Stumbled onto this Gamefaqs forum topic about Masahiro Ito "confirming" that the Good ending of Silent Hill is canon, and that Cybil is supposed to die. Many fans apparently see this as absolute validation of their dogmatic opinions on the topic, and that to argue otherwise is moronic. I don't understand why there is so much vitriol thrown towards people who support the Good+ ending and Cybil's survival. Why does the fanbase want Cybil dead so much?
There are three key arguments that I hear in defense of the "Good is the only canonical ending" position:
Why do fans want Cybil dead?
- Harry wouldn't have known what the Red Liquid does until after he sees Kaufman use it on Alessa, and so he couldn't have used it on Cybil earlier.
- If Harry used the Red Liquid to save Cybil, then he couldn't have had any left over to solidify into the pendant for Heather.
- Cybil does not appear in any subsequent Silent Hill. She is not referenced in SH3, and in Silent Hill Homecoming, Deputy Wheeler refers to a female police officer who went to Silent Hill and never returned. Clearly, this means that Cybil is dead.
To many fans, these three arguments are bullet proof! At this point, they've practically become gospel (along with Pyramid Head's well-known rape antics).
But how well do these arguments really stack up to scrutiny? Let's play Devil's Advocate...
Masahiro Ito "confirms" that Cybil is dead
I'm going to start with Masahiro Ito's comments on the issue:
On Mashiro Ito's Twitter feed, he "confirms
" that Cybil is dead.
First and foremost, the question asked is loaded. The questioner is outright stating the expected answer as part of the question. That kind of bias will affect how the questionee answers the question.
This game is fifteen years old now, and memory can play a lot of tricks on people. Maybe when he played the game, he got the Good ending, so that is the one that he remembers. He may also be misremembering the game, as memory is very prone to suggestion and bias. It could be that he's heard "Cybil dies" so often, that he "remembers" that it must be true. If this quote was from 1999 or 2000, I'd take it a bit more seriously, since his memory wouldn't be subject to 15 years of confirmation bias
That being said, does it really matter what Masahiro Ito has to say on the subject? With all due respect, Ito isn't a writer. He's an artist and designer. He's a valuable member of the creative team, but his opinions and recollections are not necessarily authoritative on the subject of plot or narrative. When Ito complained about how the HD Collection looked, his opinion was relevant, because they were criticisms of art and presentation, which is his expertise. Hiroyuki Owaku, on the other hand, was a writer of the game (as well as a programmer). His word is much more authoritative when it comes to questions of story and narrative. And what did he say?
"Cybil's fate [...] is left to players' imaginations"
- Hiroyuki Owaku (writer and programmer, Silent Hill (1999) - Silent Hill 4 (2004))
So I take Ito's words with a grain of salt.
But regardless of what you might think of Ito's credibility, the arguments for and against Cybil's death will stand and fall on their own merit. So let's take a look at the three most common fan-arguments that I listed above...
Counter argument #1: How would Harry know to use the Red Liquid?
Nobody told me what to do with this stuff, so I can't possibly use it...
Harry is a smart guy; he's not stupid. He's also a writer, which means that he's probably a pretty creative thinker (unless he writes non-fiction). So to just assume that he wouldn't have the abstract problem-solving capacity to try the Red Liquid (an item which has, so far, just been taking up space in his pockets) is doing him a tremendous disservice. Remember, this is the same intellect that pieced together what the Otherworld is, who realized that Lisa wasn't normal, who solved the Zodiac puzzle, and who had the forethought to solidify some aglaophotis into a capsule and gift it to his new daughter!
But assuming that Harry can't just make a leap of intuition, does he have the pieces of the puzzle necessary to even think to try it?
The importance of the Kaufman side quest
Let's disregard the Bad+ and Bad endings (since those aren't in consideration, anyway), so we're left only considering Good and Good+. Both endings require that the player complete the Kaufman side quest. This side quest requires Harry to find Kaufman's secret, hidden stash of "red liquid" hidden in a motorcycle in the resort area. Upon finding it, Harry is confronted by Kaufman, who aggressively demands that Harry give him the liquid. This liquid is important! Harry knows that. He doesn't know what it does, but at this point, he can start to figure it out (and so can the player).
Kaufman is the hospital director, and it's in his office that we first find the Red Liquid spilled on the floor. The hospital is also where Harry encounters the possessed doctors and nurses. Aside from Lisa, Kaufman is the only human character that Harry meets in the hospital, and Kaufman is the only one who Harry knows had access to or knowledge of the Red Liquid. This spatial and temporal proximity should be enough for Harry to suspect that the liquid may be related to the possessions - either as an antidote, or possibly the cause.
[LEFT]: Spilled Red Liquid in Kaufman's office.
[MIDDLE]: fighting possesed nurses or doctors in the hospital.
[RIGHT]: Kaufman: "Give me that! [...] It's none of your business!"
Kaufman is the only person who didn't turn into a puppet doctor or puppet nurse. That is not counting Lisa, since she's a special case. It's also assuming that those creatures were real people to begin with, and not just manifestations (which I feel is also debatable). Harry finds the smashed bottle of Red Liquid in Kaufman's office, and concludes that somebody was "looking for something". He probably also catches on to the fact that Kaufman always seems to be in a hurry to get on with his business, whatever that happens to be, and Kaufman is always found in proximity to the Red Liquid.
It's also worth pointing out that regardless of how long it actually took you to play through the game, these events are happening within a span of a few hours. So being in the hospital, finding the Red Liquid spilled on the floor of Kaufman's office, encountering the possessed doctors and nurses, hearing Lisa say she doesn't want to end up "like them", seeing Lisa's transformation, and finding the Red Liquid in Kaufman's motorcycle has all happened in a short period of time for Harry, and are all closely-associated events in his short-term memory at the time that he encounters the possessed Cybil.
This is more than enough information to allow Harry to make the leap of intuition that this liquid can somehow have possession-warding potential. It might also have possession-causing potential, but since Cybil is already possessed, using it is no loss.
The player only learns that Cheryl is adopted if you save Cybil (either in Good+ or Bad+ endings).
From a more meta-standpoint: the player does not receive any gameplay reward for this side quest beside the ending. you don't get an item or a weapon or anything beyond the usual ammo and healing items that you get from exploring (and which you may also expend as a result of the extra exploration). The only thing this side quest does (from a gameplay perspective) is to provide additional story and provide a better ending! The whole point of this side quest is to teach Harry (and the player) about the importance of the Red Liquid. That is the only reason that it is in the game, and it is required in order to get either the Good or Good+ (which are our only candidates for canon). So Harry must perform this otherwise strictly informational side quest in order to achieve either of the "canon" ending candidates, which means he must discover that the Red Liquid is significant just prior to fighting Cybil - regardless of whether he has it in his inventory. On top of that, saving Cybil is required in order to get important backstory: specifically, after saving Cybil, Harry confesses to Cybil that Cheryl is adopted, and he suggests that Cheryl might have some connection to the events of the town (suggesting that he is starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together).
The player's desire to save Cybil
I remember when I first played the game, I wanted to save Cybil.
I tried non-lethal ways of attacking her in the hopes I could incapacitate her instead of kill her. I didn't use guns, and instead used melee weapons. I tried the Flauros and even the video tape (which I hadn't used in my first playthrough) to try to save her, before stumbling onto the Red Liquid. I would have tried everything in my inventory to save her because I instinctively wanted to try to save her.
I've also watched four different friends play through the entire game, and in every case, each friend's first instinct was to try to find a non-lethal way of dealing with Cybil, just as I had done. One of them went straight to the Red Liquid, specifically stating that "it seemed really important to that doctor-guy, so I thought I'd try it!"
Please Cybil, don't make me shoot you. There must be another way!
Didn't you feel that way when you played?
So using the Red Liquid is not a completely esoteric puzzle that is unsolvable on your first playthrough. In fact, I don't personally know anybody who didn't get the Good+ ending on their first playthrough. Of course, this is years after the game released, so people have online guides now and may have approached the game differently than players did in 1999.
In addition, Cybil is slow and kinda lazy. She gives Harry (and the player) plenty of time and opportunity to think of an alternative solution to the conflict. She shambles around the carousel in no hurry to catch up to Harry if you run away, and she'll just sit around on a horse and wait for you. You can also walk right up to her without too much threat. In fact, her gun is her most lethal weapon, so the game actually encourages you to get up close and personal. Harry can take a lot more pistol whips than he can take gun shots. So this also gives the player easy access to using the Red Liquid. Cybil isn't like the Split Lizard; she won't swallow you whole if you get too close.
Just because the game didn't include an explicit document or cutscene that says "You can use the Red Liquid to ward off possession", doesn't mean that Harry (and the player) can't have figured it out on his own after encountering the possessed Cybil, and knowing what he knows from his encounters with Kaufman.
Counter argument #2: Where did Harry get the crystalized aglaophotis for Heather's pendant?
I'm not going to spend much time on this, since I shouldn't have to. Put simply: there were years between the end of the first game and the birthday in which Harry gave Heather the gift of the pendant. We don't know much about what happened during that time, except that Harry and Heather were in hiding and had to relocate several times.
The Book of Lost Memories implies that Harry found another source of aglaophotis.
Harry had to have done some research between the events of the first and third game in order to learn how to solidify the Red Liquid, regardless of whether he walks out of Silent Hill with the Red Liquid or not. He knows that the new baby Heather has the same potential for psychic power and channeling the power of the god, and so would probably make efforts to protect her. Even if h didn't have any left, he would go looking for more of that demon-warding, possession-dispelling red liquid in order to protect his daughter. Wouldn't you if you were in his situation?
Lucky for him, aglaophotis isn't some esoteric compound that was made up for this game, and which only the cult of Silent Hill knows about. It's an actual demon-warding herb in real-world occultism! It wouldn't be hard for him to research this.
It's also likely that the manufacturing of aglaophotis is related to the White Claudia drug-smuggling ring. With the help of a surviving Cybil, Harry might even have been more likely to discover this relationship and learn how to create some of his own. Although, this is pure speculation, and it is more likely that the two would have went their separate ways since Harry had to go into hiding.
Counter argument #3: Homecoming's Deputy Wheeler is not a credible source of information
I want to get this out there right away: I don't care what Homecoming says. It's a bad game, and it doesn't respect the established canon, themes, or style of the original Team Silent games anyway. I'd prefer not to consider it a legitimate part of the franchise (any more than I want The Phantom Menace or Star Trek V to remain part of those franchises' canons - except for STV's camping scenes). But my dislike for the game doesn't matter, because Homecoming does exist (like it or not), so I have to at least address it. Fortunately, I don't even have to summarily or arbitrarily dismiss Homecoming, because Homecoming doesn't prove anything anyway.
Deputy Wheeler doesn't say that Cybil died! He only said that "a [female] cop from Brahms" disappeared there. We assume he's talking about Cybil, and I'll go along with that assumption, but all he says is that she disappeared. This is the same thing that Superintendent Sunderland says about his son James in Silent Hill 4. Is James dead too because another character says he "disappeared" in Silent Hill? But I don't hear any fans insisting that "in water" is the only canon ending for Silent Hill 2. In fact, we [the fans] almost unanimously accept the ambiguity of SH2's endings. Hypocritical, much?
Wheeler's comments do not directly contradict the Good+ ending.
He specifically says "No one knows [what happened to her]".
And even if Wheeler did specifically say "Another cop, Cybil Bennett, died in Silent Hill years ago", I still wouldn't take him seriously. He's only reciting second-hand information which could be in error. Perhaps someone on the Brahms police force is just saying that she disappeared in order to protect her. Maybe she's in hiding from retribution from the cult (just like Harry and Heather had to). Perhaps she is taking part in an undercover operation, and saying she disappeared is just a cover story.
And this is all assuming that Deputy Wheeler even exists to begin with! Homecoming has four default endings. In at least half of those endings, Alex imagined, dreamed, or hallucinated the events of the game. In a third ending, he becomes one of the monsters, so it's ambiguous whether he's hallucinating, or if it's real. Since there is no sequel that canonizes one of Homecoming's endings (or a subset), and since the endings of the game retcon the game itself, and it does not present a consistent narrative (Downpour has the same problem), I do not feel that anything in the game can be taken at face value, and nothing that any character says can be seen as truly credible (since there's at least a 50/50 chance that the character is just a figment of Alex's imagination).
Is there room for compromise?
In any case, even the creators of the original game don't seem to agree on this particular topic. If the creators didn't want the Good+ ending to be considered valid, then they could have just made the Empty Bottle and Red Liquid be "New Game +" items, and the Good+ ending be an unlockable ending - just like the U.F.O. ending in SH1 or the "rebirth" ending in Silent Hill 2. But no, they included it as a default ending. Even the director of the first game, Keiichiro Toyama, changed his mind regarding this and claims Good+ is true (in hindsight):
"I remember that I said "Good" was the true ending, because Good+ is a game’s game. Probably, Owaku rememberd that and he wrote SH3 story as a sequel to "Good".But, now, I change my mind and consider the "Good+" is a true ending."
- Keiichiro Toyama (director, Silent Hill (1999))
On top of that, the official Japanese novelization of the game follows the Good+ ending, and the Book of Memories states that Harry must have found another source of aglaophotis, which implies that he used the Red Liquid in the bottle on Cybil (or never picked it up to begin with).
I just don't understand how the fanbase can be so adamant that "Cybil is absolutely dead, and anyone who disagrees is a moron." Maybe this isn't a majority, but just a very vocal minority? Heck, I'm not even saying that "Good+ is absolutely correct." All I'm saying is that both are worthy of consideration, and that both are just as valid from gameplay and story perspectives.
If you disagree, then fine. It's a matter of perspective (or imagination). But just because we disagree doesn't mean that one of us is a moron or not a "true fan".