"The Wolf Among Us": Who Were Faith and Nerissa?
The Closing Twist in The Wolf Among Us
Warning, major spoilers ahead for The Wolf Among Us.
In TWAU, players help Sheriff Bigby Wolf unravel the truth regarding a series of murders in Fabletown, a city where not-so-mythical Fables (Snow White, Tiny Tim, etc.) live in near-modern time. The first victim is Faith, a hooker Wolf encounters shortly before her death. Later, Faith's coworker Nerissa guides Wolf to several clues.
No matter the choices you make, the game wraps up nicely at the end, with the murderers either dead or locked up. But in the final scene, Wolf learns that the girl he thought was Nerissa may actually be a disguised Faith—or perhaps Faith was a disguised Nerissa. So, what really happened? Find out as we explore the ending of The Wolf Among Us!
Glamour in Fabletown
Most players, myself included, are sure that either Faith was Nerissa or vice versa. Remember, in Fabletown, people can use magical "glamour" to look like someone else, and Wolf's final thought-montage showcases just how similar Faith and Nerissa's lines were.
In other words, the question isn't so much if someone was disguised, but rather who altered their image—was "Faith" a disguised Nerissa, or was "Nerissa" a disguised Faith?
Unfortunately, here's where the game leaves off and things get murky, with evidence to support both sides. We do know that both characters existed as individual people (in the past) thanks to photo evidence. So, we'll examine both theories and I'll share which I lean towards, hopefully giving you enough info to form your own conclusions.
Faith Disguised as Nerissa
This theory believes that Faith was indeed Faith in Episode 1, and "Nerissa" was a glamoured Faith.
"Faith Was Nerissa" Explained
Here's what proponents of this theory believe:
- The Faith who Wolf encounters at the beginning was in fact the real Faith.
- The "Nerissa" Wolf met was a glamoured Faith. The real Nerissa had died, perhaps before the game began.
- The decapitated head of the first victim, which appears to be Faith's, was actually the real Nerissa's head, still glamoured to look like Faith.
Let's examine the evidence suggesting this as the correct interpretation:
1. Faith's Fable Relates to Disguise
Remember, the characters in TWAU formerly existed in their legendary tales; Snow was once married to Prince Charming, Sheriff Wolf was the Big Bad Wolf, and so on. If you pay attention, you'll see that many plotlines in the game share parallels with each Fable's original story.
Early on, we learn that Faith's story involves disguising herself to leave a kingdom and avoid an unwanted marriage. While it's true that Nerissa (formerly the little mermaid) also has a form of disguise in her past (transforming from mermaid to human), Faith's tale better aligns with the theme, and she's stated to be skilled in subterfuge.
2. Glamours Remain Active After Death
Thanks to seeing Lily's body glamoured as Snow White even after death, we know that glamours don't immediately lose effect just because their user dies. In fact, Lily reverts to her original form directly after Wolf solves the puzzle in her glamour tube, suggesting post-mortem glamour may remain intact until its tube opens.
This answers some questions naysayers raise about the head not reverting to Nerissa (which would presumably be mentioned) throughout the game.
3. It Explains Swineheart's Hesitation With Faith's Head
Dr. Swineheart is the town doctor, noted for his incredible skills. Yet Snow mentions he wants "to run more tests" with Faith's decapitated head, suggesting something about it is bothering him. This theory best explains his hesitation because the dead "Faith" head is actually a disguised Nerissa.
To be fair, proponents of the alternative theory (where it really is Faith's head) argue that Swineheart's hesitation could be due to the odd nature of the murder (decapitation via murder ribbon), but this theory better explains the hint.
4. Faith Is Cunning
At the game's end, we learn that Nerissa ratted out Faith and Lily after hearing about their blackmail plan, hoping to gain mercy for everyone, but instead leading to Faith's death (supposedly).
But Nerissa might have felt guilty after snitching and thus agreed to switch places, taking the hit for Faith. We know Faith isn't spotless; she stomps on the Woodsman after he's already down, and Tweedle Dee calls Faith anything but sweet, making it unlikely that Faith would object to such a ruthless plot.
This also lines up with Nerissa's original story from The Little Mermaid (not the Disney one), where she has to choose whether to save the prince or herself. She ultimately saves the prince—maybe she similarly sacrifices herself for Faith.
5. It Explains Faith's Bruises
Both the alive Faith and her decapitated head have the same bruises across her face, likely obtained during her altercation with the Woodsman. Fair enough; under this theory, actual Faith obtains these bruises, so when Nerissa glamours as Faith* and is killed, the bruises are present on her copied face.
But this becomes an issue with the alternative theory; if Nerissa was actually glamouring as Faith, why would injuries she sustains be on the real Faith's decapitated head? Unless the marks were already present from someone other than the Woodsman, but he's the likely culprit (several photos above, you'll see the bruises aren't present when Faith and Nerissa argued).
- *Both of today's theories involve disguise via glamour, but unfortunately, neither knows for sure when said glamouring actually took place. When exactly this happened and when exactly Faith/Nerissa was killed are still open for debate.
6. It Explains the Mirror's Inability to Find Faith
Throughout the game, Wolf has several opportunities to ask the Magic Mirror for the locations of individuals. Thanks to him asking about Faith's father, we even see that the Mirror can locate deceased people. However, when asked to find Faith, the Mirror says he can't, cryptically stating "through powerful magic her whereabouts concealed. Unfortunately for you, these lips are sealed."
It's likely the magical ribbon that restricts the prostitutes' ability to discuss their situation also blocks the Mirror's attempt to locate them. And if Faith is still alive (disguised as Nerissa), she's still got the ribbon on and thus can't be located.
However, this point is weakened by Wolf asking the Mirror for Lily's location (only possible if the Woodsman was arrested). Although we know she's dead, the Mirror says the same "lips are sealed" line, meaning it's hard to use Mirror evidence as proof of Faith's dead or alive status.
7. The Game's Final Line Hints It
In the end, when Wolf recognizes the similarities between what Faith and Nerissa have said, you're given the choice to either go after Nerissa or to let her walk away. We don't see the outcome of the former, but if we opt for the latter, the game ends with Faith's voice stating "I'll see you around . . . Wolf," potentially a clue.
Additionally, from a literary standpoint, this brings things full circle, with Faith being the focus of both the first scene (where she appears as herself) and the last (where she reveals she's disguised as Nerissa), finishing each with the exact same line.
Nerissa Disguised as Faith
This theory believes that Nerissa glamoured herself as "Faith" in Episode 1, and the decapitated victim is the real Faith.
"Nerissa Was Faith" Explained
Here's what proponents of this theory believe:
- The "Faith" Wolf encounters at the beginning was Nerissa glamoured as Faith; Wolf never conversed with actual Faith.
- The Nerissa Wolf meets is the real Nerissa, now appearing as herself.
- The decapitated head of the first victim is the real Faith's head, just as it appears to be.
Let's examine the evidence suggesting this as the correct interpretation:
1. It's the Simplest Explanation
A real-life principle called "Occam's razor" suggests that generally, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one, and Nerissa having glamoured as Faith is a less-convoluted idea than the reverse.
Georgie (who carried out the murders at the Crooked Man's bidding) certainly seems to think he killed actual Faith, and we know that Nerissa witnessed it. This means that either Faith and Nerissa were both glamoured as each other (making Georgie think he killed Faith while actually murdering Nerissa), or the girls were still themselves at the time.
The latter interpretation just makes sense, and some fans reject the idea that Nerissa would willingly swap places with Faith. That said, as explained in the former theory, some believe Faith might have persuaded/tricked Nerissa into it after she snitched.
2. It Explains Faith's Busted Jewelry Box
As Wolf explores the "Pudding and Pie" club in Episode 2, he notes that Faith's jewelry box has been forced open. If Faith has become Nerissa, why would she have to force open her own box? This is better explained by Nerissa disguising herself as Faith and breaking into the box to complete her look, or needing something from it for her glamour (like how Lily needed some of Snow's hair).
3. It Fits Better With Lawrence's Story
In Episode 1, Wolf has a choice to either go to Toad's residence or Lawrence's. If he goes to Toad's first, Lawrence (who is Faith's husband) will die, but if he heads directly to Lawrence's apartment, Lawrence can live.
And if Lawrence is indeed saved and Faith is still alive, why wouldn't she reveal herself to him? Based on what little evidence we have, the two genuinely care for each other despite having some issues (hearing about Faith's death is enough to prompt Lawrence to attempt suicide), and Nerissa certainly seems like she's leaving town at the end of the game. But all this can be explained by simply thinking that Faith is dead, and Nerissa isn't Faith, so she'd have no reason to factor Lawrence into her plans.
4. It Makes Sense With the Woodsman
From a note, we see that Faith agreed to take a shift from Lily, but we don't know if she ever actually got to cover that shift. In this theory, Faith is killed before she can meet with the Woodsman (who we know is a regular client of Lily). Unaware of the shift change and having seen Faith die, Nerissa disguises herself as Faith and tries to warn Lily by locating the Woodsman. This nicely explains why "Faith" didn't recognize Woody; if that were the real Faith, wouldn't she know who to expect?
Some proponents of this theory also think that Nerissa (as Faith) planned for Wolf to appear during the altercation to give him clues about Faith and get him emotionally attached, though others reject this as far-fetched.
Believing either of these ideas explains perhaps the biggest problem most players have with this theory: why did Nerissa bother glamouring as Faith? Either to warn Lily without tipping off spies (who would expect Faith on scene if unaware of her recent death) or to motivate Wolf.
5. The Game's Ending Stats
Here's a mercifully short point. In the game's ending stats, Faith is listed as dead and Nerissa alive. An oversight? Perhaps. But also possibly a clue; if the ending was meant to be as ambiguous as it seems, why not list them both as "?" or such, leaving both theories open?
If you think it's weird to hide a clue in something like a stat screen, I'll point out that similar tricks have been done in games like Zero Time Dilemma, so it's not as far-fetched as it might sound.
6. Nerissa Could Reveal Herself; Why Would Faith?
If, as the theory suggests, early "Faith" was a disguised Nerissa, then Nerissa isn't guilty of much (she snitched with good intentions, and her lie about actually witnessing the Crooked Man order the deaths helped put him behind bars). Once the game's ending arrives, Nerissa can safely hint to Wolf that she was also "Faith." Even if she bent the rules a bit, she knows he'll understand why.
But if you believe the reverse scenario, real Nerissa dies in Faith's place, likely a part of Faith's plan. This puts Faith on questionable moral and legal ground, and hinting at her true identity, in this case, has a bigger risk of repercussions.
Which theory do you believe?
So, Which Theory Is True?
With shifting management, we may or may not receive the sequel Telltale promised; either way, the question remains: what happened? Fans still debate to this day, but many agree that although some of the evidence betters fits with Nerissa being the mastermind, Faith being alive was the intended reveal.
It's a better twist, meshes with Faith's fairy tale and morally-dubious character, and many of its questions (like why Nerissa would take the fall) can be accounted for by Nerissa's guilty conscience. After many hours of replaying scenes and exploring forums, I lean towards this interpretation.
Most fans subscribe to one of today's two perspectives, but some delve into separate realms, like thinking Bloody Mary was actually one of the girls or Faith and Nerissa never glamoured at all. Hopefully, you have enough info by now to draw your own conclusions, but for now, as we continue to debate the matter, share your thoughts on TWAU's ending and I'll see you at our next gaming theory!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill