Some Thoughts on Bioshock Infinite's Ending SPOILERS

Posted by ButIShootFromThere (15 posts) -

So far I've found the generally accepted interpretation of the the ending is that Elizabeth prevents Comstock from ever existing by having him drown at the baptism. And I agree, this seems to be the intended interpretation considering all the talk leading up to the final lighthouse and the fact that the various Elizabeths disappear at the end. But the implications of that ending are actually pretty fucked up.

You're not just eliminating Comstock. We see all the Elizabeths at the baptism disappear as well. But it wouldn't just end with her, would it? No, you're eliminating everybody in those dimensions where Comstock exists. Everybody. Those people that Elizabeth danced with on Battleship Bay -- gone. That little kid hiding under the stairs who she sang to and fed an apple -- gone. Everybody. "He is alive in a million million worlds." That's a million million everybodys -- gone.

It kinda turns Elizabeth into a petty, vengeful god. Sure it sucks that in some dimensions Comstock tortures and indoctrinates her, but that doesn't make Comstock so overwhelmingly evil that his nonexistence is worth the sacrifice of all those people living in those dimensions. So Columbia might wage war on the the world below. That sucks for some folks, but (Godwin's Law Warning: Begin rolling eyes now) if she was a Holocaust victim, would she be justified in eliminating all of us because we live in a world where Hitler rose to power and World War II happened? Is it even necessary to end the story with such a literal and absolute defeat of Comstock? I don't think it is.

I think Elizabeth gaining omniscience over the multiverse is enough of a resolution. Didn't she really just want to know the truth? She doesn't need to beat Comstock by snuffing out the possibility of his existence because she can see his insignificance in the grand scheme of things now. His dimensions, even in their millions, are just a drop of guppy shit in the ocean of the multiverse. I'd prefer it if Elizabeth showed a little more tact considering her enlightened perspective on things. It would be a better ending to that conflict.

To me, the final baptism is only closure to the personal story between Booker and Elizabeth. They don't drown him, they just submerge him and transport him to the post-credits scene. The baptism is meant to be a symbolic gesture of forgiveness made genuine by the way it differs from Comstock's baptism.

God in this case is actually Elizabeth, who is now omniscient. And the baptism is performed by the various iterations of her rather than some random preacher. On one level the scene is about Elizabeth, the person(s) Booker betrayed and sold, forgiving him by appearing at and performing the baptism. Where the preacher talks about erasing the past, the Elizabeths do the opposite. They simply say "He's Zachary Comstock" and "He's Booker DeWitt" to which he replies "I'm both". This baptism is about owning his sins rather than erasing them. And on another level it's about Elizabeth the quasi-god. She sees everything Booker can be and gives our version of him another chance with Anna, as an act of grace.

I feel like this interpretation is more consistent with Elizabeth's character. No need to drown or delete anybody. Don't ask me why the Elizabeths disappear at the end. Maybe they teleport to Paris or something.

#1 Posted by Hunkulese (2840 posts) -

She's not deleting anyone except Comstock/Booker and herself. There are an infinite number of realities because a new reality exists everytime anyone anywhere makes a choice. All the people she danced with and the kid under the stairs still exist in an infinite number of realities because they never existed solely to interact with Booker/Comstock/Elizabeth.

She may be destroying a million million realities but that's a tiny number when you compare it to infinity.

#2 Posted by StarvingGamer (8472 posts) -

@hunkulese said:

She's not deleting anyone except Comstock/Booker and herself. There are an infinite number of realities because a new reality exists everytime anyone anywhere makes a choice. All the people she danced with and the kid under the stairs still exist in an infinite number of realities because they never existed solely to interact with Booker/Comstock/Elizabeth.

She may be destroying a million million realities but that's a tiny number when you compare it to infinity.

It's a tiny number unless you're one of the people in one of those millions of millions of realities.

If this is a true multiverse then there's theoretically an infinite number of me, but that doesn't help me, or any of us, if our dimension suddenly ceases to exist.

#3 Posted by Little_Socrates (5694 posts) -

To me, the final baptism is only closure to the personal story between Booker and Elizabeth. They don't drown him, they just submerge him and transport him to the post-credits scene. The baptism is meant to be a symbolic gesture of forgiveness made genuine by the way it differs from Comstock's baptism.

God in this case is actually Elizabeth, who is now omniscient. And the baptism is performed by the various iterations of her rather than some random preacher. On one level the scene is about Elizabeth, the person(s) Booker betrayed and sold, forgiving him by appearing at and performing the baptism. Where the preacher talks about erasing the past, the Elizabeths do the opposite. They simply say "He's Zachary Comstock" and "He's Booker DeWitt" to which he replies "I'm both". This baptism is about owning his sins rather than erasing them. And on another level it's about Elizabeth the quasi-god. She sees everything Booker can be and gives our version of him another chance with Anna, as an act of grace.

Even if this is not literally what happens in-fiction, this is what I think "happened" thematically and artistically. Numerous people have come out of the woodwork trying to demonstrate the logical, logistical, and characteristic fallacies with this moment, but I don't think this moment is meant to be taken so literally. The characters are reduced to essences, and Booker attains resolution.

#4 Posted by Hunkulese (2840 posts) -

@hunkulese said:

She's not deleting anyone except Comstock/Booker and herself. There are an infinite number of realities because a new reality exists everytime anyone anywhere makes a choice. All the people she danced with and the kid under the stairs still exist in an infinite number of realities because they never existed solely to interact with Booker/Comstock/Elizabeth.

She may be destroying a million million realities but that's a tiny number when you compare it to infinity.

It's a tiny number unless you're one of the people in one of those millions of millions of realities.

If this is a true multiverse then there's theoretically an infinite number of me, but that doesn't help me, or any of us, if our dimension suddenly ceases to exist.

It's one of the problems about crafting a story around high concept ideas like multiple realities and time travel. As soon as you try and think about it outside what was specifically told to you it all kind of falls apart. Any discussion about it is ultimately just going to logically come to the conclusion that nothing has any impact on anything. It's mentioned multiple times in the game that time doesn't exist and is just a way for us to try make sense of what we are perceiving. Everything that will happen has already happened and is happening right now. So killing Booker before he becomes Comstock doesn't change anything because it has already happened. The dancers still exist/existed/will exist.

If you just want to look at the multiverse and how important each reality is than you have to consider every second of every day every single person is destroying an infinite number of realities.

That's the problem with this type of entertainment. It seems to warrant discussion but any type of logical discussion is just going to spin you in circles and not really go anywhere.

#5 Edited by ButIShootFromThere (15 posts) -

@hunkulese said:

It's one of the problems about crafting a story around high concept ideas like multiple realities and time travel. As soon as you try and think about it outside what was specifically told to you it all kind of falls apart. Any discussion about it is ultimately just going to logically come to the conclusion that nothing has any impact on anything. It's mentioned multiple times in the game that time doesn't exist and is just a way for us to try make sense of what we are perceiving. Everything that will happen has already happened and is happening right now. So killing Booker before he becomes Comstock doesn't change anything because it has already happened. The dancers still exist/existed/will exist.

Then maybe your interpretation of the ending is just different from the one I'm talking about. I took Elizabeth's line "It will only be over when he never even lived in the first place" precisely to mean that she intends to make sure that Comstock never exists/existed/will exist. Consequently, that's why the various Elizabeths disappear, and by extension so will the dancers and the rest of Columbia.

I get what you're saying about the parallel versions of those people still existing. But that doesn't make the Comstock-dimension versions of them expendable. They all have a equal right to exist regardless of how many other versions of themselves there are. Each one can be as different as Robert and Rosalind.

#6 Edited by mikey87144 (1811 posts) -

Uh, how is she murdering all those people. She's eliminating Comstock and by proxy Columbia. Whether or not those people have kids is a different story but those people just won't exist in Columbia.

Also she didn't eliminate Booker, she got rid of all instances of Comstock's birth. No Comstock, no Elizabeth. Anna is then left with Booker.

#7 Posted by Ghostiet (5289 posts) -
#8 Edited by Hunkulese (2840 posts) -

@hunkulese said:

It's one of the problems about crafting a story around high concept ideas like multiple realities and time travel. As soon as you try and think about it outside what was specifically told to you it all kind of falls apart. Any discussion about it is ultimately just going to logically come to the conclusion that nothing has any impact on anything. It's mentioned multiple times in the game that time doesn't exist and is just a way for us to try make sense of what we are perceiving. Everything that will happen has already happened and is happening right now. So killing Booker before he becomes Comstock doesn't change anything because it has already happened. The dancers still exist/existed/will exist.

Then maybe your interpretation of the ending is just different from the one I'm talking about. I took Elizabeth's line "It will only be over when he never even lived in the first place" precisely to mean that she intends to make sure that Comstock never exists/existed/will exist. Consequently, that's why the various Elizabeths disappear, and by extension so will the dancers and the rest of Columbia.

I get what you're saying about the parallel versions of those people still existing. But that doesn't make the Comstock-dimension versions of them expendable. They all have a equal right to exist regardless of how many other versions of themselves there are. Each one can be as different as Robert and Rosalind.

Elizabeth saying that goes against everything else the game had been saying all along that everyone exilsts/existed/will exist. Just the fact that they are returning to a time when they are able to stop Booker becoming Comstock creates another reality. All the other realities where Booker becomes Comstock still exist but they created a new reality where Comstock doesn't exist. It's the same as Booker existing in one reality by not accepting the baptism and Comstock existing in another.

@ghostiet said:

They aren't killing Booker before he becomes Comstock. They are completely excising the possibility he becomes Comstock by modifying it into a constant - it's either "Booker always rejects baptism" or "Booker always drowns if he gets baptized".

Again that doesn't work. You can't destroy realities you can only create new ones.

#9 Edited by Ghostiet (5289 posts) -

@hunkulese: She creates an artificial reality which is then inserted in place of the old one. I don't see how you can't destroy/modify a reality considering that there are no time loops and the realities also don't loop nor determine each other.

#10 Posted by ButIShootFromThere (15 posts) -

@hunkulese: Not saying you're wrong (I actually don't even like the common interpretation for reasons already mentioned), but what would be the plot significance of the ending in your interpretation of it? If Elizabeth is just creating realities where Comstock drowns without eliminating the ones where he survives and creates Columbia, what would be the point?

#11 Posted by Hunkulese (2840 posts) -

@ghostiet said:

@hunkulese: She creates an artificial reality which is then inserted in place of the old one. I don't see how you can't destroy/modify a reality considering that there are no time loops and the realities also don't loop nor determine each other.

You kind of answered yourself. The realities don't determine each other. The game goes out of the way to say that time doesn't exist as we perceive it so if you follow that logic you can't go back in time to change the future. They've just set in motion a new reality where Booker/Comstock don't exist.

@hunkulese: Not saying you're wrong (I actually don't even like the common interpretation for reasons already mentioned), but what would be the plot significance of the ending in your interpretation of it? If Elizabeth is just creating realities where Comstock drowns without eliminating the ones where he survives and creates Columbia, what would be the point?

It's one of the problems of creating a game based on multiple realities and time travel. It's impossible to come up with an ending that ties anything together. You're just supposed to accept the fact that they deleted Comstock from existing anywhere even though they spend the game telling you that's not possible. If you buy into to everything that's been said throughout the game you can get some closure from the ending because a new reality has been created that Booker/Comstock can't destroy, but then again that reality would have to have already existed because of the whole exists/existed/will exist thing.

Like I said once you start thinking about it everything kind of falls apart.

#12 Posted by ButIShootFromThere (15 posts) -

@hunkulese: OK, I get what you're saying now (I think). So just to recap: My original point was that Elizabeth comes off as cruel to disregard the collateral damage in deleting the Comstock realities. You're saying she can't deleting anything; she's just creating yet another bunch of realities -- ones where Comstock drowns. Your stance that she can't delete realities is key here. It was my understanding that she is deleting realities. You're saying that's probably what the writers want us to believe even though it's at odds with much of the dialogue in the game. I agree if that's what you're saying.

So just for sake of discussion, assume she is deleting realities like the writers probably intended. It is a pretty horrific thing to wipe entire dimensions from existence just to spite one man isn't it? Kinda myopic and inconsistent with Elizabeth's character in my opinion.

#13 Posted by Hunkulese (2840 posts) -

@hunkulese: OK, I get what you're saying now (I think). So just to recap: My original point was that Elizabeth comes off as cruel to disregard the collateral damage in deleting the Comstock realities. You're saying she can't deleting anything; she's just creating yet another bunch of realities -- ones where Comstock drowns. Your stance that she can't delete realities is key here. It was my understanding that she is deleting realities. You're saying that's probably what the writers want us to believe even though it's at odds with much of the dialogue in the game. I agree if that's what you're saying.

So just for sake of discussion, assume she is deleting realities like the writers probably intended. It is a pretty horrific thing to wipe entire dimensions from existence just to spite one man isn't it? Kinda myopic and inconsistent with Elizabeth's character in my opinion.

Yes and no. Take a real world example. If you could go back and kill Hitler would you do it knowing you be eliminating the reality of everything that happened because of Hitler and as a result the realities of millions of people? Or would you think you'd be giving all those people a chance at a better life in a Hitler free world. Nobody exists as a direct result of Booker/Comstock except Elizabeth/Anna so you could see Elizabeth as making a completely altruistic sacrifice essentially erasing herself from existence so others can live in a better world.

#14 Edited by ButIShootFromThere (15 posts) -

@hunkulese: Well, in the context of the game's multiverse, I would definitely look at your example as eliminating all those realities. That was the point of my WW2 analogy in the original post. Parallel versions of people have an equal right to exist but they aren't identical. In other words me and Hitler-free-universe me are completely separate people. Hitler-free me's existence -- whether he's happier than me or not-- doesn't help this-world me in the slightest. I'm not sure what you mean by "direct result". The Columbia-dimensions versions of everyone would not exist anymore because Comstock and Columbia would not exist. Elizabeth isn't improving their lives in any way. She's deleting them and creating parallel versions of them in a reality where Comstock drowned. I don't know why she would assume the Comstock-free versions of everyone would be happier anyway, but that's beside the point.

Also, I don't think our Elizabeth(the one with the pendant) actually sacrifices herself since she doesn't enter the final lighthouse, but that's really beside the point as well. The damage would be done regardless.

#15 Posted by Hunkulese (2840 posts) -

@hunkulese: Well, in the context of the game's multiverse, I would definitely look at your example as eliminating all those realities. That was the point of my WW2 analogy in the original post. Parallel versions of people have an equal right to exist but they aren't identical. In other words me and Hitler-free-universe me are completely separate people. Hitler-free me's existence -- whether he's happier than me or not-- doesn't help this-world me in the slightest. I'm not sure what you mean by "direct result". The Columbia-dimensions versions of everyone would not exist anymore because Comstock and Columbia would not exist. Elizabeth isn't improving their lives in any way. She's deleting them and creating parallel versions of them in a reality where Comstock drowned. I don't know why she would assume the Comstock-free versions of everyone would be happier anyway, but that's beside the point.

Also, I don't think our Elizabeth(the one with the pendant) actually sacrifices herself since she doesn't enter the final lighthouse, but that's really beside the point as well. The damage would be done regardless.

That's the point. Eliminating Hitler doesn't help you today but eliminating Hitler would potential eliminate WW2 and erase the death and suffering of a lot of people. Those people would still exist in a hopefully better world. Elizabeth has seen how the Comstock story plays out and it leads to nothing but war and suffering. The world should be a better place without Comstock in it.

If you're going to assume that realities are deleted because of Booker's drowning than Elizabeth can't exist in any form because her Father is killed before she is born. If you're saying that the Elizabeth with the pendant still exists than you're saying no realities were erased. If you were a direct decedent of Hitler and killing him would erase you but make the world a better place would you not see that as a valiant sacrifice?

#16 Edited by ButIShootFromThere (15 posts) -

@hunkulese: Well, it's clear where we differ now. I think even if people live in a shitty Comstock-dimension, they have a right to exist. We live in a shitty Hitler-dimension, but I don't want anyone deleting me. If I was deleted and a parallel version of me existed somewhere, I wouldn't say "I" still exist. Elizabeth would be snuffing out unique individuals, and it would be a monstrously wrong thing to do, in my opinion.

I was thinking our pendant-wearing Elizabeth could exist between realities like the Luteces, thus her continued existence wouldn't be incompatible with her deleting realities. I guess I just don't see why the writers would chose to make a point of it that she isn't at the final baptism when the other Elizabeths disappear unless they were implying that she could still exist. I'm not really married to the idea or anything. Her sacrificing herself makes sense too.

To answer your final question, no, it isn't a valiant sacrifice for reasons I've already mentioned. The suffering of some doesn't justify the deletion of others. Uniqueness of parallel individuals and all that. We're just kind of repeating ourselves at this point. Agree to disagree maybe?

#17 Posted by Aurelito (721 posts) -

Elizabeth couldn't possibly destroy herself. She was born before the baptism.

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