social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/9727423/1 < --- Original thread for those who want to rummage through almost 300 pages of going over the same information every 50 pages. There are some more detailed explanations of some of the arguments if people really want to read them spread around. The OP has some good detailed info that I don't also. Still a good place for discussion/debate.
Summary of the Theory:
1. General Jist of The Theory
2. Covering evidence of both process of indoctrination over the game/series (a), as well as Crucible scene (, explanation of Shepard Lives scene ©.
3. Additional but possibly relevant things (mostly info that is gathered outside the game)
1. There is only one "correct" choice on the Crucible to proceed to the final ending, which is to destroy the Reapers.
- This is assuming the other two endings are simply succesful attempts at completing the indoctrination of Shepard by the Reapers
- This is essentially a last ditch effort by the Reapers to stop Shepard. Shepard is in such a fragile mental state, and is battle worn, that it nearly works. By choosing the "correct" choice you are breaking free of the indoctrination once and for all, and continue to the real ending before the hallucination/dream/nightmare begins, and then go on to defeat the Reapers for realz. Could include an epic boss fight if you so desire.
- This would also assume everything (And I mean EVERYTHING) that happens after the point you are knocked out by the Reaper Capitalship laser essentially never happened. This was all one big struggle within your mind to defeat indoctrination. The explanation for the supposed "happy" parts of the endings would then be that Shepard led itself to believe that happened, or perhaps the Reapers put it in there to soothe it's conscience, if you pick the "wrong" choices.
- This theory asserts that at some point, Shepard starts the process of being indoctrinated. This can be explained by perhaps the Reaper IFF not being as safe as we once thought, or simply because Shepard has hung around more Reaper artifacts then should really be possible without being indoctrinated, or at least showing signs of it. The Prothean VI can theoretically be a problem with this though, if you assume he detects ANY amount of idoctrination in somebody, even if it's not complete, then Shepard would have been detected before Leng. The workaround is assuming Shepard is simply not far along enough in the process for the VI to notice, where as Leng is certainly infused with Reaper tech and therefore easily to identify as indoctrinated.
- The Star Child/Vent Kid/Etc. is a form the Reapers/possibly Harbinger takes to try and fool Shepard in this last ditch effort. Remember, this whole sequence is in his mind, man.
2. There is a signifigant amount of evidence supplied by supporters of this theory, I'll try and break it down as neatly as possible.
2a. Evidence of Reaper meddling in Shepard's mind:
----- The child throughout the game is obviously the visual appearance of the Star Child/Vent Kid/etc. This theory basically poses that was the Reapers attempting to break Shepards resolve, and by posing him as the Star Child, made him less questioning of the star child himself, and would explain why he seemed to only speak negatively of the "Destroy" option (trying to actively convince you it is the worst of the 3). The other two options he does seem to be much more in favor of and expresses no concern for possible consequences of them.
- The Reapers are using the slower method of indoctrination (As detailed in the codex) to subvert Shepard in a more subliminal and subtle, slower way.
- Shepard has many strange dream sequences with the recurring theme of this child. They are bleak and dismal scenes with strange black tendril-like things sprouting from the ground. One of the ideas is that the black tendrils (which do, in fact, grow more numerous through each dream sequence) are the visual "progress" of the indoctrination in these dreams.
- Shepard becomes increasingly psychologically unstable throughout the latter half of the game. It starts to question it's own identity by the time it reaches the Cerberus base, for example. (To be fair, this could simply be BioWare trying to imbue Shepard with substantial humanity, which it also worked well for)
- There are a few exchanges in dialogue that appear to be almost deja vu of dialogue between Shepard and Saren, and possibly other notable things. I'll try and add these examples specifically later (can't think of them now). The assertion here is Shepard is fighting a sort of subconcsious battle throughout the game to fend off Reaper subversion of it's mind, and it appears throughout some of the dialogue as subtle hints. (Again, to be fair, this could simply just be conincidence).
- Another one of the supposed subliminal messages are the name of the Catalyst and Crucible themselves, more specifically the definitions.
- Some other stuff. To be continued. (there's a lot more proposed evidence here, but it's a long ass thread right now)
---- The main problem with this set of evidence is pretty clear. While yes, it can easily be used to justify this theory, you can just as easily, and validly so, claim it is simply a collection of interesting coincidences, plot devices, or nods by the writing team to other themes in the game. None of this evidence is anywhere near conclusive. So let's move on.
2b. Evidence of the Indoctrination/hallucination inside the Citadel/Crucible:
----Much of this theory came from the general realization that this sequence felt incredibly disconnected, surreal, or 'hallucinated'. The idea, once again, is that after the Reaper laser hits you, you are knocked into a hallucination or visual representation of fighting indoctrination. This is the culmination of Shepard finally cracking to Reaper indoctrination, and the psychological effects of the battle.
- All of the areas on the Citadel all the way through the Crucible activation have never been explored, which adds to the sense of surrealism. Assuming this is NOT a hallucination would also assume that the already inhabiting Citadel..ians, never realized there were giant structures like the ones in the choice sequence, among other things. (Citadelians would have had to be incredibly stupid.)
-- Some have posed that due to the inexplicable calm of the Citadel that was impossible to break, the Citadel itself was a low level indoctrination device to force the population to be docile over extended stays, for easy domination. Many characters notice how awkwardly peaceful the Citadel is.
- Either terribly overlooked design flaws, or what can only be explained as Shepard's indoctrinated/hallucinating imagination are present all throughout this scene. Bad acid trip.
- Shepard's infinite ammo gun
- The "1M1" logo plastered around various places throughout the scene, which only appears in this scene and seems odd to have such a symbol in a place created millions of years ago.
- The piled up bodies with generic features, possibly more subversion type things
- Anderson somehow being ahead of Shepard even though there was only one way in
- The awkward movement (most likely just BioWares inability to create good animations)
- After going up the Crucible elevator, Shepard appears to be less injured. The blood saturating him at the end of the previous scene is almost completely gone, and he is not passed out and dead as he was before.
- Shepard is somehow able to defy gravity and breath in space. This would obviously not be possible in any even semi-realistic circumstances, thus adding to the surreal/dream idea.
- Lot of small, strange out of place elements that enhance this.
- The fight between Shepard, TIM, and Anderson is sort of a cliche Angel vs. Demon over the shoulder. Anderson obviously represents angel/paragon, TIM represents demon/renegade/evil. (should be noted even the renegade options are in favor of killing both TIM and the Reapers). This argument is fairly self explanatory, Anderson is perceived this way based on the way Shep sees him "in real life", and TIM is perceived this way because he is obviously the same way "in real life" (in real life refers to the canon outside the hallucination here)
- This puts a decent rationale behind needing to save Anderson with 4000 pts to let Shepard live. You succesfully "defeat" the demon on your shoulder, strengthening your resolve at the end of the sequence.
- Conversely, in the 5000 pt version, you have gained enough support from the fleets/other races that it is unnecesary to save Anderson to reach this same point.
- The tendrils of TIM are believed to be visual reps of indoctrination within the hallucination by some. They are very prominent after he takes contro lof you.
- Shepard appears to blindly accept all of Catalyst's logic and suggestions, not considering that he may be manipulating despite the fact he is obviously closely linked to the Reapers, Sheps sworn enemy the entire series. This seems very unShep-like, thus, hallucination/surreal, not to mention from an outside perspective Catalyst's logic is clearly bat**** crazy.
- For some reason, the Destroy choice is portrayed as red and has Anderson doing it. Why would a choice that seems to be what we wanted from the start, being carried out by a Paragon character, appear so evil? Why would a choice that was advocated by a lunatic with a god complex, be portrayed as good? Why would the Reapers speak most favorably of assimilating Organics with Synthetics as a good option for Shep and Organics, when that is exactly what the Reapers themselves do, and it was clearly evil? (The argument is this is manipulation by the Catalyst/Reapers/Harbingers within this imagined scene)
- Only way to escape this trap is to choose the destroy ending. It's also notable that this is the only choice where Catalyst dissapears, and Shepard appears to retain it's humanity, as well as gain some momentum and even anger (ideally at the Reapers in this theory) while it starts to shoot faster and more accurately.. Also the only ending where Shepard lives.
(((((For all purposes of explaining this theory, yes, even the Joker ship escape scene is a hallucination. You can explain it simply by saying Shep perhaps saw it this way within the hallucination, whether that was a Reaper image or his own made up one to try and soothe his mind about the fact that he basically just submitted to the Reapers will, although technically you would never know unless the right choice was made here. Basically, forcing a happy ending on himself whether it happened or not.))))
---- This evidence can easily be thrown away by asserting this was all just an example of bad writing, and that is a valid argument. It's still usable and justifies the theory if you really want it to, however. Also, some people believe it's incredibly hard to swallow that the rest of the game is a masterfully written Narrative, and the ending is just absolute crap. Again, like most evidence, this is not all that conclusive, simply plausible.
2c. Shep Lives (Single Most Important evidence)
-----This is one of the most important aspects to this theory, obviously. In the "good" version of the destroy ending, Shepard appears to live, taking in a last inhale before it cuts to credits. It appears to be wearing full armor with an N7 dogtag. It's undeniably Shepard, but the implications of this need to be explained.
- The Catalyst tells you, after making it clear this is, in his opinion, the worst choice, that you will also die, but clearly, you don't. Here we have definitive proof the Catalyst either lied or was wrong.
- It's also arguable this is Shepard finally breaking out of this trance, simply ending up back where it was beforehand, in a pile of rubble in London. This would be a great personal victory for Shepard; breaking free of indoctrination, defying death, showing willpower that no other charachter in ME "history" was able to, and being given a second chance at defeating the Reapers face to face (so to speak) in a true Shepard vs. Reapers confrontation. This could still include some super weapon, or perhaps you board Harbinger and destroy him from the inside, and that would somehow disable the other Reapers (Harby IS the oldest Reaper).
- The fact that Shepard awakens fully armored and back in London rubble should not be taken lightly. If the previous sequence were NOT a hallucination, it would mean Shepard would need to find a way to be spaced from the Citadel, have a chaotic and violent re-entry to Earth, and survive an impact with concrete rubble... and somehow manage to get it's armor back on in the process.
-------This scene is in the game, this is the only evidence within the current canon story that appears to be in any way "conclusive", but it's still possible this is just BioWare's bad writing again. The fact that it's a pre-renderd scene does give an excuse (a weak one) for having Shepard in armor despite not wearing it before, because you can't really pre-render a custom character. This still doesn't explain how Shep is able to survive a violent re-entry from Space back to Earth (Unless you like space magic).
3. Additional, possibly relevant evidence:
3a. There is a collection of unused dialogue from the ending that seems to indicate Joker helping during the rush to the Crucible, and even bombing a Reaper, as well as some other dialogue that seems to fit with the ending, be complete, but not included with the current ending.
----- The obvious argument against this is that it's simply leftover, unused dialogue (there was plenty of this in ME2) that was cut due to time constraints or not having the resources to implement them. Still, it does seem odd such complete dialogue that clearly deals with a more expanded ending is still sitting around.
3b. Using Gibb's ME3 save editor, there are 3 possible ending states, similar to those in ME2: "Not finished" "Out in a Blaze of Glory" "Lived to Fight another day"
------ Obviously, this doesn't neccesarily mean that living to fight another day means there is an exapnded ending, but it does allow for some breathing room there. It's possible it's just an arbitrary tag so for some reason the game can identify if you got the "good" ending. I SUPPOSE it's also possibly it's simply an arbitrary value in ME3 completely (as in, means nothing anyways, may not even reflect anything in ME3's end).
3c. Star Child/Vent kid's voice has essentially been proven to sound like a combination of maleShep, femShep, and the child himself in one voiceover. You can actually seperate maleshep and femshpe voices by only listening to one earphone, for example. For reference:www.youtube.com/watch May just be an artistic touch to the end, but it's a nice find.
3d. Other reference videos:
www.youtube.com/watch <--- The short clip of Shepard Living in the "best" ending.
3b. Collection of reference images:
Will get to this don't worry.
Q: You are all insane and in denial, this theory is a lot of wishful thinking, why don't you give up?
A: Partially yes, part wishful thinking, part well thought out arguments to justify that thinking, basically. It is an idea that spawned out of denial though, for sure. The genuine hope is that this theory is correct, or BioWare simply caves and makes it correct even if it wasn't originally. Some are simply enjoying the idea of a half-decent ending without plotholes that seems consistent with the rest of the series in feel. Good headcanon material at least.
Q: I like/don't like the arguments, but none of this evidence seems convincing, how can you be so sure?
A: Many of the arguments are based off of speculation of things that seem too prominent to simply be chance or coincendence. The problem is we are at a point where the ideas make sense, and fill many plotholes, but there's no way to prove it will ever come true in the actual game. Only conclusive proof will come when the devs say "Yes or no." There are valid points and counterpoints to most of these arguments I would say, though most counterpoints consist primarily of things along the lines of "Whether it's plausible or not, it won't happen" or simply, "The things you connect make some sense but are not meant to be connected, you are just trying too hard."
Q: How much more evidence can there be?
A: The original thread analyzed just about every thing people could cram
into 300 pages, a lot of it was simply just grasping at straws towards
the later pages. I'm fairly certain at one point or another every
possible shred of evidence has been analyzed, over-analyzed, and
analyzed again, and brought up several times because of the size of the
thread. When this little thing is finished, my goal is to have all of
that in one document for the sake of having it all in one post. 300
pages is a lot of reading...
Q: How are you deciding what evidence to include?
A: Any evidence that seems to have a feasible rationale behind it and is easily observable and recreated without forcing yourself to look for tiny, tiny details. There's a lot of evidence, like I said, that is simply grasping at straws and doesn't really need to be here. It certainly won't make the theory any stronger. Also trying to include at some point some of the more in-depth things people did (leftover VAs, digging through save files, images).
Also, to clarify, yes. I'm more then aware that there's a possiblity this is a waste of time and none of this will ever come about, but the theory has enough traction and 300 pages of stuff. Wanted to condense it, at the very least.
This isn't so much to try and convince anybody the theory is right or wrong, just to condense what we've covered as much as I can.
After the proposed hallucination, nobody can really give specifics on what happens next. If Bioware does indeed go this route, it would be up to them. If they don't people will just have to make it up for themselves. This is a possible headcanon explanation if people want a different ending that badly.
This theory is mostly to rationalize why the ending was so bad and left off on a cliff hangar, and allows for it to expand into a more satisfying ending without changing the current one. Ideally, after the "real" end, your choices would be more present at the end, their would maybe be a large bossfight, and you wouldn't be suckered into choosing three different colors for endings. Also, worth mentioning is this would allow for endings that aren't obnoxiously depressing no matter your choices. That is my take on it anyways. It does seem like a pretty cool idea for an ending to a lot of people though, I will say.
There are a bunch of things I need to do to this to make it complete, things I need to add, things to clean up. Let me know if you think I missed anything or the format is too messy for you.
Also, thanks to everybody from the other thread especially those who came up with the theory in the first place.
Still want to thank BioWare for the 99% of the game that was a masterpiece. we just want an ending that reflects the rest of that game. =/
Edited by Lambchopz, 13 March 2012 - 12:08 PM.