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BioShock Infinite ending: It’s all easy to explain, really

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

Terminator: Elizabeth

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.

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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).

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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:

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52 Comments

  1. GayFag no.1 March 30, 2013 Reply

    Thankyou for this. My mind was blown away when I got to the ending. then I started to scratch my head, asking questions after questions. Now I do understand, thankyou

  2. Devise March 30, 2013 Reply

    Great article. Well done.

  3. David March 30, 2013 Reply

    Alright then, where the hell does Elizabeth get the ability to open tears? Originally this aspect is supposed to be an innate ability of hers to show how special she is by birth. then we are led to believe itsdo wn to her being a clone/experiment or something. but if she was just a regular baby, where did she get that power?

    • Athena April 18, 2013 Reply

      Rapture was a lot more about the powers. I believe that the Vigors are the ADAM bottled (which, by the way, makes it disgusting that Booker drinks them on a DAILY basis).

      Infinite shows the problems with Anna – who, do to her anchor to the Primary Universe (her finger), became Elizabeth. Because of this, Elizabeth technically doesn’t exist, not just after she kills Booker, but also because she’s a borrowed existence. She wasn’t made for the timelines she sits in, and her finger remains back in Anna’s world. When we reach Booker’s choice to keep Anna DeWitt, we’ve essentially been told that Elizabeth and Comstock no longer exist. I get the feeling that Columbia was originally Lutece’s project, but she found Zachary Comstock, a relatively rich man who was willing to pay to take the city as his own. Comstock was, at that point, just a power-hungry man, who’d cut corners and was searching for something to put his mind on. Lutece accidentally discovers the time-space Tears, possibly while working on the matter that makes the city float, and contacts her male self. Comstock likely has no concern over this, nor does he really care about her discovery beyond the fact that it lets him predict this or that every now and then. He marries Lady Comstock, who becomes his figurehead, being a pretty, terrible woman from the dusts of America. She can’t produce a child, so he asks Lutece to go through and find him a daughter. Booker DeWitt happens to be the unfortunate soul with a little girl. Preying on his bankrupt ass, Lutece gets him to agree to let her take the child – in fact, it’s the male Lutece who does it, because that’s how she discovers him, he lives in Lutece’s Other World. They take the child, excluding her finger, which becomes the anchor to her Primary World. Elizabeth becomes a placeholder, a person that is not a person, and Anna is frozen. Twenty years pass on all but the original timeline, where DeWitt brands himself with his daughter’s name to remind himself never to forget. Lutece realizes that through her work for Comstock, she has set into motion the infinite destruction of America. She and her twin enjoy watching the – was it 122, or 221? – times that he fails to bring back Anna, although there’s not a doubt in my mind that they’re taking the roundabout way of righting their wrongs. They’re awaiting the DeWitt that’s just slightly more pessimistic, whose false memories lead him to be cyncial towards the baptism. And when he comes, he’s exactly what they’re waiting for. They know that he’ll pick 77 and heads will be the side it lands on, but they can sense that this time he and his daugher will figure out how you have to end the issue. Lutece probably understood this, but knew that telling them outright would:

      a) Be boring, and

      b) More likely than not cause Elizabeth to refuse, or the two to mistrust one another and put them at odds for their entire journey

      Therefore, when Elizabeth drowns him, ending her own life, she ceases all of the Comstocks and DeWitts that came to be, instead leaving no placeholder but Anna, who remains in her normal world. When she does this, she also kills Columbia and the time-space machine. They need the Luteces to follow the timeline that existed already, where Anna was then taken, but instead, Lutece most likely fails to create the machine and Columbia.

      Anna DeWitt and Booker then resume their normal lives, but I feel like we haven’t completely resolved the issue. After all, I don’t recall seeing the final Elizabeth, our Elizabeth, disappear. Unless someone confirms that she, too, ceased her existence, then I suspect that Elizabeth isn’t quite done yet. Another theory is that Elizabeth and the Luteces remain travelers of the space-time continuum, but that they now have no effect on anything because they lack a placeholder, or anchor, or whatever you want to call it. Without the part that tethers them to their original world, they’re free to float across timelines without effecting the stories at all.

      I hope I’d be correct about that. In all honesty, I’m rejecting Elizabeth’s death. She was just too well-designed to be a trashbin character that has no later significance.

      Also, I really, really, REALLY want a Bioshock 3. And I hope Irrational Games makes it, because its their story. Ken’ll have a hell of a time with us if he goes on to make more. The guy’s a mad genius, and I wish I was that smart.

      • Shan S April 19, 2013 Reply

        Referring to your theory about Columbia ceasing to exist after Booker’s death, Robert Lutece may also cease to exist while Rosalind might’ve continued her work as a scientist and research in quantum physics and may or may not have succeeded in making a city float. Our Elizabeth may still be alive since she never entered the lighthouse at the end and she might have become a higher being like a god or something since she has the gift to see possibilities and open tears. That said, you may be right about Liz being able to “float across timelines without effecting the stories at all.” Also it was Comstock who became sterile (according to Rosalind in one of the Voxophones) due to the effects of exposure to the Siphon or Tears, not Lady Comstock’s inability to produce a child. This caused Comstock to take Anna away so he could secure an heir to his power over Columbia. Why he chose Anna might’ve been because some connections remain unbroken between him and Booker as one person, hence he somehow found our Booker and took away poor Anna DeWitt.

        As for the ending, it is very subjective and I believe Irrational wanted to leave that ambiguity to players for the sake of perfecting that mind-blowing ending which will have players talking about it for a long time. Depending on one’s perception, it might’ve been a sad ending (with no existence of our Elizabeth and a poor life for Booker and Anna) or a happy one (Anna and Booker end up together as father and daughter while there are no more evil Comstocks to worry about). Whatever it is, I’m pleased with the outcome of the vague and ambiguous ending and I imagine the two DeWitts to be a happy duo together in their own world.

        I doubt BioShock 3 will be a sequel though since Columbia was destroyed with Comstock. But hopefully a DLC will clear up some questions, see Elizabeth in Paris and provide extra character development for the Luteces. And agreed, Ken is truly a genius and master of storytelling. The amount of effort he put into creating Infinite is just crazy meticulous.

        • Carson G December 18, 2015

          Comstock took Anna because technically she was “his seed” despite being from a parallel universe. It is said that both lady Comstock and Comstock himself are sterile, but that Comstock didn’t become sterile till after they attempted to pull Anna through, securing her as his only potential heir. I like the theory that Anna is given her ability because of her pinky being rooted in her primary universe, but I think it’s more likely that the tear tales affected her chemistry when it closed on her. This article was well done and informative but I think it misses on one aspect. It says that Booker is in an infinite loop where he goes to Columbia and becomes Comstock. While I see where that confusion might come from, to me, at least, it’s clear that Comstock’s origin is the baptism ground. This is why the minister says “what name will you choose for yourself” and also why Anna brings him back to that spot to kill him. It has to be at that point in time. By killing him before he gets baptized she ends both Comstock’s existence in every universe (think of that point as the moment where the trunk of the tree splits off into a million branches) but also Booker Dewitt’s tragic twenty year demise, as both are equally at fault for the events of the game.

      • danh951 March 27, 2014 Reply

        What confuses me is that you are led to believe that Booker didn’t actually have any debt, that he created the “Bring us the girl, wipe away the debt” line in his mind, when he was actually thinking that he just simply wants to get his daughter back. It was something Robert Lutece said, “The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist…”. I think it may have also been part of the in-game explanation that it was your own excuse for your motives to even go to Columbia but I may be wrong. However, if that was a self-created memory, how did Comstock end up buying his daughter? That’s the only thing i missed from that part of the story.

        The only other bit of confusion I had was that if Elizabeth destroyed the timeline she was in she would then not exist as Elizabeth, hence she would never end up destroying the timeline she destroyed, creating some mega paradox that would mess up the whole space-time continuum. What you said about her being a borrowed life would resolve that only partly because she would still need to become Elizabeth as she was, and couldn’t possibly affect anything before she was born, i.e. killing Comstock/Booker. Is it just assumed that she becomes an omnipotent being that does not require her captive timeline to exist and groom her to become who she is so that she can exist in her form? It’s quite possibly the only plot hole that really may spoil the reality of the setting.

        It may just be me over-thinking the whole ending but I have an active imagination and a fond interest in the source material. Thanks 🙂

    • Asaf June 17, 2013 Reply

      Elizabeth has the power to open tears because of her cut off finger, which she lost when Comstock went through the portal and kidnapped Anna away from Booker. The reason for that is that because of her finger being in an alternate universe she can gain access to the other universes.

    • Bob December 12, 2013 Reply

      I read somewhere that the ability to open tears was caused by Anna/Elizabeth’s finger being in another dimension, so she can open holes in the dimensions due to her being in two at all times.

  4. Jay March 30, 2013 Reply

    she got the ability to do so after she lost her pinky as a baby when the tear closed. Meaning there was parts of her in multi universes so at that point since her finger was in one universe and herself in another , she then had ability to do tears etc

  5. Kano March 30, 2013 Reply

    Interesting article but I disagree with a few of your points.
    For example:
    “We are led to believe, initially, that Tears are like portals and allow travel to different locations.”
    I don’t think irrational where trying to lead us to believe that Elizabeth is opening tears to JUST different locations. The first tear we see is of France (different location) outside a cinema showing the movie star wars return of the Jedi which was released in 1983 (Different time) the game is set in 1912.

    “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.”
    I would not call this act time travel but rather travelling to an alternate universe or reality where in Chen Lin was not murdered.

    “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.”
    Comstock already exited, he came about during the baptism straight after Wounded Knee, in one universe Booker accepted the baptism and changed his name to Comstock. In the universe we play Booker, refuses to get baptised and that leads to the events of the game.
    I may be missing your point here but Booker has already become Comstock in an alternate universe. Comstock has the appearance of an “old man” because he was aged by the machine he used to travel to Bookers universe to steal Anna Dewitt (Elizabeth).

    Let me be clear, I’m not trying to be critical, everyone is going to have their own opinion of this game and if I have completely misunderstood your point then I apologize.

    • Brad S March 30, 2013 Reply

      Kano, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate your input and BioShock Infinite was almost certainly made to spark these kind of discussions.

      I’ll address your first two points about time travel: I should have been clearer in the those sentences that I had written the analysis with players finishing the game for the first-time in mind. Also, good catch about France in the Tear set in a different time. The first time I played and saw that scene, the different era of Paris just flew over my head because of all the other thoughts (shock and awe, wondering “are we going to play in there [Paris] for a bit?”, etc). Only later in the game did I establish the connection and think “ah, that was set in the future”.

      Similarly, I think most players on their first playthrough won’t/don’t make the connection or assumption that it’s universe travel rather than time in the Chen Lin scene (due to the similarities in environment), until they go through the 3rd tear into Columbia during a revolution.

      What you have said is correct about Booker and Comstock. But prior to the ‘loops’ and sequence of events (and the gameplay is just one instance of many that have occurred),it can be assumed that Booker and Comstock were independent of each other, each in their respective universes that ran parallel. The Booker who becomes Comstock that I meant was all subsequent instances of Booker (except the very first original Comstock before the 2 universes collided); after Comstock and male Lutece reach into Booker’s universe for the first time ever (which IMO messes up the system and natural order of things).

      Hope this clears things up? Cheers -Brad

      • Kano March 30, 2013 Reply

        Hello Brad,

        Thanks for your reply, I think you’re making an interesting point.

        I would like to hear your opinion on the archangel that supposedly spoke to Comstock and told him to create Columbia as Andrew has mentioned in the post below. I have copied the following from the Bioshock wikia page:

        “Comstock is visited by an archangel of God named Columbia (Who is believed to be an alternate version of Elizabeth). Her visit causes him to believe that he was a prophet, and she tells him to create a floating city which she claimed would usher the world into righteousness.”

        If what is said above is correct, why do you think Elizabeth would have Comstock create Columbia, which ultimately lead to Comstock using the Lutece twins to create a machine allowing him to go to an alternate universe and take Elizabeth (Anna) from his alternate self (Booker).

        Thanks in advance

        • Brad S March 30, 2013

          Hi Kano, in regards to the archangel (whether or not it’s really an Elizabeth variant), I think this may have been an “excuse” manifested by Comstock’s own mind after the realities clashed (just like how Lutece explains at the end of the game that “bring the girl, wipe away the debt” was made by Booker’s mind, when the real reason was actually “I want my daughter back”. Comstock seemed a bit power hungry/insane and what he probably really wanted to do is rule the world or see its destruction (take the NY under attack scene after the early drowning Booker scene or during the aged Elizabeth scene) and Columbia would facilitate that (the Tear technology and prowess in making sky machines/blimps).

          It is highly probable that Lutece was the actual creator of Columbia, due to her knowledge in quantum physics. She was the one who made the Tear machine which passed the ability to Elizabeth due to the sliced pinky (think of it being similar to Desmond being able to do crazy climbing/running feats and Eagle Vision in Assassin’s Creed from the Bleeding effect of the Animus); hence Lutece is the super genius.

          Lutece decided to bring Booker from his real life to the Columbia universe as revenge and to stop Comstock, because it is noted that Comstock ordered the killing of his wife and Lutece.

          Please share if you have any theories of your own or further questions =)

      • Toastie Yoshi April 1, 2013 Reply

        I just now realized something! Remember when Capt. Slate was all huffy and puffy about Comstock portraying himself as the hero of Wounded Knee and the Boxer Rebellion? In this case, Comstock (Baptised Booker) actually WAS the hero, but the name change and rapid aging left Capt. Slate believing he was a liar and false prophet. Just something I realized.

        FOR THOSE WANTING A WALKTHROUGH OF THE PREVIOUS EVENTS: I tried to make my own explanation.(as seen below)

        Simplified Version of the Entire Ordeal:
        -Booker DeWitt has killed very many people in the various wars, and wants to ‘free’ his soul from the burden. Thus, he’s baptized.
        -Along with the baptism, he decides to replace his name as well, adding to the ‘reborn’-ness he wants to feel.
        -Booker DeWitt changes his name to Zachary Hale Comstock
        -Has a crazy dream, believing an angel wants him to build a city in the sky.
        -Meet Lutece, a brilliant physicist who just happens to build him the city.
        -Lutece also fiddles around with a machine to bridge parallel universes (nothing could possibly go wrong *rolls eyes*)
        -Comstock looks into the future to find a bunch of advanced weapondry and technology
        -However, the machine Comstock uses rapidly ages him into the white bearded dude you see today
        -(this is also what makes Comstock such a great prophet – the machine that looks into the future)
        -This first Comstock (we’ll call him Comstock1) never had a kid, and wants one
        -Comstock1 sneaks into another universe and takes the child of a parallel himself
        -However, Comstock1 didn’t realized that the stolen child’s father (another Comstock/Booker) would pursue him so doggedly, forcing this child to lose a finger in another universe, giving her the ability to open up other universes in the form of ‘tears’
        -Comstock2 builds his own city just like Comstock1, and later steals the child from Comstock3
        -Comstock 3 builds his own city like the other two Comstocks, and later steals the child from Comstock 4
        -Comstock 4 etc.. etc..
        **Note: The thing about parallel universes, is that something is always different. Such as Comstock1 having no child, but all the other universes do. In-game example: the Gunsmith – one universe he’s dead, another he’s alive but with no tools, in another the revolution is already going full blast, hence no need for the Gunsmith.
        -This keeps going on until Comstock# steals a child from an unbaptized version of himself (Booker Dewitt)
        ^This one is unbaptized because of every universe having one thing different, in this case, the baptism.
        -This Booker DeWitt doesn’t have any ideas about building a grand city, instead just wanting his daughter back
        -Enter Lutece
        -She has seen this loop go on and on, and believes this unbaptized Booker will be the key to stopping it
        -She drags him to where Comstock# took Booker’s child, whereupon Booker loses an enormous part of his memory due to interuniversal travel
        -Begin Game

        Of course, that’s just a very simplified version (my version) of the story

  6. Andrew March 30, 2013 Reply

    This is a really good explanation !
    I’ve read lots of theory’s and have my own
    (Inception like tree branch choices)
    But I think this might be the one

    Could you clear up two things for me tho:

    – you mentioned that there is one Comstock that was never ever booker? How does this work and why does infinite Refure to the baptism as the begining place of Comstock

    – Comstock was aparently visited by an angel/archangel before Columbia. Do we know who/what it was ?

    • Brad S March 30, 2013 Reply

      Andrew, thank you for your comment, I’m glad it made sense =)

      Booker does eventually become Comstock, but there is one who was not explicitly originally Booker who had come from another universe into Columbia. This would be the first Comstock (before he took Anna from Booker) who lived in a parallel but independent universe from Booker’s real life. When he and Lutece went after and took Anna from Booker, this made both universes collide and start the whole sequence of events seen in the game (with the game itself being one of countless repetitions of the same events that have occurred over and over since the taking of the child).

      The baptism is the beginning of Comstock because this was one of the things that made him set out to create Columbia (along with the archangel visit). I’m not sure who/what the archangel was but one of the theories is that it was a variant of Elizabeth (IMO this complicates everything even further, but if you choose to believe it, then the archangel could have been a creation/testbed for Lutece and altering of quantum physics/tears. After all, Lutece, and her male counterpart, in the game seemed like snarky, sarcastic individuals who liked to create mischief).

      And come to think of it, the Lutece pair seemed to be having quite a bit of fun and, at some points we meet them in the game, appeared to be enjoying this like a show. Perhaps they were the original cause of all this; I see quite a bit of room for her (their) plot to be explored if they choose to do it in the DLC or future games in the franchise (since Rapture did make a cameo in BioShock Infinite)

      • Nem March 31, 2013 Reply

        Hey this is a great article, but maybe i’m not processing this right in my head despite reading what you wrote.

        When you say that the ‘loops’ involve Booker chasing Comstock into his universe to go after his daughter, how does the ‘loop’ actually occur by Booker becoming Comstock in the universes that Comstock has collided? Because I can’t understand how Booker becomes Comstock in Columbia during the events of the actual game and how that becomes a cycle?

        How does Booker become Comstock in the game’s events (which would somehow lead Comstock to retrieve Anna again?), and then in the process spawn another Booker to follow those same events? What would those chain of events be that you mentioned in the article that would create the loop?

        • Brad S March 31, 2013

          Hi Nem, thanks for the comment. I would think the cycle starts when Lutece brings Booker in to save Elizabeth (because Comstock actually kills Lutece at one point, and she and her male counterpart bring Booker in as revenge/to stop Comstock). The loop could either repeat itself indefinitely and sustain itself that way, or what is also (and more) likely is that just like in the movie Source Code (the protagonist has to stop the train from blowing up, and is sent ‘in’ again and again until he succeeds), Booker might have a similar role and Lutece is manipulating things to send him “in” to the universe again and again (122 times before the game’s events) until he manages to stop Comstock in his 123rd try (BioShock Infinite’s events)

          The main turning point where Booker becomes Comstock is said to be a baptism, which makes him think he should be a good-doer and prophet. The chain of events involves everything experienced during gameplay and presumably, since it’s not explicitly said when the cycle cuts off, until the scene at the end when the pastor tries to baptize Booker and instead of walking away like during the game, he accepts.

  7. Andrew March 31, 2013 Reply

    Ah I understand what you mean and agree

    Red tears are time travel
    Blue are into other universes
    It would seem
    And Elizabeth can do both

    I really do think this the best understanding of the ending. I’ve seen much bigger near endless discussions which ppl have the problem of choices branching out and how it doesn’t solve things.
    However this theory dipicts when bookers loop is, and makes much more sense for the baptism/drowning closin it . And means anna is alive .

    I think the angel Columbia is either :
    – Comstock lying
    – Elizabeth but the evil Elizabeth ..but this takes alot more figuring out to be true
    – letuce is possible but I don’t think so. I think they are having fun cos it’s the 122nd time . (I just noticed on my 1999 replay thro. When ur told not to pick 77, if u immediately look throo the telescope the twins are juggling the raffle balls, if u look again they are gone and also not there if u don’t look in the telescope)

    Also! The angel could be something else. Possibly part of the grand scheme of things. Something that is making the man city and lighthouse thing. Which maybe other games could explore some way down the road.

    This theory also doesn’t put such empathsis on dewitt being related to Ryan for being able to use the bathysphere which is good. I think it should be similarities not same ppl

    DLC I feel will be maybe the story of the song bird . Another tear version maybe leading the vox. And probebly an independent character exploring Columbia further .

    As for later games..I have no idea. But I would love to eventually a few games down the line. Go after the grand design , reason for lighthouse man and city.
    Without being Corny i would love the next game to be about non maternal love. They devlope the protection and care need with the female characters so well. The lil sisters, Eleanor. And Elizabeth. Innocent, like a father and actual father. I would love to see one based around reciprocle love. Make u love the other character, then take her away maybe or betraye you .
    I don’t know…but Levine is gonna have his wicked way with our emotions no matter what with the next game too and it will probebly be nothing like it.

  8. Dan March 31, 2013 Reply

    “But prior to the ‘loops’ and sequence of events (and the gameplay is just one instance of many that have occurred),it can be assumed that Booker and Comstock were independent of each other, each in their respective universes that ran parallel. ”

    No it can’t be assumed that. Absolute rubbish.

  9. Nathan March 31, 2013 Reply

    So for the most part this seems accurate, but two things:

    How DOES Booker become Comstock after visiting Colombia (if Comstock and Booker were really independent of each other at some point)?

    And also, why Booker’s daughter? The logical reason that the game seems to give for Comstock wanting Anna is because she IS actually his daughter too, because he IS Booker initially (and they were not independent).

    • Brad S March 31, 2013 Reply

      Nathan, it could be that each ‘cycle’ encompassed all the events we played in the game up till near the end where Booker got baptised by the pastor with those people at the river. In the game (his 123rd try), he ultimately refuses and walks away, but perhaps in the past 122 times, he accepted, got enlightened and became Comstock.

      Comstock needed an heir to his throne, but as a result of Lutece’s experiments (creating Columbia, the Tear machine, bringing Comstock to Booker’s world the first time via the machine-made portal), he aged significantly, his health deteriorated (we hear this in the voxophone on the way up to get Elizabeth) and sterile. He needed an heir to his kingdom and that’s why he took Elizabeth and was trying to groom her to eventually take his place (and later try to takeover New York, as shown in the aged Elizabeth scene)

  10. Mithoslol March 31, 2013 Reply

    How come you think only the Bookers that should become Comstack are drowned by Elizabeth. To me it seems pretty clear that it is pointed out in the story that the booker(s) that went to the are “both Comstack and Booker”, and without killing both before it happens there would always be a Booker to choose the Baptism and become Comstack.

    Which would then make it really hard to explain the post-credit though
    1) heaven/dream (of an alcoholic)
    2) A version where he didnt go to the baptism in the first place

    Please can someone enlighten me, Ive read so many threads, but most people just say that the Bookers that becomes Comstaks are drowned… But theres nothing in the story that proves that…

  11. Nathan March 31, 2013 Reply

    Also, drowning Booker wouldn’t really fix anything according to the “independent of each other” theory. Because all that would remain would be two parallel universes: one with Booker and one with Comstock as separate people, according to you. But there would always be a variation of “independent” Comstock that would want an heir and eventually come for Anna (again), starting everything back at square one.

    Booker’s death at the Baptism only changes anything if it completely destroys any possibility of Comstock existing, which can only happen if there is no independent Comstock. Booker and Comstock are two sides of the same coin; there is no possibility of them existing separately. Comstock only exists if Booker becomes him in one universe.

    Though there is evidence of multiple attempts and that doesn’t have to be explained by a loop of Booker becoming Comstock at the end. It’s more likely that each try is a parallel universe where different choices were made, leading to Booker’s failure each time, and possibly his death his death in some, as seen from the voxaphones in the third universe with the full-blown Vox rebellion. The game that the player experiances is the final attempt and the only one where the culmination of Booker’s actions resulted in a chance to put a stop to everything by stocking Comstock before Booker originally became him.

  12. Nathan March 31, 2013 Reply

    The post-credits scene can be explained as follows:

    So by drowning Booker in that one universe, the one where he chose to be baptized and eventually became Comstock, you erase Comstock from existence, taking with him Colombia, the events of the game, the Luteces, Songbird, Elizabeth as we know her, all of it. Poof. Gone. Never had been, never is, never will be.

    However, the universe where Booker is just Booker still exists, except this time, there will be no Comstock to come for his daughter. She is safe and they will live on, their universe unaltered.

  13. Andrew March 31, 2013 Reply

    I must agree today this has been troubling me.

    An independent Comstock leaves to many different universes. Before the booker Arival where by he would re steal Anna. Starting it again.

    However the generally taken theory that the baptism is the cycle. Then creates another problem. Of how our booking dying solves it..because tho it may solve it for ours and several other bookers. It would not for some…I guess here is where Elizabeth’s “it’s not the same place” must be important but I struggle to see how. ..the priest is there..and I don’t see how going into a tear/time will replace the booker that is there

  14. DDD March 31, 2013 Reply

    The only thing that bugs me about this is that in the post credits scene when you open the door to Anna finally, right before the screen goes black the wallpaper looks cracked and faded like the dilapidated version of the office you visit during the ending sequence, or rather the start of a nother loop, or a new sequence entirely. I think the Lutece twins are using these two as a means to find a way to conduct some sort of grander experitment (they do seem to be talking about testing their theory at the first of the game as if was something they just decided to implement) since they were scattered across all realities with parts of them in every reality it explains how they are able to manipulate things into being throughout the course of the game, and their knowedge of all events. That also begs the question that if they are scattered across all realities, why wouldn’t they also be in the one DeWitt wakes up in post credits.

  15. Feldgrau March 31, 2013 Reply

    There are a couple of things that are wrong with this analysis imho.

    For example Booker doesn’t have any debt left during the post-credits scene, becase there’s no Robert Lutece to ever approach him because of said debt (which he most likely tricked him into) and take Anna away from him for Comstock, which the Lutece’s were initially working for. Keep in mind that the death of the original Booker at the end kept Comstock and the Luteces from ever existing in any possible timeline according to the narrative.
    As you said, none of the game’s events starting after the Baptism ever happened, because there was no baptism that took place in the first place. This means the only possible timeline/s that is/are left are the one/s with Booker keeping his daughter and getting to raise her.

    This also means that the Booker we get to play during the game’s events (the one that finally suceeds in all possible timelines) is actually killed by Elizabeth, and the post-credits scene of him is just another manifestation of that same person in another of the remaining universes, but it’s not the SAME person we played with.

    It’s a comforting thought for many of us, but the narrative really does nothing to imply this in any surefire way.

    There is no ultimate “real life” timeline/universe which we’re getting thrust back into. The original Booker that suceeded in rescuing Elizabeth also has to die, because only this will erase all of his other manifestations and the ones of Comstock across all multiverses, which all lead to the game’s events in the first place.

    • Andrew March 31, 2013 Reply

      His debts where real as the result of the trauma from the battle of wounded knee. Even in post credit the beting slips are still on his desk.

      – the female letuce would still be alive. (If u meant they wouldn’t be able to travel throo universes .then soz I get u)

      And I believe the pause / theory of booker is still right . As if he fixed the loop. Then he himself has nothing to make him did. And no actual way to leave him orginal time line, it’s a paradox fix that unpaused him

      • Chris T April 1, 2013 Reply

        Brad/Nathan/Andrew have all done a great job I feel of piecing this together. My major sticking point that I hope someone has an answer to is: At what point is Anna actually born? Before or after the baptism, because for me this creates a paradox with the conclusion in the game and explanation offered here:

        a) She is born BEFORE the baptism, which seems most commonly supported through the game narrative. However if this is the case, when Booker accepts the baptism and becomes Comstock he will already have a daughter, negating the need for stealing Booker’s child.

        b) Born AFTER the baptism, which isn’t possible because he (or Elizabeth/Anna depending on how you look at it) kills himself in which case, she never would have existed AT ALL (irregardless of an alternate universe with Comstock). Thus the post-credits scene would’ve been impossible.

        I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discussion here by everyone. Keep up the great ideas!

        • Vyss April 2, 2013

          There’s also the idea that they killed every Booker that went to the baptism like you said, but there are other Bookers that never went and those went on to have Anna.

  16. Mithoslol April 1, 2013 Reply

    I dont think only the Booker was killed that would become Comstack (because the root is “both booker and comstack”, that is the booker before the event that would eventually always have a choice. Here my explanation
    Basically what Liz tries to do is to kill her Father. That normally would not be possible and be a paradox (Grandfather Paradox). And because she drowns “all” Bookers of all Multiverses it would stay a Paradox… And the only solution to this is that Rejecting the”Baptism” as a variable becomes a constant. Booker always rejects the Baptism. -> post-credit scene. This explanation basically completes yours I think.
    Keep in mind though that we dont see Anna in the post-credit sequence. Which “could” mean that the solution to the grandfather paradox didnt work, and the Booker in the post-credit scene gave Anna away (once again). But I think this is not true: We see that all the Elizabeths at the drowning event dissapear… That means the killing of the Bookers worked. (and the solution is just like my post before, + )

  17. Jason April 1, 2013 Reply

    This sounds just like the plot to Donnie Darko. Loved the game though… but at the end it had me scratching my head trying to figure out what had happened. Just like Donnie Darko. Thanks for helping clear some stuff up!

  18. blade April 2, 2013 Reply

    still makes no sense

  19. Denius1704 April 2, 2013 Reply

    I believe that the game has drawn its inspiration greatly from Fringe, ala father going into an alternate universe to “steal” a child that was never (but in the same time is) his. It’s just that in Bioshock the roles are reversed, Dr. Bishop is the bad guy here and his alternate version is the good guy going in to save his child. Also there is not one “real” universe, there are in fact two just like in Fringe as well, with Booker being in one where Lutece is a guy and Comstock being in another where Lutece is a woman (it’s all the “twins” fault btw).

    So all in all i’m guessing the scriptwriters for Bioshock are big time Fringe fans. 🙂

    • Shan S April 2, 2013 Reply

      Agreed. BioShock was inspired by many great forms of entertainment and we’re blessed to be part of it. They might’ve gotten some inspiration from the movie Looper as well; I think I read that somewhere. Looper applies similar concepts such as Young Joe having to kill himself so the Old Joe would be destroyed as well to ensure the existence of the ‘original’ Young Joe. The movie ended with Sara stroking his hair – something his mother used to do – and hence, implying that she was his mother. Same thing happens for Infinite.

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      • Joey April 3, 2013 Reply

        Let me clear this up for you guys. I read another explanation and there’s one thing that Brad had said in his article that really muffed this all up. Comstock did not exist outside of being Booker. He was never independent of that history. Comstock only exists if Booker chooses to get baptized and be reborn as Comstock. Thats why Elizabeth took him to “Smother Comstock in the crib.” When booker was reborn, thats when Comstock was born. That’s why at the very beginning of the game every single person that entered Columbia had to be Baptized, because that’s how Comstock was born.

        When Booker went to the baptism shortly after Wounded Knee, he had 2, and only 2 choices; get baptized, or don’t. From that moment only two alternate realities can exist. Involving that choice, in one he freaks out and decides not to go through with it. In another, at the exact moment of freaking out instead he goes for it, and is reborn as Zachary Hale Comstock. It is not clarified who the Archangel is, BUT it is stated the Columbia will only succeed with “The Seed Of The Prophet,” So, since he cannot reproduce, he has no other choice but to find an alternate version of himself that has a child and take it. Therefore, in a roundabout way, Anna/Elizabeth IS “The Seed Of The Profit” as he once was Booker DeWitt.

        Alternate realities only come about when you come upon a choice. Booker had 2 choices so two possibilities were born. If you have the choice of, say, Vanilla, Strawberry, or Chocolate ice cream, then 3 alternate universes would be made. So when Anna/Elizabeth Drowns Booker, she only drowns the version of him that chose to get the baptism. She did not drown the Booker that freaked out. She didn’t drown her actual father, because the one who chose to be baptized was not her father at all. This in itself would always exist as an infinite loop. BUT also the Booker who chose not to do it, lives on in his own world.

        He did not owe the debt to Robert Lutece the debt was to Comstock. The Booker that did not get baptized was a sinful man and gambled a lot. So, Comstock knowing how he was in the past when he was Booker, came to the universe with unbaptized Booker, used his compulsive gambling against him and forced Booker to give up his Daughter. If booker had chosen not to give her up, Comstock, being the egotistical man he is, would’ve taken her forcifully. If there is ANY universe with Comstock he will always take Anna, because he NEEDS the heir to be his seed.

        The reason Booker wakes up when he does after the credits, is it is the last moment in his natural life that existed without any interference from Comstock. He does not owe the debt to Comstock because it did not happen, because the other version of Booker who chose to be baptized was drowned.

        Also Anna was born a couple years after the baptism. The baptism was directly after Wounded Knee which took place in 1890 according to Slater. Anna only being about 20, would have been born in 1892. I say she is about 20 because she says Booker lived alone for 20 years full of guilt about giving her up. 1912 minus 20 years = 1892. I hope I cleared this up for you. Because the real question is; how does this tie into Bioshock 1? I have a crazy theory about how since Robert and Rosalind Lutece are the same people just different genders from different universes, is it possible that Anna was born Andrew and later changed her last name later on from DeWitt to Ryan?

        • Squall April 16, 2013

          Hi Folks!
          This game is really awesome but the ending is nearly impossible… let me explain:
          If the massacre of Wounded knee led to take booker the decision to Baptise (this creates Comstock) or not (this creates our Booker) then our Bookers Branch certainly would have stop to continue the Moment he entered Comstocks Branch (if i leave my universe there can be no branches of it after this – at least containing me).
          The Moment Comstock took Anna he also created a series of Branches (normal variations of his reality that led to Lissie destroy New York etc, meaning all the Girls that appear at the River).
          When Lissie (sorry but this Name for Anna is just too nice to not use it ^_^), killed our Booker the moment he had to choose between being Booker or become Comstock, both branches that should have been created at this moment ceased to exist.
          So…it is impossible that this leads to our Booker not to sold Anna or anything else…this Branch or Reality can never happen to exist anymore.

          Now the good part, right now i have suposed that nearly all moments where decisions where made led to a Branch (an alternate Universe where another decision was chosen – and forget about a branch where Booker does not enters Comstock Reality, this one does not affect us).
          If this is true than Wounded Knee itself could have created a branch where Booker never was led to decide between Baptism or not (the exact Moment where all this mess startet), for example he did not participated in the Battle or did nothing that let behind such scares and remorses in his mind. (At this part it would be a good idea to see if at this final scene he has his military stuff hanging from the wall or not).
          Assume that this would be so, this would be the only way a “more honest” version of Booker (that means not our Booker) still has his Daughter and this one is who we “maybe” see at the end of the credits…
          There are no “our Bookers” or “Comstocks” who could mess around, Lissie erased them and so this alternative Booker could do all the bad stuff like gaining debts, drinking etc but nothing interfered to make him sell his Daughter.
          Our booker could not exist, would he do then all would keep repeating, the only way out and give the Game some sort of Happy Ending was to put the spotlight on an even earlier alternate Booker that never had to take any decision.

          Now your opinions!

        • andrew May 17, 2013

          this is the most sensible explanation i have heard so far

  21. SnowMonk April 3, 2013 Reply

    I can understand all of the ending sequence, the all but one of the tear jumps. My only remaining issue about the story line is when we cross the bridge shortly after songbird takes Elizabeth. I understand Booker is taken to the future by old Liz to show him what happens if he fails, and give him the C-A-G-E Card to control songbird as a last resort to prevent the destruction of NYC and the world. During this period, traveling to old Liz with the Boys of Silence, you can hear what is being done to Original Liz, them beginning the procedure and what not, but it portrays it like time has been passing, ie. “Your not eating, he’s not coming” “Its been 6 months”….
    My issue, 6 months passed between Liz being taken by songbird and old Liz returning Booker with the card to save her?
    Thats quite a time period and doesn’t seem correct, because once you rescue Liz from the ‘operation’, she says its been a while, but gives no specific amount of time. Was it due to the time travel by old Liz to cause a jump of 6 months in the original timeline, where Liz has been taken?

    My only conclusion is old Liz returns Booker to the original timeline with the CAGE card when its most vital, but I would have though the sooner the better….

  22. goblelucas April 5, 2013 Reply

    Booker was in purgatory the entire time. He was given the chance to redeem himself of past sins (battle of wounded knee) and to also resolve his issues with giving away his daughter. Once he finally accepted his baptism, he was sent off to heaven.

  23. killerkill April 23, 2013 Reply

    tell people to watch until the end

  24. Andrew May 16, 2013 Reply

    Still confused.

  25. Mediin July 5, 2013 Reply

    As far as this explanation goes, it doesn’t explain the cause of this “infinite loop”.
    It also doesn’t explain, why every Booker in the “light tower” dimension became Comstock, since Comstock was created in the very moment, Booker decided to babtise himself.

    The game also created the typical time travel paradox.

  26. Robfaulkner August 16, 2013 Reply

    No no its actually simple really, Elizabeth ONLY KILLS THE BOOKER THAT ACCEPTS BAPTISM. She takes him to the universe that he refused to be baptised first and leaves with him, this then sets bookers time line “the game” in stone. She then takes him to the universe in which he accepts baptism and kills him thus ending comstocks universe but as stated earlier bookers universe lives on. She effectively snapped off the branch that lead to the growth of the rotten apple and left the rest of the tree to bloom 🙂

  27. emily January 14, 2014 Reply

    What are you saying comstock was always originaly booker then declined or accepted the baptisim meaning him becoming booker ir comstock. Even uf booker never sold anna comstock would come and take her anyway hence the infinite loop the luteces set to stop this by sending booker. The events of infinite would not turn booker into comstock it all depends on the baptisim

  28. bookerdewitt June 20, 2014 Reply

    This is wrong. It cant be like this because Booker has to be killed by Anna. So if he now Starts a new life with Anna as his daughter it wouldnt fit because he has to get to the point where Anna kills him. Otherwise he wouldnt live normal with her.

  29. Jessilyn September 25, 2014 Reply

    My fiancé had me play this game, I completely finished the game within 2 days – BUT I was not worried about what the story was or what they were saying – I was just so amazed by the quality of the game, and of course, killing all of the bad guys. It has been 3 1/2 weeks since I first played this game and I could not stop thinking about it. I knew he was trying to get me to understand it, I would ask him random questions every day about this game I played and he would get frustrated because there was no real way to just simply explain it. So, in that, I played it again. In the middle of playing, I told him to play and I would just watch and he could narrate. And now I am reading this. Im sooo glad you posted this. With the combination of his explanations, examples, and theories and also this entire post I can finally understand it!! Now time to play the rest of the BioShock games!!! THANKS SO MUCH – Jessilyn.

  30. Rparsons May 29, 2015 Reply

    The big problem: Do not mix multiverse theory with single timeline. They forced the ending into a single timeline which was mixed with multiple Elizabeths. Why would the other, slightly different looking (?) Elizabeths care about that one particular universe in which that one particular Dewitt is getting a baptism? The devs tried to make you think all the universes are now one so that your death matters. They seem to have a thing for you character dying at the end, as in Bioshock 2s ending. The problem is who cares? Its just one universe, why would the Team Elizabeth get together for just that one universe? Do they run around to hundreds of thousands of universes wiping out Comstocks? Why the hell would all the universes have lighthouses? Would Eliz, who is really the central character, be better off going all Doctor Who and just find a nice little universe, maybe where people are green, and settle down in Paris?