The sixth and very last episode of Bright Falls called “Clearcut.”
The time for curiosity, exploration, and mystery solving is over. Self preservation has kicked in, getting out is all that matters anymore.
Previously I expressed a fear that Bright Falls would fail to live up to the promise it first showed. As I watched episodes one and two, I remember thinking “there’s no way it will stay this good.” Sometimes as you watch a great film, you can’t help but wonder how they’re going to mess it up. The sense of excitement, the fresh atmosphere, the new and mysterious characters…most times progressing through sadly diminishes these attributes.
I’m happy to say Bright Falls is even better at the end than the beginning. Everything I loved about it from the first episode remained true to the last. Each new turn showed off another great side, a trick I wasn’t expecting it to pull. Now that the series is over, we can all breathe a sign of relief. Way to not screw it up, Bright Falls. We can chalk this up to ways you’ve outdone your predecessors.
EPISODE SPOILERS BELOW
Before the series ends, it decides to showcase its skills in tension building. For the first time, we begin an episode right where we left off. There’s a four minute scene- half of the episode – where Deputy Mulligan confronts Jake in his cabin. He’s come looking for Sam. Jake, afraid he’ll see the mess he’s made of his motel, tries to avoid letting him in but that doesn’t last long.
Mulligan comes off as pushover. I believe he asks Jake, “it’s this particular?” I think you mean peculiar, deputy. Jake feeds him an outstandingly lame excuse, but it works. It does even better than work. It’s almost as if Mulligan helps him embellish. It’s clever to put this scene here, because the conclusion of the last episode changed Jake’s motivation. He knows he can’t control himself, and now he has to run. Every second he spends here with the deputy is another second wasted. He has to get out of town, and he has to do it now. This is about more than getting caught…it’s about getting stuck. The deputy is in his way, and for a while I was convinced he would have to kill him if he had any hope of leaving.
Jake races off to see Ellen. As he pulls in, we see her talking on the phone. “He has no idea,” says a voice on the phone. It’s a low voice…is it the deputy? Dr. Hartman? He gets out of the car and immediately demands that she help him. Again, no wasting time. Get out now. They jump into the car and head down the road. Ellen tries to get some answers. She appears to be confused. Is she a great actor or is a lot of this above her head?
Jake says he needs to get out of town, and that he couldn’t drive himself. As they pass the town’s border, he says he’s not in control anymore. She asks him what the means. If this were a lesser series, this would be the part where Jake explains that a dark presences is taking hold of him, forcing him to stay in town. He would say that it has possessed him, that it hates the light, and that it injured or even killed Sam Smith.
But this is Bright Falls, so none of that happens. Instead he turns towards Ellen to see she isn’t there anymore and he’s not driving.
Confused, he looks over and sees and empty seat. Ellen’s shoe – the same shoe hidden in the opening credits – is laying bloody on the floor. He’s done something to Ellen. She’s gone, and as the horror is washing over his face he sees what he is driving by. The Welcome to Bright Falls sign he thought they just passed is right in front of him. He tries to pull a frantic U-Turn…it’s the same scene we saw in his second psychotic episode…and he winds up in a dead stop. With his car resting inside the town boundary of Bright Falls, he stares out the window. Maybe he’s collecting his breath. Maybe he realizes that it’s pointless to resist. Maybe the darkness is paralyzing him, or maybe it’s fear.
The final scene is creepy, surreal, and ambiguous all at once. Something that closely resembles the reflection of trees speeds over the windshield of the car. Eventually the interior goes black. When the light comes back up, Jake is gone. It isn’t clear where he’s gone, but I’m left with the impression he’s been absorbed by Bright Falls. It appears that the lighting outside has changed, so some deal of time has also passed. Police have arrive on the scene to investigate. It’s the same red and blue flashes from episode four’s flashes.
You’re left crying out for the remaining seconds of Bright Falls to tell you something. If you’re like me, something inside you cries out “wait! I’m still confused! Come back here and spoon feed me answers!” Before the series comes to a close, a car pulls up to an office. It’s Alan Wake and his wife, asking what happened here. There’re assured it’s probably nothing. They continue to drive into town.
This ending is pitch perfect. Jake loses the fight against the darkness, and we lose the fight against Bright Falls. The series ends in a way where you know the answers are floating around in there somewhere, but the creators aren’t going to write them down and hand them to you. You’re compelled to immediately watch it again. You feel the need to talk about it, make other people watch it, bounce ideas off your friends. It’s everything a great piece of film should do.
The creators have also made use of a rare opportunity. Alan Wake shows up at the end, almost as if to tell you “it’s ok, Alan’s here. He’ll help you.” In most films this complicated and mysterious – think Memento or Primer, for example – you have only one recourse. You have to watch again and again. With Bright falls, you have another tool at your disposal. You can continue the story of Alan Wake by playing the upcoming game, in hopes that it will clear up some of your uncertainties. Bam! Game tie-in!
Even better than you ever though, a game tie-in that actually makes you want to play the game. You didn’t just watch Bright Falls and think “that was cool, I guess I’ll play the game, it might be cool too.” You watched it and said “I have to play Alan Wake in hopes that I’ll learn more about the story.” It’s soooo perfect. From what I’ve read, Alan Wake isn’t going to explain Bright Falls to you. What it will do is give you a better understanding of the universe in which Bright Falls takes place – and that will help you go back through Bright Falls and understand it better.
There’s a lot to digest, so I’m going to hold off on explaining the greater mysteries of the series (as I see them anyhow) for another week or so. In addition to a solid “mysteries of Bright Falls” post I’ll be playing the game as well and will certainly have a few entries about that in the weeks to follow – particularly how the game helps inform the series. For now, it’ll be great to see everyone’s reactions and theories in the comments.