remember to look behind you

Marble Hornets Theory: What if Alex wasn't Lying?

Disclaimer that I'm not trying to posit this as the true interpretation of the events of the series or anything like that, this is just a theory I've been considering lately and wanted to consolidate all of my analysis and notes on the subject -- I'm not entirely sure how much I validity I believe this theory to have, I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm actually very eager to hear other people's opinions on the subject, so if you take the time to read through and have any thoughts about anything, I'd love to hear them if you wanted to comment on my Neocities profile!


Anyway, here's the thing: Lately I've been thinking about Season Two. The second season of Marble Hornets has, in a way, always been my least favorite because it is the one I tend to struggle the most with when it comes to understanding character motivations. The jumbled timeline of this season doesn't help, but for the most part, it is a wild deviation from what tend to be seen as consistent character motivations present in both Season One and Season Three. It isn't a bad season by any means, several of the Entries uploaded for this season are my favorites in the entire series, but from a meta analysis standpoint it can be something of a struggle to work with. Recently, I decided to do a closer rewatch in an attempt to see if I could figure out ways to pull all of the threads together into a coherent fabric.

And instead, I think I stumbled onto a reading of the series that seems like, completely antithetical to every conversation myself and everyone else in this fandom has been having about the series for years; but the more I think about it, the more sense it almost seems to make? It's been very confusing lmao, but here we go:

Because Alex's actions in Season One and Season Three seem to mirror each other, it's always felt accurate to read all of his actions as consistent with the motivation he talks about in late Season Three -- Alex perceives the Operator as a Sickness that can be transmitted between people, and he sees himself as a necessary evil obligated to contain the spread of the disease by killing everyone afflicted (including himself). We assume he was lying on the College Era tapes about not understanding what was happening, and that he was instead attempting to contain the spread of sickness, failed, and then went on to make a second attempt at it all throughout the Marble Hornets series as it was posted to YouTube.

Here's my question, though: Do we know for sure that Alex was lying on those tapes?

It's always felt a little bit strange to me that Alex would have gone through the effort of censoring his story to craft a specific narrative of events when he never actually intended to share those tapes with anyone. Before Jay harrangued Alex into giving the tapes to him, Alex planned on burning them all, and if he was acting in college to contain the spread of illness, then even if he thought he'd been successful in stopping Jay from taking the tapes, it doesn't seem to make sense that he'd give Jay any of his personal tapes at all -- let alone ones specifically chosen to present him as a victim. That would seem to imply a level of forethought in sharing the tapes that I don't know if it makes sense for Alex to have planned for, let alone executed.

So it almost does make sense to assume that Alex made those tapes for no one other than himself. Even if we can know for certain that Alex was acting with intention, we also know that he was definitely losing time, because that was one of the major impetuses for filming himself 24/7 in the first place. If the tapes were nothing more than a personal record of events that Alex could reference when he forgot major events then, again, it feels to lack coherency that Alex would self-censor the tapes to such an extreme degree. If he was paranoid enough to be filming himself so constantly, then it doesn't make sense that he'd violate the sense of reasurrance the tapes gave him by deliberately lying on them; and if he was like, hoping he'd forget about the things he'd done and wanted to make sure this hypothetical future!him didn't know he was guilty, then it doesn't make sense for him to have been filming in the first place. He could have just kept his mouth shut and hoped he'd forget the incidents entirely without needing to provide a safe, innocent lie to cover up what actually happened.

So, like, f Alex wasn't lying on those early college tapes, if he really was stumbling into strange situations with his friends and blacking out, waking up to find everyone "gone", over and over again, if he really doesn't know, understand, or remember what's happening to him or around him -- what does that mean for the series?

See, my biggest problem with Season Two has always been that Alex doesn't seem to act with any consistency with the other two seasons. If Alex was, the whole time, trying to curb the spread of illness and wanted nothing more than to tie up loose ends by killing the others, then it doesn't make any sense that Alex wouldn't have tried to kill Jay on sight. It doesn't seem to make sense that Alex would draw things out for so long -- he and Jay had been working together for months before things broke down, from the point Jay arrives at the address Alex gave him (April 21, 2010) to the day Jay wakes up with no memory after the events on the last tape he recorded during that period (November 23, 2010), that is eight months worth of time that Alex seemingly wasted for no apparent reason. It seems to make even less sense when you consider the events that took place during the footage Jay uploads as Entry #35 -- Alex had the perfect opportunity to kill both Tim and Jay (by this point, there had been no tangible confirmation that Tim had been working with a partner), and yet he doesn't. He breaks Tim's leg so that Tim can't follow them, and then tells Jay to lie low, and that's it.

So, let's consider the series with this lens.

It is likely that Alex knew about the Marble Hornets channel from pretty early on in its inception, but I do feel it's entirely possible that Alex didn't have any modern day involvement in any of the events that happened during Season One. It feels like, if totheark knew where Alex was and was getting into confrontations with him, they would have been posting that footage to their channel in order to use it to intice Jay into going after him -- either to continue convincing Jay that Alex was guilty, or out of the concern that Jay very explicitly felt towards Alex at the time. In fact, it does almost seem to make the most sense (and be more consistent with other seasons; more so than a sudden refusal to post footage of events that are taking place) that totheark didn't know for sure where Alex was, and were hoping that - now that Jay was involved - he could help lead them to Alex so they could finally go through with their plans for revenge.

With that in mind, it makes sense that 2009/2010 Alex had not had any recent encounters with the Operator. It is likely to be genuine surprise in his voice when Amy finds his camera from college, because he hasn't pulled it out in so long that he hadn't thought about where it might be or that Amy might be able to find it (Though, for the record, I do think he was lying when he claimed to have thought he sold it) -- meaning that Alex hasn't felt a recent need to be recording himself 24/7. It feels safe to assume this, not only because it's consistent with what he did during College when he was having encounters with the Operator, but also because Season Two proves that after Alex does start having encounters with the Operator again, he immediately went right back to filming himself 24/7, just in case.

So, even though Alex is aware of and watching the Marble Hornets channel, he hasn't been doing anything about any of it yet. Then April 4, 2010 rolls around, and Amy finds his old camera, and the Operator shows up. If we assume Alex isn't lying during this time frame, then it's entirely possible that when he and Amy fled from the house, the two of them did actually get separated. Amy ran out of the house before Alex did; it's possible that while he was still on his way out, Amy got ahead of him somehow, and he lost track of her entirely. He doesn't know what happened to her -- he really is trying to get in contact with Jay in order to ask for help.

Because here's another thing: it's not like Alex needs to goad Jay into coming out of hiding so that Alex could get access to him. The first thing Alex really says in this season is him making fun of Jay for how easy it was to find him and get access to his hotel room. Alex didn't deliver that tape on hope; he knew exactly where Jay was at and how to get that tape to him, so if Alex's only motivation was to kill Jay, he could have done it before Season One even fully ended.

But if Alex is really trying to get Jay's help, then it seems to make more sense. Presuming that Alex has been watching the Marble Hornets channel the whole time, it would be extremely apparent to him that Jay is really good at finding people. After all, despite the fact that it's been years since they went to college together, Jay was able to track down Tim in order to get an interview with him and then figure out where Brian was living so that he could go there to investigate -- despite Jay's flaws, he really is a good investigator. If Alex lost Amy and genuinely needed to try to find her before anything worse could happen to her, Jay is not a bad person to have on his side. Not to mention that, even though Jay has clearly been suffering under the Operator in a variety of the exact same ways Alex had been suffering in college, Jay has been seemingly exempt from the violent outbursts that Alex has taped footage of himself committing -- maybe Alex is hoping that even though things are getting bad, they won't necessarily have to be as bad as they were in college: Maybe things can be different this time.

So Alex asks Jay for help, and instead, Jay kind of couldn't make it any clearer that he's not that interested in spending time looking for Amy. Even if Alex arguably does Jay a favor by incapacitating Tim so that he wouldn't be able to follow Jay anymore or attack him (As Alex would have seen multiple times on the Marble Hornets channel by then), Jay does nothing but make it apparent that he thinks Alex is extremely suspicious. Any time that Jay could be spending looking for Amy is instead spent stalking Alex, and even when Alex manages to coordinate with Jay so that they can go look together, Jay still spends most of that time running off and getting into trouble by himself or being kind of a recalcitrant ass instead of being helpful.

[NOTE that this isn't to make any claim that Jay is somehow the main antagonist of the series instead of Alex, or anything else in that vein. Even if Alex isn't lying, Jay has reason enough to be suspicious of Alex, and Jay is just as susceptible to the Operator's influence worsening his emotional state and his fatal flaws as everyone else is. Kind of the whole point of this series is that everyone Thinks they're doing the Right Thing, that they're the only ones making the Right Move, but in actuality, none of them are. Even if we assume that Alex was telling the truth the whole time, that doesn't really make him any less 'guilty' than Jay or any more 'innocent' than Tim -- regardless of the validity of this theory, every character is planted very firmly in the Morally Grey area and all of them are kind of equal parts 'Guilty' and 'Innocent'; that's a major part of what makes this series interesting.]

In fact, instead of anything getting better, everything just seems to be getting worse. Jay isn't being helpful in the search for Amy, instead he's spending all of his energy hounding Alex to the point he begins stalking him constantly. It actually does make a lot of sense that Alex wouldn't want Jay to know where he lives -- regardless of whether he's 'lying' or not -- Alex made fun of Jay for making it so easy to find him because Jay was constantly posting updates on where he was and what he was doing online, and even though Jay wasn't actively posting footage as he filmed it this season, Alex knew that Jay could just decide to do that at any point he wanted to, which would have made it very easy for any of Jay's audience to figure out where Alex lived and there would be nothing stopping them from making moves against Alex (just like there was nothing stopping Alex from getting into contact with Jay). Marble Hornets is not an ARG in the sense that there isn't really any audience participation in the events that take place, but the existence of the audience is a diegetic threat regardless, and Alex -- who has been very explicitly painted into a Villain corner, whether it's accurate or not -- would be Very aware of their eyes on him. [Under this lens, it actually makes sense that Alex would be just as wary around Jay as Jay is around Alex; might explain why he's so recalcitrant and suspcious around Jay in a way that does little more than make him look even guiltier).

Not to mention, that Jay's stalkers from Season One are now following Alex too. They also start stalking him; they also know where he lives; they're attacking him now too. Plus, the Operator is becoming a more and more recurring presence in Alex's life all over again. The threats against Alex keep growing and growing, doing nothing but getting in his way and making it almost impossible to get any work done to try to find Amy. To make things worse, Jay's repeatedly insistent on getting other people involved -- primarily Jessica, but secondarily his audience as well; Alex tries to mitigate the damage, but as time goes on and Jay's suspicions only grow more apparent, he backs Alex into a corner until he gives Jay her number meaning that she's now just as much in danger as everyone else is. Things aren't getting better; they're getting a lot worse.

It actually does make a lot of sense to me that Alex would spend a lot of time hiding in Rosswood Park at this point, whether he's telling the truth or not. It's obvious that Alex doesn't feel safe in his home anymore (he's been cornered there by everyone at this point -- the Operator, Jay, totheark; it's clearly not safe or effective at keeping himself safe or alone), but the woods is someplace he can go to 'get lost' for a few hours, where he doesn't have to be as paranoid about looking over his shoulder constantly, making it the only place he can go anymore where he can get a couple of hours of peace in what is increasingly turning into a complete fucking nightmare of a life. But Jay won't stop following him there either.

I think I've written about this before, but regardless of what lens you view this series through, the murder of the stranger in the tunnel is like, the only assault in this series that seems to be entirely mistaken and unintentional. Even if Alex was totally guilty and has been lying since college, this one incident is the one moment I do consider to be equally weighed on Jay's shoulders -- Jay's constant stalking, harrassment, and threats of iminent doxxing is what caused the stress that led to Alex to lash out at who he pretty explicitly thought was Jay. My reading of this particular incident isn't actually altered by this new lens at all -- Alex lashed out at who he thought was Jay, especially given that Alex had seen Jay there that day following him not 15 minutes before the stranger showed up, and when the moment finally passed, Alex looked down at who was beneath him and saw a complete stranger. Maybe he's hiding evidence when he uses the rock, or maybe he's just trying to avoid the patterns that led to the events of the main series at all and is trying to make sure this guy stays dead instead of just getting back up sometime later and going back home just to lead to his own cycle of sickness and devolution.

What does change under the 'Alex wasn't lying' interpretation of events, though, is that this acts as a very definitive Final Straw. Alex is looking around at the shambles of his life and realizing that there isn't any hope -- he thought Jay could help him but he hasn't, he thought things might be different this time, but they aren't -- and so he finally comes to a decision that there's no honest way out of this. The incident in the tunnel isn't a continued trend, it isn't Alex trying to pick up the thread he put down in college, it's the inciting incident for Alex's Season Three belief that the Only way out is to kill everyone and then himself. After college, if Alex genuinely thought everyone had simply disappeared (it's uncertain how many tapes Alex has himself that could speak to him having anything to do with that btw. Most are discovered by Jay over the course of the series' run: Tim had the tape of Alex assaulting him, not Alex; the tape where Alex attacks Jay was found out in the middle of the woods; it's uncertain if there is any footage of what happened to Seth or Sarah; and even though Alex does have the tape of Brian's disappearance, it's actually not clear at all what happens on it -- the Operator having incapacitated Brian is just as likely as Alex being the one to do it) then it might have made the most sense for him to pack up and leave and hope for the best before he could disappear as well, but now there are too many eyes on him to ever do that. Even if Alex hadn't encountered the stranger in the tunnel, Jay's channel has spent almost two years doing nothing but pointing fingers in Alex's direction -- there's no where he could go where he could completely escape the threat of being recognized.

Additionally, Jay isn't being the passive observor he thinks he is, he really is making things worse. He's getting strangers involved (Jessica, the audience, etc) and totheark is only getting increasingly riled up by the footage he posts, and the Operator is more active around these characters than it has been in years; Alex thought that he was the one trailing the Opeator around in college, but now Jay is the one doing it, and if Alex made a mistake by not removing himself from the equation before other people could get hurt, then it's up to him to make sure it isn't a mistake that gets repeated.

So Alex tries to give Jay one more chance - he asks Jay to meet him one day, tries to sus out how involved Jay has gotten Jessica involved so far, and tries to indirectly ask Jay to back off by giving him the key to Alex's house back, and Jay blocks him at every corner. He has been talking to Jessica - the way Jay says it could even imply he's been talking to Jessica a lot more than he has been (or at least that we saw him doing); he's making it clear he has no intention of leaving Alex or anything else alone; and then to make matters worse, Jay leaves this interaction to immediately go break into Alex's house to steal from him. Alex knows there's only one way out.

So he gets Jay and Jessica to meet him in the woods. Maybe he's hoping totheark will show up too; maybe he's just hoping they'll burn each other out; who knows, but Alex is only getting more and more certain that this is only course of action that makes any sense. It really is easy to read his behavior in the Entry #52 footage as panicky nerves, like Alex is extremely reluctant and forcing himself to act anyway -- the frazzled way he tries to get Jessica and Jay into a better position to shoot him, the angry panicky rant he goes on about how he'd told Jay to stop making things worse and Jay refused -- it really doesn't feel at all like a continuation of steady, convicted violence we saw Alex perpetrate in tapes from college, he's panicking like this is the first time he's ever had to do anything like this. Even if this was just Alex's first time using a gun to do it, it doesn't have any of the detached practice Alex should theoretically have from the time he did this in college. Maybe it really is the first time he's ever chosen to do anything like this.

And then, of course, he fails. He manages to get away from Tim, and before he can figure out the logistics of making a second attempt, totheark and the Operator blast through Jay's hotel room and shatter any consistency Alex could have relied on. Now Jay doesn't remember anything, and he's posting on the channel again -- Alex might have been able to get away without the audience eyes on him if he'd been able to kill Jay before anyone knew where he was, but Jay wakes up the morning after Alex's failed attempt and immediately posts landmarks of his location onto YouTube. Even if Alex was planning on killing himself as soon as he killed Jay and wasn't worried about legal repercussions, he also doesn't know with any certainty that the Operator would take the bodies and prevent them from being found -- if the murder-suicide made the news, in conjunction with Jay's YouTube channel's footage, Jay's audience would immediately know what happened and might come down to investigate and wind up getting contaminated, and Alex doesn't want to risk it.

So he backs off again. Alex doesn't actually resurface until almost a full year later when he tries to get Tim and Jay to get away from the tunnel, and then goes back to the usual pattern of getting his shit rocked by various totheark members; the difference now is that Alex is even more convinced that stopping the spread of infection is the only way out. Not only is there increasing videos that seem to hammer in the perception that Alex is guilty getting posted publicly to YouTube, but Jay is still getting new people involved, and even if Alex saw Tim at the beginning of the series and did stop to hope that there was a way to get away from everything without dying, Jay proves that as long as the thread of curiosity is still there, that's enough to drag people right back down to rock bottom. Tim's "I was doing fine; I was getting better" speech might be proof that there's a way out, but the fact that he had to make it at all is proof that it's not good enough.

TL;DR -- If Alex isn't lying at the beginning of Season Two or in the tapes from college, then it seems to serve a reading of events that almost makes more sense than the alternative. Instead of Season Two being an incomprehensible detour on what should have been a relatively straight road of consistent character motivation from Season One to Season Three, Season Two acts as the inciting incident that leads Alex to the character motivations he holds in Season Three.


Does it make sense? I'm still trying to figure it out lmao; I'm almost reluctant to spend more time with it just because it seems so outlandish that it almost hasn't really been considered before? LOL That makes it feel almost impossible for it to make sense, but I can't figure out if there's a huge, glaring flaw in the theory that I'm missing somewhere. We do have frequent assertions from both Jay and totheark that Alex is guilty, but it isn't as though either of those sources of information are in any way infallible -- totheark didn't know about Tim's involvement as the 'source' of the Operator until well into Season Three, and Jay isn't a completely isolated or impartial judge of events either; both of them are just as likely to be guessing and assigning guilt based largely on their own Anger as they are to be genuinely correct about their interpretations of events. The fact of the matter is that Alex really probably is the only character who knows 'for sure' what happened to him in college (and, subsequently, what did/didn't happen to Amy), but regardless of what that is, the circumstances he's in by the second season of this series are so stacked against him that there's no way he'd ever try to talk it out or explain; whatever it was, he took it to the grave with him.