video games

Playing Human: On a Particular Scene in Immortality

If you haven’t played the brilliant Immortality yet, I must advise you:

HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD! Please for the love of all that is beautiful and artistic, PLAY THE GAME. PLAY IMMORTALITY.

Anyway, as I played through the game, before I even knew about The One and The Other, I watched a harrowing clip in which we, the players, see fictional actor Carl Greenwood struck by the accidental discharge of a handgun at point-blank range. In the chest. He starts bleeding immediately, Marissa Marcel (the actress who accidentally shot him) is shocked, and the director, a man named John Durick, states in a muted tone of disbelief “Jesus fucking Christ.” Which, ya know, is sort of a tepid reaction when you just watched another human being get killed. Even if it was by accident.

Even on first viewing, this clip struck me as odd. Why did John react in such a mild way? Why isn’t he loud, not screaming necessarily, but why doesn’t he sound at least a little bit shocked? He sounds like he accidentally stepped in dog shit. Like he’s mildly frustrated. Not like he just watched another human being die.

Well, the answer finally came to me after I’d played most of the game and uncovered most of its secrets. You see, the actress Marissa Marcel is actually an immortal being called The One, and while the precise details of The One’s abilities are unclear, we do learn that they may shapeshift into human beings. Human beings they kill. The One has the ability to stop a human’s body from working, then they take on that appearance. They even absorb the memories of that person so they may better imitate them.

So was The One merely killing Carl Greenwood to take on his appearance? Well, no, actually. Even earlier in the story, but maybe later because you discover new footage through match-cutting, you learn that The One also killed the original director John Durick, and somehow manages to embody both him and Marissa Marcel. That’s right, The One is actually TWO HUMAN BEINGS at the same time. Which is interesting because at no other point is this feature of their powers discussed. “But wait,” I hear you say, “what about The Other?” That’s right – there’s a second immortal being of whom we know, who also takes on the forms of humans they have presumably killed. The kicker to this whole thing is that while The One embodies Marissa and John during the “accidental” discharge of the handgun, The Other embodies Carl Greenwood.

So wait, The One has shot and killed The Other? Yes and no. By viewing the “subverted” footage (which reveals the immortals behind certain scenes and decisions) we learn that The One calmly informs The Other that they, as Marissa, will shoot and kill them, as Carl. Which means that, by extension, Marissa, John, and Carl are all aware of what’s about to happen. The immortals know what’s coming, but the actual human beings on the film set don’t know. Which brings me to the title of this piece: playing human.

Essentially, The One and The Other are acting all the time. They take on human forms and do their best to imitate those people so no one becomes suspicious of them. We aren’t sure just how complete the “imitation” process is – The One speaks to us at a certain point and says they absorb some memories when they become a new person, but it sounds vague and incomplete. They still need to be aware of their immortal self, right? So when The One shoots The Other, they are both aware of what’s happening, but the humans they are pretending to be have to behave as though they don’t know what is going on. The discharge of the gun is “accidental.” “Marissa” is shocked that she has accidentally shot “Carl,” “Carl” is shocked and pretty much fucking dead, but the actual Carl must have died before because The Other has his body, and … yeah, it’s confusing, but please bear with me. “John” is also The One, so The One is playing two parts at once, in two literally separate bodies, so by the time The One has reacted in shock as Marissa, they might just not have the energy to pull off a convincing performance as John. John’s underwhelming delivery of “Jesus fucking Christ” at the sight of a fellow human being accidentally getting shot and killed on his film set starts to make a lot more sense when we accept that The One is actually behind these reactions, and they are two people at once in this moment, which must take a lot of energy. I don’t know for sure, I’m one human being and I’m probably not immortal. I really don’t care to test my hypothesis.

Anyway, I was initially confused and taken aback by John’s strange lack of empathy in that moment, or hell, his strange lack of any emotion at all (I guess it’s possible that a person can be so shocked by a sudden “accidental” killing that they don’t respond with feeling), then the other pieces of the narrative started to fit into place. I’m pretty sure that The One intended to be rid of The Other for good by cremating him (fire supposedly kills immortals for good), but The Other returns later through a process neither of the immortals knew was possible – it’s incredibly interesting that even though they’re immortal, they’re not omniscient. They can still learn and grow.

Those are my thoughts about one particular aspect of Immortality. If you haven’t played the game, I really hope you didn’t read any of this, but if you read this anyway, I hope the game still sounds interesting enough for you to try. It’s really fucking good. A masterpiece. Thanks for reading, and please go make some art.


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