When playing through Resident Evil 2 disc one for the first time, you witness a scene near the end of the adventure where Ada Wong is wounded by a gunshot and proceeds to tumble over the side of a somewhat ill-designed bridge. She is grabbed by Leon, who appears to do his best to save her before she plunges into the darkness below.
Games have wired us to expect both main and supporting characters to show remorse and regret in dire situations.
But is that what really happened? Games have wired us to expect both main and supporting characters to show remorse and regret in dire situations, and when seen with a sympathetic eye, this scene is vanilla and predictable. But with a change of perspective the decisions made during this brief series of events takes on a much darker and more emotional tone.
According to developer Capcom, the events that we all saw take place on that bridge deep underground never actually happened. Is there a good reason for that? Perhaps: I propose to you that the first disc of what is considered one of the finest survival horror games ever made holds not a tragic slip of hands between two would-be friends, but instead a tale of deception that ended when Leon made a calculated decision to end a life. Leon chose to let go.
Ada first meets Leon in an underground parking garage during the Raccoon City virus outbreak and the two agree to aid each other. Ada is trying to hunt down a reporter who knows information about her boyfriend, John Clemens, an Umbrella Corporation scientist who she manipulated to get information on Umbrella’s research for a competing company known only as “The Organization.”
The pair find the dimwitted reporter hiding in a prison cell, and once he tells them where to go Ada immediately runs off, even as Leon screams her name. The two cross paths again inside the Raccoon City sewer system and, like before, Ada plays nice to get help from Mr. Kennedy. This time, she tags along until she sees Annette Birkin, an Umbrella Scientist and wife of William Birkin, the man who created the dreaded G-virus. Annette runs away with Ada in hot pursuit. The distraught Birkin then turns and fires at Ada, but before she can land a shot, Leon tackles Ada to the ground, saving her life and taking a bullet in the process.
Ada then leaves Leon bleeding from his torso, in a sewer crawling with spiders the size of Volkswagen Beetles. She pursues Annette and discovers that John, who was called to Raccoon City to help with the G-Virus, is dead. It’s at this point that obtaining a sample of the virus for her bosses at The Organization becomes her top priority.
Ada and Leon meet up shortly thereafter and she tags along for a while before being injured by the mutated William Birkin. Leon, being the good, upstanding police officer that he is, saves her yet again (this is the third time, for those of you keeping track at home) and brings her to a safe place to recuperate. It’s during this cutscene that Ada provides a bit of foreshadowing, saying “You’ll be in danger if you stay with me,” and, “I’m not capable of caring about anyone.” Leon responds with another telling quote, insisting, “It’s my job to protect you.”
While looking for medical supplies for Ada, Leon runs into Annette Birkin, who tells him that Ada is a spy and not to be trusted. Annette is knocked unconscious by a falling pipe, and Leon takes the G-Virus sample from her. It’s unclear just how Ada learns that Leon is now in possession of the G-Virus sample, but the next time we see her she has her pistol pointed squarely at the back of Leon’s skull, ordering him to hand it over. Leon is no longer any use to her, and with just one person between her and a huge payday, nothing will stop her from getting what she wants.
The scene begins. The two stand silently for a moment before Leon asks Ada what she is doing with the gun pointed at him. Ada, tells him in an all-business tone to hand over the sample. Leon finally breaks free from his denial, muttering that Annette was right about Ada’s intentions, and realizing he has made a horrible mistake. Ada tells him he should have left without her, insisting that she’ll shoot him if she needs to. Leon calls her bluff, and the sound of a gun being cocked is heard. Ada freezes for a long moment before lowering her weapon.
What most people see is Ada showing a hint of humanity and realizing that she can’t really shoot Leon because she cares about him too much. A few more seconds of the cutscene reveals the truth: As Ada’s arm falls to her side, a shot rings out. Ada is struck from behind by a bullet and we then see Annette standing with her gun drawn. Annette then passes out – presumably from the massive head trauma she suffered earlier – as Ada stumbles and falls over the side of the narrow bridge.
You see, it wasn’t Ada’s gun that we heard being cocked, it was Annette’s. Ada heard it too, and she lowered her gun not out of love for Leon, but because she knew that she too had a gun pointed at her. Ada would have shot Leon, given the chance, but Annette’s blind rage saved his life.
Capcom’s manipulation of the Resident Evil timeline hasn’t exactly been kind to this particular theory surrounding Ada Wong’s fate.
Despite this, Leon leaps at the chance to grab Ada before she falls into what appears to be a bottomless pit. His police officer instincts kick in, and he acts out of pure reflex rather than kindness or remorse. Remember, it’s his job to protect her.
As she hangs by her uninjured arm, Ada tells Leon to let her go, echoing previous conversations where Ada tells him to abandon her for his own safety. Even as Leon does his best to convince her that she can be saved, Ada tells him there is no hope for her. But while the large wound on her arm may lead you to believe she means no hope of her making it out alive, that’s not the case. She means there’s no hope for her soul. No hope of Leon ever turning her into a good person.
“I really wanted to escape with you Leon, escape from everything” she says in a lifeless tone. Leon remains silent, though the gears in his head are spinning. He realizes that she is, once again, lying. The two could have very easily escaped together countless times already, were it not for Ada’s constant disappearing, backstabbing, and murderous tendencies. A light bulb flickers on in Leon’s mind as he finally accepts that she was right all along, and there really is no hope for her.
Ada quietly says, “Goodbye,” and Leon, pushing his moral instincts aside for a fraction of a second, allows logic to overrule his drive to protect. He doesn’t say a word, he doesn’t groan or cry for help, he doesn’t even reach out with his second hand – he lets go.
Realizing what he’s done, Leon immediately calls out to Ada as she disappears into the darkness. He falls to his knees, visibly shaken up by what has just taken place, but he doesn’t cry. Are these the actions of a grieving man who lost a comrade? No. It’s the frustrated tantrum of a trusting police officer who put his faith in the wrong person, and ultimately realized she was too dangerous to be left alive. Leon Kennedy made the decision that Ada Wong needed to die, and he carried out that judgment by simply opening his hand.
If you’re shaking your head in disbelief right now, I can’t really blame you. Capcom’s manipulation of the Resident Evil timeline hasn’t exactly been kind to this particular theory surrounding Ada Wong’s fate. When Ms. Wong eventually made a triumphant return seven years later in Resident Evil 4, fans began to question just how this was possible. The answer is very simple: Capcom has buried Ada’s falling death scene so deep within the franchise’s lore that you’re not supposed to acknowledge that it even exists.
In November of 2005, nine months after Ada reappears in the fourth numerical Resident Evil title, Capcom released an official Resident Evil story guide called Resident Evil Archives. The 303-page tome explores the events of Resident Evil as Capcom chooses to remember them.
As you may or may not remember, Resident Evil 2 has a total of four different endings. Playing through either the disc one or disc two with a fresh save file yields different versions of events for both Leon and Claire, called “Leon A” and “Claire A.” But when you beat the game using one disc, a save file is created allowing you to play through the game with the other character. These stories are labeled “Leon B” and “Claire B,” and they feature some big changes from the A versions.
Using their power to decide which events are official and which ones aren’t, Capcom stitched bits and pieces of all four Resident Evil 2 scenarios into a patchwork that the company insists is the official canon. In doing so, they choose to ignore this scene entirely and instead focus on Ada’s actions in the Leon B scenario – where she is wounded by the Birkin mutation but survives, and eventually aids Leon in killing the monster.
In fact, this supposedly all-inclusive Resident Evil retrospective doesn’t even mention Ada’s constant betrayals or very obvious history of manipulating people to get what she wants. Capcom very opaquely painted over the lore in Resident Evil 2 simply for the sake of keeping Ada alive, and in doing so have chosen to abandon Leon’s decision, and one of the most complex and intriguing personal struggles ever to appear in polygons.
This is made all the worse by the fact that this scenario is the very first that most gamers played when picking up the game. We’re talking about the first playthrough of the first disc. This isn’t some offshoot or crazy unlockable add-on, this is the version of events chosen by the developers to be the showcase, and seven years after its release we are told it never happened? Why? Did too many people catch on to Leon’s decision to end a life, or too few? Is Ada really likable enough to alter the most accepted series of events simply to keep her alive?
I don’t buy it. Only Capcom knows why Leon’s most emotional decision in Resident Evil 2 is being denied its rightful place among the series’ history, but the release of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City may have held a small nod to those who believe Leon let go: In the “Heroes” multiplayer mode, Ada Wong doesn’t fight alongside Leon Kennedy, she fights against him.
If you have the opportunity, I strongly urge you to play Resident Evil 2 disc one again, even if you’ve played it a hundred times before. But this time, rather than assuming Ada simply slipped, look at the scene through Leon’s eyes and ask yourself if you would have saved the black widow hanging from the ledge, or if you would have just let go.
Mike Wehner has been a gamer since the Atari 2600 days, and holds a somewhat unhealthy adoration for Mega Man. He is the Senior News Editor for Tecca, which specializes in consumer technology. You can follow his shenanigans on Twitter.