Obviously big spoilers here as we explain the Death Stranding ending. If you want to know what it all means and what the Death Stranding story is about then buckle up because we're about to peel the Death Stranding banana of Kojima madness and expose the its meaning. Or something.
We’re going to start from Episode 11 and explain everything up to Episode 14 because the Death Stranding ending is nearly two hours long. It is at least quite explanatory and wraps up loose ends quite nicely. By some measures, it’s a lot less confusing than some of the more expository and absurd Metal Gear games, so we hope this explainer helps you wrap your head around it. We're going to assume you've completed the game and want some clarification. If you haven't this probably isn't going to make much sense.
Again, big spoiler warnings before you continue!
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Episode 11: Clifford Unger
After defeating Higgs and learning that Amelie is an Extinction Entity (more on that later) Sam is sucked inside a supercell storm vortex and deposited in Vietnam (this being Clifford Unger's Beach/afterlife, built from the shared Beaches of those who died en masse in war). After another fight, you’ll immobilise Clifford who will try to take BB, telling it that “we’re getting out of here.”
Sam theorises that Cliff is BB’s father. Cliff finally addresses Sam, saying “they told me your name was Sam Porter, but your name is Sam Bridges, my bridge to the future. You bring people together, you’re their bridge to the future.” Keep that in mind for later, it’s important. He then gives Sam with his dog tags, which Sam attaches to BB.
Remember that throughout the game we’ve been drip-fed BB’s memories of Cliff and given the knowledge that there were unethical experiments conducted by President Bridget Strand to create Bridge Babies to try and understand the BTs that arose from the Death Stranding. In these flashbacks, we’ve also seen an unmasked Die-Hardman trying to help Cliff save BB and his comatose wife.
Sam lands back in the real world and in the Private Room and tells Deadman that he thinks his BB, that he's calling Lou, is Cliff’s child. Deadman notes that this is impossible because Cliff would be too old for that. He then shows Sam a video of Die-Hardman “for BRIDGES eyes only” where he points out that nobody has met Amelie in person. Sam counter this noting that he’s touched her and met her lots of times when he was a child. Deadman says that this is correct, but the meetings took place on Amelie’s Beach, not the real world.
Amelie was born on the Beach (Death Stranding’s version of a personal afterlife, remember). Her soul or Ha remained there whilst her physical body, her Ka, came to the real world. This meant she spent her childhood in the hospital before learning to jump between the afterlife and the real world when she was in her 20s. Die-Hardman then relays that Bridget was diagnosed with uterine cancer in her 20s and therefore can’t have kids, so Amelie can’t be her daughter as the game made us believe.
Die-Hardman then alleges that Amelie/Bridget’s separation must be the cause of the Death Stranding and accepts an invitation from her to her Beach. He brings a gun with him, loaded with Hematic Rounds made from anti-BT Sam’s blood which connects the trio. This allowed him to take it to her beach and try to kill her (usually you get stripped of any items when you jump.) This hologram recording is actually happening before, and explaining, the scene where we saw Clifford rise from the beach and greet Bridget and Die-Hardman.
Episode 12: Bridges
Fragile Sam what Higgs told her: that the terrorist voidouts, and plan to summon another extinction event - in this case The Last Stranding, referring to the previous Death Strandings recorded in fossil records and cave paintings as mentioned by Heartman - was Amelie’s idea. Higgs was caught up in the allure of Amelie’s BT-controlling power, corrupted and turned into the Agent of Extinction (more on that later!)
Fragile then reveals a broken doll used by Higgs to connect him to Amelie and her beach. We’ve seen this doll before, used by Die-Hardman to get to Amelie’s beach and scattered throughout Cliff’s Beach war nightmares. Think of the doll as a mind-control device used by Amelie to corrupt Higgs, Cliff and Die-Hardman. A makeshift BB.
Sam heads back to the ICU in Capital Knot City and finds the whole team back together. Heartman cuts in to say that Amelie’s Beach is above all other forms of the afterlife. Her beach is the heart of the afterlife that pumps blood through the other beaches which act like capillaries. She is essentially the goddess of the afterlife.
Sam decides to see Amelie and try to talk her out of The Last Stranding. He'll have to kill her if she won’t see reason, but it means Sam will be stranded outside of the world forever. Sam then delivers an emotional speech about how emotionally stunted and misanthropic he was at the start of the game (we learn why later) and how his new friends have made him believe in living again. He hands his BB to the BRIDGES gang and jumps to Amelie’s beach.
In a flashback we see Amelie picking up a baby Sam and swaddling him — she says she’ll help him get home via her repatriation powers. Baby Sam sinks into The Seam and now we know where Sam got his ability to return from the dead.
Episode 13: Sam Strand
Adult Sam wakes up on Amelie’s beach, the nexus of the afterlife. Bridget confirms to Sam that Amelie, her daughter, doesn’t exist in the physical world. (This was why she wore a mask, it’s her secret shame.) Amelie and Bridget are both parts of the same person — essentially, neither name matters. Amelie/Bridget's real identity is that of an Extinction Entity, a harbinger of doom whose sole purpose is to usher in a new mass extinction.
The Extinction Entity explains that in connecting America, Sam linked each Prepper and Station (and thereby, every soul in America) to her 'master' Beach, enabling the extinction event. This was the goal all along. Sam can prevent The Last Stranding from happening by severing his connection to the Extinction Entity, but he loves her, which makes the choice difficult for him - one supernatural death god, or all life on the planet.
The Extinction Entity gives Sam two choices. Sit here and watch the world burn or cut the Extinction Entity loose from the Beach and prevent The Last Stranding from happening right now - regardless of what you do, it explains, the sixth extinction is inevitable and “Mankind will live to die another day.”
The Extinction Entity notices Sam’s dreamcatcher that she gave him and gives him the gun. “Pull the rope or cut the noose, but whatever you do, don’t hesitate.” You can do nothing, or try and shoot the Extinction Entity here but it doesn’t do anything. What you really have to do is ditch the weapon and hug the Extinction Entity.
The Extinction Entity’s dreams, as well as the people with DOOMs it created, were always of the apocalyptic The Last Stranding. The Extinction Entity was just as confused - they didn’t ask for this, and were constantly tortured by visions of the end due to the fact that they don’t exist within the confines of natural time and space on their Beach. As they note “I am not a line, but a single point.” The Extinction Entity was so angered and upset by the haunting nightmares of human extinction that they had tried to come to the real world and end it by connecting the chiral network and opening the floodgates - their goal at the end of the day, to harbour the extinction event.
Sam, however, essentially saved the world from The Last Stranding by bringing people together in his expedition, living one day at a time and persisting and adapting to change: against all odds he became the embodiment of the unstoppable human spirit to survive. Due to Sam’s efforts, he made the Extinction Entity believe in the beauty of the human spirit. Since birth the EE was trapped in purgatory and despite being desperate to feel emotion, form relationships and give love, they were never allowed to make human connections. The EE is convinced by Sam’s efforts to stop fighting and stay on the Beach to delay the otherwise impossible to stop mass extinction. “The extinction isn’t just an ending, it’s an opportunity,” it states in reference to all the life that came after the previous five events. The implication is that the five figures in the sky we’ve previously seen in trailers and in-game are the ‘Big Five’ that came before that the Amelie/Bridget Extinction Entity.
Sam wakes up on his own beach. As Sam runs around in purgatory the EE tries to explain their reasoning. The EE realised they were split between worlds during her first operation for Uterine Cancer. Bridget grew older in the real world as she should, whilst Amelie woke up on the beach, hence why she never aged and why it’s feasible to believe that she is Bridget’s daughter. 'Ame' is french for soul, so the Extinction Entity came up with the name Amelie - “A soul that’s a lie.”
Once Amelie realised that her beach was the nexus of the world of the dead, she pursued the knowledge of the 4.6 billion years of biological history that was entombed here and sought to build the Chiral Network in the real world via Bridget to try and understand things. Due to the fact that there is no concept of time on her Beach, simulations are done in an instant and all lost information can be reclaimed.
Unfortunately voidouts started occurring (The Death Stranding happened, more on why later) so she started rushing to complete the network and look into Bridge Babies out of desperation to understand why the last five extinction events occurred and how Extinction Entities come to exist so she could perhaps go against the grain and not end the world.
Bridget/Amelie is essentially a rebellious Extinction Entity who chose the noble route and asked questions about her role in life, so when her physical form (Bridget) died, she got Sam to complete the network so that they could answer these questions and hopefully stop the end of the world.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the universe has always been trying to return us to nothing with extinction events. After all, its creation via the Big Bang was just one massive fluke. She learns this and decides that she may as well just get it over with, and pushes Sam to connect everything in her stead so she can bring about The Last Stranding.
However, Sam makes her realise with the second BRIDGES expedition that extinctions force life to defy the universe’s constant onslaught of suffering. The human spirit never surrenders and always finds a way to persist and survive, hence “extinction is an opportunity.”
She then alludes to a situation where she shoots two bullets from the aforementioned important gun and that she made a mistake. A flashback shows her doing something to Sam in a foetal form and sending him home, saving him from Death on her beach and gave him his special power of repatriation. She does it to try and rectify the aforementioned mistake, yet by doing so, she created the Death Stranding. She disrupted the natural process of death, meaning that people wouldn’t die naturally anymore in the real world. BTs used the opening she created for Sam to come back to the world of the living - they then caused chaos, devouring the dead and creating explosive voidouts. The EE was forced to wait and watch the end of the world, but instead chose to end it quickly. However to trigger The Last Stranding they had to have Sam by their side - the problem they created.
Sam, trapped on his own beach, shoots himself with the important gun but it doesn’t fire. The EE mentions that she brought Cliff and Sam back together, and he then reconnects with the living. The BRIDGES crew used the revolver and a set of Quipu made from Bridget’s DNA to find Sam on the other side and he is repatriated in the world of the living.
Episode 13.5: Capital Knot City
Back in the real world, Die-Hardman becomes the new president of the UCA and swears to break down the walls and masks between the people, fixing the divided society now that the Death Stranding has come to an end. Deadman says that Cliff’s wife was called Lisa Bridges… Sam’s last name and the name of the network connectivity project. He also notes that Die-Hardman used to be called John and was involved in the flashback gun scuffle where Cliff is apparently shot. He donned a mask and took a new name to get away from that past, becoming Bridget’s right-hand man.
Die-Hardman breaks down and tells Sam about the mistake he made all those years ago. He says he killed Cliff for Bridget, because he loved her, but he says he loved Cliff just as much because he saved him as his captain in the wars they fought together. He wonders why Cliff didn’t kill him when he saw him on the beach because he doesn’t deserve forgiveness. Cliff’s anger for losing his BB is what brought him back and caused the supercells. Sam warns Die-Hardman that the old ways have to die and gives him his gun back, making the point that conflict and weapons won’t help build a new, better America.
Deadman gives Lou back to Sam, but the baby inside is dead… Sam has to go and incinerate the body before it starts necrotising and creates a crater. He tells Sam that he could try and burst Lou out of the pod and bring it to life, but that would be illegal under the current America’s laws. Deadman turns his cuffs online and tells him they'll stay that way until he activates the incinerator, giving him a window to disappear tracked. Fragile then tells Sam she’s starting up Fragile Express again under Bridges and that she didn’t kill Higgs, rather gave him the choice of death or exile on the beach.
Episode 14: Lou
Sam delivers Lou to the incinerator but before he gets rid of the body we get a long flashback sequence once Sam connects to Lou. Bridget and Die-Hardman muse about the one of a kind baby and how they need to keep him in the pod and use him in their BT experiments instead of letting Cliff raise it. Cliff chats with John (Die-Hardman) who gives him a ten minute window for saving him in the war. He damages the security system so Cliff can try to escape with his baby.
John gives Cliff his confiscated pistol (the important one mentioned throughout this article) and he silences it with a towel and puts his wife Lisa out of her misery after a kiss goodbye. We flash back to the present and Sam takes Lou off of the stand so the BB isn’t incinerated. We see the rest of the flashback, where Cliff is caught trying to leave with BB.
Cliff is shot and found by John and later Bridget. He takes John hostage for a moment and heads back to the room with Lisa’s dead body, locking himself inside. He apologises to Lisa for his failure and gives advice to the child he is about to lose. Bridget breaks into the room and her security shoot Cliff again, but before he passes on he frees BB from the pod and starts swaddling it. John points Cliff’s gun at him and Bridget urges Cliff to shoot him unless he hands BB over. Before they shoot, Cliff addresses Sam between worlds and reiterates “They told me your name was Sam Porter, but your name is Sam Bridges. My son, my bridge to the future.”
He tells him that having a son made him realise that he was only ever good at dividing people, a cliff, an obstacle in the way of connection. He tried to be a good father but wasn’t given the chance. Sam is the perfect legacy for him, a bridge who brought people together. Cliff gives Sam BB, who we now know is Sam as a baby. The trio embrace.
Back in the flashback, Bridget takes John’s hand and pulls the trigger for him, shooting Cliff, which kills BB/baby Sam at the same time. This weapon is the stick that became a rope - the gun that started the Death Stranding by killing baby Sam
and then saved him when he was lost on the beach.
Bridget cries over Sam’s fetal corpse and we are then shown a dead baby on a beach, Amelie’s beach. She picks him up and fixes the gunshot wound leaving him with his cross shaped scar, and bringing Sam back to life from death. Cliff has the same scar, which would imply that Amelie also brought Cliff back to life in some capacity. She lets Sam float in The Seam once more as Cliff watches on in the distance. Sam is brought back to life and moved back into the BB pod where Bridget and John nurture him as a human child instead of decommissioning him, turning Sam into Bridget’s prime candidate for finishing the Chiral Network, but also her adopted son. This repatriation process is Bridget’s atonement but as we know, it also brings about the Death Stranding.
With that, we come back to reality. Sam burns his cuffs instead of Lou and pops her out of the pod, yet she still looks dead. Sam tries in vain to bring Lou back to life, crying as he does it with BT babies surrounding him (the previous BBs who had to be incinerated once decommissioned.) All of a sudden Lou wakes up and starts giggling. Sam embraces his adopted child and walks out into the rain which is no longer Timefall because the Death Stranding is over.)
Roll credits! In a post-credits scene we see Sam looking at his damaged picture of his pregnant wife as Lou’s hand comes into his own. He calls his new child Louise.
Postgame: Higgs and Lucy
In the postgame Sam starts to receive more emails as he continues to deliver, although the 'end game' actually takes place two weeks before the final moments of the story. These messages talk about events and help tie up the loose ends. Three journals can be collected too, one from finishing all of Peter Englert’s Pizza Missions and heading to his shelter, the other two from collecting memory chips.
The Unnamed Man’s Journals essentially give Higg's side of things. He wasn’t always a evil nihilist, he fell victim to his father’s physical abuse as a child and suffered terrible nightmares courtesy of the Extinction Entity, which is why he has DOOMs and feels connected to the Beach. He killed his dad to escape the shelter he was being held by him in, and was working earnestly as a porter with Fragile to create a better America. At some point he eventually realised the two of them alone couldn’t do it. He was then seduced by power upon introduction to Amelie, who he believed could make America whole again. Amelie then corrupted him, turning him into her Agent of Extinction. He then cut his ties with Fragile and became a terrorist harbouring The Last Stranding.
In Lucy’s Report we learn about Sam’s wife Lucy, who killed herself whilst pregnant by committing suicide, subsequently causing a voidout. The child was seven months along and had already been named Lou, or Louise. Sam was away at the time and given he was a key member of BRIDGES, he resigned from the company due to public pressure over the incident, as it was assumed he caused it. This is why he had to be forced back into the role at the start of the game by Amelie and Die-Hardman.
Lucy started out as Sam’s therapist, trying to help him overcome aphenphosmphobia and abandonment issues. At first she didn’t get it and insisted that Sam’s Repatriation and The Beach weren’t real. She later became the only person he opened up to and eventually they fell in love, which forced Lucy to resign from her post.
Yet, as she grows pregnant with Louise, she starts to have terrible DOOMS nightmares of the end of the world, much like the ones suffered by an Extinction Entity. This is due to Sam’s blood being inside of her. Bridget tells her the truth about the beach and that her nightmares are real. These revelations are too much for Lucy who is home alone a lot whilst Sam is off trying to reconnect America. She kills herself as she cannot handle the knowledge and is terrified of the life ahead of her in the Bridges/Strand family. It’s unclear as to whether Bridget/Amelie orchestrated this to force Sam back into the fold, but either conclusion works.