Major spoilers for Bioshock Infinite and its DLC, Burial at Sea. If you didn’t watch/play, what are you doing here?
We’re all rubes!
Okay, so this is going to be very general, all-encompassing, gut-reaction to the DLC. Given just how much Irrational stuffed into Episode 2 I can’t chew through everything, or anything very thoroughly in this one post. There will definitely be more posts later about the finer details. (Hello, Daisy.)
So let’s get our Little Sisters in order. What in the every-loving world just happened?
Plot Set Up (Quantum Superposition Me)
I see it like this: as I mentioned in my Booker-Elizabeth doppleganger post, part of Elizabeth’s ‘Fall’ was becoming like Booker. We are able to ‘become’ Elizabeth in this DLC because, in essence, she has become Booker in a skirt. (Girl, where did you go so wrong?)
The reason for this, as we find out in Episode 2, is because not only did she burn poor Sally, she kidnapped her and sold her so she would become a Little Sister.
Okay, I get vengeful, ball-busting, take-no-prisoners Elizabeth who, in the heat of the moment (I’m sorry, I had to) maybe turned up the boiler a little too far to get dear Sally out, but kidnapping and selling her so that she could be leashed and used for her powers? I feel a little compelled to cry foul, particularly since omnipotent Elizabeth could not have missed that parallel. Even so, according to BaS 2, she actually used the similarities to torment latent memories out of Comstock. Ugh. So much for intent mattering, huh, Elizabeth?
Continuing: so Elizabeth’s got a massive debt to pay as well as a massive headache. We become Elizabeth because she must see this through and save Sally. But – surprise! – Elizabeth from BaS 2 is not the same Elizabeth from BaS 1, who still manages to look pretty after being fatally thrown through a wall by a Big Daddy. Big reveal: playable Elizabeth has forgone her crazy omnipotence in order to save Sally.
But why does she have to?
Well, DLC logic has it coming down to a Lutece conversation (it always does, doesn’t it?) which is shown in a flashback after Elizabeth discovers her body.
Robert: “And now she wants to go back.”
Elizabeth: “I need to go back, to fix what I broke.”
Rosalind: “Back to where she has no right to be.”
Robert: “Back to where she doesn’t belong.”
Elizabeth: “Doesn’t belong? Wait, what do you mean?”
Rosalind: “Do you want to tell her brother, or shall I?”
Elizabeth: “Because I died…”
Rosalind: “There are rules.”
Robert: “Even for one such as you.”
Rosalind: “She’ll forget.”
Robert: “All the doors.”
Rosalind: “And what’s behind all the doors.”
Robert: “All closed to her now.”
Rosalind: “She’ll be just like the rest of us.”
Robert: “Forgetting the past–”
Rosalind: “The present–”
Robert: “The future–”
Rosalind: “I’d wager she won’t even remember this conversation.”
As Elizabeth says directly after: “The Luteces warned me that if I came back here I would collapse… From a- a quantum superposition, to just me. I’ve changed, Booker. No tears, no cosmic knowledge. Just a normal girl with a normal pinky. ”
So what is a quantum superposition? According to Wikipedia (I know, but this is much more helpful than what Princeton had on it) a quantum superposition “is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics that holds that a physical system—such as an electron—exists partly in all its particular theoretically possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously; but when measured or observed, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations (as described in interpretation of quantum mechanics).”
Alright, so in Infinite terms this means that pre-BaS 2 Elizabeth exists in a state of quantum superposition, or a state of all theoretically possible states (dead, dying, will die, live, living, will live) across all theoretical timelines. She is not one Elizabeth, but all possible Elizabeths. By reentering Rapture, after she has already ‘died’ she experiences a collapse from quantum superstition – she has now been measured, and exists in only one of her possible ‘configurations.’ This explains why she can’t see any of the tears and (I guess?) why her pinkie is back.
I’m just going to put it out there now: there seem to be massive plot holes in this DLC that have repercussions for the entire Bioshock series. Maybe it’s all just complicated mind-fuck that will sort itself out in my brain over the next few weeks, but I’m not going to even pretend I know why quantum superstition matters now and not when Elizabeth was witnessing her own (accidental) murder in the first DLC. (Or even why her death trips the quantum superstition collapse.) It smells like bad writing, but that thought hurts my soul.
When I think of this DLC I keep coming back to the sequence of the different Elizabeths flashing through the mirror: young Elizabeth, Fall Elizabeth, Rapture Elizabeth and bloodied Elizabeth. I think the focus of this DLC is on the end of Elizabeth’s life, and consequently the completion (and breaking) of the bloody circle. In other words, given the complications that naturally arise from time travel (hello, Rowling) as well as Elizabeth’s plot-problematic omnipotence, Irrational shot themselves in the foot trying to logic their way into a meaningful and emotional death for Elizabeth.
Look, I quite liked this DLC and I still think I do, but I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t seem to have some gaping logic errors. I think the thematic implications – the idea that ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ – were great, and gave us some really stellar moments of visual storytelling (the ace in the wind, anyone?). If we ignore the plot-problems of the Big Daddy-Little Sister bonding retcon, that again provided another example of the over-arching theme: Elizabeth’s life mirrored in the moments around her as she takes up her father’s mantle to the bitter end. You could argue a lot of Episode 2 was spent trying to retcon Elizabeth into Bioshock, but those moments were also used to reflect her short life. And that’s kind of beautiful.
tl;dr: Great character arc and visual moments, but Irrational kind of ‘Lost’-ed their ending. Try not to break anything.
Personal Triumphs and Tragedies
I separated this part out because these were some of my personal thoughts and hypothesizes before I played and during the game. They aren’t strictly related to the review/recap/rehash, but they definitely
First off, Sally scared the shit out of me.
I knew it was coming, but still.
Also, the singing bird on Elizabeth’s finger has validated my continuous use of Belle!Elizabeth. The Disney is strong with this one. When the song went on a little too long, I waited for Liz to burst into an Enchanted “Aaaah-Aaaah-Aah-Ah-Ah!” and the rats to start skipping out of the sewer. I was sorely disappointed.
My crack!theory of the game happened when we kept experiencing all those Bioshock flashbacks(forwards?). It’s a sign, I thought to myself, the twist is hidden in here. Clearly this means that Elizabeth is seeing her past/future/alternative life as a Little Sister. Not even a little bit.
My pop culture-inculcated intuition was at least correct about Booker though, who acts as a phantom illusion/hallucinogenic symptom of Elizabeth’s PTSD. Just as I predicted. Woo! Although, to be honest, I am pretty bummed he wasn’t really like the Luteces. He would exasperate them pretty thoroughly.
The hilarious part of all of this, on a blog note, is I now I have to go back to my Elizabeth-Daisy doppleganger soon-to-be post and rework it entirely. I was not expecting that. I hadn’t put it out yet because I was all hung up on the thematic implications of Daisy’s death posture (which at the time seemed strangely supplicating). Well, I am not hung up any more. Boy did this DLC confirm my ‘crack’ suspicions as well as my idea of Daisy being thematically sacrificed to change Elizabeth. Well, now we know she literally was.
Are the Luteces going to have babies together? Oh god, I think I have to do a blog post on this. I am going to say it now: if they are, I hope their kid turns out like Duck from Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Don’t get me wrong, I love them and their Row-Row-Row The Boat singing, but it would be hilarious if the product of their not-incestuous union was as dumb as a bag of bricks. Rosalind would have a kitten.