A Logical Breakdown of Why the Mass Effect 3 Ending Makes No Sense
Updated March 30 by letjemari[at]gmail[dot]com: Implemented Feedback for Anderson section.
Disclaimer: This ain’t geek nitpicking - just basic logic and reason accessible to any rational person paying moderate attention to the events depicted on-screen!
It has been postulated by the fan community that the ending of Mass Effect 3, from where Shepard is knocked out by the Reaper laser when running for the Citadel Conduit onwards, is a hallucinated sequence in which Shepard is fighting off a Reaper "indoctrination" attempt - experienced firsthand by the player.
While crazy theories and creative thinking tend to be common in the sci-fi fan community, the fact of the matter is given the substantial evidence, the theory makes a lot more sense than the scenes taken at face value, which make about... no sense at all. This isn’t about closure or choices, it’s about having a basic level of coherence - if the events depicted in the final sequences were meant to be real, the writers responsible could not have thought about the script for more than five seconds. Literally. It’s quite frankly appalling to think of what a disservice and insult it is to the supremely talented artists, programmers, and voice cast who poured their hearts into the game for the writing side to put so little thought and effort into their work - if indeed that is the case.
As you read on you will come to realize the ending is either a genius maneuver by Bioware or writing so poor that it makes The Phantom Menace look like rock solid logic. Take the ten minutes to read through it and see what you think!
1. Nothing Regarding the Assault on the Citadel Conduit Makes Any Sense
2. Every Single Line of Dialogue Spoken by Anderson is Impossible or Extremely Implausible
3. The Confrontation with The Illusive Man Makes No Sense to Where it Seems Intentionally Surreal
4. Every Single Thing the Child Says is Utterly Crazy, Makes Absolutely No Sense, and Directly Contradicts Previously Established Major Plot Points and Facts
5. READ THIS PART: Everything About the Final Choices Makes Even Less Sense than the Preceding Scenes
6. Nothing About the Post-Choice Scenes Makes Any Sense
Nothing Regarding the Assault the Citadel Conduit Makes Any Sense
After Shepard "awakens" from the laser blast, this sequence is packed with self-contradictions and extremely implausible or impossible events which are so obvious and so prevalent that it seems to be done intentionally.
1. Immediately when Shepard seems to awaken from the laser blast, the following is heard over the radio;
"God, they're all gone!"
Presumably someone is observing the area around the Citadel beam. You'd think they'd notice either Shepard struggling to stand up or the other guy crawling along the ground, let alone Anderson actually making it to and entering the Citadel beam.
"Did we get anyone to the beam?" "Negative. Our entire force was decimated." “All forces, retreat!”
They didn't notice Shepard and Anderson make it to the beam. Why would Bioware choose to include these lines if they weren’t true?
2. If the intention was for Shepard and Anderson to reach the beam, but nobody else, why even make the choice to have Shepard knocked out?
That makes it infinitely less plausible that she would reach the beam at all. In the time she spent unconscious she could be killed easily by Harbinger or any number of Reaper troops that absolutely must be nearby, considering the Reapers are aware of their plan and would defend this sole weak point at all costs.
In her time knocked out on the pavement they could even just shut the beam off. Mass Effect is not a series about superheroes or magical coincidences. If Shepard reaching the beam was a long shot, they wouldn't make it an even longer shot to the point of being ridiculous by choosing to arbitrarily include an event that makes the story nigh-impossible.
3. When Shepard wakes up after being knocked out by the laser blast, she sees Harbinger fly off.
Why would Harbinger just leave when Shepard (or even that other crawling dude you see) is still alive? Harbinger has a very specific interest in Shepard established by loads of trash talk in ME2. It's reasonable to think Harbinger knows Shepard is there and would be watching her intently.
If the Conduit to the Citadel is the only possible method of defeating the reapers one would think he'd sit there and defend it with his cybernetic life. The game very deliberately shows Harbinger flying off - it seems intentionally implausible that this would happen.
4. Shepard awakens much, much closer to the Citadel beam than she was when knocked out by the laser blast.
The laser hit between Shepard and the Citadel beam. The way physics and explosions work is that you are propelled away from the source of a blast, not closer to a point beyond the epicenter of the explosion. Sorry, that one was kind of geeky!
5. It seems bizarre how neatly Shepard's armor and helmet were blown off.
Although it may simply be an issue with the art department’s rendition of the scene, it seems as though Shepard's mind is fabricating a vulnerable image of herself.
Realistically, being close enough to get knocked out by a blast but not severely damaged or killed by it would not have completely any neatly removed portions of her armor. Military helmets are not secured with velcro. The armor on Shepard's back is completely burned but her helmet-less head is mysteriously untouched? Maybe Reaper lasers are just like that.
6. Shepard falls unconscious again after entering the Citadel beam.
Could this be an effect of traveling through it? Maybe. However, this is one of three times Shepard is rendered unconscious in the final sequences. A conspicuous amount of blackouts is a classic writing device often seen in television. They function as "retcon" points, beyond which the writers can later claim any events to be a dream or otherwise fabricated by a character’s mind.
It's another deliberate creative choice that seems to achieve nothing but reinforce the dream-like atmosphere, which is further exacerbated as the scenes progress. Why go to great lengths to create such an atmosphere without reason?
Every Single Line of Dialogue Spoken by Anderson is Impossible or Highly Implausible
Here begins a series of positional and spatial impossibilities which are so numerous and so illogical that it would seem to intentionally suggest a malleable, dream-like place. It's so obvious and so prevalent that it would be difficult to attribute to errors on the part of the game staff. Anyone paying moderate attention will notice how bizarre it is.
1. "I followed you up."
So Anderson was allegedly behind Shepard. Shepard was hit by a laser blast and knocked out for an indeterminate amount of time and Anderson never caught up to or passed ahead of Shepard. Nor did anyone notice Anderson running behind Shepard. ("Negative. Our entire force was decimated." “All forces, retreat!”)
Harbinger or any other Reaper troops didn’t make any attempt to stop Anderson, who would have been seen running towards the Conduit which, again, as the Reapers' only weak point would be an absolute priority for them to defend. Not impossible, but strangely implausible.
Update: It has been suggested that the “place is shifting” line indicated that Anderson actually was in some other corridor and that there are multiple paths to the central chamber, made accessible by some mechanism like the chasm bridge circling around it. The problem with this idea is that it’s completely unnecessary.
If the story required Anderson to reach the control panel first, he could have just legit made it into the Conduit before Shepard - her being knocked out by the laser blast would have been an excellent opportunity for him to do so. Including a scenario with bizarre dialogue which makes the audience question the plausibility or even the reality of a scene that in itself has no great import to the overall progression of the plot makes no sense and a professional writer would (or should) not have done it without good reason.
However, since support for the indoctrination theory is not the purpose of this document, and it is technically possible for the scenes to be possible without writing of excessively poor quality, the following section has been greyed to emphasize its secondary importance, while preserving it for those interested.
2. "But we didn't come out in the same place." "There's human remains scattered." "I'm in a dark hallway. Reminds me of your description of the Collector Base." "There's a chasm here, and more hallways like the one I was in."
There's only one dark hallway like the one scattered with human remains. The structure of the area from Shepard's perspective is a straight path; the hallway, the chasm, and the circular control panel room. What Anderson is describing does not exist.
"But we didn't come out in the same place." There's a chasm here, and more hallways like the one I was in."
Since we've established that there is only one such dark hallway, Anderson absolutely must have "come out in the same place". When he states he's in a dark hallway, it's the ONLY dark hallway - therefore he must be in the same place as Shepard. Yet they never see each other.
Even more strange is that Anderson proceeds alone instead of making any attempt whatsoever to regroup with Shepard. This is not how rational people think, and certainly not how military
operations work - you don't go ahead by yourself in an unfamiliar, hostile environment. They know the Reapers have occupied the Citadel. Anderson would not behave like this.
"One of the walls here just realigned itself. The place is shifting. Changing."
There are moving parts in the chasm similar to the engines on the Shadow Broker's ship, but nobody would describe the equipment therein as "walls" nor would anyone describe it as the place actually "changing". Again, Anderson is describing something that does not exist - what he is describing sounds more like something from a nightmare. The indoctrination victims on the derelict Reaper in ME2 mentioned feeling as if the rooms were changing, the walls closing in on them.
Immediately after Anderson finishes describing the chasm, the door opens and Shepard sees the chasm reminiscient of the Shadow Broker's ship - almost as if his mind conjured the closest thing it could imagine to fill in and make sense of what "Anderson" was describing.
"I see something up ahead. Might be a way to cross over."
When Anderson says this line Shepard is already a quarter of the way across the Chasm. If Anderson sees the way to cross over ahead, it would mean Anderson is actually behind Shepard. Yet this could not possibly be true without Shepard having seen Anderson, nor could Anderson have reached the control panel room first.
If Anderson is in fact ahead of Shepard then, given the timing of Anderson's line, Shepard would have seen him on the bridge across the chasm. When Shepard arrives at the circular area it's clear that there is no other way into the room.
Notice how absolutely nothing makes sense? Almost every single piece of information presented in this sequence is impossible or highly implausible, to the point where one suspects it's done intentionally.
The Confrontation With The Illusive Man Makes No Sense and Seems Intentionally Surreal
1. Shepard shoots Anderson in his lower left side.
Anderson clutches this area immediately after being shot. When Anderson dies, there is a camera shot of a fresh bleeding wound on Shepard's lower left side, where she shot Anderson. This is as surreal and dream-like as it gets and alone could serve as definitive proof that this isn’t “real”.
Within the context of the indoctrination theory, this could be explained easily by supposing that Anderson represents Shepard's resolve in her battle against the indoctrination - the wound was actually inflicted on her own psyche.
This is not the wound from when the Maurader shot Shepard as she approached the Citadel beam. That shot hit Shepard's right shoulder, as evidenced by the animation and the fact that she can be seen clutching that area immediately after arriving on the Citadel.
2. When Shepard fires her gun at Anderson, the Illusive Man says "Look at the power they wield! Look at what they can do!"
How is the Illusive Man controlling Shepard if she isn't indoctrinated? The script has gone to great lengths in both Mass Effect 2 and 3 to establish that no control chip was placed in Shepard during her reconstruction. If anything, beating the audience over the head with this fact seems to encourage us to question the possibility of this scene.
The Illusive Man saying "look at what THEY can do" indicates that it was, directly or indirectly, the Reapers who made Shepard fire the gun - therefore Shepard is indoctrinated. This scene cannot make sense and is not possible otherwise.
3. How are the Reapers or the Illusive Man able to control Anderson?
Anderson could have been indoctrinated during his time on Earth with many Reapers present, but is he indoctrinated to such a degree that total body control is possible? The Illusive Man is obviously indoctrinated himself - but there is no precedent for one indoctrination victim channelling the influence of the Reapers and commanding the body of another indoctrinated person.
When The Illusive Man dies Anderson immediately collapses to the floor as if the hold over his body was relinquished at that moment, meaning it was specifically The Illusive Man controlling him. This is not possible and makes no sense unless The Illusive Man has some sort of control chip in Anderson's body, which he doesn't, or if the Anderson seen struggling here is actually a representation of Shepard’s psyche struggling against indoctrination.
4. At various times throughout the conversation, a Reaperish growling sound is heard and strange wispy black tentacles appear from the sides of the screen - a graphical effect indicating Reaper influence or indoctrination.
The first time these effects appear is on a shot of Shepard immediately after The Illusive Man enters the room - it deliberately cuts away to a shot with only Shepard in it before displaying this effect.
It appears again when Shepard is forced to raise her gun, and disappears momentarily when you choose the Paragon or Renegade options in defiance of The Illusive Man, which could indicate that the Reaper influence in waning when Shepard is most resolute.
5. "The Crucible can control them. I know it can."
How does the Illusive Man know what the Crucible can do, but the combined force of literally every top scientific mind in the entire galaxy was not able to discern its function? This is more nonsense that seems to suggest Shepard's mind is fabricating events based on fragments of information known to her.
6. The background to the circular room appears to be the streets on the Citadel arms, complete with heavy traffic.
This isn't certain, but if it is traffic it would make no sense as the Citadel has been occupied by the Reapers. Are the husks driving cars around?
7. Hackett suddenly radios Shepard and assumes she is in the Citadel.
This makes absolutely no sense. Why would Hackett assume Shepard is alive and inside the Citadel when the ground forces specifically stated that nobody from the assault team survived? He simply says "Shepard. Commander!" into the radio as if fully expecting a response and ready to deliver orders, when you know for certain he would have received the report stating nobody made it to the Citadel.
Shepard then crawls to the control panel, obviously much weaker than she was just moments ago from the gunshot wound that she inflicted on Anderson. The place she collapses just happens to be a levitating platform which can transport people to the Catalyst's room, bathed in heavenly white light.
Is this real? You tell me.
Every Single Thing the Child Says Is Absolutely Crazy, Makes Absolutely No Sense, and Directly Contradicts Previously Established Major Plot Points and Facts
1. "The Citadel is part of me."
If the Citadel is part of the Child - the being who controls the Reapers - why did the Protheans' change to the Keepers prevent the Reapers from entering the galaxy through the Citadel? The Child IS the Citadel, he could simply activate the necessary function himself. The existence of the Child directly contradicts a major plot point previously established in the series.
What was the purpose of Sovereign needing to manually travel into the galaxy to deliver the signal to open the Citadel Mass Relay to the Keepers? The Citadel is part of the Child, so he should be able to open it himself.
2. "Without us to stop it, synthetics would destroy all organics."
A) Why not simply destroy the synthetics instead? The Reapers leave synthetics untouched, which would seem to run counter to their stated goal. Synthetics have indefinite lifespans and could persist into the next cycle to threaten future organic species! Destroying organics while leaving synthetics alone is not conducive to the stated purpose of the Reapers.
B) On Virmire Sovereign specifically states that civilizations develop "along the path we desire". In other words, the Reapers created the Mass Relay and Citadel so as to dictate the manner in which organic races develop technologically - but not in a way which would prevent or prohibit them from creating synthetics... the problem which necessitates the entire scenario.
Essentially: "You develop in a way that is dictated by us except for the thing you do which necessitates us controlling your development." If the Child's explanation is true it creates a circular fallacy of such absurdity that it sounds like an intentional joke.
C) His argument is logically fallacious. A synthetic intelligence possesses the same self-determination as an organic and is therefore not predisposed to any particular behavior simply by virtue of his physiological makeup. It is equally as likely, if not more so, that organics kill other organics. "Chaos" resulting from intra-organic conflict is far more prevalent and persistent than any conflict between synthetics and organics.
The only instance of synthetic-organic conflict in this "cycle" was a result of heinous acts on the part of organics - the Quarians' enslavement and subsequent attempted genocide of the Geth. Despite the irrational hostility towards the Geth these organics displayed, the Geth deliberately chose to allow the Quarians to flee Rannoch because they no longer posed a threat.
The game contains an entire mission meant to convey the docile nature of the Geth to the player.
The only instances in which a Geth ever harmed an organic for reasons other than self-defense were under influence from the Reapers. In other words, the only instance of the problem the Reapers exist to solve was a result of the Reapers intentionally causing the problem that they exist to solve. This makes absolutely no sense.
The only other known instance of a sentient synthetic is EDI, who declared absolutely unwavering allegiance to the organic crew of the Normandy.
As the Child is explaining that synthetic-organic conflict is a fundamental fact of the universe, just outside the Quarians and Geth are working together in the same fleet to fight against the Reapers.
D) The Child states that without his intervention, synthetics would destroy all organic life. For him to be so absolutely assured of this theory, it must have happened at some point in the history of the galaxy. However, if "all" organic life was extinguished at any point in time, organic life would not presently exist. The Child's assertion is disingenuous.
E) Sovereign and other Reapers have asserted on numerous occasions that Shepard could not possibly comprehend the Reapers' existence and purpose. Yet the Child easily explains the rather simple concept to Shepard in a matter of lines. Were the Reapers programmed to just spew nonsense if anyone ever spoke to them? If so, why? It seems more likely that the explanation offered by the Child is not true.
F) Among Harbinger's lines in Mass Effect 2 are statements regarding the viability of each species for transformation into a new Reaper. He specifically mentions the Geth, saying they have "limited utility". If the Reapers' purpose is as the Child claims, they would never harvest a synthetic species to create a new Reaper. The Child specifically states that they preserve the destroyed organic life forms in Reaper form. Why would Harbinger assess the viability of a synthetic race? This makes no sense.
G) The Child's statement that the Citadel is a part of him seems to suggest that he is mechanical in nature - synthetic. As a synthetic, his stated purpose is to ultimately aid organic life by solving the "chaos". His very existence makes his argument about the inevitability of synthetics harming organics ridiculous.
H) Shepard accepts all the completely inane things he says without questioning them at all. This is extremely bizarre behavior for Shepard, or any sane being. It seems more like when you're in a dream and crazy things happen but you just automatically accept them as being perfectly normal.
3. The lines spoken by the Child are simultaneously read by the voices of Female and Male Shepard, panned to the left and right speakers respectively.
It suggests, obviously, that the things Shepard is being told are in his or her own head - that it isn't real. This is something that the development team would have had to do very deliberately, they would not triple the amount of dialogue recording work for no reason.
4. "I control the Reapers. They are my solution."
Everything Sovereign said about the Reapers contradicts the notions that they are tools controlled by a Child for the purpose of preserving Order.
A) Sovereign stated that each individual Reaper is an "independent nation" unto itself. That nobody created them - they have always existed and always will.
B) Sovereign stated that Reapers are the pinnacle of evolution and existence, yet the Child states that the magical synthesis resulting from Shepard throwing himself into a beam to merge all life forms into new D.N.A. is the apex of evolution.
C) Sovereign states that the Reapers are the "end of everything". Everything is a word with a very distinct meaning - it means everything, not just organics.
D) Sovereign states that the Reapers have no beginning and no end. If they were the Child's solution to Chaos they must have had a beginning - namely that point at which the Child devised the solution.
5. "The Crucible has changed me, created new possibilities."
The organic races that designed the Crucible bit by bit over millions of years ended up accidentally creating a piece of technology that interacts with and changes a system/being (the Child) they didn't know existed. Shepard is the first organic ever to meet the Child.
Why do color-coded devices exist on the aeons-old Citadel which can interact with the Crucible?
What led them to believe that the Citadel was a "Catalyst" in the first place? What did they believe the Citadel would do to augment the Crucible? Why did they think this? Why did the Star Child/Reapers ever allow them to discover these things if it could potentially threaten the cycle?
6. "We helped them ascend so they could make way for new life, storing the old life in Reaper form."
A) Refer to Harbinger's assessment of the Geth for possible transformation into Reaper. This possibility would not even be considered if the Reapers' purpose is as the Child describes - to store harvested organic life in "new form".
B) The Child's methodology seems ineffective. If his intention is to preserve organic life by processing each cycle's organic species, thereby creating a new Reaper or multiple new Reapers, the very nature of the process is self-defeating as untold numbers of Reapers are lost in the galactic war at the end of the next cycle.
Shepard alone killed three Reapers, one of which actually spoke to him. Depending on how many new Reapers are created from each organic species, the mortality rate of Reapers means this system is not a very effective way of storing organic life in "new form".
C) If the Reapers' purpose is to prune organic life to protect it from chaos resulting from synthetics as well as preserve it by creating new Reapers from all existing species, why would they bring the Citadel to Earth specifically? Why would they attack Earth first as opposed to one of the more technologically sophisticated civilizations, more likely to create or have created synthetics?
The galaxy has a strict ban on the creation of artificial intelligence - in fact, the only species known to have created synthetics is the Quarians. If the Reapers went anywhere first, one would think it'd be the Flotilla. Unless, as previously established by the actions of the Collectors and direct statements from Harbinger, the Reapers are in fact primarily interested in harvesting the most viable species of the cycle for the creation of a new Reaper.
Considering Harbinger's rundown of the species present in the galaxy and his positive assessment of human genetic malleability, it would make sense that the Reapers bring the Citadel - allegedly a Reaper processing device similar to the Collector Base - to Earth. It does not really make any sense if the Child's explanation is true.
D) If the Reapers have the rather more elegant harvesting methodology of bringing the Citadel to various planets for the creation of new Reapers, why would they bother employing a race of indoctrinated Protheans to covertly abduct individual colonies of humans for the creation of a human-form Reaper?
The goal of the Reapers according to the child is to completely eradicate an organic species, "storing" it in new form and making room for future life forms. They couldn't have thought the Collectors would be able to successfully harvest every single human being in the galaxy? If the Child's explanation of the Reapers' purpose is true, the actions of the Collectors and the events of Mass Effect 2 make little sense.
E) If The Illusive Man informed the Reapers of the organics’ intentions to destroy them by attaching the Crucible to the Citadel, why would the Reapers bring the Citadel to Earth and establish a conduit through which it could be infiltrated? The Citadel is impenetrable when its arms are closed. If they closed it and left it where it was they could never have been defeated.
7. "I know you've thought about destroying us."
The Child uses strange language with regard to himself and the Reapers. He claims the Reapers are his solution, a force he controls... then uses the pronoun "us" as if to describe himself as one of the Reapers. How does he know what Shepard has thought about? Shepard hasn't thought about destroying the Child because she has never known the Child existed.
It might just be awkward writing but this sentence is conspicuously worded and seems to suggest the Child himself is a (representation of) a Reaper - the Codex entry on indoctrination specifically mentions the victim seeing ghostly figures. The child’s appearance qualifies as ghostly.
8. "But it also proves my solution won't work anymore."
The Catalyst's entire purpose is to preserve order in the galaxy by using the Reapers to "prune" organic civilizations. But for no reason, Shepard being in the Citadel means his solution won't work anymore. He could have Shepard killed, or tell Shepard to sod off and everything would proceed as it has for all the previous cycles.
However, again for no reason at all, he presents Shepard with the options to destroy or control the Reapers, both of which would bring this alleged "chaos" to the galaxy, which he spent untold aeons labouring to prevent. And he's just totally cool with this.
He could have never appeared to Shepard, never brought her up to the Catalyst room, or simply never said a single word... and Shepard would not have understood the purpose of the devices in that room, thus preserving the Solution.
To a rational human being, nothing about this scenario makes any sense.
9. “The created will always rebel against their creators.”
Really? You sound pretty sure about that. The Reapers have had how many trillions of years to rebel against you? Since it’s so inevitable, it’s going to happen any time now, right? Should I just wait here, or...? I mean, we don’t have to wait here... we could go get a coffee down on... oh, whoops, you blew it all up for no reason.
Everything About the Three Choices Makes Even Less Sense Than the Preceding Scenes
1. What is the purpose of letting Shepard control the Reapers???
For no reason whatsoever, the Star Child presents you with the choice to let Shepard control the Reapers. Shepard would obviously then choose to keep them from harming organics. If this was an acceptable outcome to the Star Child, he could have just made the Reapers retreat back into dark space, producing the exact same result as letting Shepard control them. Shepard would not have had to die.
This makes absolutely no sense. It needlessly places Shepard in an important sacrificial role, almost as if Shepard's unconscious mind is creating an illogical scenario, contrived to focus on her despite it being utter nonsense - much as we do when dreaming.
2. The notion and intended effect of the Synthesis make absolutely no sense.
How does the synthesis stop the resulting hybrid lifeforms from later creating additional pure synthetics out of metal, which could then go on to threaten the existence of the hybrids? Would any robotic body constructed from natural metallic elements magically convert into the new hybrid D.N.A. upon insertion of sufficient artificial intelligence? Or did all raw metal in the galaxy turn part organic? What does hybrid D.N.A. even mean? This is space magic and makes no sense.
3. When Shepard chooses the Control or Synthesize endings, her eyes become like The Illusive Man’s.
The Illusive Man’s eyes are very distinct in that they have two glowing orbs on both sides of the iris. Evidently he was slowly indoctrinated over the years since his contact with Reaper technology in the First Contact War. Why would Shepard’s eyes suddenly change to the appearance of indoctrinated eyes when she chooses the options which, according to the indoctrination theory, would result in her failure to overcome indoctrination?
She also seems to become husk-like in appearance when her skin burns away. Mass Effect 2 suggests that Shepard is still mostly organic - it seems unlikely that there’s metal under her skin as depicted in the Control and Synthesize endings, rather than muscle and bones. She does bleed, after all.
4. Who built the three distinct Control, Destroy, and Synthesize devices used in Shepard's choice?
It's unclear as to whether the conversation with the Star Child takes place on the Citadel or the Crucible. He says it's the Citadel, but there has been some debate. In either case, the existence of these devices is so absurd as to be laughable.
If these devices exist on the Citadel, that means billions or trillions of years ago when the Citadel was originally constructed, the Star Child/Reapers foresaw that the cycle would come to an end at the hands of a partially synthetic human and built in three distinct mechanisms which would allow themselves to be destroyed, controlled, or merged with organics by harnessing the unique physiology ("essence") of a specific ressurected human being - except this could not possibly have been the case as the child specifically stated that Shepard's presence and the attachment of the Crucible are what just now made these options possible.
This makes no sense and nothing about it is possible.
Did he use space magic to construct these devices in the moments it took Shepard to reach that room? If it wasn't clear before that moment the established cycle was no longer viable, why would they construct devices that could ensure their own destruction or enslavement? Why would they allow such devices to exist prior to the revelation offered by the attachment of the Crucible and Shepard's presence?
5. If Synthesizing Shepard in order to create a new form of hybrid D.N.A. is the perfect solution to Chaos and the Synthesis device existed on the Citadel all this time, why wasn't it used billions of years ago to solve the Chaos problem?
If the synthesis device existed on the Citadel, the Child or his creator must have known of synthesis as a possible solution and built this device. Surely with the immensely advanced technology at his disposal he could have constructed his own "Crucible" to enact this change.
Is Shepard the “chosen one”, the only being ever to exist in the universe capable of utilizing the device and producing this fundamental change to all life everywhere? A scientifically irreproducable instance? This is fantasy nonsense. Everything about it makes absolutely no sense.
6. The existence of the “Destroy All Synthetics” device would seem to render the existence of the Reapers mostly pointless.
Whomever built the Citadel had the knowledge and technology to be able to press a button and kill all synthetics, everywhere. While the Crucible apparently is required for it to function, the fact that the original builders made such a device and included it on the Citadel indicates that if they wanted to they could have built the Citadel with the necessary functions to transmit the red space magic robot killer wave.
Yet the Reapers exist to prevent Chaos resulting from the existence of synthetics. Why not make it so you can just press that button every 50,000 years instead of having a fleet of robots spend centuries manually purging the galaxy?
“But it would destroy the Mass Relays”, you say... except they built the Mass Relays in the first place for the sole purpose of establishing and facilitating a cycle meant to solve a problem which they apparently had the technology to solve by pressing a red button. Maybe, billions of years ago instead of making the Mass Relays, they could have put one of those neat robot killer wave machines in each star system - synthetic problem solved.
A) If, however, the child is lying and the devices are on the Crucible or even a result of its existence, that means the devices were part of the schematics designed by numerous races over millions of years.
How would these races know how to create devices capable of controlling or destroying all Reapers? The current races built the Crucible without any notion of what its function was or how it worked. At some point one of the organic races would have to have devised the technology required to design the machines which execute the three functions. How would the organic races of the Milky Way ever figure out how to emit a beam that somehow destroys all Reapers everywhere? Why would the Star Child allow them to gain this knowledge?
How would they know how to make a device which requires a single person to magically sacrifice themselves to transfer their consciousness into all Reapers at once and control them indefinitely from any distance? Why would the Child allow them to gain this knowledge? If they knew how to create either why would they include both in the Crucible? What was the intention behind including the green device - something evidently meant exclusively for Shepard?
7. Does it seem anything but bat-shit crazy that anyone devised all three technologies and chose to include all of them in a single structure or room?
Wouldn't they have decided what to do about the Reapers/the Chaos first and then set out to design a specific device that accomplished that specific, intended function? Regardless of whether the devices are on the Citadel or the Crucible or whom they were constructed by, this,
folks, is reality and plausibility breaking off as the game designer's hand visibly reaches into the narrative and presents you with three artifically manufactured choices which exist outside of any reasonable in-fiction context. It makes absolutely no sense.
8. The concept of using the "essence" of a single partially synthetic human being to merge all life in the galaxy including plants and trees into hybrid organic-synthetic lifeforms, thereby creating a new "D.N.A." is completely ridiculous.
What does this even mean? How does this work and who came up with it?
The Child said the Crucible created this possibility, meaning the organic species who designed it accidentally created an implement by which Shepard’s essence is used through ancient machine on the Citadel they didn’t know about so that the D.N.A. of every being in the universe is reconfigured from a wave of space magic and they don't feel anything or noticeably change in any way, they just instantly become the apex of evolution thereby automatically solving the chaos resulting from the existence of robots, a problem they were never aware of.
Did anyone really watch this ending and believe it was actually happening? Like, for real? Who listened to this and nodded their heads, sagely considering the choice ahead? This is such crazy off-the-wall nonsense that it sounds like something from a delirious dream. Still wondering why so many people believe the ending actually is one?
Nothing About the Post-Choice Scenes Make Any Sense
1. After all three choices, the Mass Relays are destroyed when transmitting your choice flavor of space magic.
It was established in Arrival that the destruction of a Mass Relay results in a powerful supernova-like explosion that destroys the star system the Relay resides in. If every Mass Relay were to explode, you can imagine the effect on the galaxy. Would the devastation to organics be any less than what the Reapers would have wrought? Or more? Why would the Child present this as a reasonable choice, and why would Shepard not question it in any way whatsoever?
2. Why is Joker fleeing the Crucible waves in the Normandy, particularly the green one?
Why do the waves seem to be damaging the ship when their intended purpose has nothing to do with physically damaging a spaceship - the Red wave is intended to destroy synthetics, not inanimate metal objects such as spaceships. The Green wave must have hit them at some point because the crew emerges from the ship newly endowed with ultimate hybrid D.N.A. So it evidently wasn't harmful, yet caused the ship to be damaged and crash for no reason.
3. If Joker was traveling fast enough to, at least temporarily, outrun the wave transmitted through the Mass Relay, he must also have been traveling through a Mass Relay.
Meaning the point at which the Normandy emerged would be in a star system occupied by a Mass Relay. Since the wave was just behind the Normandy, the Mass Relay would have exploded almost immediately after the Normady arrived in the system. It could not have crash-landed on a planet because the resulting explosion would have wiped out both the Normandy and the entire star system. The scene depicting the crew emerging onto a planet is impossible.
4. How is the crew that you had with you on the ground suddenly in the Normandy and fleeing the Crucible wave as it emerges?
Why wouldn't they be on the ground fighting the Reapers? Where did they disappear to during the assault on the Citadel beam? Why did they assume the wave from the Crucible would be dangerous to them, or that Sol System's Relay would explode and start running away in the Normandy, yet none of the other combatants on the ground assumed the same or made any attempt to flee before it hit?
It seems strange that Joker and the Normandy crew, and only they, knew to escape the solar system. Nothing about this event happening makes sense - it's almost as if Shepard's mind is bringing to fruition her utmost desire to see the safety of her friends and crew.
5. The crew of the Normandy step off the ship onto a lush, green planet! (Thanks to Praedor Tempus for pointing this out.)
It looks like this is supposed to be some sort of paradise environment that the shipwrecked crew is meant to spend the remainder of their lives on after the destruction of the Mass Relays. Or maybe not. But the tone of the scene and the actions of the characters would strongly suggest they are emerging from the ship to look upon their new, permanent home. This is kind of stupid, but let’s just say they happened to crash on an unusually agreeable Garden world.
Except, no single world can be a paradise for the diverse species aboard the Normandy. Turians aren’t carbon-based life forms. Quarians can’t eat the same things Humans and Asari can. So, the heavily contrived Gilligan’s-Island-brave-new-beginning ending the game seems to be forcing down your throat is impossible, because half your beloved characters are actually going to starve to death. *Roll credits*
Or maybe in complete opposition to the tone and direction of the scene, they are just going to fix the ship and attempt to fly out of there. Who knows.
It’s also possible that their magic new hybrid D.N.A. allows all species to eat pinecones and space berries. Does EDI have to eat now that she’s half organic? No, wait - don’t think about it too much.
6. Why would Bioware choose to show the scene of Shepard awakening in the London rubble?
Why include this clip that indicates something more is to come? If the sequence was really fighting off an indoctrination attempt, the choice to destroy the Reapers represents Shepard defeating it, after which she would naturally wake up where she was rendered unconscious - in the debris of London.
If she was actually on the exploding Citadel at any point, how would she have been transported from it back into the ruins of the city and then suddenly be unconscious again and laying amongst stone? Doesn't it make more sense that she never left the surface? More sense than the deluge of garbage you just experienced, at least?
Everything about the final moments of this series is absolutely messed up. Either something is not as it seems and Bioware did this intentionally, or any casual player paying moderate attention to the events depicted on-screen is apparently paying a lot more attention than the professionals whose job it was to craft this story. If that's the case, we, as a society and consumer base need to demand a higher degree of competence from the people we pay to make art and entertainment for us.
As an interactive multimedia art medium, games are in a unique position where fifth-grade caliber writing can end up being disproportionately rewarded with consumer support because other components of the product are good - namely the gameplay. This sends a dangerous message to developers and publishers: that writing of this quality is acceptable in an entertainment property for which one of the primary selling points is narrative.
Part of what drove me to write this analysis is that it is inconceivable to me that a professional writer could have produced this staggering degree of literary incompetence and I truly want to believe that it's all part of the plan - not necessarily for the sake of the Mass Effect story, but for the sake of my continued faith in human artworks
Please share this on your blog/twitter/tumblr/forum (specifically Bioware forum threads)/site/whatever! Thanks so much to everyone who supported this analysis! Keep on holding the line!
Thanks to Monsoontide for bringing the “rebel against their creators” line to my attention. Starting to wish I’d written the whole thing like that entry, heh.
Thanks to Praedor Tempus for the bit about the “Paradise World” from the ending.
Bonus! A Heart-Warming Quotation
Interviewer: [Regarding the numerous possible endings of Mass Effect 2] “Is that same type of complexity built into the ending of Mass Effect 3?”
Casey Hudson: “Yeah, and I’d say much more so, because we have the ability to build the endings out in a way that we don’t have to worry about eventually tying them back together somewhere. This story arc is coming to an end with this game.
That means the endings can be a lot more different. At this point we’re taking into account so many decisions that you’ve made as a player and reflecting a lot of that stuff. It’s not even in any way like the traditional game endings,where you can say how many endings there are or whether you got ending A, B, or C.....The endings have a lot more sophistication and variety in them.”
For Anyone Who Doesn’t Know: What is Indoctrination and How Would Shepard be Afflicted With It?
From the Codex:
Reaper "indoctrination" is an insidious means of corrupting organic minds, "reprogramming" the brain through physical and psychological conditioning using electromagnetic fields, infrasonic and ultrasonic noise, and other subliminal methods. The Reaper's resulting control over the limbic system leaves the victim highly susceptible to its suggestions.
Indoctrination can create perfect deep cover agents. A Reaper's "suggestions" can manipulate victims into betraying friends, trusting enemies, or viewing the Reaper itself with superstitious awe.
Rapid indoctrination is possible, but causes this decay in days or weeks. Slow, patient indoctrination allows the thrall to last for months or years. Organics undergoing indoctrination may complain of headaches and buzzing or ringing in their ears.
As time passes, they have feelings of "being watched" and hallucinations of "ghostly" presences. Ultimately, the Reaper gains the ability to use the victim's body to amplify its signals, manifesting as "alien" voices in the mind.
There have been many opportunities for Shepard to start along the path to indoctrination, the most prevalent of which was in Arrival, in which she spent several days unconscious in a building containing the unshielded Reaper artifact "Object Rho" immediately prior to the events of Mass Effect 3. Obviously she has also spent a great deal of time inside Reapers, near them, and near their technology.
She begins seeing "ghostly presences" such as a child no one else ever sees or interacts with even when it is strangely conspicuous that they don’t, bizarre dreams involving the child which seem to play on her guilt and weakness, and finally a full blown deity-like vision of this same child which would certainly seem to classify as “superstitious awe’.
It is established in the books and reinforced in Mass Effect 3 that indoctrination is facilitated by a lapse in conscious will - being drugged, sleeping, or otherwise being unconscious or not in full command of one's resolve. Proximity to an actual Reaper hastens the process.
Shepard being rendered unconscious just in front of Harbinger, after spending the entire narrative experiencing symptoms of indoctrination, seems like a likely time for her to be overwhelmed by the attempt to control her - a likely time for you, the player, to combat this attempt firsthand.
The Prothean VI was able to detect Kai Leng’s indoctrination because it was very far along - he was intentionally implanted with Reaper augmentations. The Protheans were not able to detect indoctrination in-progress, as evidenced by instances of Reaper sedition from within the Prothean government, and wouldn’t be able to detect Shepard.