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The Origin Story of John Marston + RDR1 Recap

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Jarett Burke
The protagonist of Red Dead Redemption is a fantastic and deeply flawed character, but what is John Marston's background? What role will Marston have in Red Dead Redemption 2, the prequel to the original game? We don't know why you don't play as Marston but we can tell you everything we now about this cowboy's background.
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John Marston Origin Story

It’s been eight long years since Rockstar Games made gamers fall in love with the Wild West for the first time in a long, long time with the release of “Red Dead Redemption” in 2010. The beauty of the game’s landscapes clashed with the brutality of its characters and storyline, providing one hell of an adventure that easily filled the gap between “GTA IV” and “V.” The game’s protagonist John Marston became the talk of the gaming world back in 2010, with his in-game pursuits and on-screen ‘badassery’ quickly becoming the stuff of legend, and it’s with great anticipation that we await the follow up (which is actually a prequel) to fill in the background pieces of his story while learning more about the Dutch van der Linde Gang in the process. So, to catch everyone up on just who John Marston is and how he fits into the narrative of “Red Dead Redemption 2,” we’re taking a look at the origins of The Man From Blackwater himself.

Born in the United States in 1873, John Marston was the son of a Scottish immigrant father and a prostitute mother. His mother died in childbirth bringing him into the world, while his father died when he was eight years old, leaving him an orphan at an early age. Marston spent his late childhood and teen years in orphanages before escaping to join the Dutch van der Linde Gang sometime in the late 1890s. In the van der Linde Gang, Marston found the family he never really had and developed a father-son relationship with its leader, Dutch.

In 1899, being Mid-Twenty at the time, Marston took up the van der Linde trade and became an outlaw himself, seeing the gang as a Wild West version of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Though little is known about The Man From Blackwater during this time, one thing is certain: there was a falling out between Marston and the van der Linde Gang in 1906 when John was shot during a robbery and left for dead by his so-called family. Feeling abandoned by the Gang and growing disillusioned with a life of violence, Marston decided to lead a normal life upon healing from his wounds, eventually meeting his soon-to-be wife in Abigail and having two children while buying a ranch and working the land. Unfortunately, the younger of his two children, the daughter, would pass away from unknown reasons in 1911. Marston’s fortunes wouldn’t improve much from this point on either.

During this time, the American government formed the Bureau of Investigation with the aim of bringing civility to the West by disrupting gang violence in the region and placed it under the charge of federal agent Edgar Ross. Ross’ sights were pointed squarely at the van der Linde gang and to speed up the Gang’s capture, he kidnapped Marston’s wife and son from their ranch in order to force the Former Gang Member to track down his one-time allies in Bill Williamson and Dutch van der Linde. With his family held captive, The Man From Blackwater had no choice but to help the US Government and re-enter the outlaw life he swore to leave behind long ago.

After being briefed by Ross and other federal agents, Marston set off to Armadillo in the New Austin Territory where he met a local guide named Jake who agreed to lead him to Bill Williamson’s hideout at Fort Mercer. Opting for the straightforward approach, Marston attempted to reason with Williamson and convince the outlaw to turn himself in to law enforcement, but John was shot and nearly killed in the process, clearly underestimating the ruthlessness of the man he once knew. Luckily, a local rancher named Bonnie MacFarlane found the ailing Marston and brought him to a doctor who was able to save John’s life. Once healed, Marston was offered food and lodging by Bonnie in exchange for help around her ranch. Not long after, however, Williamson learned that Marston was still alive and tracked him to the MacFarlane property and set fire to the ranch. Having survived the attack, Marston knew he couldn’t hide from Williamson any longer, and so he enlisted the help of local lawman US Marshal Leigh Johnson to plot an assault on Fort Mercer once again. When Williamson’s men threaten Bonnie’s life yet again, however, Marston and Johnson immediately ride out to bring Williamson in dead or alive. But, to their surprise, after laying siege to the fort, Wild Bill is nowhere to be found, having escaped to Mexico days before the battle.

With little choice but to continue his mission, Marston followed Williamson south to the Mexican province of Nuevo Paraiso where he met the corrupt interim governor – and Colonel of the Mexican Army – Agustin Allende and his right-hand man Captain Vincente De Santa. The two sides struck a deal whereby Allende and De Santa would provide intel on the whereabouts of Bill Williamson in exchange for Marston helping the Mexican Army squash a revolutionary movement sweeping the nation. Not content with the information he’d been receiving from Colonel Allende, however, Marston also agreed to work for the revolutionaries under the leadership of Abraham Reyes in exchange for information on Williamson as well. The risk of playing both sides against the middle didn’t pay off as Marston planned, though, as Colonel Allende discovered John’s double-dealings and tried to have him killed. Facing execution for his actions, Marston was rescued by Reyes and the revolutionaries in the nick of time and The Man From Blackwater officially joined with the revolution against the Mexican government. Working together, Marston and Reyes managed to kill not only Captain De Santa and Colonel Allende, but also Bill Williamson as well, who just so happened to be getting protection from the Mexican Army right under Marston’s nose. With Reyes and the revolutionaries plotting to take down the Mexican President next, John returned to the West Elizabeth territory and the town of Blackwater to end his dealings with Edgar Ross and the Feds.

But, Ross told Marston that Dutch van der Linde needed to be taken care of too or his wife and son would not be released, and this time around Ross, the Feds and the US Army aided John in several fights against the van der Linde Gang across the territory. Having finally run out of time, Dutch committed suicide after warning Marston that the US Government was only using him and that they were the real monster, not him. With Dutch dead, however, Marston was relieved of his duties and reunited with his wife and son where they attempted to live a normal life once more. But, true to Dutch’s warning, the Feds and US Army under the orders of Edgar Ross double-crossed John and attacked his ranch. Knowing the only way to save his family was to sacrifice himself –thus giving the government what they wanted all along in the total annihilation of all the members of the van der Linde Gang – Marston drew on the army and was gunned down by overwhelming odds. Knowing that the final member of the van der Linde Gang was dead, Ross let Marston’s wife Abigail and his son, Jack, live to bury their father. Though shortly after, Jack – taking a page out of his father’s outlaw book – tracked down Ross and killed him in cold blood, leaving it uncertain as to whether Marston’s son became a fugitive as well. Finally, the story of John Marston closes with the death of his wife three years later in 1914.

With the release of “Red Dead Redemption 2” this October, we hope to learn more about John Marston’s early days in the van der Linde Gang and what led to their fallout, filling in some much-needed pieces in this epic Wild West saga.
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