By now, some of you will have played through The Medium, the new psychological horror game from Bloober Team. Regardless of your opinion of the game (here’s ours), you’ll likely have found that The Medium doesn’t believe in giving easy answers, right up to its closing seconds.
In fact, The Medium’s underlying theme, in the developers’ own words is “how your perspective changes your perception.” This theme permeates every aspect of the game, and that includes narrative design.
For the most part, like many exploratory games, the player must piece together the story of the game’s setting and key characters. In this case, as psychic Marianne, you uncover the painful secrets of the long-abandoned Niwa resort, and its inhabitants.
Marianne does this by collecting letter fragments, postcards and journal entries, plus tapping into memory-loaded objects with a strong connection to the spirit realm. Very little is explicitly stated in The Medium, leaving the player to form their own interpretation based on the extent of their virtual detective work.
Which brings us to the game’s ending. Or, rather, its cryptic post-credits sequence. What does it mean – for The Medium’s story, and the possibility of a sequel?
Here’s one theory.
WARNING! Spoilers ahead for The Medium
After the final credits roll on The Medium, we return to the apocalyptic spirit world. The camera tracks over the cracked earth, before stopping on a ticking pocket watch. Boots appear in the shot, a gloved hand retrieves the timepiece, and then the unidentified figure continues on their way. Finally, we see what the figure is striding away from: the giant glowing tear that marks the anguished aura of Niwa, and God knows what beyond. Cut to black.
We can assume the gloved figure is Thomas, the game’s other playable character. But which Thomas?
We know Thomas is the architect and former manager of Niwa, with an important familial connection to Marianne. As significant, Thomas is a powerful medium as well, and he has a different spiritual power set to the young woman he drew to Niwa in the first place. Thomas specialises in ridding people of their demons, and he does that through his spirit self, who can enter the minds of others.
The Medium leaves a lot implied, but it does include an explicit statement about the effect of trauma on the human spirit. Endure enough physical and psychological torment and it can fragment your soul, creating separate sentient entities in the spirit world.
Richard, Henry and Lily are extreme examples of this break, spawning nightmarish monsters, but Thomas has clearly been affected as well. Unlike well-adjusted Marianne, whose spirit version is an exact mirror of herself in reality (barring a hair colour change), real-world Thomas and Spirit Thomas have very different personalities.
Spirit Thomas is a darker, pitiless figure powered by anger. He delights in dishing out vengeance on corrupted souls. The flashbacks Marianne experiences reveal that real-life Thomas tried to disassociate himself from his shadow self in an attempt to “be alone and feel normal.” This was accomplished through occult research, and the creation of a special salt-lined room beneath Thomas’s home, which kept the spirit realm out.
Real Thomas is like an addict, though, guiltily reliant on his “soulmate” when dark deeds must be done. Years previously, Spirit Thomas helped Thomas escape imprisonment and experimentation by the Soviets with their top secret Gemini project. Before that, the boy had his world destroyed by Nazi occupiers, who killed his parents and also planned to use “his potential.”
In relatively quick succession, Thomas calls on Spirit Thomas to punish Richard, and then defeat sociopathic Soviet agent Henry, when the latter starts snooping around Niwa. Except, the encounter with Henry is a trap that locks spirit Thomas away in the darkness of Henry’s warped inner universe for decades.
Thomas’s long-held wish to be rid of his spirit self comes true, but with a Monkey’s Paw caveat. At the time, Spirit Thomas is the only one who can help Lily overcome her demon, and he’s gone. Thomas plunges back into his paranormal research, desperate to reunite with his powerful spiritual mirror in order to save Lily.
That never happens. Spirit Thomas only returns decades later once Marianne has dispelled Henry’s beastly soul.
Marianne, and the player, actually never meet real-world Thomas in The Medium. You receive a phone call from him, and see him in visions, but face-to-face encounters are only with freshly released Spirit Thomas. And when asked where Thomas is, anguished Spirit Thomas replies, “For the first time in my life I don’t feel his presence.”
That is the biggest loose end in The Medium. Where is the real Thomas? The post-credits scene looks like it contains the answer.
You could claim that the unidentified figure is Spirit Thomas. Given what we see in the closing moments of the game, it’s impossible to distinguish between real-world and shadow versions of the character. Both Thomases look the same in terms of gloves and footwear. We can also assume Spirit Thomas has survived, despite promising to help Marianne escape by fending off The Maw.
The biggest clue as to the identity of the faceless post-credits figure is the pocket watch. Close to the end of the game, Marianne finds the watch’s empty case in the red house, with a note that establishes it as an anniversary present from Thomas’s wife, who died in childbirth. Combine this revelation with game lore, witnessed in many split-screen scenes, which shows that spirits can’t handle real-world items. Inanimate objects don’t transfer over to the spiritual plane in The Medium. Which means someone from our reality physically took the pocket watch to the spirit world, and then retrieved it.
Thomas is back. Somehow, he found a way to enter the spirit world. He likely passed through the tear (or energy surge?), which is why Spirit Thomas couldn’t detect him, and has returned from the mysterious other side – probably changed in some fundamental ways.
As for sequel speculation, could Thomas still reunite with Marianne? The game left its heroine’s final decision deliberately ambiguous, so the possibility is there. There’s also the unexplored, clearly paranormal Gemini project if the developers needed a fresh plot angle to pursue. And we don’t know what’s on the other side of that ominous giant tear/gateway. The Medium has plenty of places to go if Bloober Team wants to continue down this particular atmospheric, story-rich path.
How did you interpret the final moments of The Medium? Post your plot theories and sequel ideas below.
Last Updated: February 1, 2021