The trailers for Kentucky Route Zero first came to my attention toward the end of 2012. It was strange, atmospheric, magical-realistic, dreamlike – all things that had a certain appeal as I turned 40, although exactly why, I couldn’t say. And then episode one dropped right in the middle of the crisis of what now gets referred to as “the encryption project”. And it was everything that had been advertised. It was like an escape into someone else’s dream, at a moment when escape from the here and now was something I could sure use. There were four additional acts promised over the course of the year, and sure enough, before long there was an interlude demo of sorts, and then Act Two in May.
And then the delays began.
There was another strange interlude, which only made sense once Act Three arrived – which it did, almost a year to the day after Act Two. And it was long, and complex, and really confusing in some ways – and then there was another long delay, and another strange intermission that was either downloadable or playable over a telephone. And Act Four finally arrived over two years after Act Three, during the summer of 2016 at a time when I was already looking for a place to hide from the world. Act Four was it, taking place entirely underground on a mysterious river, and it was sanctuary from the troubles to come.
Nothing. Nothing for years, until sometime early in 2019, a final interlude, itself atmospheric as all hell, and telling a story that for once made sense retrospectively instead of being inexplicable until the subsequent Act arrived. And in its one room studio shed, with the storm to end all storms pouring outside, it felt like the ideal metaphor for seeking shelter, seeking refuge, seeking a place to hide from outside…until the storm came pouring in.
And now, three and a half years after Act Four, fully seven years since Act One, we get to see the end of the story. Tomorrow, Act Five of Kentucky Route Zero is available for download. I know what I’m going to be doing more or less all evening tomorrow, as soon as I can skip home early from a vendor meeting. This, to me, has become as important and meaningful as Avengers: Endgame or The Rise of Skywalker. It’s an ending that at some level you wondered whether you’d ever get. And I did wonder sometimes whether there would ever be an Act Five, whether the tailing off at the end was just a metaphor for how we never really know how the story ends, only that it ends for us.
But now I guess we’ll see what actually becomes of our handful of lost souls drifting down the river, along the highway, through dream and through crushing reality. One more story to bring to a close, for better or worse. One more step into someone else’s dream. And hopefully one more download of a soundtrack that always hits the nail on the head, right down to the one mournful bluegrass track per episode.
Here’s where the story ends.