Note: This post contains a ton of spoilers for story and lore found in Control’s AWE DLC, as well as the Alan Wake games and some of Control’s base game. Read on at your own risk!
Alan Wake lives. The fate of the titular famous writer has been unknown since the release of Remedy Entertainment’s cult classic 2010 psychological thriller title and its 2012 spin-off, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, but Easter egg tidbits have popped up here and there ever since. In Control, Remedy goes all-in on reviving Alan Wake (perhaps because it finally got the rights to the game back in 2019)–Wake’s story is violently colliding with that of Control protagonist Jesse Faden in that game’s final DLC expansion, AWE.
AWE isn’t only about Alan Wake and its characters, but much of the DLC provides context and clues about what happened to various people in the 10 years since Wake’s disappearance at the end of his game. We get updates on what’s happening in Bright Falls, what’s going on with Wake’s wife, Alice, and what happened to Dr. Emil Hartman, one of the people who knew the most about the evil supernatural Dark Presence in Alan Wake. The DLC also does a lot to set up where the Alan Wake story will be going next–it sure sounds like Remedy’s next game is some form of Alan Wake 2.
Here’s everything the AWE DLC reveals about the characters of Alan Wake and what we can expect next from that story.
Alan Wake Takes Control
Back in the main story of Control, players were able to find an Easter egg in the Panopticon that first tied Alan Wake’s story to Control’s. That Easter egg was one of the reality-bending Manuscript Pages players find throughout the 2010 game. The Federal Bureau of Control was aware of the events in Bright Falls in Alan Wake, but arrived well after everything between Wake and the Dark Presence had played out. They discovered the page (as well as one of the many Oh Deer Diner thermoses you can find in the game) and investigated the paranatural “Altered World Event” that took place there–but never found Wake himself or fully understood everything that happened.
The Manuscript Page comes with a Hotline message from Wake himself, updating us on what’s been going on with him for the last 10 years. He’s still trapped in the Dark Place at the bottom of Bright Falls, and because of the nature of the Dark Place’s reality bending power, his thoughts, plans, dreams, and fantasies about escaping continually manifest themselves and seem real–so that he’s never sure if he’s actually getting out, or just thinks he is.
AWE kicks off when Jesse receives another Hotline message from Wake, directing her to the sealed Investigations Sector of the Bureau. Over the course of the DLC, we learn Wake’s intentions: Since he can’t free himself from the Dark Place, he’s trying to set things up so that Jesse can save him. There seems to be more going on there, though.
Thomas Zane, Or Is It Mr. Scratch?
At a few points during the DLC, Jesse is privy to cutscenes that actually feature Wake and give a sense of what seems to be happening with him right now. As we saw during the Alan Wake DLC offerings, The Signal and The Writer, Wake often has a hard time keeping straight what’s happening and what’s real. The influence of the Dark Place causes him to lose his memory, causing him to struggle to remember what he’s been doing and what his plans are. He uses the manuscript he’s writing to keep track of what he’s doing–which might be a flawed plan, since Wake puts all his trust in what he (believes he) has written.
Jesse sees Wake in the Oceanview Motel, a strange, otherworldly location that’s connected to the Oldest House, talking with another man who looks just like him and who identifies himself as Thomas Zane. It seems that this person’s identity is an open question, however.
In Alan Wake, the Dark Presence targets artists, hoping to use their power, seemingly coupled with the paranaturally powerful Dark Place, to alter reality and release its malevolence on the whole world. Zane was a poet who was one of the first attacked (as were the Anderson brothers of the Old Gods of Asgard; more on them in a bit) back in the 1970s, but Zane carefully used his writing to trap the Dark Presence in the Dark Place. To stop the Dark Presence from ever escaping, he used his power to basically erase himself from existence. But Zane left himself some contingencies in case the Dark Presence ever escaped, writing in key items and elements that Wake would one day use in his own battle with the entity. Anything Zane left in a shoebox escaped being erased, for instance, and there’s some implication that Wake’s absentee father might have been Zane himself.
Zane appeared in Alan Wake as a diver who was able to drive back the Dark Presence with an overwhelming light, aiding Wake at key moments. In AWE, Zane is out of his diving suit, however, and wears the same clothes as Wake. He says that he and Wake had been collaborating on a new project, and calls himself a filmmaking auteur, as opposed to a poet. He also likens the diving suit version of himself to a film character he was playing. This Zane is vaguely manipulative, and it seems very, very likely that he isn’t Zane at all–he might, in fact, be Wake’s murderous double, Mr. Scratch, from the 2012 spin-off game, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare.
Mr. Scratch is another paranatural entity created by the Dark Place. He looks just like Wake, but with a psychotic bent. He uses TVs and films he’s made throughout American Nightmare to torment Wake, which show Scratch committing murders. Wake defeats and seemingly destroys Mr. Scratch at the end of American Nightmare by blasting him with the powerful light and emotion of a home movie, one that Wake made with Alice.
In AWE, however, Wake remembers the double and says “he’s out there.” It seems like AWE is setting up that Mr. Scratch survived and has been able to manipulate Wake to do his bidding, perhaps even by posing as Zane. But Wake seemingly has a plan of his own, as well.
Jesse Faden Goes To Bright Falls
In his final Hotline message, we get the sense of what Wake’s after as he influences Jesse’s story in AWE.
“Wake needed a hero,” Wake says. “The hero needed a crisis. For the part in the story about the government agency, Wake needed something special. Something to convey an alien force mimicking human intelligence.”
That sounds a lot like Wake might have created all the events of Control, as well as the monstrous Hiss that possesses the people of the Bureau and turns them into enemies throughout the game. Perhaps Wake willed everyone involved in Control into existence through his writing, along with the FBC itself. That would track with some other Easter eggs as they exist in Control, including Jesse having heard of and read the works of Thomas Zane–which is impossible for anyone else, since Zane used his power to erase himself and his memory from the world. There’s even more evidence pointing to this idea, which we’ll compile later on.
The end of AWE teases where things are headed next for Control and Alan Wake. Jesse’s final message from Wake suggests that AWE was grooming her to help Wake escape the Dark Place. Getting Jesse into the Investigations Sector is the first step. At the end of the DLC, the FBC receives a signal from Bright Falls indicating a new AWE is taking place there. But as Langston notes in the cutscene, the date is wrong–it says the event is “a couple years in the future.” That sounds like it’s hinting at the next game after Control, which also suggests that Jesse will head to Bright Falls to deal with this new AWE.
The Bureau In Bright Falls
The FBC actually has a long history with Bright Falls, Washington. It has been aware of the town and the weirdness surrounding Cauldron Lake–although not the specific details, it seems–ever since the 1970s when Thomas Zane fought and defeated the Dark Presence. Partially, that’s because a former FBC agent, Frank Breaker, moved to Bright Falls and became sheriff (his daughter Sarah would later be sheriff during the events of Alan Wake). After investigating what happened, the FBC left a monitoring station in Bright Falls to keep an eye out for any more weird activity.
There’s an FBC agent, Estevez, who’s on-sight in Bright Falls, so the Bureau has a permanent presence there. During the events of Alan Wake, Sheriff Sarah Breaker tells Wake’s agent, Barry Wheeler, to notify her father and several others of what’s happening, which suggests there are other people there who work for or with the Bureau as well, or at least know about it.
Thanks to the folks it had in Bright Falls, the FBC was able to respond when some very bad thing started happening with Dr. Emil Hartman and the Cauldron Lake Lodge. And the FBC’s continued presence there is likely to play into future events.
The Aftermath For Dr. Emil Hartman
The immediate story of AWE is about Emil Hartman, another Alan Wake character. In the 2010 game, Hartman, a psychiatrist who specializes in treating artists with creative blocks, is the person in Bright Falls most clued in to what’s actually going on with the Dark Place, although he doesn’t know enough to protect himself from it. Back in the ’70s, Hartman worked as Thomas Zane’s assistant, and through that, discovered the power in Cauldron Lake and Zane’s ability to alter reality through his artwork. Later, Zane’s girlfriend, Barbara Jagger, mysteriously drowned in the lake; Hartman convinced Zane to try to bring her back to life using his power.
That event kicked off everything else that would happen in Alan Wake, with Zane accidentally allowing the Dark Presence to possess Barbara. Zane managed to lock the Dark Presence away (along with himself) and to erase himself and Barbara from existence to keep it there, but Hartman knew what happened and went on trying to take the power Zane had wielded for himself.
When Wake, a famous novelist, arrives in Bright Falls, Hartman sees another opportunity like he had with Zane. Wake’s wife Alice is abducted by the Dark Presence in an attempt to force Wake to free it, and the rest of the game is the story Wake has written in an attempt to fight back and defeat the entity. During the course of the game, Wake ends up in Hartman’s lodge, where the psychiatrist treats artists–an attempt to find someone who could access Cauldron Lake’s power. Wake escapes when the Dark Presence attacks, and it looks like Hartman gets nabbed and maybe killed by the entity. As we learn in Control, however, he survived and went on trying to uncover Cauldron Lake’s power.
The FBC later arrives in Bright Falls to investigate the Altered World Event that was the Alan Wake story, encountering and questioning Hartman. Once they find out what he knows, Hartman suggests he work with the FBC, “sharing notes” on Cauldron Lake. Instead, the FBC arrests Hartman as a “paracriminal,” someone who uses Altered Items and Objects of Power without Bureau authorization. The FBC also sets up surveillance on Hartman’s patients at the lodge, which suggests they all survived the events of Alan Wake when the Dark Presence attacked.
Hartman is released some months later after the FBC evaluates him, but once he’s out, he goes right back to his work in Bright Falls. With no FBC support, Hartman decides to dive into Cauldron Lake and figure things out for himself. This proves to be a huge miscalculation–in his attempt to unlock the power of the Dark Place, Hartman is possessed by the Dark Presence, becoming a murderous Taken creature that Wake calls The-Thing-That-Had-Been-Hartman. The FBC is tipped off to the creature’s presence when it finds that something is damaging the cameras at its Bright Falls monitoring station. The Bureau manages to capture the creature and takes it back to Investigations to study it.
It’s not entirely clear how long the possessed Hartman is kept in the Oldest House, but it seems to be a while. There, Investigations agents learn all they can about the Darkness-infused creature, which is the same kind of creature Wake fought throughout the events of Alan Wake. The FBC also builds a replica of Hartman’s Cauldron Lake Lodge in order to see if the familiar locale might change the creature’s behavior.
Escape, Murder, And AWE
Around two years before the events of Control, the Hartman creature escapes his confinement in the Investigations sector and goes on a full-on murder rampage. He kills a number of agents in the sector before the survivors manage to escape. Rather than try to save anyone who’s still left, Director Zachariah Trench orders the sector sealed–even though there are still survivors inside. That’s where things are left until the start of AWE: Hartman has been wandering around Investigations, alone, sealed off from the rest of the Oldest House. But when the Hiss break out and attack at the start of Control, they possess Hartman, as well as everyone else.
The interaction between the Darkness and the Hiss turns Hartman into something new. Wake describes him as “stretched,” with the resonant noise of the Hiss growing darker, and the Darkness growing louder. Wake calls this new Hartman monster “The Third Thing,” and it’s basically invincible through most of the AWE story.
Jesse eventually hunts down the Third Thing and kills it before it can escape into the rest of the FBC and wreak additional havoc. This almost seems like an audition for her, set up by Wake, to see if she would be capable of taking on the Dark Presence. It seems Jesse passes the test by the end of the DLC.
Alice Wake’s American Nightmare
There are a few other characters mentioned in AWE, giving other clues as to what’s going on in the aftermath of Alan Wake. A big one is Alice Wake, who had direct contact with the FBC, according to files you can find in the DLC. The FBC first found Alice in the aftermath of the Bright Falls AWE in 2010, and after interviewing her about the event, left a phone number with her so she could contact them if anything strange happened. As it turns out, something did.
Alice contacts the FBC in 2017 to tell them about something horrible she’s experiencing. Every night, she says, she’s visited by a shrieking vision of her husband Alan in their New York apartment. Alice says that she doesn’t think this is Wake himself, but some kind of “monster” in his body that she says has violent intent toward her. She finally catches it on film with a motion-activated camera.
With that evidence in-hand, Alice comes to the FBC for an interview and shows them the photo, which shows someone who looks like Alan screaming at her in the darkness. According to Wake’s Hotline message to Jesse, which seems to be the manuscript he’s writing, it’s Alice’s presence in the FBC and her connection to Wake that causes Hartman to go berserk. He senses her and that causes him to break out, resulting in the event that seals the Investigations Sector. As Wake explains in the Hotline message, however, Alice is already gone by the time Hartman gets free.
We don’t know what else happened to Alice after that. The Hotline messages Wake sends to Jesse come off like the manuscript pages he writes to control reality; one is full of the details about how Hartman became possessed by the Dark Presence, another details how he is corrupted further by the Hiss, and a third talks about how Alice’s visit to the FBC caused Hartman to get free. The entire story of the AWE DLC, then, seems to be Wake making changes from the Dark Place to create a tale that will bring Jesse to where he needs her.
Casey Makes A Call
Alice Wake and Emil Hartman aren’t the only people interested in the Bright Falls AWE. A correspondence file found in Investigations states that an FBI agent inquires about all information the FBC has on the Wake situation sometime before the sector is sealed. What’s interesting is who makes the request: an Agent Alex Casey.
Casey is a character in the Alan Wake universe, but he’s one of Wake’s own creations. The novels that made Wake famous all star Casey as a hardboiled detective (he actually sounds a lot like another Remedy character, Max Payne). The agents at the FBC remark on this in their file and note that they didn’t give Casey any material that might tip him off about the paranatural events in Bright Falls, but the appearance of someone claiming to be Casey is worthy of note to them nonetheless.
We’re not sure who’s using Casey’s name, but there are a couple of possibilities. If Mr. Scratch is still running around, as seems likely, then he could be using Casey’s name to try to get information from the FBC, while also mocking Wake like the spooky psychopath that he is. There’s also Robert Nightingale, an FBI agent who tried to arrest Wake during the Bright Falls AWE but was taken by the Dark Presence. Alan Wake ends with a shot of Nightingale looking particularly creepy and seemingly trapped in Bright Falls, still under the Dark Presence’s influence. Using the Casey name also fits Nightingale’s personality, especially if he was hoping to hide his identity.
There’s also the possibility that that was, in fact, Alex Casey. The main story of Control includes traversal into other dimensions, and Dylan Faden talks about dreaming about what sound like parallel realities. He even hints at seeing a world in which a fictional character is a real person, and that character sounds a lot like Alex Casey. It could be that, as part of the new Bright Falls AWE, realities are blending together–or, in keeping with other elements in AWE, this call from Casey could be the work of Wake himself as he writes events into existence as part of his overarching story.
The Gods Versus The Darkness
The Old Gods of Asgard is a band made up of two old rockers, Tor and Odin Anderson, who live in Bright Falls. They appear a bunch in Alan Wake–in the 1970s, the two musicians gained the power of the Dark Place by drinking moonshine they created using the water from Cauldron Lake. Hartman recognized their ability and forced them to his lodge, where he studied them, and the Andersons’ songs are essential to helping Wake defeat the Dark Presence through the course of the Bright Falls AWE. That suggests the Andersons’ role in the story might have been devised by Thomas Zane at some point in the past, or that they were written in by Wake himself when he created his own manuscript.
A new file in AWE gives more context about the Andersons and their past with Cauldron Lake. It details another Altered World Event in Bright Falls that took place after the first one that pertained to Zane. The first Bright Falls AWE took place in 1970; this one happened in 1976.
Alan Wake and American Nightmare discuss how the Andersons fought the Dark Presence at some point in the past, but the files about the 1976 Bright Falls AWE fills in more information. It says the Dark Presence came for the Andersons during a festival in Bright Falls, attacking their farm. It created storms and flooding that caused the Bright Falls townspeople to flee the festival grounds, led by then-Sheriff Frank Breaker. Thanks to Breaker, nobody was hurt; afterward, Breaker and the FBC came upon the aftermath of the Andersons’ battle with the Dark Presence.
The Andersons won the standoff, and it seems they probably did so by using their music to invoke the powers of the Norse gods they modeled themselves after on-stage. Tor Anderson had been struck by lightning, while Odin Anderson had apparently gouged out his own eye. In any event, they won the fight and the Dark Presence receded, as did the flood waters and the storms. The FBC interviewed everyone and took the townspeople’s accounts, but didn’t find much else in the way of evidence about what exactly happened, or the AWE’s lasting effects. Nothing as big would happen in Bright Falls until 2010 and Wake’s arrival in town.
Barry Wheeler And The Andersons
The Andersons’ music shows up in Control, too. Their song “Take Control” is what allows Jesse to navigate through the Ashtray Maze during that game. If you listen carefully to the song, you can hear someone speaking between verses–but the sound of the words has been played backwards, obscuring what’s being said.
The backwards message in the song is a big secret that Control players have been trying to figure out since the game was released, and in AWE, the solution is finally revealed. If you discover a particular hidden room and follow the clues from the message, you find out what became of the Andersons, as well as Wake’s agent and a character in Alan Wake, Barry Wheeler.
Turns out, despite being pretty damn old, the Old Gods still knew how to rock long into their old age. In the aftermath of Alan Wake, Barry took the Andersons on as clients and helped them land some hits–among them “Balance Slays The Demon,” one of the tracks that appears in American Nightmare and helps Wake to defeat Mr. Scratch. We got a few tidbits of this part of the story back in American Nightmare, but Control explains how it ends.
The Old Gods put out a greatest hits album called “Rebirth” and went on tour. They did three major, stadium-filling shows, but would always lose themselves in post-show parties for days afterward. Barry would eventually chase them down, and it would take the Andersons weeks to recover from their drug and alcohol benders.
In the end, Barry quits as the Andersons’ agent, fearing they might die if they keep going as hard as they are–and after the trauma of losing his friend and client Wake, Barry can’t bear that. He cancels the tour and instead funnels the money from the gigs and the album into the founding of the Valhalla Nursing Home. It’s there that the Andersons are comfortably living out (or maybe have lived out) their twilight years.
Is This All Alan Wake’s Doing?
There are a lot of weird details that suggest maybe Wake, writing from the Dark Place, has been responsible for everything happening in Control. That extends beyond just the events of the AWE DLC, which are the result of Wake’s influence–all of Control, including all the backstory in the game, might be part of Wake’s manuscript.
We know that Wake is writing manuscript pages that are creating Jesse’s story in AWE, and from the Hotline messages, it seems like he also created the situations that led to it, like Hartman’s possession and Alice’s visit to the FBC, in the same way.
Pay attention and you can also find several pages of a script Wake wrote for “Night Springs,” the Twilight Zone-like TV show he wrote on before becoming a famous novelist. The “spec script” he wrote to try to get a job on the show, called, “Over the Threshold, Darkly,” is a truncated version of the exact scenario that kicked off the events of Control, in which a government agency scientist (a lot like Dr. Darling) and the agency’s director (a lot like Zachariah Trench) open a portal to another dimension and get attacked by what they find there. It even ends with the director shooting himself in the head, which is one of the opening scenes of Control.
In another file, we learn that Alice Wake’s interview at the FBC corresponded with changes observed inside the Oceanview Motel. Throughout Control, we venture to the Oceanview and find several doors there, and we don’t know the significance of most of them (the one with the inverted black triangle, the symbol of the Board, is the one we always use to exit the motel). The file says that the door sporting a spiral shape, which is present throughout the game, appeared in the motel on the same day as Alice’s visit. That’s the same door behind which Jesse spots Wake during AWE, and it seems that Wake’s influence from the Dark Place created it.
Other circumstantial evidence draws more parallels between Control and Alan Wake. We’ve already mentioned that Jesse is one of only a handful of people in the world who can remember Thomas Zane despite his efforts to scrub himself from reality. The town of Ordinary, where Jesse and her brother, Dylan, experienced an AWE, is also tied to Zane by way of the Alan Wake “This House of Dreams” alternate reality game online, and was mentioned in an Old Gods of Asgard song in Alan Wake’s American Nightmare. And an Old Gods’ song guides Jesse through the Ashtray Maze–which is something that Wake has written into his own story on more than one occasion to help himself out.
We don’t know for sure how deep this rabbit hole goes, but it’s not insignificant that Control keeps hinting at Wake’s influence. It seems very possible that he might be the one pulling the strings behind all the events in Control, writing a lengthy and involved story to create the characters–and hero–he needs to finally rescue himself from the evil at the bottom of Cauldron Lake.
Next Time, On Alan Wake
The AWE DLC paints a pretty clear picture: The stories of Jesse Faden and Alan Wake are intertwined and they’re on a collision course. AWE all but says that a full continuation of Wake’s story is in the pipe from Remedy Entertainment and even puts a relative date on it, suggesting it’ll be out around 2022.
What we don’t know is exactly what that story will entail. It seems like a fair bet that Wake’s double, Mr. Scratch, will have an important role. Alan Wake has a few other antagonists, but with AWE tying up Hartman as a loose end, we’re really only left with Nightingale.
We could also see some hanging threads from Control mixed in, like the ongoing conflict between the strange Astral Plane entities known as the Board and the Former, and the newly introduced idea of “paracriminals,” who use Altered Items for their own nefarious ends or try to create their own AWEs. There’s no way to know for sure, but it seems pretty definitive that we’re due for a return to Bright Falls and Cauldron Lake with Remedy’s next outing.