"Mr. Bear’s Winter" is a fable about respecting your elders, and, surprisingly, the dudes that I watched it with in Valentine were super into it. It has touches of humor, like when the narrator slips into voices for each of the animals, and when Mr. Bear awakes from hibernation to find that all his friends are skeletons. But, unlike the better slideshows, "Mr. Bear’s Winter" doesn’t really have much of a twist. It feels like a pretty faithful recreation of a turn of the century morality tale. And that’s fine. Just not especially interesting.
The second theater show is by far the least interesting. While others incorporate interactive elements, this one is purely passive. And the acts you’re watching—strongwoman The Great Hortencia, snakecharmer The Mysterious Maya, and the bloomer-showing Petit Flâneurs— all show up elsewhere. Not as painful as losing at Five-Finger Fillet, but safely skippable.
In an endearing detail, the ticket-taker in Valentine refers to this show as “The Ghostly Serenade.” He’s only wrong about the name. This slideshow does tell the story of an army of British ghosts haunting a pair of sneaky teenage lovebirds.
The story is interesting enough, but like “Mr. Bear’s Winter,” it feels almost too faithful to the source material. “The Ghastly Serenade” reads like one of the less memorable stories in an era-appropriate compendium of ghostly tales.
While from the title I expected brazenly racist propaganda against the Native American tribes that the game thoughtfully presents, "Saviors and Savages" actually sets its sights on other white people.
As the subtitle would suggest, this short takes viewers on a trip around the world, presenting stereotypes of the German, French and Italian and more. It's pretty funny, at times, brandishing a little of the jackass-y humor that Rockstar mostly eschewed for this game.
"Manflight" is funny in the way that sci-fi from the 80s is funny. It gets some things right, and others hilariously wrong.
"Manflight" predicts that human beings will soon fly through the air. The creators of this short aren't wrong—the Wright Brothers took their first flight just four years after the events of RDR2.
But, the devil is in the details. "Manflight" doesn't predict the kinds of planes that Orville and Wilbur would pioneer. Instead, it presents newlyweds flying to their honeymoons via cannon and cross-country flights on airborne carousels.
The third show at Saint Denis' vaudeville theater brings some great acts together for a production defined by impressive showmanship.
Magician Benjamin Lazarus fails to escape from a locked steamer trunk of death in time, but appears, with a puff of smoke, in the center of a spotlight in the middle of the theater.
Strongwoman Miss Hortencia fistfights Arthur (or beats another dude up if you don't volunteer).
And The Mysterious Maya performs her serpentine seduction, while dancing to "The Streets of Cairo."
None of these are revolutionary, but they are about as fun as the theater shows get.
While I'm still torn on the way Miss Marjorie treats Bertram the giant and Magnifico the dwarf (like both adult men are children in need of her as a mother), this show provides a satisfying conclusion to a side quest that tasks Arthur with tracking Magnifico down in the wilderness as the dwarf disappears in brightly colored puffs of smoke.
The show itself finds the little family unit as quarrelsome as ever, with Bertram lifting a volunteer over his head and Magnifico causing Marjorie's shirt to disappear.
Sit through the entertaining dysfunction and you'll receive a cut of the shows profits at the front door. This is the only production that you get paid to watch, so it deserves a high spot on the list.
Rockstar does Fallout in "Direct Current Damnation." This short, which extols the virtues of alternating current, depicts a man reading the Psalms by the safe light of AC in Heaven as another man is tortured by direct current-toting demons in Hell.
It's an effective period-appropriate piece of satire (the characters look like Pip Boy's black-and-white ancestors). However, it earns it's high-ranking on this list because it represents a potent first in Red Dead Redemption 2. During the main story, the theaters showed slideshows. Now, in the Epilogue, fully animated shorts play in Blackwater and Saint Denis, highlighting the amount of time that's passed since Arthur's sacrifice for John.
"Direct Current Damnation" is just the conductor that delivers this potent shock.
This one lets you shoot a guy. (He catches the bullet in his teeth, but still, it's pretty cool).
For much the same reason that Arthur’s date with Mary succeeds (see below), John’s date with Abigail is one of the Epilogue’s strongest moments. It doesn’t hurt that the short film that the pair are watching is one of the only fully animated productions in the game: a spot featuring a hand quickly sketching different torsos on a woman. Eventually, after drawing a pistol, she takes the gun and shoots the illustrator.
This mission succeeds partially on the strength of that animation. But, mostly, this moment works because we can feel John straining to not screw it up. Being a family man doesn’t come easy to John Marston. But, the Epilogue is a record of John trying really, really hard to be a better person. As he sits in the theater with Abigail, preparing to propose that they get married, "for real this time," you can almost see him sweat.
"Fatherhood and Other Dreams" is a powerhouse quest, an optional Honor Mission, that once again finds Arthur Morgan agreeing to help his old flame, Mary Linton, deal with a family member. This time, Arthur and Mary spy on Linton’s father, who hates Arthur. After Pa Linton hawks a family heirloom in a back alley, Arthur chases the buyer down and steals it back.
Mary is overjoyed and the two go on a date, walking to the nearby vaudeville theater to take in a performance. Though the show is pretty good— featuring an original song, “They’re Headin’ Down to Saint Denis,” by Robin Cominski and her band, the return of firebreather, The Mysterious Maya, and an encore performance from the can-canning Petit Flâneurs troupe—the star of the show is the interaction between Arthur and Mary (seen here in a screenshot from Video Game Guides & Gameplay Videos' "Red Dead Redemption 2: Arthur & Mary Romance Scenes").
From the start of the performance, the player has the option to press a button to put an arm around Mary. This small touch creates a huge amount of tension; the kind of tension that sweaty-palmed middle schoolers seeing Tim Allen’s The Shaggy Dog on a first date (this may or may not be an autobiographical example) know well.
The fun of the date quickly descends into the personal tragedy of Arthur’s reality, as Mary asks him to run away with her. Whether he realizes it or not, Arthur slips into his best Dutch impression, promising that once he gets some money, he’ll go straight and they’ll ride off into the sunset.
“I’ll write you,” Mary promises as she boards a trolley. And write she does. In Chapter 6—as the gang is rife with division and Arthur is dealing with the knowledge that he’s terminally ill—that letter arrives. Mary knows that Arthur can never leave this life behind. And Arthur knows that he doesn’t have much life left to live anyway.