Okay. Blog posts are supposed to have pretty pictures because the internet hates text but I need to get my thoughts about the ME3 ending on ‘paper’ now while they’re fresh. So here they go. SORRY AMERICA.
[Ed. note: Also, because I wrote this last night at god knows how late, I went through this morning and cleaned up a couple wordings, which are noted]
It goes without saying: massive Mass Effect 3 spoilers below the cut.
Alright. First things first: that was a difficult choice. I chose “Destroy” in the end and am agonizing over it, because it means EDI and the (in my playthrough) newly-sentient Geth are bricked forever, and the game spent a LOT of time making me love those characters, so it gnaws.
But that decision should be difficult and the consequences should be hard to live with. In the end I don’t think the Control ending is ever the right moral decision because the reward is great but so is the risk; the Destroy ending is a great sacrifice for a massive good as Shepard is used to making, and the Synthesis choice is full of so many unknowns that it presents a grave risk with an unknowable reward. No matter what you pick, something bad’s going to happen. That’s how life is.
Now, all that being said, what ME3 really drove home is that Commander Shepard is Jesus Christ in Space. If you finish ME3 and don’t see the progression of Shepard as a literally messianic figure, give it some careful consideration. Even the name Shepard is part of that, though I understand it’s also a probable homage to Alan Shepard. But think about this.
Shepard is the child of destiny on many levels. She came back from the dead, and in ME2 you don’t know how long but in ME3 you find out: Shepard was as dead as possible, with no neural activity, before Miranda and the Lazarus Cell (also cleverly named) brought her back. She then proceeds to unite the people, one way or another, against a common foe. What happens after her sacrifice (teaser image of her possible survival [ed. note: I originally said "sacrifice" again] notwithstanding) is that the galaxy — life as we know it — changes forever. The old world is wiped away, literally thanks to the destruction of the mass relays, but because Shepard sacrifices herself, they have a chance to start anew and rise from the ashes.
Then there’s the child and the Stargazer who refer to her as “the Shepard.” That phrasing is intentional, I’m certain, and it’s just another push for Shepard as the herald of a new era, the one who leads the flock of believers to a promised land through her great sacrifice. [Ed. note: the Stargazer is voiced by Buzz Aldrin, which tells you something.]
There are other, similar religious/Christ figure overtones. Consider that the cycle of Reaper destruction and its focus on created/synthetic life paints the creation of life [ed. note: specifically synthetic life] itself as an “original sin” scenario; the EDI replacement the Illusive Man makes is named “Eva” (Eve); the entire series begins on a world named “Eden Prime” and Rannoch, while different, is certainly a “lost Eden” for the quarians who would move heaven and earth to retrieve it. Never mind that the nagging, persistent, and harrowing refrain of the persecuted geth is “Does this unit have a soul?”
Of course you can make intermedia comparisons to the Battlestar Galactica remake, which is reasonable. I’m certain that the writers of ME3 were influenced by it and the language of the game shows that pretty clearly. But despite my gnawing feelings of regret for killing synthetic life in its relative infancy (and consoling myself that, as long as organics survive, the synthetics can be rebuilt), I’m satisfied with the ending.
I can tell you one thing, though: Shepard’s story is done. Maybe some DLC to expand it out within the context of ME3 itself, obviously, but to me, I’m satisfied. Shepard fulfilled her destiny and made her grand sacrifice. And honestly, I think the direction that the series can now take — how the galaxy copes with the departure of the Reapers and the network of mass relays vanishing, and the Citadel going up like a firework in Earth orbit — is really exciting. I think it’s now less a story about humanity’s reaching the stars and the aftermath, but about the races of the universe rebuilding civilization from scratch. I think there’s plenty of room for a new hero (or heroes) in that scenario. I’m excited to see where it goes.
You’ll notice I’ve refrained from commenting on the current ‘controversy’ with the ending until now. Well, here’s my deal:
- Yes, there’s plot holes. Maybe they’ll fill them in. Maybe not. But they’re nowhere near as titanic as people have expressed to me.
- I hope that this encourages fan creation and involvement in the universe. It’d be great if we’d turn to ourselves to answer these questions.
- The petitions to Bioware are nonsense. I’m glad they’re taking fan feedback seriously. Maybe we’ll get some great DLC out of it. But they’re under no obligation to “fix” anything and I hope they don’t backpedal. You have to find some middle ground between “Addressing fan interests” and “Caving to pressure”
Anyhow, there you have it. My reflections on ME3. Enjoy!