Silence in Paradise
The “best” ending of Silent Hill 2 is meant to give the best outlook on James, his motivations, and his future. Having had the purest intentions, motivated by love for his wife, and eventually forgiven for his role in her death, he is able to move on and leave Silent Hill, at peace with what happened. In this ending, he returns home with Laura, the child who was friends with Mary.
Taking her with him has multiple implications: Mary’s last wish was that Laura be adopted by them, so James is honoring that wish. It also is meant to show that James has changed – that he is no longer motivated by selfishness and violence, and is willing to put someone else’s care and their wishes before his own. But I feel that this could’ve been done in a better way, one that specifically highlighted some of the most important themes of the game.
Angela Orosco is a character deeply intertwined in the game’s themes. She suffered horrendous abuse as a child at the hands of men, and has become inundated with guilt and self-loathing, behaviors which she was taught by her father and her family. Her tragic, dark end, in which she falls deeper into depression and eventually welcomes death, is meant to show how evil and terrible abuse is. It reflects upon James, a man who turned on his own (female) family member and hurt her.
No matter what, Angela vanishes into Silent Hill – there is no chance for her to find peace, or freedom. While this is a haunting end, which gives the game a solemn air, it is disheartening that the game chose to have this woman, innocent of guilt, a victim driven to defend herself, be incapable of escaping Silent Hill and moving on in her life. Survivors of such abuse can and do cope with and live with the kinds of horrors Angela survived. To give her such a hopeless story, to give someone innocent a story which inevitably, no matter what, ends in death, seems cruel.
A better “Leave” ending would have been for James, Angela, and Laura to leave together. Angela is a victim of abuse at the hands of men – what better way to show James has changed, than to have Angela trust him, and chose to leave with him? Throughout the game, Angela and Laura never come into contact, because Angela has had her childhood and innocence (the themes Laura stands for) destroyed. Having the two of them meet would show that Angela has a chance to rediscover those parts of herself – that she is not broken, that she can live again.
For a story about the horrors and tragedies of abuse, it seems odd that the most abused, most innocent character has a dark ending set in stone. While it is important that Silent Hill 2 shows how terrible these abuses are, I think it is just as important to show that such abuses do not destroy people – that victims of abuse can live and recover and move on. In having Angela’s story always end in suicide it seems Silent Hill is trying to give an entirely different message. It would have been much more hopeful, and more meaningful, to have James and Angela reunite at the end of the game, and escape town together.
I really like this, and I definitely share some of these opinions— as evidenced by the fact that I literally just wrote almost 90 pages of fanfic devoted to LeaveEnding!James trying to care for both Laura AND Angela! I agree that it makes for a MUCH more hopeful and uplifting ending and that Angela’s set-in-stone death (something I didn’t actually realize was canon until Masahiro Ito confirmed it— since we didn’t literally see her die or see her body like we did with Eddie, I had sort of assumed that her fate was intentionally left up to interpretation. WHOOPS) is a real downer note to the otherwise-happy (or as happy as Silent Hill CAN be) Leave Ending. Which is why I really loved writing “The Graveyard Girl”, because shit man, my heart yearns for everybody to have a happy ending.
BUT THAT SAID… I think this analysis is leaving out some of the things that made Angela’s death make sense from a narrative perspective. Since the fantastic dynamic between the three interwoven stories of Silent Hill 2 (Eddie’s, James’s, and Angela’s) is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT THE GAME, I thought I’d talk about it a little bit in relation to this post!
BRACE YOURSELVES FOR TL;DR re: the importance of Eddie Dombrowski and Angela Orosco as foils for James.
Obviously each character in Silent Hill 2 is a unique individual with their own rich, interesting personality, history, and significance. It’s one of the things that made the game famous for its depth and power. But while I agree that Angela’s tale of abuse and victimization is incredibly powerful all on its own, there’s another reason for it to be featured in the story. Namely, it’s there to complement James’s story and teach the viewers something about him. This is the same case with Eddie. To truly understand James in the place of the narrative, you need to understand the stories of Angela and Eddie, and how James relates to them both.
Firstly, let’s take a look at one of the major themes of the game: lonely, isolated, victimized people and the effect that their pain has on them. Everyone in the story is, to an extent, both a victim and perpetrator of harm in some fashion— the aforementioned trio are the strongest examples of this. They are all people who have suffered some form of abuse and isolation and, ultimately, are driven to commit acts that they never otherwise would have. They have all killed (or attempted to kill) someone. They are all angry, and they are all hurting and self-loathing and miserable. These are the BIG THINGS that they all have in common. That said, it’s no secret that all three have wildly different circumstances, and by extension wildly different reactions to their situations. So where do they connect? How do they support and complement each other?
To start with, Eddie and Angela, although both are victims, represent two very different extremes:
- became consumed by his anger
- displayed some suicidal tendencies but mostly directed his anger outwards, willfully deciding to kill others for whatever reasons he deemed fit
- murdered an absolute innocent (the dog) in a pique of misplaced rage
- blamed others for his problems (rather than admit his own wrongdoing, any guilt shown was mostly phrased in such a way that it put the onus on others. “No one’ll ever forgive me” as opposed to “I did something unforgivable”)
- selfish to a fault, persecution complex.
- ultimately guilty. He refers to the act of killing as ‘fun’ and openly intends to do more of it.
- met his fate far below the earth, in an icy, freezing room, while attacking/attempting to kill someone else (who was trying to help).
- became consumed by her hopelessness
- displayed some anger but mostly directed hers inwards, making multiple hints towards ending her own life.
- killed an abuser of the most vile degree, likely acting in direct self-defense while doing so.
- constantly apologized for outbursts (even justified ones) and put herself down, claiming she deserved the horrible things that happened to her (“I’ve been bad” and “Anyway, it’s what we deserve.”)
- unselfish to a fault, actively self-loathing
- ultimately innocent. Although occasionally abrasive, her only known violent acts were in self-defense and she doesn’t seem to intend to do any others.
- met her fate while ascending a staircase full of fire, willingly walking into it and not harming anyone but herself.
So there’s the two extremes! Where does that put James?
ANSWER: Straight in the middle!
- is in danger of losing himself to SOMETHING, but it’s not set in stone yet: he is actively on a journey to find the right answer for himself.
- displays moderate amounts of both anger and self-blame
- killed someone who was abusing him, but who at the same time was acting out of her own profound fear and suffering, and who also verbally expressed the desire to die
- is in denial about his own crimes but at the same time frequently apologizes and takes responsibility for his behavior
- ultimately… a little of both?
- has an undetermined fate, but is strongly connected to water
James, as the OP mentions, has motivations that are in a slightly grayer area. He was angry at Mary’s increasingly-cruel behavior, and felt trapped and burdened by caring for her as she wasted away: there were selfish motivations to the murder. But at the same time, he also loved Mary, and couldn’t bear to watch her suffer and plead for death: there were selfless motivations to the murder. He is bitter at his abuser for hurting him while simultaneously being bitter with himself for not being strong enough to endure for her sake. On some level he blames her for getting sick and dying, but on another he blames himself for not being able to save her. He killed her before the game begins, but throughout the story is constantly teetering on the edge of killing himself as the ultimate self-punishment for his horrible actions.
Selfish and selfless. Homicidal and suicidal. Unforgivable and forgivable. Eddie Dombrowski and Angela Orosco.
Even James’s Otherworld— and eventual fate should he wind up getting the bad ending— is stuck smack dab in the middle of his two counterparts: water, the in-between of fire and ice.
Silent Hill 2 is more than just a story about how victims can become abusers (or, in Angela’s case, never truly escape at all) and accepting responsibility for one’s actions; it’s also about HOW TO HANDLE accepting responsibility. Eddie and Angela, both victims (but only one truly an innocent) are still both examples of fates that could potentially befall James. Obviously Eddie’s isn’t a good path to take— no matter how much you’ve been hurt, it is NEVER OKAY to blame the world for your problems and take out your rage on innocent victims, or people who are trying to help you. But at the same time, while understandable and glorified by society to an extent, dwelling on your guilt and constantly punishing yourself for something (especially something that may not be your fault at all) isn’t healthy, either.
James’s story— the story of Silent Hill 2— is about two very big things: firstly, accepting responsibility.
Eddie doesn’t do that. It is important that James witnesses this, and understands it— you can’t hurt people and ignore your own wrongdoings just because you’ve suffered.
Secondly… it’s about forgiving yourself.
Angela doesn’t do that.
And it’s just as important for James— and for us— to see her story unfold… and understand that part too. You can’t dwell endlessly on your guilt— that won’t help you or anybody else.
IN CONCLUSION, I agree that Angela deserved a better fate, and that it’s heart-wrenchingly painful to watch an innocent, brutally-abused girl hate herself with such intensity that she welcomes death. I think you’d have to be completely soulless to think she deserved to die, to not want to see her get a happy ending. To recover, to see the truth in what James tells her at the beginning: “There’s always another way." To be happy. To not be defined by her abuse in the way that, sadly, many (usually female) victims in many stories tend to be. Pretty much every molecule in me PINES for a story exactly like what the OP described up there: James and Angela and Laura making it out together, taking care of each other. Heck, who am I kidding— I’M WRITING ONE MYSELF!
But that said, I don’t agree that the game is sending an ugly or less-meaningful message.
There is no such thing as an ending in Silent Hill that isn’t bitter in some way.
And the sad reality is that innocents— even innocents who have suffered, who deserve a happy ending more than ANYONE else— don’t always make it. Watching Eddie and Angela enter Silent Hill and not emerge on the other side like James (hopefully) does, shaken but still standing and ready to live, is heartbreaking to me. But it’s also one of the most powerful messages that the game can send. That becoming a monster won’t heal you, but that neither will looking in the mirror and seeing one where it isn’t. That to right the wrongs you’ve committed, you also have to understand that in some ways you were wronged too, and that that part wasn’t your fault. That it’s okay to accept forgiveness, both from the person you hurt and from yourself. That accepting responsibility means NOTHING unless you also are willing to move past it.
For me, that’s a big part of what makes the Leave Ending— and to be honest, the game itself— incredibly powerful. The three intertwined stories work together so beautifully that removing one would throw it off. Does that mean that I don’t think Angela and Eddie are characters in their own respects? Well, no, of course I do. They’re brilliant characters who are so much more than JUST foils for the ‘main’ story of the game. And of course you can always make a case that using a female character to develop a male character’s story is kind of gross, even if I feel like it’s honestly done well in this case. But that doesn’t change the fact that from a narrative perspective, their fates both fitting AND extremely important for the tone and theme of the game, and altering them would, imo, make the game’s narrative less effective.
… Maybe if there was a bonus Good+ ending where James befriends Eddie, saves Angela, and they ALL leave together… Hmmm…
Is it too late to change Gravity’s premise?