<SPOILER ALERT> Please read this only after playing the entirety of LIS2.
To begin, I enjoyed LIS2, the characters were well written, but by the end I was left with unanswered questions and significant gaps in the narrative logic. I consider myself a morally sensitive person and this game did present a challenge for me as the premise revolves around fugitives trying to escape the country. As a decision/consequence-based game, my expectation was that the game would present itself as a thoughtful introspection into morality and justice: the ending and final disposition of our protagonists would be crucial.
So, I started writing this as a few comments, questions, and opinions I had about the endings presented in the game; however, it ended up being a dissertation. I was not sure where to post such a lengthy rambling, so I am putting it here for lack of better judgment. This may be in the TLDR category, but here I go anyways.
General comments and Daniel’s moral responsibility.
Regarding the ending of LIS2, for me the only thing I wanted to see was the truth revealed and the consequences rendered to each character be based on the truth. To this effect, the only ending I will accept is one where Daniel is judged for his crime: the murder of the police officer in the beginning of the game; or multiple murders as presented in the amoral playthrough. Sorry Daniel fans, Daniel should have taken the fall for everything in the game, not Sean. Sean is innocent and his only mistake was running from the cops (additionally punching his neighbor and stealing a car, since these fixed events in the game, other Sean crimes can be avoided by the player).
It does bother me that Sean never directly confronts Daniel to see if he understands he killed a cop in Seattle and that is why they are running away; this is a mistake, particularly in the early game where it is explicit that Daniel does not remember doing this and is naive to reason they are running away (unrealistically so in Ep1), if/when he learns/realizes/remembers the truth is somewhat unknown. Pinpointing this moment is important to understand Daniel’s character and ultimately how he will/should be judged.
Though I didn’t have him do this, it is possible for Daniel to kill officers in the police station in Ep5, here he commits two more murders while lucid and is still able to surrender himself after helping Sean escape (moral ending). In contrast, an evil Daniel can commit murder while lucid in Ep4, afterward he states he does not feel bad about it, showing recognition of the act. Hopefully the audience sees this and acknowledges Daniel as being capable of moral responsibility despite being a child. In a case of murder, a child can/will be prosecuted, officer Campbell’s comment in Ep5 is complete bogus.
The endings presented to us, logical holes, and my opinions.
In the game, we are presented with 4 endings, 2 moral endings and 2 amoral endings (variations notwithstanding) In every case, the game lacks an epilogue to help us explore the lasting consequences of our actions.
1. High moral + surrender ending, Redemption. This ending should really be called sacrifice, because Sean presumably takes all the blame for Daniel’s crimes. This ending is not fair to Sean at all, he is emotionally and spiritually crushed beyond recognition; furthermore, it does not show a true moral ending for Daniel, as he appears to be OK living with this lie. Maybe Daniel realizes this at the very end of the cut scene, but there is no way he could live 15 years without remorse. Bad ending for both brothers.
The passage of time itself is a tragic event, yes, it is unavoidable and devours all things, and 15 years is a lot of time. Even under normal, happy ending circumstances, relationships will change in that amount of time, even among brothers. Living separated from each other and not being able to see Daniel grow up would have made them complete strangers, a fate as severe as death in the context of the narrative. Too much for me, only blind optimism would make me think this ending is better than ending 3, but I suppose Daniel doesn’t end up evil and is (unbelievably) unscathed from a legal standpoint.
It does not make sense here that the police would believe Sean did everything: how did he kill the cop in the beginning? No weapons, no explosive resins, etc. Plus, there were plenty of witnesses to Daniel’s powers (Daniel was not careful enough to hide his powers at all), maybe not to the FBI agent directly, though he did use his power to escape the police station in Ep5 with the potential to leave witnesses. Someone would have told the truth and Daniel’s telekinetic powers exposed.
Again, since this is supposed to be a moral ending for Daniel as well, he should have felt compelled to make a full confession of his mistakes and his telekinetic powers. If the interrogator didn’t believe him, then he should have shoved them up against the wall and blown a hole through the wall of the interrogation room to prove the point.
This could have led to a more just ending for the siblings, such as a lesser prison sentence for Sean and Daniel put on house arrest for the rest of his life (again, sorry Daniel fans), which brings us to ending 2.
2. High moral + flee ending, Parting ways. Overall, it is my opinion that this is the best ending that is presented to us at the end of the game, as presumably Daniel does confess (I really wanted to witness this happen before the game ended) to all the crimes committed and Sean lives free in Mexico. My assumptions regarding this ending: 1. Daniel confesses his crimes and to having telekinetic powers. 2. The police believe him, as he demonstrated his power to the FBI during the escape scene. 3. The ankle bracelet is his punishment for murder and perhaps, simply because his powers make him dangerous.
This is the only justice I can feel given all the endings, as we do see Daniel being punished for murder and showing off his powers so irresponsibly.
But what we don’t know from the ending is what happens to Sean. As we have seen throughout the game, not even hell itself will keep him from his brother, so why is he in Mexico so far away from Daniel? I can only think of 2 possible reasons:
a. The government won’t let him back into the country because neither are admonished of their crimes, again I hope Daniel confessed to all crimes here. Perhaps Sean sees it as impossible to see Daniel in the States, because he would be arrested at the border or by the surveillance agents watching Daniel (if he made it that far) and the sentence would be severe (and he would not be able to see Daniel anyway).
b. I do think it is reasonable in this ending, that Sean would have eventually faced judgment for his mistakes (like ending 1) just to see his brother. An optimistic and creative interpretation of this ending: Sean does eventually make it back to the States, perhaps scot-free as everyone was satisfied with Daniel’s confession or maybe he did serve some jail time, but it was less than the six-year jump to future Daniel (which could explain his absence in the photo montage). But at some point, between the border incident and where the audience jumps in, I can imagine a conversation where Daniel tells Sean to live a free life and be happy without him, as Daniel is on house arrest forever. So, Sean eventually accepts this and chooses to live in Mexico, to avoid pain or something like that. But we do not get to see this conversation or receive any hints as to the nature of Sean and Daniel’s relationship post-game (as we do in ending 1).
Overall this ending is vague and does not leave me fully satisfied. We don’t know the why behind what we see and do not know how long Daniel is sentenced to house arrest, I can only presume forever due to his powers. Yes, it sucks to have superpowers (I am OK with this notion) in a non-superhero/supervillain world. However, it is more likely the reveal of his powers to the authorities would have seen Daniel’s brain getting dissected on a lab table, but I defer that notion for a moment.
3. Low moral surrender, Lone Wolf. Here Sean dies and Daniel becomes a supervillain in Mexico, robbing banks and the like. meh. Logically makes sense. Sean is spared 15 years of prison, so that’s good, right? This ending prompts the fewest questions, in my opinion.
4. Low moral flee, Blood Brothers. Here Daniel murders a whole squad of police officers and both brothers make it to Mexico as supervillains, if you’re OK with the villainy (I am not), then it is the best ending for Sean and Daniel; furthermore this is the only ending presented where the brothers stay together (sarcasm: yay murder is the only way to win).
Some players may have asked why Daniel didn’t “ET” the car over the fence, but murder seems more reasonable here since we are witnessing Daniel’s amoral ending, sorry you cannot have your cake and eat it too: if you do not teach Daniel to be a paragon superhero, he becomes a murderous supervillain. Arguably Daniel does not do this in ending 2 because he wants to surrender to the authorities.
In ending 4, the brothers Diaz win, albeit separated from all family and friends (everything/everyone they ever loved) in the States—sullying the memory of their past and upbringing. But I suppose there is some justice in this ending, since the brothers surrendered their souls (instead of themselves) to escape.
Unfortunately, there was a pesky question in my mind since the beginning of the game: what do we do with children with superpowers? Sadly, in a world outside of the “Avengers”, I feel these people would be locked up in a laboratory forever for study. Perhaps Sean felt the same way, and this influenced his decision to run away with Daniel—to protect his brother from being dissected in a lab. In my opinion, this would have been a major factor (if not the primary factor) in his (and the player’s) decision making.
However, Sean never has this conversation with his brother and Daniel uses his powers irresponsibly (even in the moral playthrough). This should have been addressed somewhere in the game, as it is crucial to understanding the characters’ motivations and would have 100% affected the player’s decisions, I think it is safe to say in the absence of this information the audience assumed that capture would be very bad for Daniel because of this reason, so Sean insisted on fleeing to Mexico to protect his brother, possibly from unsavory scientists.
So, do any of our endings address this? I say yes to the amoral endings 3 and 4, Daniel would simply kill any who would try to capture him and study his powers (problem solved), the moral endings not so much.
Ending 1, it is not believable that Daniel’s power would be kept hidden, in-fact the opposite is true when he saves a school bus as indicated in the photo montage, so sorry, Daniel should not have been at Sean’s release since he is in a science lab being vivisected or on house arrest forever as in ending 2. Sorry Sean, surrender is a bad option because your brother has superpowers that he cannot keep hidden. This could have been made more believable if in order to get this ending you would have to 100% hide Daniel’s power but Ep 3 - 5 make this impossible. Ep1 and Ep2 there is more wiggle room.
I think in Ep2 we can trust the grandparents Claire and Stephen; I believe they are equally as likely to tell the truth to the police or hide it depending on where we want the narrative to go. We can trust Chris as seen in the heart to heart he and Sean had (loved that scene); sadly we are not presented with an ending where Sean and Chris can be friends, Chris really needs a big brother like Sean and friends to talk to, before he starts talking to his imaginary ones and they start talking back (at least he gets Daniel in ending 2). I hope everyone else loved Captain Spirit and factored him into their end game.
Ending 2 does vaguely address the superhero question, as Daniel is seen on house arrest for the last 6 years (we think). I can see this as a surprisingly merciful answer to our superhero question, Daniel is being watched like a hawk, but is still allowed to be with his family and friends (and finish school). Though the reason for the ankle bracelet is not explicitly expressed in this ending leading us to ask why.
Possible endings not put into the game.
So, what else could have been done? So, we have ending 1 Sean sacrifices himself for Daniel, ending 2 Daniel sacrifices himself for Sean, but not really as it is never confirmed if Sean can even set foot in the States. Ending 3 and 4 are self-explanatory. But we are missing two endings. There first ending, call it ending 5, would show both brothers die in the escape attempt. This could be considered lazy writing, but it would not leave us any lingering post game questions. The second ending, call it ending 0, would show Daniel’s death and be the antithesis of ending 3. With my limited creative experience, I propose the following.
Ending 0, obtainable by (near) perfect paragon playthrough (no optional crimes committed), Daniel sacrifices himself completely for Sean, yes the best ending is also the most tragic (but more satisfying from a moral perspective IMHO); I imagine Sean surrendering but Daniel not allowing it, but unlike ending 3 where Sean dies, we have ending 4 (but not due to anger or sociopathy, but of love and sacrifice), Daniel may or may not kill the squad of police, but he is definitely killed in the process.
Then we are presented with an ending where a broken Sean stays in the States, and the truth about Sean’s motivations (loves his brother more than anything) and Daniel’s powers are revealed to the police/FBI. Sean is of course arrested, but perhaps in this ending Sean is absolved of his accused crimes (it becomes obvious Daniel was responsible for all of them) and can be free without running away to Mexico. Sorry Daniel, but your death should be an option to allow Sean to be free.
Some epilogue here would be good to show the positive impact Sean had on our side characters. This ending would also serve to answer the superhero question quite nicely, with Daniel dead we do not have to worry about him being vivisected—dissected yes, but not vivisected. We also don’t have to worry about him terrorizing humanity as in endings 3 and 4 (don’t deny this ending 4 fans).
The happiest ending for all?
So, what about the happiest ending for all? The most satisfying ending in this regard, unfortunately would require a Deus Ex Machina, I imagine forcing ending 0, Daniel dies for Sean to be free. But we see a considerable amount of epilogue added, Sean is horribly broken since he lost everyone he ever loved but is free (legally speaking). His motivations for running away are made clear with Daniel’s death, and everyone he met in the game is there for him in the end. He goes back to Seattle, to his father’s house, perhaps everything is still there since the police locked up the building. Sean goes to his room to contemplate the one decision that ruined his life and lead to the death of his father and brother, the moment he punched his neighbor.
We are then presented with a character capable of turning back time, or maybe Sean discovers he has this power himself after Daniel’s sacrifice (maybe Daniel gave it to him). At any rate, Sean is whisked away to the beginning of the game to again confront his neighbor Brett, but with his newfound, saint-like demeanor forged by suffering, he does not punch Brett. Perhaps Sean shares some contemplative and kind words with him, Brett realizes he was a jerk and feels sorry. Officer Mathews comes up to them, cautiously at first, sees the fake blood and thinks Sean shot Brett, so he pulls his gun. But here we have Brett explaining the situation to the officer (since he is not unconscious on the ground) though Sean is poised to take the bullet for his Dad, as he is willing to sacrifice himself, but the situation is resolved. The officer apologizes for the confusion, calls off the backup, false alarm, gets into his car and drives off. Maybe, Brett makes a comment that could have gone much worse, for chuckles. Then Sean and Daniel go back inside, Esteban is there. Dad congratulates his son on the most tactful and heart-felt confrontation witnessed outside. They hug and Sean breaks out into tears and/or completely breaks down as he can’t even stand up. The game can end here, or we can add more epilogue.
To continue, Sean can seek out those he met in his adventure, particularly Claire, Stephen, and Captain Spirit (Ep2 was my favorite BTW). With newfound enthusiasm and faith in the power of goodness and human connection, he reconciles the relationship between his extended family members. Maybe too, he meets Cass in the Seattle market (as she and Finn are itinerant) and shares a moment with her (or Finn contingent on Ep3), they feel like they know each other, and a kiss does not feel so awkward. Come find me in Seattle when you finally become weary of your travels and want to settle down, Sean says.
I know a schmaltzy ending is not LIS formula, but I feel better imagining it.
And if I were making a sequel, there would be a scene where Sean is telling Daniel the story of his harrowing time traveling escapade, so Daniel tries to see if he still has powers…but he doesn’t (psych), so Sean, being an awesome brother tries to teach him anyways—as they both focus on levitating a rock, Sean realizes he has Daniel’s power. So there, the perfect Sean ending.
(I can also imagine an end where both brothers share the same telekinetic power)
P.S. Sean would be so much better at using superpowers conservatively (not just because he is the PC), I Imagine his initial reaction would be one of fear in stark contrast to Daniel, probably triggering another breakdown, PTSD you know. Another thought, I do feel that Sean is the paragon and Daniel the renegade, but together they balance, with an emphasis on Sean being a good influence on Daniel. This is the way I saw it, and the way I tried to play LIS2.