This might be a bad time to post this, with the shipping issues going on and all, but this post isn’t about shipping so I should be fine. Even though it will be discussing the relationship between Nate and Russell (focused more on Nate’s side of course).
***Disclaimer: I do not claim that my interpretations are set in stone or the only right way to see his character. This is just my personal take on him. You are allowed to disagree with me.***
Spoilers under the cut.
RUSSELL: RANDOM STRANGER OR REPLACEMENT GOLDFISH?
Nate tells Russell when they first meet is that he should get in his truck because Russell will get eaten eventually and Nate was bored so he might as well have company. That might be all there is to Nate’s reasoning for picking up the younger man. However, based upon the post I made in part three there may be more to it than that.
In the third post, I showed that Nate had two friends that he was with on the night that Eddie shot one of them. However, 143 days later, both of his friends are gone, with the other one possibly dying as well or going separate ways. Since this happened, it completely changes what could have been his thought process when stopping to pick up Russell.
Before I get into that though, let’s get the more obvious interpretation out of the way.
#1 - Nate was bored (and lonely)
Nate might have had friends but that doesn’t mean that he was completely dependant on them. He could do fine on his own and not worry about fending for himself. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t need company.
Now it seems farfetched that he didn’t meet up with anybody else for 143 days, but it wasn’t so much that he didn’t see anyone as much as he didn’t associate with them. If we go with the theory that he lost both of his friends in rapid succession, then he chose not to trust anybody else and stick to himself for a while after they were gone. Besides, he thought he didn’t have a choice. Who is he going to trust? He doesn’t know any of those people. He probably saw many people like Russell walking on their own but didn’t stop to help them because of this reason.
But going almost five months on your own is social torture for people who are not completely anti-social. Nate clearly isn’t anti-social. It just got to the point where he couldn’t take it anymore. He decided that the next person he sees he’ll talk to, provided that they’re safe to be around.
The next person he saw was Russell.
So Nate lets him into his truck despite that he could be lying about not being in a gang and attaches himself to Russell very quickly. The rapid nature of his emotional attachment to the younger man is very odd. He doesn’t know him for that long, it’s sunset when they meet and it’s nighttime when the story ends, yet Nate goes from not knowing this stranger to calling him “my boy”, risking his life to save him, and generally caring for him.
That isn’t normal, but it is understandable if you take into account that he was lonely. Of course he’d develop a quick bond with someone after not having company for months. That is also why, if Russell should choose to leave, he is genuinely upset. In his point of view, he is losing the only friend he had in months after just meeting them.
In short, Russell was a random stranger that Nate happened to come across and decide to keep around after months of self-inflicted isolation.
#2 - Replacement Goldfish
Nate is capable of making true friends with others. Yes he’s crazy, so he’ll do things to his friends that normal people wouldn’t do (such as risk their lives for fun) but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’ll care about them. This is definitely evident by his selective empathy, something that I mentioned in part one.
Selective empathy is the ability to choose whether or not recognize and understand the emotions of others. This is not a conscience effort on Nate’s part as much as it has to do with the emotional bonds he has with people.
He didn’t like the elderly couple because the husband tried to kill him and Russell, therefore their emotions and reasons for doing what they did automatically became foreign, annoying, and unimportant. On the other hand, because he liked Russell, he understood and accepted his various emotions.
Now, if he hadn’t cared about his friend that got shot in the head, he wouldn’t have tried to kill Wyatt and Eddie for revenge. Unlike the deaths of the elderly couple, the death of his friend would have hit him hard.
So when he wants Russell for company, it’s not just about being lonely. It’s about filling the emotional void for the loss of his friends. Russell doesn’t have to look like either of them, he just has to be there. Russell is a replacement goldfish.
This train of thought follows closely to the idea that Nate was just lonely and bored, only this is far more emotionally intense than the previous theory.
Based on these two theories, what will happen if Russell and Nate meet up again?
This is hard to say. If Russell choose to leave at the end of his story, their parting wasn’t too messy. If he stayed, then we don’t know how they left each other. Let’s just assume that that the parting was not more dramatic.
If Nate meets up with Russell again, how he reacts will depend on how bitter he is about it and how much he still likes him. If no hard feels are hard on Nate’s part (because Russell isn’t going to be happy to see Nate again) then maybe things will not turn out that bad.
But if he’s is angry at him, then Russell will be in serious danger. Nate’s selective empathy will not be in Russell’s favor. There will be no telling what the man will do to him.