Telling Lies Spoiler Chat

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Telling Lies Spoiler Chat

Post by InsrtCoins »

I rolled credits on Telling Lies over the weekend, and, honestly, I wanted to like it more than I ended up liking it. I wanted to open this thread to get some discussion out there to see if there was anything that I missed that can really make the title land for me. I really liked the characters, and the topics it covers are interesting, but I was left a bit cold by the overall thrust of the story. I'm hoping that reading others' more positive experiences will let me expand my perspective.

This is an OPEN SPOILER thread for a STORY-DRIVEN game. Venture no further if you haven't played it and intend to.

Since this is the first post, I'll go ahead and put my plot-related thoughts in spoiler tags, just in case someone haplessly clicks into this topic, but consider open spoilers okay for posts following.
Spoiler: show
To give the briefest of synopses, the story focuses around David, an FBI agent sent to infiltrate an extreme environmentalist group called Green Storm by way of a more peaceful and middle-of-the-road environmental group protesting the construction of a pipeline across their community that will pollute the local water supply. He attempts to entrap the group by suggesting that they use explosives to destroy a bridge necessary to continue the construction, but the group finds this too extreme, as they prefer more peaceful methods of protest and activism. Entrapment failed.

During his time in this group, he ends up falling in love with his "mark" (I'm not sure why she was singled out for the mission, as Ava doesn't appear to be more radical than anyone else in the group). As he spends more time with her, his feelings for her grow, and he feels more and more estranged from his wife at home, who has a brief affair with a coworker.

This entire time, he is also frequenting the streams of a camgirl, with whom he feels that he can open up and be honest. He becomes a bit too possessive of that one-sided relationship, though, and crosses some boundaries, which causes her to get upset and ban him from her stream. He creates a new username and tries to make contact again, at which point, she threatens to send the recorded sessions to David's superiors at the FBI (as he has revealed personally-damning information to her). This provokes him to use his criminal connections to track her down and threaten her in-person. She shoots him in the leg and has him arrested, but he's FBI, so they let him go.

Simultaneously, he is growing more and more frustrated by the Bureau and is starting to believe in the cause of the group he was sent to infiltrate -- the protesters are genuine, and fighting a real wrong for the good of the community. But his personal life is falling apart. The group is arrested, outing David as a rat (ruining his relationship with Ava and estranging him from their daughter-to-be), and his home relationship is looking pretty dire as well (presumably, Emma found out about Ava).

At his lowest point, David, now fully bought into the environmentalist mission, sets out to secure explosives and take down the bridge himself. He records one final video and blows himself up to halt construction of the pipeline.


Overall, I'm not sure what to make of that ending. The trajectory of the story to that point had been one of someone in a place of power coming to respect and empathize with those he was initially set out to oppress with trumped-up charges. Ultimately, though, his final act felt like such a 'self-important white boy' thing to do. He felt that his 'oh so noble' sacrifice would absolve him for the wrongs that he did to the women in his life. Not knowing, or caring, that this action was specifically turned down and forbidden by the members of the group he's trying to represent. He wants to find a quick solution to a complicated problem, so he steps in, against everyone's wishes, and performs an extreme action while others had been doing the emotional work of long-term protest and peaceful policy change. Ironically, this probably led to dismissal or increased scrutiny of this group, regardless of his standing within it at the time of his suicide bombing.

He wasn't comfortable with going out a nobody, slowly fading into the contempt of the women in his life. In his last-ditch effort to be the 'hero' that he obviously longed to be (see: the story of his wife's ex-boyfriend, his screennames on the camgirl streams), he performed an unwanted act of violence. This is school shooter logic, and I'm not sure what "side" the storyteller is on. The trajectory of the story had been of David learning and growing (with obvious moments of regression). We were not shown anyone's reactions to the event (beyond the other characters remarking in epilogues "eh, I didn't bother watching his tape").

In the absence of the narrative making any real commentary about his decision (when everything else had been commented to death), it feels like it can be equally read as:
1) A cautionary tale about a passionate idiot that doesn't have the empathy to look beyond his own narrative and think about what's best for those he has grown to care about.
2) A tragic story about a complicated man who eventually did the right thing, BUT NOBODY UNDERSTANDS HIM, MAN! (cue: "You're tearing me apart, Lisa!")

The lack of clarity in this theme is exacerbated by how much the game goes out of its way to obfuscate why the player character is even involved in the first place. What's in it for her? What's her perspective? Why is she doing what she's doing? How does she feel about what David did?

Piggybacking off of the discussion being held around the launch of Joker, is the story of a self-pitying white man driven to extreme actions with little or no commentary really what we need right now?
Overall, I feel like the game has a lot of events but very few themes, despite the amount of topics it covers. Hoping that others can elucidate interesting aspects that can shed some new light on things I missed.

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