Really breaking down the Red Dead Redemption 2 launch trailer

by: Randy -
More On: Red Dead Redemption 2

"One more big score," is becoming the calling card for the Red Dead Redemption series. Does three games—including Red Dead Revolver, the first Red Dead that isn't talked about much—count as a series? I vote yes. But it's that One Last Job TV trope that made me want to take a closer look at today's Red Dead Redemption 2 launch trailer. Not to mention the fact that John Marston, star of the first Red Dead Redemption, gets a couple words in edgewise.

Starting right off, outlaw boss Dutch van der Linde is talking to main character Arthur Morgan. Arthur already appears disgruntled. Dutch says, "One more big score, we got enough money to leave. What do you think?" The Van der Linde Gang is already encamped on the fringes of society. They've pitched their tents outside of an animal cave, judging by the sizable piles of bones at the cave's entrance. The bones hint at the predatory nature of Dutch's people, and also at the natural dangers that exist when you live, work, and play outside of society's walls. Plus, the act of pulling up your tent pegs and having to move on as the borders of polite society and the march of technology infringe upon your outlaw lifestyle—that's one of the overarching themes in the game.

Then there's Dutch, leading on a white horse, with John Marston at a close second, and everyone else riding behind Arthur. Arthur says, "Nothing means more to me than this gang." He might as well be substituting the word "gang" with "family." John Marston may have his son and significant other, but Arthur doesn't appear to have anything resembling a traditional, nuclear, wife-and-kids family unit to draw upon for reference.

"I would kill for it. I would happily die for it," Arthur continues, still referring to the gang. We're shown a fast-forward snippet of the train bank robbery, seemingly parked at a train depot, with Dutch masked at the teller's window, and Arthur masked behind the counter. You decide when to put on or take off your mask. If you commit crimes with your mask down, it's easier to identify you to law enforcement. The poor chap opening the safe will no doubt be reporting this incident to authorities. If he lives.

A gang member I do not recognize from earlier reveals throws big bags of U.S. Army Payroll money to gang member Sean MacGuire. MacGuire, per Rockstar's description, is "a cocky young Irish thief and stick-up man who comes from a long line of criminals and political dissidents. He always wants a piece of the action and believes in himself...perhaps a little too much." This is also a good move on Rockstar's part, not making the Irish character, like the namesake Irish from RDR 1, a beligerent drunk. That's some racist garbage that Rockstar shouldn't have gotten away with in the first place. But, moving on, the fact that the gang is targeting U.S. Government money in their heists lends itself to the Robin Hood narrative of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, a narrative that Dutch will be espousing heavily at this point in the gang's timeline. 

Here's Dutch and the gang outside of a burning plantation style home, a fire the Van der Linde Gang no doubt started. Here, Dutch's mask is down: an indication to me that he's not worried about being identified later, and that the man lying on the ground at his feet will indeed die by Dutch's hand. "I wish things were different," says Arthur. "But it weren't us who changed." The scene shifts from Dutch pointing his gun at the dead man to Arthur pointing his finger at presumably Dutch. Arthur isn't threatening Dutch's life, but Arthur is certainly cutting some ties with this gesture. As can be seen from the original Red Dead Redemption, which takes place later, Dutch starts to lose his Robin Hood ideals and turns to more senseless violence. This is Arthur informing Dutch that the gang still maintains those noble-thief ideals, whereas Dutch has strayed.

"Trust me, Arthur. Just one more—" "There's always a goddamn train," Arthur interrupts. Meaning, there's always one last job. There's always one more heist. There's always a last-time-I-swear moment with Dutch. And Arthur has already seen it happen enough times to know that there will never be a last time. There's the One Last Job trope that I absolutely don't mind seeing here in the context of a Red Dead game.

Next we see the long arm of the law, Edgar Ross, who works for the Government's Bureau of Investigation, firing his sidearm in the middle of the street. This is one of the same men that put John Marston under their thumb in RDR 1. Edgar Ross blinks when he fires his gun, but he's unflinching when facing Dutch. "I don't want to kill all these folk, Dutch...Just you," he says.

But in this frame we see how the Van der Linde Gang handles obstructions. We see sparks, two bright detonation points, and lots of splinters, on what looks a lot like the Ramita de la Baya ("Twig of the Berry" in Spanish), a bridge featured in RDR 1, though the surrounding trees seem to indicate this particular bridge exists somewhere other than a crossing to Mexico. Though silhouetted, it appears that Dutch is watching their backs in the wagon, Arthur is riding shotgun, and another fella from the gang is whipping the Clydesdale horses into getaway speeds.

After another quick snapshot of yet another bank robbery, we hear John Marston ask Arthur, "What about loyalty?" This is a wonderfully ironic line coming from a man that we know, from RDR 1, exactly where John draws the line on loyalty to the gang. In the last game, John left in order to live the quiet life as a farmsteader. Knowing this foreshadowing irony, we see Arthur turning to face John in response. "Be loyal to what matters," Arthur says—advice that John eventually takes when he decides that his wife and son are what matters.

We move from John Marston to Sadie Addler, a powder keg of an individual, literally standing in front of a wagon full of powder kegs. Quite possibly the same powder keg wagons detonated during the earlier escape across a bridge. "Do as you're goddamn told," Sadie says. Her bio indicates she's a widow on a mission of vengeance over her murdered husband. Sadie is no one to trifle with, perhaps even more so than most other members of the gang. They flash to a picture of a Grizzly Bear, just in case you didn't get the point. But Sadie's statement, juxtaposed with Arthur's just prior, give some very sharply opposed perspectives on what loyalty means to different people. Does loyalty mean betraying what you've always been doing? Or does loyalty mean shutting up and toeing the line? Can it be both?

And in a final few rapid-fire shots, we end with Dutch yelling, "It's either us, or him!" Now we see Arthur riding at the center of a splintered gang. It's possible that Dutch has been deposed from the center of the Van der Linde Gang, and that Arthur is transformed into the central figure in the gang's life. That's all rampant speculation on my part, but when the good guys and the bad guys live side by side, gathering around the same table to break bread, things get very interesting.

There we have it. A nearly frame-by-frame look at the Red Dead Redemption 2 launch trailer that came out today. Red Dead Redemption 2 launches on October 26 (I've already gotten my vacation request approved) on PS4 and Xbox One.

comments powered by Disqus