Warning: SPOILERS Ahead for Days Gone.
Days Gone is less a game about zombies (partially because Days Gone doesn't include any) and more an examination of loss, hope, and cruelty in the post-apocalypse - and all of this is evident in the Days Gone ending. How in order to rebuild the future, you have to let go of the past. And though Days Gone may not always nail these persistent themes, or occasionally feel like it's beating a dead zombie horse, the story remains a moving portrait of love and friendship.
For the uninitiated, Days Gone is a PS4 exclusive open-world biker game set in an Oregon far different than the one we know and love today. Players take on the role of Deacon St. John, a gruff individual who has fully embrace his newly freaker-filled world. He slaughters the undead without a second thought and even has little remorse taking out other survivors that get in his way. After all, it's kill or be killed. But in a number of ways, Days Gone - and, particularly, the Days Gone ending - reveals that the past never truly dies.
Through all the violence and betrayal, Deacon holds out hope for one thing: seeking closure with the loss of his wife, Sarah. In the opening cutscene of Days Gone, we see Deacon place an injured Sarah (stab wound not a zombie bite) on a NERO helicopter. The National Emergency Response Organization (NERO) is the government agency that responds to the freaker disaster, and seemingly the only salvaged remnant of our government after the dust has settled. Deacon gives Sarah his biker ring (a gaudy piece with the face of a mongrel) and asks that she return it to him when she sees him again. Cut to two years (give or take) later, and still no ring.
Sarah's Death In Days Gone
Through conversations with Boozer (Deacon's best friend and fellow biker), we learn that Deacon has mostly accepted Sarah's death. After placing her in the helicopter alone - there was only room for one more person - Deacon continued to fight off the ensuing hordes. He escaped the city, only to discover that the safe zone Sarah's helicopter headed to had been overrun, and Sarah was presumed dead. Every so often, he plants flowers at a DYI gravestone and recaps her on the events in his life. Then - out of the blue - hope appears in the form of a chance encounter with a NERO helicopter.
Deacon overhears a NERO scientist discussing something with an "O'Brian" over the two-way radio. Connecting the dots, Deacon recalls that this was the name of the man who took Sarah to the safe zone. If he is alive... there's a chance Sarah is alive too. He tracks down O'Brian and completes a series of tasks for him in exchange for information regarding Sarah's fate. Did she survive her stab wound, the freaker hordes, and make it somewhere safe? Yes.
Deacon learns from O'Brian in Days Gone that high-clearance government officials were taken off-site, and Sarah worked for a bio-botany program. She eventually made her way to safety in a militia outpost to the south. Deacon travels solo to the outpost and encounters a general wearing his ring. Days Gone wants players to think all is lost until Deacon is taken to run an errand for the "Wizard Island Witch." He enters her quarters only to discover the witch is Sarah; she's alive. It's one of the biggest twists in Days Gone's ending.
Deacon & Sarah's Escape
Things aren't exactly peachy after Deacon reunites with his wife. She's cold at first, unsure of how to act having thought Deacon was dead as well for over two years. She has a mission she wants to accomplish, too, taking off. Deacon does a series of tasks for her to help with her goal, and she eventually agrees to leave with him and start the next chapter of their lives. With the help of Boozer and other friends, Deacon stages an all-out-assault on the compound to take out the insane, genocide-obsessed Colonel Garret and his men.
With the Colonel lying dead, and all his soldiers either defeated or surrendered, Deacon can finally rebuild his life with Sarah. There's nothing left standing in his way, right? Well... right. Through it all, the fighting, the friendships, and the foes, Deacon has only had his mind on one thing: Sarah. And that doesn't change; Deacon doesn't change. He's still the same biker/drifter; the only difference is he now has a companion. So in the final cutscene that plays in Days Gone's ending, we watch as Deacon and Sarah ride off together on his motorcycle, together at last. It's a bittersweet ending, but perhaps not intentionally. Deacon got what he wanted, but there's a few loose threads that never got a satisfying conclusion.
Sarah's Mission In Days Gone Explained
When Deacon finally reunites with Sarah, she's not the same person he married before the freakers. She's a woman on a mission, working on a bio-weapon for the Colonel that will destroy all of the undead for good. At least that's what she wants her superior officer to think. There's a reason why Sarah is so obsessed with her work, yelling at soldiers (though still not rightfully earning her nickname) and hardly giving Deacon's return a second-thought. She's not working on a bio-weapon; she's working on a cure.
Sarah believes that there's a way to reverse the effects of the freaker virus and return humanity to its former state. But why is she so convinced and how does she have all of this information regarding the genetic mutations of the virus? Sarah reveals to Deacon on a trip to her old laboratory that her company is responsible for the plague, and her research itself may be specifically to blame. Sarah's studies of plants somehow led to the creation of a bio-weapon that was unknowingly unleashed upon the world - though the specifics aren't revealed in Days Gone. She cannot forgive herself for her involvement and is intent on finding a way to reverse what she's done.
However, once Deacon "rescues" her from the Colonel's grasp, her mission is all-but forgotten. The couple ride off into the sunset together, her job unfinished. There are no hints of her work continuing, no disappointment or renewed excitement. It's just the two of them against the world in Days Gone's ending, with no enemies except the undead who remain.
Deacon's Past Comes Back To Haunt Him
In the final of the three major twists in the Days Gone ending, it's revealed that Deacon's past has come back to haunt him. Prior to the events of Days Gone, Deacon is described as a drifter, who did work here and there for numerous bands of travelers. One of these groups is Iron Mike's, a man who believes democracy needs to remain, a beacon of hope in this new world. Under his tutelage is Skizzo.
Even further back, before the apocalypse, Deacon was a member of the Mongrel bike gang, and he didn't exactly abide by the law. The only laws he followed were that of the gang, and they had... painful ways of punishing traitors. One such traitor highlighted in a flashback is Jessie Williamson, a biker who betrayed their code. In a flashback, we witness Boozer and Deacon hold the man down as their leader burns off his Mongrel tattoo, marking him for life.
Skip ahead to "now," and there's a group of survivors known as Rippers. They've marked their bodies with scars and burns, as well as shaved their heads, and they kill almost any human on sight. The Rippers worship the freakers, and instead of harming them, they aspire to be more like them. From the beginning of Days Gone, they are a constant antagonist. These are the same Rippers that burn Boozers arm, infecting it to the point that it needs to be amputated. Their leader is a man named Carlos.
Throughout Days Gone, Deacon pursues Carlos, against the wishes of Iron Mike who has a very hesitant truce with the Ripper leader. Deacon seeks revenge for Boozer and wants to put an end to the insane violence that Carlos' men have initiated. But after Skizzo betrays Deacon and gets him captured, Carlos' true motives are revealed.
Carlos isn't Carlos but actually Jessie Williamson, alive after all these years. Boozer's arm wasn't a freak Ripper attack, but a calculated move, revenge for what Boozer and Deacon did to him back in the day. Carlos proceeds to torture Deacon but isn't able to finish the job before Deacon makes his escape. He returns later to finish the job and close a chapter on his past. With Carlos dead, perhaps Deacon can finally move on.
Why Days Gone Fails Its Themes
Days Gone wants to be a game that tackles heavy themes of loss and redemption, but it struggles to commit to the harsh realities of the apocalypse. Even when it's suspected that Boozer makes a self-sacrificial play in the climactic final battle, Days Gone quickly reveals that, no, he's still alive. Only a few minor characters perish, and no one that is so important to Deacon that he is truly affected by their passing. Riding off with Sarah into the sunset may be satisfying to players that want a nice bow tied on Days Gone's love story, but for those seeking something darker or more fitting to the genre, Days Gone is surely lacking.