Spoilers in this post. Don’t continue if you don’t want to be spoiled! BioShock Infinite is an amazing game (and we don’t doubt it, read our spoiler-free review), and is being touted by the masses as a running candidate for video game of the year (and it’s barely March!). The ending of BioShock Infinite is a big shocker, with both plot twists and mind-twisting events leading up to the big bang. If you’ve completed BioShock Infinite and want to find out more about the ending, or if you haven’t but just want to submit to that temptation and spoil yourself, read on…
NEW: Read our post-review Q&A for information about other questions in BioShock Infinite!
How we are misled
Let’s first take a look at what happens at the ending before we break it down into small understandable bits that you can piece together and understand as a whole: Elizabeth kills Booker to stop Comstock, hence saving Booker in ‘real life’. This is also when we realize that Comstock and Booker are, in fact, the same person… a fact we will get to in a bit. The confusion of the ending comes due to the misunderstanding of many things (specifically the concept of Tears and what our Booker and Elizabeth try to accomplish), something Irrational Games probably intended to do in order for the plot of BioShock Infinite to be more interesting.
When Booker first rescues Elizabeth, we are introduced to her ability to create Tears (like pronounced like ‘clothing tear’, not ‘crying tear’), openings to different places. We are led to believe, initially, that Tears are like portals and allow travel to different locations.
We are given first signs of an impending plot-twist (or two, or a handful of plot twists) when Booker is on his mission from Daisy Fitzroy to get weapons from supplier Chen Lin. They need to talk to Chen Lin and retrieve the weapons that he’s providing when Elizabeth and Booker find Chen Lin dead (killed in a gory fashion that makes Elizabeth sorta shade her eyes from the sight) in the depths of a prison. It is at this time where Elizabeth opens a Tear to the same location, only at another time where Chen Lin is alive (for clarity, we’ll call this the “Second Universe”). It is at this point where we (the player) discover Tears incorporate an aspect of time-travel.
Drawing parallels to Inception
The part that really fools everyone is when, in Elizabeth and Booker can’t find Chen Lin’s tools in the Second Universe and Elizabeth opens a Tear to yet another point in time, a Third Universe if you will. While traveling from present time to the Second Universe led players to believe it was time travel due to it being essentially the same setting, the Third Universe introduces us to a time where everything is drastically different – Daisy Fitzroy is leading a revolution against the Comstock leadership and Booker is portrayed as a martyr of the cause. From this point on, a lot of folks will automatically think of Christopher Nolan’s film Inception.
A lot of BioShock Infinite seems to point towards an Inception-like plot, where Elizabeth and Booker have to travel to an alternate universe to find a person alive, and then travel from an alternate universe into another to stop all the madness… but it really is not. These are in fact different timelines they travel to, there’s aspects of time-travel, alternate universes and the feeling of changing history by doing something at another time, but the real answer is a mix of all of them.
All things BioShock Infinite:
- BioShock Infinite review (No spoilers)
- Purchase BioShock Infinite for PC, Xbox 360 or PS3
- BioShock Infinite news hub
- BioShock Infinite DLC Season Pass for Steam
- BioShock Infinite post-review: Your questions answered
But it isn’t a place within a place
We’ll first establish the character names and relationships in BioShock Infinite for easier understanding: Booker DeWitt and Comstock (The old bearded man seen and worshipped by the people of Columbia) are the same person and Elizabeth and Anna DeWitt are also the same person with different names, Elizabeth, if you will, is in fact Booker’s daughter. BioShock Infinite is not the Inception of video games, its storyline actually bears more resemblance to what happens in the movie Source Code (in the movie, there are two distinct timelines). In BioShock Infinite, we start out with two timelines, which branch their way out to numerous timelines but the events at the game’s ending extinguish all but one timeline (the one with Booker in ‘real life’ in New York).
How did this come about? Comstock and Booker started out as two different people in two separate universes. The complication begins because when Comstock decides he wants a child and, via a Tear created by Rosalind Lutece, travels to Booker’s ‘real life’ universe and offers to pay his debt in exchange for Booker’s child, Anna (who Comstock names Elizabeth). The reason why Elizabeth is able to create Tears (and also how her pinky finger got sliced) is from the closing Tear when Booker tried to stop them (Comstock and Lutece) from taking her.
Booker then tries to rescue his daughter from Comstock by entering said alternate universe. This marks a “pause” in Booker’s existence in his ‘real life’ universe as he enters an alternate one, which spawns a never-ending loop of events that transpire continuously infinite number of alternate universes. In plain simple English: at the point where Booker goes to the alternate universe, he tries to save Elizabeth from captivity and stop Comstock but ultimately goes through a chain of events that leads him to becoming Comstock. What ultimately ‘disturbs’ the balance of the universes is Booker’s entrance from ‘real life’ to the original universe Comstock was in (the only one where Comstock had a life of his own, not one where he was previously Booker), which causes another version of himself to enter after he becomes Comstock (had he not pursued Comstock after giving Anna up, none of this might have happened). But since it did happen, this series of events repeats itelf over and over, with the same outcome each time.
The ‘same outcome’ prophecy is most apparent, early in the game after arriving at Columbia, when Booker bumps into the Lutece ‘twins’ (they are in fact the same person, where the female Lutece found the male version of herself in another universe) and is told to flip a coin. You can see the chalkboard worn by male Lutece is populated with tons of markers for ‘heads’ and nothing for ‘tails’, showing the outcome of the events never changes and will always mirror the first time ever he stepped foot into this universe from ‘real life’.
Another event which backs this up is when Booker receives a telegram telling him not to pick the number 77, but he does it anyway when asked to draw a ball at ‘random’. This is because it may have been random the first time, but in subsequent loops, the outcome was never ‘random’ because it had already been determined by the first time the event occurred. The tattoo ‘AD’ on Booker’s right hand (that gives him away as the ‘False Shepherd’) stands for Anna DeWitt and was created by versions of Comstock that were originally Booker because, being the same person, he knew that another version of himself would come to rescue Anna AKA Elizabeth.
BioShock Infinite also throws in some confusing bits for good measure: such as the choices you can make to keep certain characters alive and Chen Lin’s wife being Asian in one universe and white in another. This just shows that minor variations can exist and cause the creation of uncountable new timelines/universes, proven in the scene where Elizabeth and Booker stare out of the lighthouse at countless other lighthouses, each one indicating a different timeline. What never changes, however, is Booker becoming Comstock and the cycle that constantly repeats itself until it was finally broken when Elizabeth killed Booker.
The game events highlight what happens after Booker is sent to ‘get the girl’ (Elizabeth) but far before Booker becomes Comstock by leading a revolution. As Booker and Elizabeth find this out at the end of BioShock Infinite, it is really up to her to change everything by killing Booker before he got baptized (at the start of the game), something which has never been done before. If Elizabeth were to kill him, he would never eventually become Comstock and use her to destroy New York… this would put a stop in the neverending loop. It would even ‘reverse’ things as killing Booker, who basically becomes Comstock in all the universes except the ‘real life’ one, eliminates all other timelines. Without Booker to exist, Comstock, his plans for Columbia and kidnapping Elizabeth would cease to exist as well, and Booker will be able to lead a happy normal life in ‘real life’ with his daughter.
Simply put, the end of BioShock Infinite can also be compared (but is not identical) to Skynet sending a Terminator back to kill John Connor. If John Connor were to live, Skynet would not exist. Skynet had to take action and kill John Connor to ensure its own existence in the future.. similarly, if Booker were to exist (in the alternate universe), then he will eventually become Comstock. Elizabeth had to take action and kill Booker to ensure Booker’s own existence in ‘real life’ (just remember he is pulled out of ‘real life’ when he enters the alternate universe to save his child).
This is shown in the post-credits scene of BioShock Infinite: we see that Booker at home with his baby daughter, Anna, with indicators he never gave her away. The fact Elizabeth killed Booker in the alternate universe(s) practically ‘drops’ him back into real-life and he can now continue a normal life with Anna. This ALSO means that Anna never gets captured by Comstock, never gets renamed to Elizabeth and never faces the same captivity as the game’s Elizabeth did (so Anna’s personality and attitude may differ from Elizabeth’s when she grows up, eventhough they are essentially the same person, because she would be raised differently).
It all never existed
What this all means is BioShock Infinite takes you to a series of events that it ultimately renders void (ie, they never happened) at its conclusion. Think of it this way, if Booker was a real person, his life would ‘pause’ at the moment he decides whether to give his child away in exchange for wiping away his debt OR keep his child (and, I guess, face bankruptcy, default on mortgage payments, have his house repossessed by BoA and live as a hobo on the streets of New York with Anna). All the events in BioShock Infinite depict the situation where he decides to choose the former, but with Elizabeth killing him and stopping the loop, life ‘resumes’ for Booker with his choice ultimately being to keep his daughter, Anna.
The ending is both happy and sad because Booker finally gets to live a normal life instead of being stuck the purgatory of an endless loop. But such an end to his misery also means the curious, cute and resourceful Elizabeth who accompanied us throughout the game never existed in his ‘real life’ (so put it however you want, there is no love story in BioShock Infinite). Also, he’s still stuck with his real-life debt, remember that.
It all sounds crazy and it took a while for me to map all of this out and replay the game – BioShock Infinite is a mix-mash of Inception, Terminator and Source Code and it’ll kick your brain to work overtime just trying to decipher the ending. I think Irrational Games accomplished the goal they probably planned to achieve: to make the plot interesting (and unlike any other blockbuster video game so far) and keep players thinking about the ending for days (or weeks) after completing BioShock Infinite. It also adds to the replay value as the plot twists and epic ending are great incentives to revisit the plot and world of BioShock Infinite in search for answers, and perhaps new discoveries.
NEW: Read our post-review Q&A for information about other questions in BioShock Infinite!
All things BioShock Infinite: