"It's not a lake, it's an ocean." Those famous parting words from Remedy's 2010 thriller Alan Wake (opens in new tab) have left fans puzzled by its purpose for years. Through an XBLA semi-sequel, a mystifying ARG (opens in new tab), and countless teases in Quantum Break and more recently Control (opens in new tab), fans have been left with many mysteries and few answers as to what happened to their favorite fictional grumpy author, Alan Wake, and, in a real-world sense, just what Remedy plans to do with the story.
We previously covered exactly how Remedy has been building a shared universe (opens in new tab) across its many stories, including Max Payne, Quantum Break (opens in new tab), Alan Wake, and Control, and we know that these days, Remedy has seemingly had to cut ties with the foremost two properties as they aren't the IP holders, but as for Control and Wake, the connective threads remain tight. In fact, with Control's final expansion, AWE, Remedy has triple-knotted these two stories in a way that has forever changed both of them.
If you're wondering what new revelations we learned from the AWE expansion regarding Alan Wake and Jesse Faden's shared world – the Remedy Connected Universe – we've laid it all out with red strings on a corkboard so you don't have to. Here are our findings.
Dr. Emil Hartman was taken over by two entities
One could rightly assume Dr. Emil Hartman, owner/operator of the Cauldron Lake Lodge and recipient of an Alan Wake face punch, was influenced by the Dark Presence in Bright Falls in some way, but in AWE, the details become much clearer thanks to an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Control.
As the FBC was in Bright Falls studying the "recurring AWE" of Cauldron Lake, they became aware of Hartman's involvement. Documents reveal he was discovered by an Agent Estevez, whom we have not yet met, and she took him into custody after discovering he was a "shaded" individual.The Shadow or Specimen A-010, according to other documents is the term the FBC uses for what we knew in Alan Wake as the Dark Presence, the corrupting darkness that overtakes a person or object. Though the FBC does not fully understand how shading works, they do say Hartman was the first ever shaded entity taken into FBC custody.
Hartman was previously under investigation for abuses related to the Ash Act, the laws that dictate what can and cannot be done to paranatural individuals such as Jesse and Dylan Faden, and from Alan Wake, the Anderson brothers and Alan himself as well.
Hartman's abuse of his medical practice as a means to try and control the latent abilities within individuals such as Wake amounted to a human rights violation, though it's unclear when Hartman was charged with these crimes as the DLC also explicitly states he was taken into custody once shaded and therefore did not likely give a referenced voluntary interview with the FBC under the influence of the Dark Presence.
As Hartman is the main antagonist of the AWE storyline, what's perhaps most important to note is that he was considered, as Alan puts it in his writing, "The Third Thing." Once in The Oldest House, which itself was already overtaken by the Hiss, Hartman's already shaded form merged with the Hiss resonance to create one giant wendigo-like monstrosity the Bureau had never dealt with before.
This "Third Thing" became partly responsible for the Bureau's decision to close off the Investigations wing which players explore in the story. We still don't know exactly how or why the two malevolent forces interacted in this way, but it does strongly imply they are not one in the same, as I had once pondered myself.
The FBC has yet to confirm a previous Bright Falls Altered World Event from 1976
Remedy's Sam Lake talks Alan Wake, Control, and cancelled games (opens in new tab)
In Alan Wake, we hear a lot about the Anderson brothers, Thomas Zane, Brabara Jagger, and events which transpired years before Alan's quickly abandoned sabbatical, but as the narrators were mostly the possibly senile Andersons themselves, there was a problem with narrator reliability. As we learn in the AWE story, the Bureau has had similar issues confirming these events, though they seem to lean toward buying them.
In several documents which discuss the "possible AWE" of Bright Falls, 1976, the FBC recounts reports from witnesses at the time who say the Andersons fought off "the scratching hag," better known as Barbara Jagger.
Sadly for AWE historians, the Bureau was never present on the scene for these events, so they've never officially ruled it an AWE, though they did make an appearance in town six years earlier in 1970 and confirmed a separate AWE, which compared with at least Alan's happenings, gives the location the distinction of a recurring AWE site.
Alice Wake has visited The Oldest House, and Alan may be visiting her too
Across several documents found in AWE, it's revealed that Alice Wake has been in contact with the bureau since her husband's disappearance. In 2017, she was on site within The Oldest House for an interview related to Alan's wellbeing and whereabouts. It's said that while there, she set off an item, codenamed SI-1, housed by the FBC, which may have led to the deaths of a redacted number of agents. Though Alice's last name is never visible in the document due to redactions, it seems likely it was her, as her last name even perfectly fits the black lines.
What we don't know is who or what item SI-1 is. An Object of Power, an Altered Item, or perhaps an organic creature like Hartman. It's never made clear, but Alice's understanding of and cooperation with the FBC is itself a massive revelation. As best we can tell from other documents, the FBC does not definitively know what happened to Alan yet, and at least once pondered his possible death.
But Alice likely believes otherwise, as she took a photo of Alan (or Mr. Scratch, his doppelgänger) in her home in New York after setting up camera in her room for that very purpose, believing she had been visited by Alan at times. It's also worth noting that the FBC repeatedly refers to Alan as Alice's ex-husband. It's never made clear if that's because she has moved on in his absence or if because Alan is presumed dead.
Another AWE will occur in Bright Falls soon
In a stunning final scene, Agent Langston alerts Director Faden to an AWE alert coming from Bright Falls, but says it must be a glitch because it says it's happening a few years in the future. Jesse suggests the data may be accurate if the AWE was already ongoing before the lockdown hit The Oldest House. What does it mean?
In Jesse's universe, it means the Hiss is about to hit the fan once more. In our universe, it means Remedy is ready for, and perhaps already working on, Alan Wake 2. Alan's monologue to close out the chapter seals the deal, as you can see for yourself above. It seems like we will be heading back to Bright Falls within the next few years in an official Alan Wake sequel, which, for longtime fans like me, is some of the best news I've heard all year.
The Remedy Connected Universe may be a brain-melting ouroboros
Though the Wake sequel is probably the most exciting news to dissect from the AWE revelations, the biggest, most mind-bending reveal is that the events of Control, and bear with me as I'm still processing this myself, may be authored by Alan Wake. I'll give you a moment to find the ibuprofen for this oncoming headache.
Back? Right, so throughout the AWE expansion, Jesse finds pages of a Night Springs spec script for an episode titled "Over The Threshold, Darkly." The script tells the story of a scientist and director, both unnamed but clearly alluding to Darling and Trench respectively, arguing over a presence they don't understand. The director eventually allows this presence into himself, it consumes him, and he shoots himself. This is exactly what happens in Control, where Darling and Trench brace for the chaos of the Hiss invasion and Trench kills himself as the Hiss takes over.
What are we to take from this? I'm still not sure, but my mind is blown regardless. The confusion runs deeper too. Throughout the base game and the DLC, you'll often hear Hiss enemies shouting lines, some of which repeat regularly. They are seemingly random, stuff like "orange peel," "baby, baby, baby, yeah" and my favorite, "I am a worm through time." Even Dylan really likes that one. In AWE, we see Alan trying to write his exit, really his "Return" just as he did in the original Alan Wake. Alan gives The Third Thing these lines, as though they are born of his own creation.
We know from previous revelations that Night Springs the TV series was set up by the FBC to introduce paranatural notions to the public, like how some believe our governments trickle out UFO footage to get people more comfortable with the idea of aliens existing. But if this Night Springs spec script is to be taken at face value, the Federal Bureau of Control, the Hiss, and even Jesse Faden herself may all be characters in an Alan Wake exit strategy.
This reveal has created a real chicken and egg situation for the Remedy Connected Universe. Is Bright Falls the focus on an ongoing, recurring AWE by the Federal Bureau of Control, or has Alan given birth to these concepts so that he may finally escape the Dark Place? Is Jesse looking for him, or is she merely his paper puppet, performing the oft-cited balance of sacrifices and heroism to tell a satisfying story to leave Alan an open door back to his wife. Is that why shades of him are seen in Alice's bedroom? Is that why the Dark Presence and the Hiss behave so similarly and even interact via Dr. Hartman?
In traditional Remedy fashion, we are left with more irresistible questions despite several exciting answers, and none of this has even begun to account for the apparent third prong in the future of the Remedy Connected Universe the DLC seems to tease, but we'll have more on that later. For now, get excited for Alan Wake 2, as it suddenly seems like a real possibility, all these years later.
For more, check out the biggest upcoming games of 2020 (opens in new tab) and beyond still on the way, or watch below for our review of Control.