Keanu Reeves and Idris Elba brought the most mainstream attention to Cyberpunk 2077. Reeves started it as Johnny Silverhand and Elba now continues it as Solomon Reed in the new DLC, Phantom Liberty. Both of these actors brought incredible performances to the expansion. Specifically, Reed’s writing made Johnny reveal his best.
Writer’s Note: Spoilers for Cyberpunk 2077 AND Phantom Liberty and throughout.
Solomon and Johnny Start With the Same Offer
Solomon Reed didn’t turn into a spy overnight. He started with taking an oath to the New United States of America (NUSA) to work in their Federal Intelligence Agency (FIA). Likewise, Johnny reveals that, surprisingly, he originally started in the army and even saw combat in Nicaragua.
Reed turned into a top spy, recruiting Songbird into service. Meanwhile, Johnny deserted the army when he realized the war was corrupt. Where Reed committed to the oath, warts and all, Johnny bailed when conflicting values and realities appeared.
Solomon and Johnny are polar opposites. One maintained loyalty to a core flaw, the other chose complete freedom to everyone’s core detriment. No matter their differences, they still started at the same square. Now look where they are.
We Learn about Johnny’s Early Career On His Terms, Not the Plot’s
Johnny gets his own chance to talk about his life in Phantom Liberty. Much of what we learn about Johnny’s life comes due to plot developments, not Johnny’s choice. Here, Johnny gets the personal agency to talk about his life in reaction to Solomon’s.
Throughout out Phantom Liberty, we learn Solomon’s backstory. He and a team of FIA agents like Alex and Songbird came to Night City during the Unification War. As they all tried to escape, Songbird sold out Solomon on behalf of the FIA. He and Alex stayed trapped in Dogtown due to this. Yet in spite all of this, Solomon still wants to save Songbird with the FIA’s help.
Alex and Solomon’s tense reunion makes Johnny introspective. Johnny tells V about his war experience and escape because he sees a lot of that past in Alex and Solomon, namely the betrayals each experienced. He gets to asking the salient question: how many bullets in the back will Solomon willingly take?
These experiences are rare in the base game. Instead of Johnny confiding in us, we routinely find his story due to plot developments. V learns about Johnny’s suicide missions when the Relic chip activates. Later on V learns about Alt because the Voodoo Boys wanted to connect with her.
There’s definitely something to be said about forcing a character to confront their past, but giving them the agency to willingly bring it up is just as viable when done well.
An Insightful Johnny Knows a Lot about Solomon
Part of Phantom Liberty’s excellent writing comes through Johnny. His commentary on the main mission comes from his core beliefs that go directly against Solomon. Johnny marches to his own beat to everyone’s detriment; Solomon puts everyone above himself to his detriment.
That dichotomy (and complete privacy in V’s head) gives Johnny a lot of insight into Solomon. V’s mental roommate knows exactly