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Alan Wake - Ending Analysis
Alan Wake was the long-anticipated, Remedy Entertainment created release, spanning a near ten year development cycle. In the game, players take on the role of writer Alan Wake, who finds horror & mystery while on a quiet holiday with his wife in the sleepy town of Bright Falls. The ending of Alan Wake is left intentionally ambiguous and open to interpretation for the players of the game. There are many open plot elements and different ways to take the presented cutscenes, narrative and information at the end of Alan Wake. With so many plot threads either being tied up or left to the players own interpretation, this article tries to provide an analysis of the Alan Wake ending.
Before Alan reaches the finale of the game, he has to prevail against many foes and different enemies, often in precarious & dangerous situations. Not only does Alan have to battle multiple ancillary characters who have been tainted by the dark presence, but he has to out-maneuver tractors, spools, logs and other inanimate objects flying towards him. Not only that, but an entire police force is tasked with capturing him when he evades Agent Nightingale and a sea of Taken try to stop his advances at a fire station, the Anderson's farm and inside the Bright Falls town also.
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What Happened At The End of Alan Wake?
To recap on the events portrayed at the end of Alan Wake. Alan finds himself trapped in a dream-like state controlled or at least housing the dark presence. Alice has been saved due to Alan’s use of “the clicker" against the dark presence, as she awakes on the pier of the absent cabin shouting Alan’s name during the ending of Alan Wake. Barry’s fate is left ambiguous but it is assumed he has survived the events of the game and is looking for Alan with both Sheriff Breaker and perhaps Alice also. Agent Nightingale was swallowed by the dark presence while it is alluded to that Rose has taken on the role of Cynthia.
The two DLC packages Remedy released posthumously continue the story after this ending, with more concrete details on the fate of Alan after he is trapped within the warped, twisted world of the dark presence. In The Signal, it is revealed he is merely trapped in his own mind, but his rejection of this idea fuels a split between both his rational and deranged personae. The Writer continues this theme, with the rational Alan trying to reunite his fractured mind, in order to leave the dark place. After reaching the cabin and doing this, he begins to write a new novel as the DLC ends, named “Return" and suggesting that he makes his way back to the real world.
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An Impactful Climax Full of Meta-Game Gaming
Clearly, the dark presence still remains in some position of dominance over Bright Falls, as it isn’t fully destroyed by Alan’s clicker idea. This is further reinforced by the manifestation of Agent Nightingale in the ending of Alan Wake, standing behind Rose with the appearance of being possessed in a similar manner to Barbara Jagger. Not only that, but the dark presence has some kind of influence over Alan’s current state, either keeping him there with Thomas Zane or altering his own dream to suit its needs. Zane states as much during The Writer DLC, as he tells Alan that the dark presence hasn’t been completely destroyed and he still can’t leave the dark world around them.
Perhaps the most integral part of the Alan Wake ending is the final line of dialogue spoken by Alice. She says “Alan, wake up" before three dots appear on a black screen. This could indicate that the DLC is merely a dream and Alan actually did destroy the dark presence, at least enough for both him & Alice to escape its clutches. The regression from dream to sub-dream in both of the additional episodes could reinforce this idea. Furthermore, the meta-reasoning behind using the DLC as nothing more than a dream is solid, as Remedy would’t want to extradite a majority of its userbase who didn’t purchase the DLC by including those events as an integral part of the sequel.