(This is a weird thing that I found myself compelled to write immediately after finishing Bioshock Infinite. And after writing it, I figured I might as well post it somewhere, since it took so goddamn long.
I'd like to make clear, I don't think this is a "better" ending to Bioshock Infinite, or anything like that. The ending is surely the way it is for a number of great reasons, both purposeful and circumstantial. I don't think I could do a "better" job than they did. This is merely intended as a sort of "criticism by illustration" of everything I thought the ending was lacking or left me frustrated about.
I'm sorry it's so long.
...Also, spoilers. Duh.)
- - -
BOOKER and ELIZABETH find themselves in Rapture. Elizabeth is not acting like a god-like omniscient weirdo. This is an important distinction.
Booker: "How did we get here?"
Elizabeth: "I don't know. Wish fulfillment, I guess, lol."
They look around Rapture for a moment; just long enough for fanboys to get way too carried away overanalyzing what it means.
Booker: "Hey look, here's one of them fancy water-elevators. Let's get back to the surface, because for some reason you can't just make another tear and take us there, apparently."
Shut up, Booker.
They go back up to the lighthouse.
Booker: "Aha, the lighthouse! Maybe we can use this to get back up to Columbia? Or maybe we can signal a boat to come help us."
"Yeah, sure," Elizabeth says, condescendingly. Booker doesn't quite "get" this whole trans-dimensional psychedelia thing.
Behind the lighthouse door is the BAPTISM SCENE. It's basically the same, only Elizabeth isn't acting like a weirdo and saying cryptic, out-of-character things. Again.
Furthermore, in the following Booker-apartment scene, it is Lutece and other-Lutece who explain the baby-paradox to Booker-- because, as we well know, cryptically explaining things is not Elizabeth's fucking job and it never has been.
Booker: "Oh my gawrsh, Elizabeth, you're Anna. And I sold you. I hate myself even more now."
Elizabeth: "Jeepers! I am also filled with conflicted human emotions! As opposed to being a weirdo plot robot."
Booker: "Yes. But, since I don't want to accept the blame myself, or can't bear to, I blame Comstock instead! Let's go kill him. Again. In fact, let's find two copies of him and double kill him."
Lutece and Lutece: "Oh, that's productive--" "Killing over and over again for some kind of sick catharsis?" "Sounds like the pastime of a disturbed mind."
Lutece raises an eyebrow, all meta-like.
"No wait!" Says Booker, ignoring their mugging. "Clearly, the only way to stop this madness completely is to go into the past and smother baby Comstock while he's still in his crib! That'll fix everything."
Lutece and Lutece, ominously: "Smother a baby(,) Booker?" "That would certainly be something to see."
Elizabeth is understandably reluctant to do such a horrible thing-- because she is still a human character who has emotions, and not a WEIRD PLOT ROBOT.
But Booker insists, saying "sometimes you have to draw first," or something, which calls back to earlier in the story when he said that, do you get it? Elizabeth is so struck by this well-constructed payoff that she reluctantly agrees.
They find themselves in a bedroom with a baby in it. It is even more rundown and shitty than Booker's apartment with a baby in it was. Even the happy baby music that was mysteriously playing at Booker's place is replaced with the muffled, indistinct sounds of the baby's parents angrily and drunkenly screaming at each other in the next room. And you're all like, woah, what an ugly scene.
Booker: "Alright, let's kill this fuckin' baby."
Booker reaches for the baby, but hesitates. Both because he has some tiny trace of humanity left, and also because Elizabeth is clearly not on board with this.
Elizabeth: "Maybe there's another way..."
Booker: "Another way? That's more effective than baby-killing? You mean like we go back nine more months and punch his mother in the stomach?"
But he sees that she is probably not referring to that, and now he feels doubt as well.
Booker: "Well, I don't know what to choose."
OBJECTIVE: MURDER OR DON'T MURDER BABY
*Left trigger: Smother* *Right trigger: Uhh... don't do that*
As you make your choice, Elizabeth begins to sing "will the circle be unbroken," again, like earlier in the game-- do you see how this payoff would be super sweet? Anyway, she is either singing it to herself, as she turns away to avoid seeing and hearing what you are about to do; or she sings it to the baby as Booker reaches out to cover it with its raggedy baby blanket and touch it on the head reassuringly. You know-- being nice.
As he does either of these things, his memories change, and he suddenly sees a skillful and well-assembled MONTAGE of the baptism scene (along with several other callback images and sound clips from throughout the game), that makes him and the player realize and understand the truth about Comstock-- Booker is Comstock.
The way Elizabeth sings her song during all this-- either sadly and pathetically, fighting back tears, or heartfelt and beautifully, with a sense of forgiveness and catharsis-- informs and amplifies the meaning of this character revelation, in regard to whether Booker is being a horrible person or not. Blowing your mind, without invalidating his character! Neat.
Booker steps back from the crib, his mind now fully blown.
Booker: "Oh my god! I just realized something! I AM Comstock!! And on top of that, I had one of those 'realization montages' that they always have in movies where characters realize a big important twist, so that the audience actually understands and feels the impact of the revelation! Boy, this sure would have felt hollow and crappy if I hadn't realized this important truth in such a well-assembled manner."
Elizabeth: "Uh huh."
Booker: "-You know, like if you had just flat out told me, 'Booker, you're Comstock,' and then that was the end of it? And then like, I randomly died for some reason? Boy, that would have sucked."
Elizabeth: "I know, Dad."
Booker: "...Don't call me that."
Suddenly, everything gets all SHIMMERY.
Booker: "Oh crap! We totally just changed the future, didn't we?"
Elizabeth: "Well, duh."
Booker looks at the camera-- presumably by looking into a mirror or something.
Booker: "I wonder what the consequences of our important choices will be."
You have just received the THEME of the game. You probably get an achievement or something.
Anyhoo, the space-time Lutece Field bubble collapses, sending your variables back through the tear to reconcile the constant, and jargon the plot.
You reappear on the bridge of Comstock's airship, with the ruins of the Siphon smoldering below.
Booker: "Oh my god, the Siphon is still destroyed? And this airship is gonna fuckin' CRAAAAAASH?!?!"
Elizabeth and Booker shout "WOOOOAH" as they do some kind of daring, exhilarating skyline escape-- giving them and anyone who could theoretically be watching them a great sense of adventure and emotional release, which are good things to have at the end of your story-- before finally landing back on solid ground, at the far end of the bridge leading to the destroyed remains of Monument Island.
The burning zeppelin slowly falls past the burning angel statue and the burning bridge: all of these symbols from earlier in the game, now in ruins; lending a poetic closure to the story, and a sense of return.
As opposed to a sense of "fuck you, please drown."
I don't know why I would mention that. Obviously the game wouldn't want to leave you with that feeling. What a strange thing to say.
Anyway, Booker looks at Elizabeth-- realizing, now that the Hot Zeppelin Crisis is concluded, that they are back in Columbia for some reason.
Booker: "Jesus! That was intense. -But wait a minute! Why didn't you just open a tear to get us out of danger? -Or get us out of here now, for that matter?"
Elizabeth holds up her hand. All five fingers are now intact. Elizabeth smiles, wistfully.
Elizabeth: "I guess I'm whole now."
Booker is struck by the artful, metaphorical elegance of this character-focused story development. He is really glad that Elizabeth didn't become a weird crypto-philosophical emotionless plot robot.
Again, I don't know why he would think that. What a strange thing to think.
Anyway, Elizabeth's expression suddenly changes. She is confused about something.
This is the point where the ending branches.
If you killed the baby, Elizabeth is confused... because Booker still exists! Which is indeed weird, considering he kinda sorta just killed himself.
Elizabeth: "Booker... shouldn't you be gone?"
There is a meaningful pause. Tellingly, Booker doesn't answer her. Or maybe the zeppelin explosion has rendered him deaf.
Booker: "Let's get out of here."
He and Elizabeth then walk back out of Columbia-- through the crumbling, burning streets that are beginning to fall from the sky without the siphon's power. They share a moment of quiet regret that such a wondrous, important, beautiful place could have been so violently destroyed. Even though it did kind of have it coming, let's face it.
The two of them now reach their destination-- a docked, empty zeppelin, ready to depart. This would seem surprisingly convenient, if it weren't for all the other crazy shit that just happened.
They step inside and Booker hits the X button (Square button on the PS3) to set the destination for PARIS.
As Elizabeth is distracted by finally getting that thing she wanted, Booker steps back out of the zeppelin.
Booker: "I'm not going with you, Elizabeth."
And Elizabeth is all like, "Why not?"
(They could re-use that "crying Elizabeth" effect from earlier in the game if they wanted. Think of the savings!)
Booker: "Because... like you said, I should be gone. So I need to finish what I started."
Booker's self-loathing and inability to forgive himself have literally and metaphorically destroyed him. Get it?
Elizabeth stares back at him, the sad realization of "yeah, you're probably right" dawning on her face. After all, she just watched this guy kill a goddamn baby to get revenge on himself. He clearly hasn't done much to resolve his anger issues since Wounded Knee. And he never will. There's no going back. After all, we've hit like, two more checkpoints since then.
And so, the zeppelin begins to drift away, framed by burning American flags and collapsing angel statues and other culturally charged imagery.
Booker goes into internal monologue mode.
Booker: "Anna... Elizabeth... Whether I knew it or not, I did it all for you."
Booker holds up his hand (removing the bandages, if he has them) to wave goodbye, revealing the "AD" (or "A/D," if he was altogether too patient with that ticket seller guy) one last time as the zeppelin rises-- and he falls-- into the clouds.
Booker: "...You suffered for my sins.
(Cut to black)
"...And you deserve better."
And then the credits start to roll, set to a rousing, "immigrant working-man's fight song" cover of Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who, with like bagpipes or something-- summing up the entire game perfectly, and being completely awesome to listen to all at the same time.
...What, don't tell me they couldn't afford it. They had five years to make this happen.
In fact, somebody should make this happen regardless. Who has the Dropkick Murphyses' number.
THEN, COMES THE REQUISITE AFTER THE CREDITS "SURPRISE" BONUS THING:
We slowly fade in to a tranquil table at a Parisian cafe, with the Eiffel tower in the distance and sounds of people and conversations and life happening all around. It can even be FMV or something, I don't care.
A hand, wearing either the bird or cage jewelry from earlier in the game as a bracelet, sets down a cup of tea. It pauses for a moment, before we hear the unseen figure stand up and walk away.
After another moment, two different sets of (FMV?) hands sit down at the table.
Female Voice: "She didn't leave much of a tip, did she?"
Male Voice: "The tip is perfectly sufficient-- you're thinking in 21st century terms again."
Female Voice: "Well, I am there, aren't I?"
Male Voice: "Hmm."
Male Voice: "Do you suppose she would have been happier? In a different time?"
Female Voice: "Well... aren't we all."
In the background is yet another cool or interesting anachronistic song.
Maybe that's where you finally hear "Shining Happy People." God knows I never found it.
On the other hand, if you didn't kill the time baby, a different ending happens.
Elizabeth and Booker are standing in front of the burning bridge, and Elizabeth has just shown Booker her fully-reformed hand.
She starts to look confused about something. (I assume she is confused that Booker has become such a wuss that he couldn't even kill a baby. Seriously Booker, you could have taken that baby down easy. We're so disappointed in you.)
Elizabeth: "So... I guess you couldn't do it after all."
Booker: "I... I guess it wasn't really what I wanted." He sounds surprised about this.
Elizabeth looks around at the still-extant Columbia.
Elizabeth: "So nothing's changed?"
Booker: "I don't know... I feel different. Somehow."
Suddenly, the screen does that "time change paradox shimmer" effect. Booker probably doesn't need to get a nosebleed though-- at this point, we've probably had enough of that. Poor guy's probably got a brain tumor already.
Anyway, a crowd of VOX POPULI is suddenly emerging from the street behind Booker and Elizabeth to surround and block them in. Elizabeth looks like she's ready to fight, but Booker stops her.
Booker: "Wait! Something's different."
A man at the front of the crowd steps forward.
He and the crowd look somewhat less bloodthirsty than before. Maybe they've just calmed down! God knows, they would eventually have to be less angry than "fully murderously angry at everything." But, it seems like maybe it's more significant than that.
Vox guy: "Brothers and sisters! Booker Dewitt... has rescued his kidnapped daughter, and defeated Zachary Comstock!"
Booker: "how the fuck did they know about-"
Vox guy: "-Columbia now belongs... to the people! Today, we are FREEEEEE!!!~"
With a roar, the crowd starts cheering-- cheering for the two of them! Booker and Elizabeth, heroes of the people.
Or, you know, "heroes" of "the people." Whatever, I'm not here to talk politics.
Anyway, what Booker did in the past-- finally "forgiving himself," so to speak-- has changed him into a good man. Either literally "changed" him in a quantum sense, or metaphorically changed him, deep down in his mushy insides where his heart grew three sizes that day. The distinction is vague... because it doesn't fucking matter, stop overthinking it.
Booker and Elizabeth walk/are carried along to the control room of Columbia, with people cheering and chanting all around. As opposed to the "destroy" ending where everything is falling apart, here there are new banners flying in the streets and people running and laughing all around, signaling a new beginning, a renewal if you will.
Even though these guys were kind of dicks, too. Whatever, it's complicated.
Anyway, Booker gets to the grand wizard master controls of Columbia, wherever those are. (How do they pilot Columbia? Is it like the zeppelin levers that you can set on autopilot? Is it a giant donkey wheel?) And he sets Columbia to travel to... somewhere. We may or may not actually see what the coordinates are.
Elizabeth: "Where are we going?"
Booker looks at her, and all the Vox behind her, triumphant.
(Smash cut to black) ...We're going home."
AND THEN THE CREDITS ROLL AGAIN, WITH THAT SAME BAD ASS HYPOTHETICAL "THE WHO" COVER PLAYING
ROCK THE FUCK OUT
Then, comes a different after the credits bonus scene (which could also be FMV-- I mean, come on, unexpected FMV is always great):
From first-person view, a man stands on a hill, examining his hand.
It has nothing on it. He seems almost confused about this.
Suddenly, we hear a a young girl cry out with excitement.
Young Girl: "Look, there it is!"
The man turns around. The voice is coming from the other side of the hill. He begins to climb the hill, as we hear an adult female voice chime in.
Female Voice: "No, honey, I think that's just a cloud."
Young Girl: "No, behind the cloud! I told you, it's back, it's back!!"
The man crests the top of the hill. The sun is shining bright into his eyes. A woman is sitting near a picnic blanket on the top of the hill, and a little girl is running around at the foot of the hill down below. The bright sunlight washes out and obscures the details of their faces.
The woman puts a hand up to shade her face, and cranes her head up toward the sky.
Female Voice: "Oh my god-- I think you're right! Honey, do you see this?!"
The girl at the bottom of the hill is starting to flip out with joy.
Young Girl: "IT'S HERE! IT'S HERE!! IT'S HEEERE!!!"
The man puts up his own hand to block the sun, and we can begin to see something emerging from the clouds, slowly moving from right to left.
Buildings held aloft by balloons and propellers. Flags flapping in the wind. An impossible city of dreams, moving slowly across the sky.
Now you officially don't know what the fuck is going on.
The man's voice swells with barely restrained emotion.
Man's Voice That Sounds Suspiciously Like Booker: "Well, I'll be damned.
"...It came back."
Actually, maybe this is where that "Shining Happy People" cover could be playing on a radio or something. I don't know.
END OF ENDING.
- - -
(...So there you go. As I said before, I don't really know why I did this. But if I did it, I might as well post it.
I mean, I suppose my hope is that this little project has at least given you a somewhat constructive idea of what I found lacking from the end of Bioshock Infinite, as opposed to me just bitching about it and making angry bullet points.
This is, after all, a weird testament to how much I liked the game, for the most part, that I would even bother to make something like this. An alternate version, if you will.
And ultimately, if the end of Bioshock Infinite taught us anything, it's that there's no harm in having alternate versions of something.
Since nothing really matters anyway, and everything is futile.
At least, that's what I got from that ending.
I didn't like it very much.)