Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Stronger Ending for Bioshock Infinite (Spoilers Throughout)

I am not the first to do this.

For me and many who have played it, I think the ending comes on too quickly and too unexpectedly for us to feel anything about it.  I hope to share some of my thoughts of what might have helped audiences to care more about this story.


About an hour after Elizabeth and I entered the tear that brought us to Vox-Populi-crawling Columbia, I was looking around at the carnage and devil masks and I thought: "I miss Columbia."

Remember Columbia?  That sunny, beautiful spot where the racist white people walked around in nice hats and listened to barbershop tunes?

Or remember, more interestingly, that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson had been increased to a level of Godhood?  That they held a sword, a scroll, and a key that had become sacraments and tokens of great religious power?

Remember how that all kinda got thrown away by the story?

Our first exposure to Columbia is in a temple.  Instead of the numbing weirdness of Comstock House, where  mutilated tuba players watched over guys wearing president masks, I would have liked to see the Great Temple of Comstockism, where high-ranking zealots practice the deep secrets of the Columbian Arts--Washingtonians planning which American cities to destroy and how, Jeffersonians stealing artifacts from Washington, D.C., and the busyworking Franklinians struggling to keep up with the genius Luteces and understand the sciences.  What a beautiful and challenging level that would have been.

Wounded Knee

Another part of the beauty of Columbia is its mystery.  We who have played know that Comstock's vision of  Columbia must exist to some degree in Booker--was he a strong-willed American patriot?  Was he a racist? Did he dream of a better society?  The mechanics of Elizabeth allow us a chance to see this.

Slate knew Booker DeWitt almost directly before he became Zachary Comstock.  They fought together at the Battle of Wounded Knee.  What if in one of the tears that Elizabeth rips open, Booker found his way onto the battlefield of Wounded Knee and lost sight of her.  He had to fight his way past Indians and joined Slate on the battlefield.

There are several awesome clues that we could get here.  We could find Booker's tent and his book about George Washington.  We could see the real Booker (or play as him) as he gleefully chops up Indians and touts their scalps.  We could see him hoist an American flag.  We could see him almost killed by an Indian and saved by a silhouette that looks like Ben Franklin but turns out to be Slate.  These kind of hints make the audience go What The Heck? and then allow them to say "Oh, I get it!" when we learn that Booker is Comstock.  The hints would already be there, instead of coming out of left field.

File:Bioshock wounded knee statue.jpg

The Luteces

These two have an interesting story which we only hear about over voxophones.  Laaaame.  What if we learned about the Luteces by having a bigger laboratory, a setting which was pretty lame anyway?  Sure, with some thought we can figure out that they are the same person from different dimensions.  Sure, we realize that they are trying to puppet all the variables in order for Booker to succeed and stop Columbia from blowing up the world.  But how did Rosalind get mixed up with Comstock.  Huh?  Huh?!

The Luteces are fascinating but hardly give us anything in terms of emotional connection.  Their death is not detailed or shown to us, but in the laboratory that Luteces would have every reason and capability to show Elizabeth and Booker what happened to them.  Or perhaps Elizabeth would open a tear and show us their death/reincarnation.  Imagine a prostrate Rosalind praying to George Washington as she fails and fails again at getting the machine to work, suddenly blessed with success (and a twin!).  Imagine Rosalind's discovery of Comstock's plans and her argument with the Prophet.  Imagine the torture of Robert that Rosalind has to witness that finally brings about their death and escape.  Is this cool?  Yes, it is.

3.  Elizabeth

Ken Levine is not a religious man, and much of Bioshock Infinite is an indictment of religion.  I am not only religious but a practicing Mormon--my religion was a clear source for many ideas that exist in Columbia.  Even with these things, I saw much that testified of God and of His goodness in Bioshock Infinite.  One of its great questions is "How can I undo the evil I have done?" Comstock asks it, Booker asks it, the Luteces certainly have asked it, Elizabeth has reason to ask it after her murder of Daisy Fitzroy.

Most of us do not have access to interdimensional portals, and even if we did, the laws of quantum mechanics imply an infinite universe of choices in which we make all possible decisions.  It is a complicated business indeed for Elizabeth to destroy Comstock--she must stop him from ever existing by stepping through all of the universes and smothering him in the crib.  Believers in Christ see him as a figure who steps into the past and changes the person that has been created by evil choices made.

The music that trickles into Columbia from the future hints at this: "Can the Circle be Unbroken?" says that there are "loved ones in the glory, whose dear forms you often miss.  When you close your earthly story will you join them in your bliss?" and asks if there is a better home awaiting in the sky.  "God Only Knows" potently states "God only knows what I'd be without you."

Elizabeth may become omnipotent when the syphon is broken, but she doesn't become heartless.  If she only had these last few moments to be with Booker before she killed him, is it possible that she would take him to France?  To stand under the Eiffel Tower for a few moments before opening a door back to Wounded Knee, the baptism, and the final smothering?  It could be nice.  Hasn't the existence of this twisted universe offered Booker a chance to meet his daughter?  Hasn't it made the world better for them, even if the new Booker and his new Anna will never meet Elizabeth as she was?

In the end, Bioshock Infinite tells a beautiful story that, in its hurry to let us know the secret, sometimes forgets to open its heart to us.  Kudos to all involved in its creation, and more power to them.  I hope my thoughts help express my respect and appreciation for what has been offered.  Good job, guys.

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