Major spoilers for Bioshock Infinite. Didn’t watch/play? DON’T READ!
Another clear double in the Infinite universe is the Booker-Comstock dual: two men, the same man who made a different choice.
What’s interesting about these two is how unalike they are, in comparison to the Luteces. They both are, to a certain extent, evil: Comstock has the racist, religious zealotry with a dash of hypocritical violence in his corner, while Booker has the gave-up-my-infant-daughter-for-money and the repenting-racist-who-still-shoves-skyhooks-into-people’s-faces evil in his corner.
I’m sure people are going to have a problem with me calling Booker evil. It’s perfectly natural since we are Booker throughout the game. He becomes our second skin as we explore Columbia, and in the face of Comstock’s blatant evil we often forget how terrible Booker really is. He’s a thug who exacts his revenge by doing violence onto others, whether deserved or not. He also sold his infant daughter to pay for a gambling debt. And let’s not forget Wounded Knee. This isn’t ‘Woops! I messed up!’ territory – hence why Booker needs the repentance he seeks in Infinite so badly.
Still, while Booker and Comstock share a taste for violence, they come about it in very different ways. As the playable character and a former Pinkerton agent, Booker is much more hands on. Hell, just look at his first murder in the game:
Gruesome, right? Comstock plays a little differently. He is responsible for the deaths of the Luteces as well as his wife, Lady Comstock, but he orders rather than commits the Luteces’ deaths. Lady Comstock is, eh, a bit more ambiguous. (He might have Andrew Ryan’d it.) Comstock also orders Elizabeth to be strapped to a device that will systematically torture her when she tries to use her powers.
You could argue that Comstock is a man more about power than action. He ‘foresees,’ commands and restricts, but he is also detached. The first time we see him in person we can only look at him through a pane of glass. The next time we see him is at the end of the game when, in true DeWitt fashion, Booker cracks his head on a baptismal font (which ironically looks a lot like a bird bath).
So what does this doubling mean? Obviously the revelation serves as one of the more gotcha! moments in the game, but it also says something about the integral character of the man (formerly) known as Booker DeWitt. I think a lot of this plays into the main themes of the game, which I discuss here, but one of the points I make about the Booker-Comstock relationship should be reiterated here:
The entire game can be reduced to the simple idea that Columbia is a battlefield for Booker’s fractured personhood.
Two sides of the same coin, struggling to prove who is ‘better’ or who is ‘good.’ It’s almost a struggle of two different timelines trying to assert which ‘Booker’ turns out the best. It’s interesting to think that all that death and chaos: the murders of the Luteces, Lady Comstock, Comstock’s men, the handymen, the Vox Populi – almost everyone who is murdered, maimed or hurt in this game is murdered, maimed or hurt (either directly or indirectly) by the fractured self of Booker DeWitt.
Who’s going to repent for that?