After months of cryptic teases across social media, Hideo Kojima and Kojima Productions have finally announced Death Stranding 2. The four-minute reveal trailer first broadcast at The Game Awards 2022 sees returning characters Sam and Fragile – played by Norman Reedus and Léa Seydoux respectively – with Troy Baker also returning alongside newcomers Elle Fanning and Shioli Kutsuna.
Indeed, before the official unveiling Fanning and Kutsuna had been used previously in a string of cryptic social media images, their blanked-out profiles accompanied by brief questions, “Where am I?” and “Who am I?” Seydoux herself was used in the most recent post; her blanked-out face embossed with the words “How come?” True to Kojima’s reputation as enigmatic auteur, those who’ve watched Death Stranding 2’s reveal trailer will have more questions than answers.
Seydoux’s Fragile is the most prominent character in the trailer, immediately triggering the idea that she may feature as a playable character. Kojima has previously subverted expectations by switching player-characters before, most famously installing Raiden as player character instead of Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. So, at this point, it wouldn’t be too much of a revelation if Fragile were primary protagonist in Death Stranding’s sequel. More interesting is the reveal trailer’s deliberate attempts to misdirect the audience by way of subtle clues and sleek timeline shifts.
Take the underground bunker scene; it appears Fragile has been living there with Lou for quite a while. They’re signs of home life: baby toys, books on shelves, and a BB tank repurposed as a cryptobiote aquarium. Notably, Fragile’s body is uncovered and looking, for lack of a better word, normal. Remember, Fragile ran hooded through timefall to save South Knot City from nuclear detonation, so her body showed signs of severe aging and deterioration as a result. As none of this aging is apparent in the reveal trailer’s bunker scene, it’s possible what we’re seeing is taking place before the events of Death Stranding. It’s a flashback. Or maybe it’s possible Fragile has been granted a way to reverse the effects of her body’s deterioration, perhaps by giving up her DOOMS power in exchange for a youthful body? Sam appearing grey haired later in the trailer could be construed as the passing of time, or that somehow he’s managed to siphon life out of himself to give to Fragile. A long shot, sure, but there’re several possibilities worth ruminating on here. For all we know, Sam could have just been caught in timefall himself, and there’s nothing deep or meaningful about his grey hair.
There’s another subtle hint in the underground bunker scene which gives us a clue that what we’re watching isn’t taking place entirely within the same timeline. As Fragile embraces Lou, the camera cuts to Sam’s dreamcatcher perched above the living space. When Fragile begins her escape as mysterious forces gather outside, a wide angle shot has a dreamcatcher affixed to the ceiling. Although, on closer inspection this clearly is not the same dreamcatcher. Sam’s is angular whereas the dreamcatcher overseeing Fragile’s escape is round.
There’re more hints this escape sequence is taking place along a different timeline. For starters, repatriation technically shouldn’t be possible following the events of Death Stranding, because the Death Stranding is over, and the beaches are closed. Yet, once Fragile is violently dismounted from her super-cool motorised unicycle we’re seeing the repatriate baby-in-throat sequence – is this showing us Fragile has died and come back to life? Her eyes are leaking the tar-like substance which would certainly indicate she’s a repatriate, although it was never shown that she was in the first game. Plus, an eye’s blink later and she’s suddenly surrounded by flames; Lou is crying then abruptly still, perhaps dead. She’s then a BT absorbing into the broken BB tank-slash-cryptobiote aquarium back in the bunker. If this sequence is taking place chronologically after the events of Death Stranding, then the assumption is the connection between the world of the living and the realms of the dead has been re-established. As it happens, with all the phenomenon associated with the Death Stranding it’s equally likely this is a flashback to before the events of the first game.
This whole sequence possesses a dreamlike quality though; it’s impossible to precisely guess and interpret what we’re seeing. It could even be that we’re witnessing one of Fragile’s personal apocalyptic DOOMS nightmares. To be honest, there’s so many avenues for thoughts to wander down in this briefest of sequences, and we haven’t even mentioned the momentary glimpse of the mysterious hooded assailant pointing the pistol towards the camera.
The scene which follows with an aged Sam alongside a now suited Fragile, complete with holstered BB tank, is perhaps the biggest suggestion as to where the sequel’s narrative will flow. As they both shed tears, indicating they’re in the presence of high levels of chiralium, they observe a hulking mech emerge from a lake of tar, a legless Metal Gear REX, with Fragile indicating to Sam that it is time for him to start a new voyage. Whilst the setting immediately evokes an enclosed desert facility, the sound design is distinctly maritime – seagulls and ship horns punctuate the air. Don’t forget, Kojima Productions’ one-time code name for Death Stranding 2 was Ocean. Does this code name have meaning? It may just be that Sam will traverse overseas for this sequel – or, metaphorically, traverse the oceans of time and afterlife. Who knows? At the very least, this mech emerging from a lake of tar indicates some form of connection to a beach.
And that’s the thing – the beaches weren’t destroyed in Death Stranding, only the connections to them were closed. Right at the end of the trailer, we’re asked “should we have connected?” in similar deadpan fashion to Kojima’s social media posts. Should the network we helped construct across post-apocalyptic USA have been built at all? Maybe in connecting all the once isolated settlements we’ve inadvertently prevented Amelie from closing off her beach, and thus the effects of the Death Stranding still loom large across the world.
There’s certainly enough evidence in the trailer to speculate that if there are still remnants of a connection between the living and the afterlife, then there are organised forces aiming to exploit it. Early in the trailer we see a procession marching through a white desert. Is this mysterious organisation aiming to launch another extinction event? Those two monolithic desert structures look like sitting dogs. With Egyptology a key touchstone for Death Stranding’s thematic cycles of life, death, and afterlife, it’s perhaps no coincidence those structures are present in the trailer.
As for who, or what, is inside the blood red sarcophagus, well, it could be Amelie herself presuming this organisation have somehow recovered her from her own beach. It could be Higgs, although his choice between death or exile at the ending in Death Stranding is never shown. Or, as a prevalent theory that is currently circling the internet, it’s some sort of Higgs-Amelie hybrid. Take a look at the guitar strumming entity towards the trailer’s tail-end. This figure bears resemblance to both characters – are they the creation of this mysterious organisation? Are they an amalgamation of Amelie’s powers and Higgs’ drive, creating an unstoppable force to bring about the last stranding?
As stated at this feature’s outset, Death Stranding 2’s reveal trailer asks more questions than it gives answers. In truth, there’s so much symbolism and hidden meaning stuffed into this four-minute trailer it’s been impossible to cover everything. Kojima states he wants fans to focus on interpreting and speculating on every minute detail, so expect more theories to emerge over the coming months whilst we wait for Kojima Productions to share more official info.
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