Five-Act Structure, Part Two
Narrative Analysis: The Basics
Act IV: Falling Action
Act IV, Falling Action, shows the consequences of the knowledge gained during the Climax. It is the point where all of the protagonist’s choices come back to haunt him, and the enemies close in for the kill. In the Three-Act Structure, it is the second half of Act II; in the Story Circle, it is the “Take” step. Screenwriter Blake Synder has yet another term for it: the All-is-Lost Moment. Whatever you call it, this is the place where things go from bad to worse. John Yorke goes so far as to frame it as backwards progression, labeling it the transition through ‘doubt, growing reluctance, and regression.’1 In his eyes, the end of Act IV leaves the protagonist in such dire circumstances that they have regressed to who they were at the start.
In Silent Hill 2, James experiences his own regression during Act IV as his sanity crumbles away. He repeatedly finds Maria, who he believed was killed by Pyramid Head, only to see her die again in increasingly bizarre ways. He also reunites with Eddie and Angela, whose psychological troubles spill out to reform the parallel world. Although he is able to help Angela, he is forced to kill Eddie to survive, and the murder throws everything he believed about himself into question. When James seeks comfort in Mary’s letter and finds it blank, he realizes it was only a figment of his imagination. His regression culminates with a realization: he was the one who killed her. This is James’s darkest moment, but it is also another turning point. From here, he has nowhere to go but up, bringing his story to its final act: Resolution.
Act V: Resolution
Act V, Resolution, marks the story’s conclusion. In this act, the protagonist has everything he needs to succeed; all that’s left is action. This act shares the same plot beats as the final act of the Three-Act Structure, covering the final confrontation and the wrap-up. Yorke’s change paradigm reflects these beats, as he labels this section as the transition through ‘reawakening, re-acceptance, and total mastery.’2 At long last, the protagonist understands the knowledge they gained in the Climax, and now they’re ready to put it to use.
In Act V of Silent Hill 2, James finally understands why he could not find the real Maria in the Climax and why the town has been changing around him. His guilt over his role in his wife’s death has been physically manifesting itself, forcing him to reckon with it. When he reawakens to this knowledge, he is able to break free from the town’s hold on him and drive back Pyramid Head. By accepting that Pyramid Head is yet another manifestation of his guilt, James proves that the monster no longer serves a purpose, and it takes its own life. All that’s left for James to do is confront the woman at the center of his guilt. While the player’s choices dictate different aspects of the ending, including whether he fights Maria or Mary and whether he leaves the town, the heart of the conflict is the same. James has mastered the knowledge that he is responsible for Mary’s death, and the true terror of Silent Hill is his own subconscious.
1-2 Yorke, John. Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story (pp. 50-51). Harry N. Abrams. Kindle Edition.
* Reference Run: SHN Survival Horror Network. Silent Hill 2 Enhanced Edition | 4K 60fps | Longplay Walkthrough Gameplay No Commentary. Youtube, 2019.
** Reference Script: DestaV. Silent Hill 2 – Full Game Script. IGN, 2002.