yet video games have one thing that sets them truly apart from cinema: Interactivity. In games, the line between protagonist and spectator blurs, the latter becoming active participants in the life of the former, to varying degrees. It took me a long time to get into the swing of Red Dead Redemption 2–and this wasn’t just because of the plot’s slow start. The mechanics of this game are ridiculously involved. Some might say convoluted. The sheer volume of button presses and interactions is truly overwhelming at the beginning. Just taking the example of your horse and your interactions with it involves your fingers having to learn to do an intricate dance in order to brush your horse, bond with it, feed it, and store weapons and other equipment on it. It can seem like a lot. It can be off-putting. But over time, as your muscle memory takes over and you settle into things, this plethora of mechanics serves a powerful purpose: It embeds you in the game’s world. Deeply. Just as the lovingly rendered landscapes draw you in, so too do the involved interactions of the game’s controls. It takes time, but it pays off immensely.
The immersion is echoed in our relationship with Arthur and his gang. The time you spend at camp, interacting with Lenny and Sadie and Charles and Abigail and Miss Grimshaw, it all pays off. It makes you feel an attachment to them; it makes you understand Arthur’s attachment to them. There’s a tragic poetry to it all: By the time you’ve begun to feel significant amounts of affection for these people, begun to feel truly at home in their company–in short, by the time you understand how Arthur must have been feeling the whole time you’ve known him–that’s when the group is ruptured and the wheels start to come off. When Sean is shot in the head right in front of Arthur on the dusty Southern streets of Rhodes, Arthur is struck to the core. I was genuinely shocked by the suddenness of Sean’s end. I carried the sadness with me until the end of the game.
Tragic poetry is a fine way to describe Arthur Morgan’s journey. The one that led him to see that there might be another life possible for him than that of a violent outlaw, but that got him there only when it was too late. It began with the death of Eliza and Isaac. It carried on with the relentless sorrow that pursued the gang in 1899. And it reached a powerful fork in the road when Arthur got sick.
And, man, that sickness. The way the revelation of Arthur’s sickness played out absolutely floored me. It’s the pivotal moment of Red Dead Redemption 2’s story line. Everything hinges on it. And Rockstar pulled it off incredibly. The realization that something is wrong with Arthur comes gradually at first, your subconscious picking up on hints and clues that something might be wrong. For a while you notice Arthur coughing a little bit funny here and there. But it’s probably no big deal. He is a smoker after all, and Red Dead Redemption 2 is nothing if not a game built on verisimilitude. You might think he looks a bit paler than usual, but perhaps you dismiss that as a trick of the light, or a consequence of not having eaten enough in the game. That’s fine, you think, you’ll fix that. On your way back to camp from your stroll in the big city of St. Denis you might track down a deer, and you’ll bring it home and have Pearson roast it up for you and the others.
Little do you know that by the time you notice that something is really wrong, it’s already too late to do anything about it. So there, in St. Denis, Arthur suddenly starts coughing in the street and is unable to stop. All those times that he coughed before and you thought it was probably nothing, it’s now completely impossible to deny the truth of what’s happening before your eyes.
And then it all snowballs. The screen starts to turn funny, the same way it does when you are injured in combat. Arthur wheezes and you lose control of him. He collapses onto the floor and the screen goes dark. It returns in first person, showing us Arthur’s point of view, and things do not look good. His vision is blurry and tinted. He is struggling to breathe. A kind passerby helps Arthur to a doctor, and there the devastating gut punch is delivered: It’s tuberculosis.
Suddenly it all makes sense.
“I’m really sorry for you, son, it’s a hell of a thing.”
And that’s it. As simple as that, Arthur’s days are numbered.
When I played through the TB diagnosis scene, my mind was racing. “Did I cause this?” I wondered feverishly. Had I done some optional mission that led to this, or had I behaved in a certain way in some quest that caused this? Was this fated, or was this my doing? It’s a testament to the way that Red Dead Redemption 2 feels alive with possibility, that I briefly wondered whether this major plot point had been a consequence of my actions, rather than a pre-planned part of Arthur’s arc. The game gives you these choices throughout its many main and side missions–whether to act honorably or despicably. You get different cut scenes as a result of your choices, and the world reacts differently to you. Moral choice systems are nothing new in gaming of course. Fable, Mass Effect, and Infamous are just some of the series that have implemented morality mechanics with varying degrees of success. These systems often feel like tacked-on gimmicks, only prompting you to act in one obviously evil or obviously good way at big moments in a game’s story. They don’t feel integrated mechanically, or like they matter too much thematically.
But there is something about Red Dead Redemption 2’s morality system that really worked for me. It might be because a lot of the time the game doesn’t prompt you to act in a “good” way or an “evil” way, signaling with color-coded lettering which is which; you simply act a better way or a worse way organically, in reaction to one of the emergent situations happening in its vast world. Maybe you help someone injured out in the wild, or maybe you rescue a person who’s getting robbed. Or, indeed, you might let that injured person die, or maybe you gun down the entire group of robbers and the victim and you loot their bodies for all they owned. Sure there are the larger decisions made as part of the main plot, but the morality meter measures all of those incidental encounters out in the wild, too, and in the end it feels like they’re the ones that ultimately determine how you will be judged.
I played the game virtuously. I usually do, when it comes to games with these systems, for some reason. With Red Dead Redemption 2, the more I played, the more honorably I wanted to act. Why? Because the more I got to know Arthur, the more I believed that there was a good man underneath that gruff exterior. I think that’s another reason the game’s morality system worked so well: It didn’t feel like a cheap game play mechanic, it allowed me to express my belief in the goodness of this man. It allowed me to try to prove to the world that despite his upbringing and his tragic past, despite the rough edges the world had given him and all the blood that had been spilled on his account, here was a man who had something good left to give to the world. That he wasn’t past…redemption.
This is why it stings so much when you realize that Arthur catching tuberculosis is something that will happen no matter what you do. Arthur catches it while beating a poor sick rancher during an attempt at debt recovery in an early part of the game. You have no say in this. It’s canon. The rancher, Thomas Downes, coughs while Arthur beats him, and that’s the sentence passed. Thomas Downes dies shortly after this visit. All the years of misdeeds and violence catch up to Arthur in that one moment. It’s just that neither he nor we know it then. This is still relatively early in the game, so we only really get to know Arthur properly after this moment–I only started to see the goodness in him later. I only began steering him on the path to redemption after his fate was already sealed. Arthur begins to see the error of his ways before he is diagnosed by the doctor in St. Denis, but the knowledge that he has only a limited time left on this Earth really brings things into focus for him. He sees the futility of the blood and the escapes and the emptiness of Dutch’s promises and the betrayal that his friend’s acts of violence represent.
Ever since Dutch and Hosea took him in as a boy, Arthur valued loyalty above all else. He committed heinous acts in the name of his gang. He was a brave and loyal soldier. Then, when his world fell apart, he began to see the truth of the matter: Loyalty by itself is not enough, you have to make sure you’re loyal to the right thing.
In the final acts of his story, as the law closes in and Dutch’s gang is tearing itself apart in a hail of gunfire on a mountainside, Arthur–wracked with tuberculosis and knowing that his time is almost up–implores John Marston to run away, to try to lead a better life than he ever did. It’s a beautiful echo of what John would later do for Abigail and Jack. John, unable to process the idea of losing his friend, brings up loyalty, and insists that he should stay with Arthur. Loyalty. The one thing that always mattered to Arthur. Arthur looks into John’s eyes and tells him the truth that came to him so hard and so late: “Be loyal to what matters.”
Shortly after, Arthur breathes his last on that mountain. On death’s door, he confronts his oldest friend and surrogate father figure, Dutch, with the only words that his broken and ravaged body have left, his voice barely rising above a whisper: “I gave you all I had. I did.” Having raised Arthur, all Dutch does is look as Arthur breathes out his last, the younger man seeing more clearly in death than he ever did in life: “John made it. He’s the only one. The rest of us… No. But, I tried. In the end, I did.” Arthur Morgan struggles and pulls himself along the ground toward the edge of a cliff on top of that mountain. There, he turns his head, and with his final breath he watches his last sunrise, as he fades from this world.
It is a heartbreaking, tragic end to one of the most compelling characters in all of video gaming. Arthur Morgan was brought so brilliantly to life by the writing in Red Dead Redemption 2, and by the wonderful performance of actor Roger Clark. Yet it is made all the more powerful by the fact that, thanks to the unique nature of the medium, by the end of the game we feel as if we had a part to play in Arthur’s story. Indeed the ending I described in the paragraph above is only one of four possible endings, all dependent on how you chose to behave as Arthur throughout the game. Whether you saw in him the potential to become a good man redeemed by his actions, or a man bound by fate to live a life of violence and sorrow. I believed in Arthur. By the end, I loved him like a brother. Thanks to the morality system in Red Dead Redemption 2, at the close of Arthur’s story I got to see the happiest possible ending this tragic man could hope for: Dying facing the rising sun, going in peace, knowing that in the end he had tried his best.
I said at the outset of this piece that there was one moment that stood out in Red Dead Redemption 2 more than any other, and that had completely bowled me over emotionally. I wasn’t referring to Arthur’s death. That was intense, yes. But the moment that reduced me to tears and that I still can’t stop thinking about comes before that.
It’s Arthur Morgan’s last ride back to camp, accompanied by the Daniel Lanois song, “That’s The Way It Is.” At this point, Arthur knows that there is no hope left. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. His gang lies dead or scattered, all the good times so far gone as to feel like a dream rather than a memory, the laughter of the camp long faded into silence. His best friend has descended into madness and disregarded all that they had ever held dear.
Approaching death’s door, tuberculosis ravaging his body, Arthur bids goodbye to Abigail and Sadie and sends them off on their way, telling them to get Jack and to make a new life away from all this. “You’re good women. Good people. The best. Now you go get that boy. There’ll be time for sorrow later.” All that’s left for him to do, he says, is to go have one final chat before he gets much sicker. Abigail and Sadie ride off, and Arthur mounts his horse.
It’s at that point the first notes of “That’s The Way It Is” start to play, and I remember the impact this had on me. I knew then, that this was it. This was the one ride Arthur Morgan would not return from. Scarcely managing to breathe, Arthur reaches down into his pack, puts on his hat one last time, and spurs his horse to run as the song plays:
‘The many miles we walked
The many things we learned
The building of a shrine
Only just to burn’
I struggle to put into words the perfect storm of emotion that overcomes me during this section. As Arthur rides to face his fate, the voices of those he has known come back to him, in response to how you acted as Arthur. The woman that Arthur loved and who had loved him back, but couldn’t be with him in the end: “There’s a good man within you… But he is wrestling with a giant.”
The widow of the man who Arthur beat, and who he caught the disease from: “And all you can do now is decide the man you wanna be with the time you have left.”
A man who, if you played on high honor, Arthur rescued from certain death in the early part of the game: “You saved my life. You’re a good man.”
A deserting soldier Arthur was meant to collect a loan from, but who on high honor Arthur spares and then saves along with his pregnant wife from avenging soldiers: “Thank you, feller. You know, there ain’t enough kindness in this world, that’s for sure.”
And one of his gang mates, a smart and loyal woman: “Maybe it’s a sign, Arthur. Try. Try to do the good thing.”
This is one of the most powerful moments in any game I’ve ever played. It reaches right into me and destroys me. It hits me so hard, even harder than Arthur’s death, because this feels like the moment he finally makes his choice. Everything that follows from here–all the bravery and the action and the confrontation and the death–is potent and incredible, but it is all dependent on this one moment. The moment Arthur Morgan decides to make a stand.
He’d had a hard life. He’d made his share of mistakes along the way. He’d done bad things. But that didn’t mean that he was a bad person. We had seen it: There was still a tremendous capacity in this man to do something to make the world better, like some believed he could. This was the moment he decided he would at least try. I believed in Arthur Morgan. This tragic man who tried to do good, to make up in whatever way for all the bad that he had done. He couldn’t change the world in the end. Or erase all that he had done before. But he helped those he could. In the end, he saw clearly.
And he tried.