Mar 15

Mass Effect 3’s Good Ending: Informal Literary Discussion on a Metamorphic Work

*So yeah, this is about the endings to Mass Effect 3, and we’re gonna be talking about them.  If you don’t want these things to be spoiled…please for the love of god don’t read this.  Come back when you’ve beaten the game and we’ll talk.*

So we’ve all written essays about various literary works in high school, mostly to try and deduce some articulate meaning that the author was trying to convey.  Drew and I, inadvertently, began to do this late one night as the topic rose on Skype.  Had we known what we were doing, we might have avoided it; trying to do anything like this on the massive scale of variables that is the Mass Effect trilogy is nothing short of mind-blowing, in the most literal sense.  But fortunately ignorance saved the day, and we managed to make a very satisfying conclusion.

Before this, I was of the opinion that the endings to Mass Effect 3 were dumb and stupid and stupid and dumb.  Drew, ever so hopeful, tried to convince me there was a little more than the surface level to this tale.  He had no idea, though, how far down the rabbit hole we would go.

So here, in its entirety, is the Skype conversation we had the other night.  Enjoy!

[12:23:01 AM] Black Drew: http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/9727423/1

[12:23:03 AM] Black Drew: Read this

[12:23:12 AM] Black Drew: become apart ofthe optimists

[12:24:30 AM] Black Drew: Why else would the ultimately renegade option be represented in blue and the paragon in red? Why would synergy be pushed as ultimately good as well?

[12:25:41 AM] Alexander Mann: Fuck, if I could spoiler an article

[12:25:44 AM] Alexander Mann: I’d totally do it

[12:25:54 AM] Alexander Mann: because this theory was pushed for why FFVIII was so shitty

[12:26:20 AM] Alexander Mann: At the end of the first disc Squall gets impaled by an ice spike and supposedly nearly dies

[12:26:32 AM] Alexander Mann: the theory is that the rest of the game is Squall’s hallucination

[12:26:36 AM] Alexander Mann: just before he dies

[12:26:44 AM] Alexander Mann: because everything goes fucking nuts after

[12:26:48 AM] Black Drew: I know right? I think this is consistent though. There are too many holes in the end. And the entire game is incredibly solid

[12:26:56 AM] Black Drew: exactly

[12:27:07 AM] Black Drew: This has to be it

[12:27:18 AM] Alexander Mann: There’s no other way to make this work, you’re right

[12:27:20 AM] Black Drew: “nobody made it to the beam”

[12:27:30 AM] Alexander Mann: Right?!

[12:27:34 AM] Alexander Mann: I immediately thought

[12:27:39 AM] Alexander Mann: “Okay…either I failed the mission

[12:27:39 AM] Black Drew: Same here

[12:27:45 AM] Black Drew: “What about me, motherfuckers?”

[12:27:47 AM] Alexander Mann: or this is some dream sequence”

[12:27:57 AM] Black Drew: Anderson’s actions were all off too

[12:28:34 AM] Black Drew: If you hadn;t noticed, it was very subtle the way he handled the illussive man. And the silence in the radio before meeting with the illusive man

[12:29:14 AM] Alexander Mann: Goddamn you Bioware for making us come up with this

[12:29:21 AM] Alexander Mann: Why couldn’t it have been

[12:29:38 AM] Alexander Mann: “Controll the reapers, be a boss” or “Destroy the reapers, everyone wins, we’re happy”

[12:29:40 AM] Alexander Mann: also

[12:29:51 AM] Alexander Mann: WTF why are the Mass Relays destroyed?

[12:29:53 AM] Alexander Mann: WHY?!

[12:30:06 AM] Black Drew: I don’t think they are in reality

[12:30:14 AM] Alexander Mann: true

[12:30:20 AM] Alexander Mann: in the Not-Shephard’s delusion

[12:30:24 AM] Black Drew: Yeah

[12:30:27 AM] Alexander Mann: but

[12:30:28 AM] Alexander Mann: then

[12:30:30 AM] Black Drew: There’s a lot left to be explained

[12:30:32 AM] Alexander Mann: that still makes me angry

[12:30:35 AM] Alexander Mann: because now I wonder

[12:30:41 AM] Alexander Mann: What happened to the Reapers?

[12:30:47 AM] Alexander Mann: Did they actually get the crucible working?

[12:31:00 AM] Alexander Mann: Is Admiral Hackett still the manliest man in the galaxy?

[12:31:06 AM] Black Drew: xD

[12:31:20 AM] Black Drew: I think that there’s going to be dlc

[12:31:35 AM] Alexander Mann: …

[12:31:38 AM] Alexander Mann: oh my god

[12:31:38 AM] Black Drew: and that this was shepard’s choice to unless the hold on the reapers forever

[12:31:47 AM] Alexander Mann: it’s EA’s most devious

[12:31:48 AM] Alexander Mann: clever

[12:31:56 AM] Black Drew: or to combine organic life with reaper tech

[12:31:56 AM] Alexander Mann: and insidious money-making scheme

[12:31:59 AM] Black Drew: to create reapers

[12:32:06 AM] Black Drew: and the only viable option

[12:32:08 AM] Black Drew: for survival

[12:32:30 AM] Black Drew: is the destroy option, which was percariously displayed in red instead of blue or green

[12:33:09 AM] Alexander Mann: But which makes you wonder, in the hallucination

[12:33:18 AM] Alexander Mann: Who created the Reapers?  Was it organics, long ago?

[12:33:33 AM] Alexander Mann: Is allowing organic life to exist simply to continue the cycle

[12:33:42 AM] Black Drew: I think so. Rememebr the apparition?

[12:33:48 AM] Black Drew: I think it was a VI construct

[12:34:10 AM] Black Drew: Or an AI

[12:34:36 AM] Black Drew: Of the first people to coexist with the reapers

[12:34:59 AM] Black Drew: Otherwise, why would synergy be an option?

[12:35:11 AM] Black Drew: The reapers are synergetic with organic life

[12:36:06 AM] Black Drew: Being both synthetic and organic in construct. So the first race must have promoted this type of lifestyle. But then they must have gotten infected or something

[12:36:40 AM] Alexander Mann: So, let’s assume for a bit the endings are in reality

[12:36:45 AM] Alexander Mann: Every ending is stupid.

[12:36:47 AM] Alexander Mann: And dumb

[12:36:50 AM] Black Drew: Well yeah

[12:36:54 AM] Alexander Mann: and doesn’t change the cycle at all

[12:37:06 AM] Alexander Mann: Controlling reapers will eventually lead to them ruining everyone

[12:37:14 AM] Alexander Mann: symbiosis creates…MORE reapers

[12:37:32 AM] Alexander Mann: destroying reapers leads to society making new ones millions of years later

[12:37:42 AM] Alexander Mann: the cycle NEVER ENDS. ;_;

[12:37:55 AM] Black Drew: And i think that’s the point

[12:37:58 AM] Black Drew: In a sense

[12:38:06 AM] Alexander Mann: Which is why I’d RATHER believe

[12:38:13 AM] Alexander Mann: that Shephard is hallucinating this entire thing

[12:38:18 AM] Alexander Mann: and the DLC will be for free

[12:38:24 AM] Alexander Mann: and will allow me to control Admiral HAckett

[12:38:25 AM] Black Drew: xD

[12:38:34 AM] Alexander Mann: as he raws up every reaper WITH HIS BARE HANDS

[12:38:38 AM] Black Drew: xD

[12:38:58 AM] Black Drew: Well, it’s just funny how he was around pretty much every reaper known to the council races before the war

[12:39:04 AM] Black Drew: and never got indoctrinated

[12:39:16 AM] Alexander Mann: Because he’s that much of a man.

[12:39:40 AM] Black Drew: And the beginning part of the game emphasizes heavily of mind control and shepard’s questionable intentions

[12:40:03 AM] Black Drew: For that matter, how did the illusive man get indoctrinated?

[12:40:34 AM] Black Drew: Maybe the were slowly being taken over from the beginning of ME2

[12:40:46 AM] Black Drew: Being around all that reaper tech

[12:41:00 AM] Black Drew: and then the end was just  the breaking point for both

[12:41:12 AM] Black Drew: or maybe the illusive man isn’t indoctrinated on the station

[12:41:17 AM] Alexander Mann: oh my god

[12:41:20 AM] Black Drew: and that’s not really the illusive man

[12:41:24 AM] Alexander Mann: you…you’re fucking right

[12:41:27 AM] Alexander Mann: throughout the entire game

[12:41:45 AM] Alexander Mann: there’s nothing but “Is this real” or “You’re indoctrinated” and all that jazz

[12:42:00 AM] Black Drew: It’s a reoccuring theme

[12:42:03 AM] Alexander Mann: even in the cerberus base Shepard thinks s/he may be a really intelligent VI

[12:42:10 AM] Black Drew: Holy shit

[12:42:17 AM] Black Drew: Rememebr in the refugee bays

[12:42:22 AM] Black Drew: there was a useless shepard VI

[12:42:39 AM] Alexander Mann: @_@ well, I thought that was a throwback to the last game

[12:42:49 AM] Black Drew: Maybe so

[12:42:51 AM] Alexander Mann: where Mouse was selling a Shephard VI that didn’t work

[12:43:00 AM] Black Drew: You could be right

[12:43:18 AM] Black Drew: I dunno though

[12:43:27 AM] Alexander Mann: Yeah, more foreshadowing?

[12:43:31 AM] Black Drew: Maybe so

[12:43:40 AM] Alexander Mann: Those fuckers.

[12:43:44 AM] Black Drew: It certainly seems like this theory is getting more and more solid though

[12:43:54 AM] Black Drew: What about the end after the credits?

[12:43:57 AM] Alexander Mann: It’s definitely got a lot more weight to it

[12:44:11 AM] Alexander Mann: oh I…I was so angry at that.

[12:44:15 AM] Black Drew: Me too

[12:44:19 AM] Black Drew: Until i sstopped to think about it

[12:44:22 AM] Alexander Mann: ?

[12:44:31 AM] Black Drew: It shows that shepard did indeed become a legend

[12:44:39 AM] Black Drew: An intergalactic legend

[12:44:45 AM] Black Drew: meaning

[12:44:49 AM] Black Drew: FTL travel

[12:45:16 AM] Black Drew: Though I’m probably inferring a lot

[12:45:24 AM] Black Drew: but they child does ask for another story about shepard

[12:45:29 AM] Black Drew: and the old man complies

[12:45:34 AM] Alexander Mann: I remember the kid asking when he can go to the stars

[12:45:43 AM] Alexander Mann: What did the guy say to that?

[12:45:44 AM] Alexander Mann: I forget

[12:45:55 AM] Black Drew: I think he said “alright, just one more”

[12:45:59 AM] Black Drew: but I’m unsure

[12:46:16 AM] Black Drew: Implaying that shepard’s story isn’t over

[12:46:18 AM] Alexander Mann: Well the “Just one more” was for another shephard story

[12:46:22 AM] Alexander Mann: for DLC purposes

[12:46:30 AM] Alexander Mann: s’what I thought

[12:46:31 AM] Black Drew: I dunno

[12:46:42 AM] Black Drew: we could be looking at a whole nother game

[12:46:57 AM] Black Drew: Maybe another adventure

[12:47:10 AM] Black Drew: But

[12:47:12 AM] Black Drew: anyway

[12:47:22 AM] Black Drew: It’s is craxy shit that goes on

[12:47:38 AM] Alexander Mann: for sure

[12:47:54 AM] Black Drew: and i’m starting to believe more and more that bioware intended this form the beginning of development

[12:48:02 AM] Alexander Mann: but I dunno how they’re going to make a whole nother game

[12:48:03 AM] Alexander Mann: when

[12:48:09 AM] Alexander Mann: ALL THE MASS RELAYS ARE GONE

[12:48:18 AM] Alexander Mann: and the “Mass Effect” doesn’t exist anymore.

[12:48:22 AM] Black Drew: Maybe they aren’t gone.

[12:48:25 AM] Black Drew: Who knows

[12:48:37 AM] Black Drew: Of course, then why would the normandy crash land

[12:48:48 AM] Black Drew: you make a valid point

[12:49:06 AM] Alexander Mann: Liek honestly

[12:49:48 AM] Alexander Mann: If Shephard gets blasted by Harbinger (who had FAR too little screentime, btw)

[12:49:54 AM] Black Drew: ^

[12:49:56 AM] Black Drew: agreed

[12:49:58 AM] Alexander Mann: then hallucinates the whole rest before dying

[12:50:07 AM] Alexander Mann: Then we can continue on

[12:50:16 AM] Alexander Mann: Assuming that the endings are real though

[12:50:21 AM] Black Drew: well, it  makes sense

[12:50:48 AM] Alexander Mann: I’d be happy with Destroy Reapers->Shephard dies->Organic life remains

[12:50:57 AM] Alexander Mann: but KEEP THE MASS RELAYS.

[12:51:21 AM] Alexander Mann: That’s the one…ONE tiny thing I’d like to stay, because the world of Mass Effect hinges on them

[12:51:26 AM] Alexander Mann: and if you’re going to make more games

[12:51:27 AM] Black Drew: well. I told tali i was gonna build her a house on rannoch >_>

[12:51:30 AM] Alexander Mann: they need to be in there

[12:51:34 AM] Alexander Mann: whoops

[12:51:37 AM] Alexander Mann: Guess not anymore!

[12:51:39 AM] Black Drew: xD

[12:51:44 AM] Alexander Mann: I hope she likes Texas!

[12:51:50 AM] Black Drew: Well, shepard supposedly lives if anderson dies

[12:52:11 AM] Alexander Mann: How does Anderson -not- die?

[12:52:18 AM] Black Drew: i dunno

[12:52:33 AM] Black Drew: I was just doing some looking into it

[12:52:48 AM] Black Drew: but if you destroy the reapers, you’re supposed to live

[12:53:04 AM] Alexander Mann: H…how?  I thought the kid was all

[12:53:26 AM] Alexander Mann: “You’re also partially synthetic, so killing the reapers will kill you trolololololol”

[12:53:51 AM] Black Drew: That’s the indoctrination theory

[12:54:00 AM] Black Drew: They don’t want you to destroy the reapers

[12:54:27 AM] Alexander Mann: Hmmm

[12:54:28 AM] Alexander Mann: smart

[12:54:35 AM] Black Drew: it’s an illusion

[12:54:38 AM] Black Drew: trickery

[12:54:54 AM] Black Drew: cause controlling the reapers is obviously the bad choice

[12:55:05 AM] Black Drew: but it’s portrayed as the best option

[12:55:09 AM] Black Drew: life goes on

[12:55:15 AM] Black Drew: and the reapers are harmless

[12:55:24 AM] Black Drew: you essentially live

[12:56:01 AM] Alexander Mann: XD comment on youtube

[12:56:02 AM] Alexander Mann: Grandson:Tell me another story about the Shepard.


Grandpa:Did you buy the DLC?




Grandpa:Then fuck off.

[12:56:11 AM] Black Drew: xD

[12:56:22 AM] Black Drew: I honestly don’t mind buying dlc for this game

[12:56:32 AM] Black Drew: I’d buy anything for this game >_>

[12:57:25 AM] Alexander Mann: XD

[12:57:27 AM] Alexander Mann: Also can I say

[12:57:30 AM] Alexander Mann: that you know it’s bad

[12:57:37 AM] Alexander Mann: when you make a character that is a computer

[12:57:46 AM] Alexander Mann: and she still comes across more human than a non-computer

[12:57:55 AM] Alexander Mann: aka Edi > Liara

[12:57:56 AM] Black Drew: xD

[12:57:59 AM] Black Drew: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=mass+effect+3+destroy+reapers+ending&mid=CD0DCC9174825EE899C5CD0DCC9174825EE899C5&view=detail&FORM=VIRE2

[12:58:04 AM] Black Drew: Check that out

[12:58:06 AM] Black Drew: shep lives

[12:58:11 AM] Black Drew: at 4:55

[12:58:19 AM] Black Drew: or so

[12:59:54 AM] Black Drew: The kid even said “we harvest advance civilizations, leaving the younger ones alone” implying he’s a reaper

[1:02:51 AM] Alexander Mann: Okay…yeah.

[1:02:57 AM] Alexander Mann: I see how this all does make sense now.

[1:03:14 AM] Alexander Mann: It all fits perfectly.

[1:03:34 AM] Black Drew: Also

[1:03:44 AM] Black Drew: I think i figured out why joker was leaving the battlefield

[1:03:47 AM] Alexander Mann: ?

[1:03:49 AM] Black Drew: In the bad ending

[1:03:55 AM] Black Drew: of the destroy reapers

[1:04:08 AM] Black Drew: there’s a massive energy pusle emitted by the reapers

[1:04:12 AM] Black Drew: and the crucible

[1:04:23 AM] Black Drew: it must has wiped out a shit ton of their fleet

[1:04:34 AM] Alexander Mann: Thaaaaat would do it

[1:04:40 AM] Black Drew: Of course

[1:04:42 AM] Alexander Mann: doesn’t make sense for good ending

[1:04:51 AM] Black Drew: yeah

[1:04:54 AM] Alexander Mann: ugh

[1:04:57 AM] Alexander Mann: BIOWARE

[1:05:02 AM] Black Drew: Though the reapers didn’t do that on the good ending

[1:05:09 AM] Black Drew: but maybe the crucible still did

[1:05:16 AM] Black Drew: to destroy the mass relays

[1:05:26 AM] Black Drew: so maybe joker was fleeing that

[1:05:40 AM] Alexander Mann: Alright, here’s how my cannonical version of ME3’s ending is going to play out

[1:05:45 AM] Alexander Mann: to make me happiest in my mind

[1:05:54 AM] Alexander Mann: Shep destroys the reapers

[1:06:03 AM] Alexander Mann: er

[1:06:06 AM] Alexander Mann: I started wrong

[1:06:22 AM] Alexander Mann: Shep is hallucinating everything past when she passes out

[1:06:38 AM] Alexander Mann: but she still manages to destroy the reapers

[1:06:58 AM] Alexander Mann: because she’s acting in physical reality even as the wool is being pulled over her eyes by the AI kid

[1:07:09 AM] Black Drew: ^

[1:07:11 AM] Black Drew: Perfect

[1:07:26 AM] Black Drew: The harbinger could have tried to assume control over shepard

[1:07:30 AM] Alexander Mann: then the citadel crashes

[1:07:34 AM] Alexander Mann: and shep is in the wreckage

[1:07:58 AM] Alexander Mann: and what we see is her dreaming Joker running away and having the little moment on a foreign planet with the crew

[1:08:02 AM] Alexander Mann: but then she wakes up

[1:08:20 AM] Alexander Mann: and most importantly the Mass Relays are preserved because shephard dreamed that part up

[1:08:28 AM] Alexander Mann: ctrl+s

[1:08:36 AM] Alexander Mann: Alex is happy now.

[1:08:42 AM] Black Drew: You should be Mann

[1:08:57 AM] Black Drew: This changed my view completely on how the ending was

[1:09:04 AM] Black Drew: this is brilliant

[1:09:09 AM] Black Drew: on bioware’s part

[1:09:38 AM] Black Drew: Did we seriously think the mass effect franchise was over? It’s bioware’s biggest series

[1:09:44 AM] Black Drew: and we though halo was over

[1:09:49 AM] Alexander Mann: HA.

[1:09:50 AM] Black Drew: unless you saw the special end

[1:09:54 AM] Black Drew: so of course

[1:09:57 AM] Black Drew: We win!

[1:10:02 AM] Alexander Mann: YES

[1:10:07 AM] Alexander Mann: WE BEAT THE WRITERS

[1:10:09 AM] Black Drew: We figured out the fucking awesome

[1:10:12 AM] Alexander Mann: …

[1:10:15 AM] Alexander Mann: Make that two articles

[1:10:19 AM] Black Drew: Mann

[1:10:25 AM] Alexander Mann: Because we just did literary analysis

[1:10:33 AM] Alexander Mann: on a work with multiple endings

[1:10:36 AM] Alexander Mann: how fucking nuts is that

[1:10:40 AM] Black Drew: I think this entire skype message should be an article

[1:10:47 AM] Alexander Mann: Copy+paste

[1:10:49 AM] Black Drew: Do it

[1:10:57 AM] Alexander Mann: YES

[1:11:15 AM] Black Drew: Shepard is not wearing his armor when he wakes up in the Citadel, implying that this is a dream.

[1:11:25 AM] Black Drew: ^ veery good point

[1:12:05 AM] Alexander Mann: fukkin saved to a word doc

[1:12:22 AM] Black Drew: Hell yeah

[1:12:40 AM] Black Drew: I’m glad we changed your opinion of the ending

[1:12:45 AM] Alexander Mann: Yeah thank god

[1:12:52 AM] Alexander Mann: I was going to be raging forever otherwise

[1:12:54 AM] Black Drew: Mass Effect truly is a masterpiece in this regard

[1:12:57 AM] Alexander Mann: but you helped me see the light

[1:13:05 AM] Alexander Mann: this was fucking awesome.

About the author

Alex M

Alex’s credentials include being an ex-bear wrestler and former cannon operator aboard the Death Star. His most famous work, “Bad Things Happen to People who don’t Buy this Book,” has sold millions of copies worldwide. He currently resides in a small cave, where he doesn’t have to go see the sun.

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