Control and Alan Wake: the worlds of Remedy merged into one

Who I am
Judit Llordés
Author and references

Darkness is in and around the world, and in Control and Alan Wake it is where we would not even imagine. Often it manifests itself suddenly, and other times it prefers to present itself right away, draining whatever is in front of it and throwing the world into darkness, which by now, unchallenged, not only affects those in difficulty, but also those who are unrecoverable, lost in the maze of darkness, in constant search of light. Control and Alan Wake, developed by Remedy and created by the mind of Sam Lake, are works that fall into a category of their own, between metafiction and paranormal experience, between science fiction and thriller, between the unknown and the discovery of alternative realities different from the one you are used to.

In the video game scene, on more than one occasion, I happened to interface with different works, some of which aimed to create an atmosphere and a story capable of projecting the player into an unusual experience, from a book, film or TV series. Sam Lake is an accomplished writer and video game creator who, over the course of his career, he has packaged works capable of involving different media, proposing the epic of pain by May Payne and shortly after Alan Wake, subsequently following the path with Quantum Break and then Control, his latest creation. Engaging one's pen to create similar works, which are connected to each other, is not at all simple, especially when the panorama is replenished by works that are very similar to each other, which rarely bring anything new to a jungle already saturated with its own.

It's a complex market, in short, for those brainy video games like Alan Wake, Control and Quantum Break, eYet their success derives precisely from this dense aura of mystery, hidden from the eyes of those who don't really know them and have never heard of them. Just like the NieR series, which however involved the public in a different way, the works developed by Remedy therefore follow a different path, addressing issues and situations that some may perceive in the wrong way. In fact, talking about these works is as complex as understanding them, but the purpose of this study is to explain to you how Control and Alan Wake are linked by this common thread that is as strong as the threads of fate pulled by the Norms, the ancient Norse ladies of Fate. And it is precisely fate, in fact, at the basis of the narrative development of Alan Wake and Control, which it has been discovered would not exist without each other, as if Jesse and Alan took breath from the same lung, when in reality they are two creatures from the pen of a writer in search of his new inspiration.

In fact, this could already be a great way to adequately introduce the two productions, as both Alan Wake and Control have a different approach to storytelling from other video games. Writing is a complex world, let it be clear, but if there is something that can be grasped from both Sam Lake's works, it is that the narrative body chosen for both publications is similar to a thriller book that hides secrets. And no, I'm not talking about the killer hiding in a train, waiting for the right moment to deliver the fatal blow. I'm actually referring to the skeleton of the story that makes a story great. In this case two stories, one different from the other, but similar and powerful at the same time. It all started in the dark of a room, and it all continued between time and the unknown, as the Dark Presence crept into Alan Wake's mind. It all started with hope and it all continued to regain control of a place that, however, was more in turmoil than ever.

The real penalty is survival

Talking about ties is never easy, especially when trying to analyze the story of Alan Wake and Control, explaining in a careful and in-depth way the skeleton of the storyas well as his inspirations. Jesse and Alan, two very distinct characters, lived happy lives, far from the dangers of the Agency and the horrors of Couldron Lake. Jesse grew up alone, living from hand to mouth, while Alan is instead a writer, a good writer, capable of being able to support themselves with their own art.

Speaking of Alan Wake, a celebrated author who has always had a lot of luck and has published several books, it is never pointed out how completely she was actually at the mercy of her anxieties and fears, due to writer's block, which made him restless for a while. The holiday at Couldron Lake, precisely, was supposed to be a moment of happiness and recreation, a way to rediscover lost inspiration and give meaning to his existence, devastated by the panic he feels while watching his wife Alice worrying about him at to the point of following him everywhere, even advising him on a suitable place that could allow him to find some happiness again. Alan, however, is convinced that he can heal himself, addressing the anxieties of the soul and its consequences, while living in the darkness of his own mind, which slowly takes over more and more. Meanwhile, however, he tries to find a way out of it, seriously hoping that Bright Falls can give him some serenity, he feels discouraged because he fears losing Alice.

When you don't have full control of your mind, in fact, all contact with reality is lost beforehand. You begin to look at life differently, as spectators, as if you were estranged from your body, which moves nervously back and forth in search of any motivation. In addition to being a special way of crafting a story that aims to explore the anxieties of the soul, Sam Lake has therefore chosen a useful approach to capturing the fears that Alan Wake feels as he faces the Dark Presence and the disappearance of Alice.

The terror he feels, the same one he talks about as he discovers what is happening, is antithetical to horror poetry, that Stephen King considers important, and we had proof of this with Misery and Secret Window, the latter is actually the novel that comes closest to the inspirations of the Finnish writer, drawing from them only the best things. By studying darkness and its aftermath in someone's mind, Sam Lake was able to characterize Alan Wake with intelligence and depth, emphasizing how he is torn between darkness and fear as he searches for Alice in Bright Falls, or what is left of it. Because it is not only him that changes, but also what is around him.

Jesse Faden, on the other hand, enters the Agency structure with the aim of finding his brother and finding an explanation for the strange events that have involved him. She is guided by Polaris, who has always guided her since she was a child, giving her comfort and listening. Once inside the Agency, she hopes she can find her brother, take him away and never look back. Nevertheless, the unexplained events of which she has been the victim since she was a child continue to threaten her undeterred.

The Agency, which is a place of containment of the paranormal, is under strict surveillance by a Director, who leads a handful of people in charge of keeping the Hiss away from the people inside it. Jesse Faden, unlike Alan Wake, is a protagonist who knows the paranormal through Polaris, but doesn't know exactly how it manifests itself and why there is an agency that takes care of protecting other people from these events. All he knows is that he must find his brother and find meaning in his life, that he has forced her to flee across the United States hoping to find something worth living for. Not giving you spoilers, Control's story does not end but is described as an intimate journey by Sam Lake, that he had to find an even more marked narrative pretext to describe its facets.

If on the one hand we have a tormented writer, on the other there is a girl who hopes to embrace her brother again. However, there is much more than the proverbial rabbit hole, and in this regard a careful study of the explanations of paranormal events could not be missing. Returning however to the two protagonists, both Jesse and Alan find themselves in a situation they do not know, torn between reality, fiction and the end. Alan is in the darkness, forced inside by the wrong choices of the past and misled by the Dark Presence to such an extent that he no longer recognizes himself, and no longer lives an existence, but survives the darkness of him, which is destroying him, changing him for always. Indeed, Alan Wake ended with the writer nervously tapping his fingers on the typewriter, as if he were seeking escape from that fear through words. Jesse, however, learn more about what is accessing by reading documents, learning what the Hiss is and how it affects the world around it.

She becomes the Headmistress, but not without first sacrificing an important part of herself, which at the same time is already consumed due to discoveries within the Agency. In short, taking control is far more expensive than anyone can imagine, as well as dangerous, and this is where the whole narrative revolves, while trying to represent a protagonist in real difficulty. Although her task is complex, Jesse Faden accepts it without hesitation, aware that only in this way will he be able to get his brother back and understand what's going on.

Both Alan Wake and Jesse, in fact, are linked by the same hope that seems like a mirage, but in reality it is contemplable, as well as accessible and easy to approach. Jesse Faden reaches his awareness only once that it is useless to fight, and that the only way he has to beat the Hiss is to defeat him at his own game, bowing to that irrationality that he does not understand and despises. Alan, on the other hand, is drained of darkness, immersed in his words and thoughts of him, which do not lose value but try to drive him crazy. Darkness is a menace, a monster he can't beat, and it insinuates itself into his synapses and into his body to the point of making him wish he was dead. The philosophies of both works, in fact, try to tell a context through the in-depth study of the metanarrative, which works in an exhilarating way within the experience because it allows you to fully understand certain choices made by Sam Lake.

Couldron Lake, now, does not exist without Alan Wake, as it is the only source of life that the darkness possesses to generate itself and grow stronger. What if that darkness instead originated from Alan himself, who can no longer find any contact with reality? It is a sensible question because, in addition to having to do with Control, allows you to better understand the two souls of the metaverse created by Remedy.

Control and Alan Wake: the links of the past, present and future

Anyone who has played Control and is a fan of Remedy video games, knows very well what happened in the DLC Control: AWE, which explores the situation Alan Wake finds himself in due to the Dark Presence. In this sense, we understand that Alan is in a dramatic situation. Attracted by the darkness and forced by it to bend to his will, in the meantime he looks for an escape route, finding only silence and emptiness. When I interfaced with AWE, immediately after concluding Alan Wake Remastered, I immediately understood that the Hiss is just one of the many paranormal phenomena that creep into our reality. The Dark Presence, which is quickly explained in the DLC, is just another form of the same corruption that has befallen the Agency. At this point, however, one wonders what is generating it and why, how everything can be solved and how Alan Wake can survive.

AWE, in this sense, concludes by giving information on the existence of Alan Wake 2, already announced right in the final part of the additional content. The final part of Alan Wake, in fact, spoke of someone who, one day, would come to the aid of the writer. The questions in this regard, which involve the two productions, are still all unanswered: what is happening to Alan Wake? How is he writing his return? Is he still in the dark? How is he resisting it? And again, why does this link seem to contain much more than we imagine? In this sense, Jesse Faden could be a character from Alan's own mind, or a real protagonist who knows everything about the writer thanks to the documents found in the investigative sector of the Agency. Indeed, during my experience within AWE, I found that all the logs were talking about the strange happenings in Bright Falls, and that each was related to the disappearance of two people at Couldron Lake. Some appeared to be lists of people who saw Alan Wake and his wife Alice, while other up-to-date police records, including a dossier dating back to the arrival of the newlyweds in the town.

In Control: AWE, moreover, there is an examination of the past and present of the writer, appearing in creative difficulty and confusion. This was some of the most disconcerting information I found: it appears as a pretext to condemn Alan Wake as insane, but the truth is that he is in danger of being swallowed up forever in darkness. His fingers press the keys of the typewriter, while with bowed head he continues undaunted to supervise the drafts: he is convinced that writing can get him out of there, and that creating a heroic character could be the solution.

I highly doubt that Jesse Faden is actually a figment of the writer's imagination, because the Hiss and Polaris are already two consistent paranormal events, and what happened in Bright Falls leaves no room for other interpretations on the nature of the two works. They are linked, of course, but the reality of the facts, although it is all absurd and sometimes incomprehensible, is absolutely clear: Jesse Faden is not the creation of the writer's mind, and Alan Wake is writing something that will allow him to remember who he is. At this point it is legitimate to wonder if he will be able to find the escape that he so hopes for, but his fate seems sealed: he cannot do it alone, because the darkness rules his mind and his spirit. As his fingers move, his mind tries to find a way out of the dark. He hopes to see the light again and experience some peace, which he seems to have forgotten. His fingers move, his breathing grows weary, and his future is dominated by darkness. There is still hope for Alan Wake?

What to expect from the future of Control 2?

The link between Alan Wake and Control, therefore, takes shape with AWE, consequently extending the universe traced by Sam Lake in these last three years. However, speaking of the future of Control, which has several meanings and could pack a different story, one wonders if the events of the second chapter starring Jass Faden will also involve Alan Wake 2. At this point, in fact, the answer could be a resounding yes, considering the approach chosen by Sam Lake in weaving a story that knew how to involve both worlds.

  • If nothing else, you can't ask for anything better: The Foundation, Control's first add-on, gave a smattering of the Oldest House and its origins. It's a tangled mystery still to be solved, unhinged and fixed, especially if the connection with Alan Wake will materialize. The future, on the other hand, is yet to be written. The writer and the director, never united as now, are already linked by the pen of Sam Lake, and after the Labyrinth of the Ashtray, the highest moment of Control, nWe can't wait to find out what darkness hides in all its forms.

    “Nightmares exist outside reason and explanations are little fun, they are antithetical to the poetry of terror” – Stephen King.

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