Maribou watched all of the Mass Effect 3 endings with me on Friday night. Afterwards, she was inspired to write an essay about why “Control” was the right and proper ending for the game. Warning: that essay follows after the cut and it contains some spoilers.

You don’t have to trust the kid, you just have to psychoanalyze it.

1) It admits that it rebelled against its creators (which OF COURSE it  then claims is an inevitable cycle for everyone – go go gadget defense mechanism). On some level, the guilt of this is probably what makes it present Shepard with the destroy option.

2) It still suffers from that loss and yearns for parenting (guidance, direction, meaningful existence), which is why it presents Shepard with option 2. It simultaneously suffers from rebellious resentment (see above) about such parenting and thus exaggerates any loss of control on its part as being a total loss of control. This exaggeration is why it labels the option where Shepard joins the Reapers while retaining his human memories and thoughts as a control option. (Its interactions with the Illusive Man probably reinforced its framing things that way, as well – and its fear of suffering that loss of control probably subconsciously led it to make sure Shepard also had reason to fear this option more than the others.)

3) It yearns for synthesis and has tried for it many times. Synthesis fails because the kid Does Not Understand Organics (when it says that synthesis is what would allow synthetics to understand organics, it is also admitting that IT doesn’t understand organics, while not allowing itself to recognize that it must not understand them). It finally did grasp that organics couldn’t be forced into synthesis, but what it hasn’t understood is that just because SHEPARD is in a position where it would work with him (and probably a few other folks are too), that does not mean IN THE LEAST that all organics are ready. NOT IN THE LEAST.  It also does not understand that organics have to be individually offered options; the consent of one does not mean the consent of the many. Because it is a collective organism, and thus the child can morally cede the destiny of all reapers to Shepard.

Shepard can only morally cede his own destiny. That means he CANNOT morally pick mass synthesis or mass destruction. Control is, of course, morally abhorrent. Vacating the reapers and making them mindless slaves of Shepard’s will would be just as wrong, which is what all the bother over the ending stems from (as far as I can tell) – destroy, control, synthesize == wrong, wrong, wrong.

But the thing is, the 2nd option is *not* a control option. The 2nd option is in fact a SYNTHESIS option: the synthesis of two *choosing* entities. Shepard and the Reapers are both moral agents, deciding together. By embracing the thoughts-and-memories-of-Shepard and allowing them to guide all future decisions, the Reapers finally manage to understand Organics, forming a bridge henceforth between organic and synthetic life. By submitting himself to death as an Organic and rebirth as a Synthetic, Shepard transcends both states; and in so doing, brings them into harmony.

I have some more opinions about this, but Jaybird says “NO RELIGION! NO POLITICS!” So let’s leave it at this: you don’t have to trust the kid, you just have to fix it.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

One Comment

  1. When we were sitting on the couch, she said that “Control” was “Synthesis limited to Shepard”.

    I said “Whoa.”

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