Avoiding spoilers is important, but this one piece of information may dictate whether you even want to play The Last Guardian – does Trico die in the end?
Fair warning: This post is going to contain a fairly significant spoiler for The Last Guardian. For context, we’re also going to spoil the hell out of the game’s predecessor, Shadow of the Colossus, the original Fallout, and a handful of Hollywood movies (including I Am Legend, John Wick, and a few others). Continue on at your own risk.
OK, you’ve read the spoiler warning and you’re still keen to continue, but there’s still a chance someone might glimpse some spoilers on the page before they’ve had chance to heed the warning. We’re just going to bump the spoiler-filled content down a little bit with an image –
– now let’s begin.
The dog (nearly) always dies in movies
In the history of movies, the dog dies quite a lot. There’s a website dedicated to the phenomenon, to allow viewers to avoid movies with doomed pooches.
Often when the dog dies, it’s following the same arc as killing off a secondary character. Sometimes the dog dies to provide the protagonist with motivation to carry on (John Wick) but the classic doggie death motif is giving their life to save their master (I Am Legend). Sometimes the dog has to die because that’s the whole point of the film (Marley & Me) and other times, it’s right there on the packaging (All Dogs Go To Heaven – you don’t get a spoiler warning for that one because they spoiled it in the title).
While these doggie deaths might all happen in different ways or for different reasons, you can count on one overarching common criteria between them all: the viewer is left distraught by the outcome. Film makers may have to work incredibly hard to ensure you feel empathy for a human character before snuffing them out (usually for one of the reasons above) but the simple fact is everybody loves dogs. They can skip all the hard yards of character progression and earned empathy by simply making the doomed character canine. It’s a cheap trick, but a bloody effective one.
Take John Wick as a for instance. By killing his puppy early on rather than a human family member – an adorable puppy who had been left to him by his dead wife to stop him feeling lonely, though, which was a clever touch – they were able to fast-forward straight to the murderous revenge far quicker, taking all of that love and empathy as read, with the audience guaranteed to be 100% behind him.
Supplemental warning: while some of these films are still aimed at dog lovers in spite of doggy death (Marley & Me) if you love dogs at all, you really shouldn’t watch John Wick. You have been warned.
The dog (mostly) dies in video games
In games, it’s a little less straightforward, driven to some extent by the notion that the player has some degree of choice.
In Telltale’s first season of The Walking Dead – a game that saw a number of human characters killed in various gruesome ways – one of the saddest moments came when the group were trying to gain entry into a house. They found a doggy door that was big enough for Clementine to slip through, but it was locked by a magnetic tag reader. In order to progress, the player was forced to dig up the grave of the family’s dead dog to obtain their collar, in order to operate the doggy door. We didn’t even see this particular canine die, but I still felt worse about it than most of the human characters lost.
Don’t even get me started about the bit with the dog in The Walking Dead‘s second season.
Sometimes, though, the writing is on the wall. In the original Fallout, Dogmeat is an optional companion character who the Vault Dweller can befriend. Because Dogmeat is a dog and not a human companion he can’t be instructed, dismissed, or told to wait. Like the best dogs, he follows you around devotedly, because you’re his master and he loves you, and this ultimately gets Dogmeat killed by a forcefield at the Mariposa military base.
Yes, if you know what’s coming you can prevent Dogmeat dying by trapping him in another room while the forcefield activates, but he’s clearly supposed to die. In the Vault Dweller’s memoirs – which essentially describe the canonical storyline and ending for Fallout – Dogmeat is listed as having died at Mariposa, regardless of whether you saved him or not.
The sadness of the colossus
On paper, The Last Guardian‘s predecessor, Shadow of the Colossus, seems like the archetypal video game experience: tiny human man kills monsters many times larger than himself, against all odds, in order to save a girl. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you’ll realise it’s a heartbreaking experience of loneliness, isolation, and ultimately, loss.
Yes, the boy is doing everything for the right reasons – he’s trying to save the love of his life, to resurrect her from death by slaying the titular colossi – and taking down the hulking creatures is a killer experience, somewhere in between The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls.
But the more time passes – and the more colossi you vanquish – you realise that they aren’t really monsters at all. At first you convince yourself that they were obviously dangerous beasts and they needed to be put down, but it dawns on you that they were just minding their own business, doing nobody any harm, when you came and murdered them in the face. When you really stop and think about it, you see they were beautiful in their own right, one of a kind creatures and probably the last of their species, and you eradicated them for your own selfish reasons.
All of a sudden, not only have you realised that the dog dies, you realise that the dog dies 16 times, and each time, it was you who killed it. In Shadow of the Colossus you’ve killed enormous creatures, but you’re actually the biggest monster on the face of the planet.
After that traumatic experience, why would anyone assume that its sequel, The Last Guardian, was going to be a carefree tale of a boy and his dog(monster)?
Does Trico die in The Last Guardian?
Here it is, the big question, the one that determines whether animal lovers, sensitive souls or the easily upset will even want to embark upon The Last Guardian: does Trico die?
No. No he doesn’t… but you have to be patient.
When last we see our faithful companion, who we have grown to love and trust over our short time with The Last Guardian, he’s wounded, exhausted, and fleeing for his life. A character in the game even says, “I doubt it has long to live,” as they watch him fly away over the trees.
And then the credits roll. It’s ambiguous, it’s unclear, and it certainly doesn’t look good; so how do we know that Trico doesn’t die? Because if you’re patient, and sit through around eight minutes of credits, you’re treated to a post-credit scene that (eventually) shows Trico alive, along with possibly a Mrs Trico, baby Trico – or both – in tow. Those are the warm fuzzies we all needed.
If you were worried if The Last Guardian will break your heart, it still might, but at least you can go into it knowing that for once, the dog (cat/bird/griffon hybrid) survives the experience.
Buy The Last Guardian from Amazon (now you know it’s safe to get into).