How a change of perspective helped saved to Mass Effect series for me (with a bit of headcannon)
As anyone with knowledge of the renegade antics of everyone’s favorite puncher-of-journalists, Commander Shepard, would know: We have a thing for the Mass Effect series. We love the universe, (my favorite sci-fi universe, if we don’t count Blade Runner), the story, and the amazing cast of characters. From having bro-out sessions with Garrus and Wrex to charging the Collector’s homeworld, We had a blast doing it all. Parker and I were in a solid agreement that The ME series was one of the best (if not the best) in current generation.
But then the trilogy came to that awkward and terrible conclusion. I won’t waste time going over the ending, god knows that horse is already keeping children’s art crafts together, but you can find an awesome explanation of the shittastic ending here.
Like the professor (whom seems like a much better lit teacher compared to the hippie who had weird sexual undertones in his writing that I had) in that link, the ME 3 went against everything the series had built thematically. No matter what “option” you choose, you were going betray something that Shep believed in. From forcing his will on the evil space lobsters or destroying everything synthetic, it all seemed wrong. And don’t get me started on the whole space magic that forces every living thing to become a glowing-green-eyed robot zombie. Essentially I felt like this:
Everyone who was on the internet knows what happen next. We had fan shock and outrage, the conception of the Indoctrination Theory, the announcement of the extended cut, and the hope that the IT was true. For those who don’t know what that is (if you don’t I question why you’re here) then here is a much better explanation than I can give:
Again there was hope in the ME community. It gave answers to some of the annoying questions that the ending left us with. Also it cured shep of MCS (main character syndrome) by forcing him to deal with the effects of reaper indoctrination just like anyone else that spent a large amount of time around reaper tech. I fell in love with the theory and believed in it plausibility after looking at the plethora of evidence that the sleuths of the internet complied. The one issue I had with the theory is that I never finished the fight to take back earth, and I feared I would have to pay Bioware and EA extra money for the privilege.
And finally here we are in a post extended cut release era. We got our free dlc for the ending but much to most of our chagrin, the IT was disregarded for explanation of plotholes that (IMO) weren’t that important. I didn’t care why Joker left or why Hackett didn’t see one man crawling to the beam, I could fill those holes with my imagination. Essentially all Bioware did was spell out exactly what the literal ending was while keeping the absurd space-magic and logic. We all had to just live with such a great series ending on one of the sourest notes in game history.
But my love for the ME series wouldn’t let me just live with the innate endings; I spent too much time kicking ass with Garrus and having space sex to let that happen. After all Bioware reps did say that they wanted the players to make their own ending so I decided to make my own ending the IT. This still left me feeling that I never won the day against Harby only I won a fight for my will, what about the games central conflict of organics vs synthetics and man vs great odds?
But then it hit me, the IT does have ME 3 answer a critical conflict in the series: the battle for free will. All throughout the series, free will is treated as the most precious commodity in the universe. The reapers greatest weapon is taking victims wills from them and turning them into husk or the indoctrinated, the geth fight for their free will, both of the main non-reaper villains have lost their will, and maintaining Shep’s free will was a key in the Lazarus project. The gameplay itself has the player’s free will govern how Shep acts (I know it’s not true free will, we are given dialogue options, but it is as close as can be done and maintain a story imo.) Why shouldn’t the last boss fight be one for free will?
The way I see it, and here is my “headcanon,”(skip down if you don’t care about my version) the IT was what was going on in the last scene. Unlike the popular opinion with the theory however, the fight to take back earth in my version is already won by the time everyone charges the beam. I have the crucible being simply a device that deactivates the reapers, and Harbinger knows his destruction is at hand and uses indoctrination as a last ditch effort to turn the allied force from the crucible. This answers why Harbinger wouldn’t just wipe out Shepherd on the ground.
So if shep is indoctrinated he essentially becomes and villain towards the end and tries to turn his allies against themselves and from the crucible. I tend to think that if that happened then one of our teammates (hoping Garrus for dramatic effect) eventually has to put shep down and the end sequence is his vision as he dies (ala TIM’s vision of a beautiful world once he “dies”.) If the destroy option is chosen then the attempt is broken and someone eventually reaches the beam and deactivates the reapers, making the end sequence of reapers being destroyed half reality (and curing another symptom of MCS, the one that the hero has to always finish the fight). The whole whether or not he is alive is whether or not reapers forces had enough time to kill Shep because of the size of the force he was able to collect.
Now I know even if you read this far your laugh your ass off saying, “You’re stretching too far just accept the bad writing.” I know I probably should just accept the ass-backwards attempt of an ending, but I can’t. Like I said, I really loved the ME series and this is the only way that I can continue to do so. And since Bioware did say that I can make what I want from the ending I choose this. Now if there is definitive dlc or a squeal that squashing the theory for good, then I’ll give up on the series as a whole, but until then I think my shep survived and is drinking beer with Garrus and banging Miranda ( my LI because I’m not into the interspecies thing and Ashley is a bitch.)
I’m not pretentious enough to say that anyone who was upset about the ending of the series needs to use my ideas. All I am saying is that it’s okay to use a bit of headcanon and theories (in moderation) to save something you enjoyed. There are all kinds of fan theories that make the stories better ( James Bond is just a codename, Squall is dead, and Zion is a second layer of the matrix comes to mind.) So if you were happy with the literal ending to ME 3, I envy you, but for every else who wants to still enjoy the game and series: don’t be ashamed to make your own ending. But either way let’s just move on.