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Understanding BioShock Infinite’s ending

This post has been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING: Do not, under any circumstances, read on if you have not played and finished BioShock Infinite. Everything about the game is spoiled below and discussed in-depth. You have been warned!

Here’s another view of the artistry of BioShock Infinite.


OK, so I noticed a lot of people are confused about the ending of BioShock Infinite. Admittedly, the last 25 minutes throw a lot at you at once, and you don’t really have enough time to process it or make much sense of it all.

I also want to point out that this explanation is also an actual explanation of the ending. I have seen many people explain the entire plot in detail — which I will also be doing — but they all seem to brush over exactly what the ending means and how Irrational leaves things off. If you watched past the credits, you should know what the true ending. But if you didn’t, you will no doubt still be a bit confused. Basically, what I’m trying to say is: Don’t worry; everything is explained here — not just the plot but the actual end and its context, too, so if you want closure, then I guess just read this.

I’m still unsure of a couple of things, but these aren’t massive plot points that really matter, and either I just missed something or they are actual minor plot holes that weren’t explained in the game properly.

So, let us begin. At the beginning.

The basics

Booker Dewitt, the player’s character, has been entrusted with the job of going to Columbia to rescue a girl, Elizabeth, and bring her back to New York. Apparently, this deed will rid Booker of all his (gambling?) debts.

After blasting off into Columbia, Booker goes about trying to get to Elizabeth, who’s locked away in a tower. Before he can reach her, he receives a telegram telling him NOT to pick number 77. He ignores it, not understanding what it means. He then sees a sign showing off a somewhat devilish hand with the letters “AD” printed on the back of it. These letters (AD) match the letters imprinted on the back of Booker’s, hand.

The prophet Comstock, the ruler of Columbia, predicted that a “false shepherd” would come to Columbia to try and steal their lamb (Elizabeth) from them. This false shepherd can be identified by the AD mark on the back of his hand. This false shepherd is Booker.

After going to watch the Columbia raffle on his way to the tower, Booker is told to choose a raffle ball, which he does. It is number 77, and he wins the raffle. His prize is getting to throw his ball at a couple of tied up Columbians — one white, one black. After going to throw the ball, Booker’s hand is stopped by a police officer, who reveals him as the false shepherd. Now Booker must fight through hundreds of people just to get to Elizabeth — and hundreds more to try and escape Columbia.

After he finds her, things become pretty straight forward; escape this city in the sky.

Ripping time and space

It isn’t until near the end that the plot heats up again. Before we go into this though, we need to take a look at Elizabeth’s “tearing” power.

Oh, off topic but it is also important to remember she has one of her little fingers missing.

Elizabeth received this tearing power after the Lutece’s twins experimented on her (she did not naturally have this power). The twins had previously made machinery that could open tears. After these experiments, Elizabeth could do so without any help.

Tears are basically otherworldly things. Other dimensions. A open tear can bring in something from another world — or you can enter an entirely new world. However, and I stress this, new universes or items can’t be created from scratch. They have to already exist for them to be brought into either the current world or accessed in their entirety.

With Elizabeth’s power out the way, let’s move on.

bioshock-inf-songbird-rapture

The Songbird

Songbird, a massive mechanical bird that protects Elizabeth and that can be summoned and controlled by a whistle-flute thing, always seems to intervene at the last moment and take Elizabeth from Booker. When Songbird does this near the end, Booker tries to rescue her. He hears, through mini-tears in the air, Elizabeth being tortured and brainwashed into becoming the heir to the throne that Comstock wanted her to be.

After going through a tear into another dimension, Booker discovers an old, frail Elizabeth looking out over a burning city. The chaos is her doing. She explains to Booker that this can never happen and gives him a piece of paper to give to the young Elizabeth. He then goes through another tear into a universe where Elizabeth is still being tortured and brainwashed. After rescuing her, he gives her the note. All seems well.

They go on to find Comstock. But after he (Comstock) tries to get Booker to explain why Elizabeth is missing her pinkie finger, Booker kills him, denying any knowledge of it. Elizabeth, however, knows Booker knows something, even if he doesn’t remember.

They attempt to escape, but they are attacked again — this time by loads of Vox. Elizabeth then realizes she can control Songbird by using the whistle. They use Songbird to help kill the remaining Vox. Afterward, Elizabeth gets Songbird to destroy the Siphon; the original source of her power and a device that forces her to remain within Columbia and stops her opening up another dimension to escape into.

After it is destroyed, Booker drops Songbird’s whistle because it becomes electrified, and he panics as Songbird rushes toward them, no doubt about to flatten them both. But Elizabeth opens up a tear into another world, allowing them to escape into a new world.

The world of Rapture.

As they wander through Rapture, they then leave through a lighthouse door and come into a huge, massive, open, infinite space full of neverending lighthouses.

This is where the explanations start.

Beacons to other worlds

Each lighthouse represents a world, a dimension. What are these dimensions? Well, they could be anything, worlds never even heard of, but they are also the outcome of every possible situation and choice.

So, for instance, if you decided to stay at home (and play Infinite) rather than go to work, another dimension would be created for where you didn’t stay home and you did go to work. A new world is created for everything that could have ever been.

We then learn by going through one of these lighthouses that after killing Native Americans at Wounded Knee, Booker got baptized to rid him of his sins. But he refused the baptism at the last moment and went on to live his life. Booker and Elizabeth move on to another lighthouse — to another thing that happened in Booker’s life.

We are now in Booker’s apartment, and there is Robert Lutece standing in the doorway. You hear a baby called Anna in one of the rooms, and after entering it, you see the very young child Anna in a cot. Booker frantically denies that the child ever existed, completely confused as to why this is happening. But to continue he must go through with the scene as it happened before. He hands his child over to Robert, who then leaves, saying something along the lines of “Mr. Comstock forgives your sins.” We then go to a scene where we see Comstock holding Booker’s daughter as he is about to go through a tear into another dimension (the dimension of Columbia). But Booker tries to stop him leaving, begging for his daughter back. Unfortunately, Comstock gets away — but he isn’t quick enough, and as the tear closes, Anna’s little finger gets caught in the closing tear is cut clean off.

It is now obvious that Elizabeth, previously called Anna, is Booker’s daughter.

Now this is where it gets a little confusing. Booker realizes that the Lutece twins, who aren’t actually twins but are versions of the same person from different dimensions who met each other, came to help him after Comstock betrayed them. They came to help Booker get his daughter back from Columbia.

They opened a tear and brought him into Columbia’s dimension. After bringing him through, Booker’s mind created new memories in place of the old ones. He created a new purpose for himself in this other world, and this purpose was what he wanted to do all along: find Anna/Elizabeth and get her back.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t as simple as that.

Before entering the final lighthouse, we hear Booker saying about how they will just go back and kill Comstock in his crib to prevent all this. That, however, actually means killing himself, as you’ll see in the next section.

Booker, who art thou?

When, in the original dimension, Booker rejected the baptism, another world was created in which he accepted it. This is the place they are in now. This is the world where he accepted the baptism.

After being baptised, what did this new, free-of-sin Booker do? He called himself Zachary Comstock and created a city in the sky called Columbia. He was born again — but this time an evil man.

To kill Comstock when he was born, Booker has to kill himself when he turned into Comstock. And that is at the place in another dimension where he accepted the baptism instead of rejecting it.

Lots of Elizabeths appear, and they proceed to drown Booker, presumably in the baptismal basin. After he dies, we see all of the Elizabeths disappear.

Now, this is the end. The credits roll from there. Or is it? There is more. I will go into this after explaining all of the above, though.

bioshock-infinite-seed-of-prophet

What it all means

When Booker was first faced with choosing the baptism, he declined. He then went on to have a baby. Obviously, this decision created another dimension in which he had accepted the baptism, in which case he then became Comstock and went on to create Columbia. Both Comstock and the original Booker existed within their own dimensions, doing their own thing. However, after Comstock needed an heir but couldn’t have a child because he was infertile, he used the Lutece’ twins tearing machine to take Booker’s own child, Anna. Technically, because Comstock is Booker but just in another world, Anna is still biologically related to him. Booker actually sold Anna to him to pay off his debts to him, and I know what you are thinking: Isn’t there just another reality for if he hadn’t sold her? Well, yes — but also no. Because Comstock wanted — needed, in fact — Anna so badly (and it could be only Anna because she was the only child related to him) even if Booker hadn’t sold her, Comstock would have entered Booker’s world and taken her by force. There is no world, while Comstock existed anyway, where Booker and Anna stayed together.

Booker was caught in a never-ending cycle of trying to save his daughter. He had already been to Columbia over a hundred times before. This is proved when he is in Columbia and asked by the Lutece twins to flip a coin. He does, and it is heads. They mark it on a chalk board under “heads” and you see that heads is marked more than 100 times. No tails have been marked down. This means that Booker has been there over 100 times before, flipped the same coin and, as always, had the same outcome. While you can choose, during the story, to kill someone or let them live, that is a choice (no doubt another world is created to accommodate the other choice you had) and not chance. Flipping a coin is chance. He already flipped the same coin every time he had been to Columbia before and, as always, just like all the events there, it was scripted to heads.

Back to where we were before. It didn’t matter what happened; he would always end up where he was. It was impossible to avoid. Because Booker had a daughter and Comstock needed her and he made their dimensions cross and he took her, there were no other dimensions with a different outcome. Every world Booker existed in ended up with him losing Anna and going to save her. A never-ending loop.

However, it does end, here. After Booker accepted he needed to die to kill Comstock, he allowed Elizabeth to kill him. By killing himself at the point in time where he accepted the baptism, he killed off any possibility of a Comstock. Comstock never existed. Comstock never came and took Booker’s baby, and Columbia was never built. Anything Comstock had an effect on or had anything to do with was destroyed and never happened.

This is where a lot of people lose it. They think Booker, Comstock, Elizabeth, and Columbia all died, but they didn’t. Booker didn’t kill himself when he was first born; he killed himself when he turned into Comstock. All that did was kill off any Comstock version of him that there ever was.

After the credits, there is a little, tiny section, where Booker wakes up in his apartment and hears Anna crying. He goes into her room and calls out “Anna?!” That is where the game really ends.

This little part backs up what I am saying.

Because only Comstock was killed and stopped from ever existing, the Booker that declined the Baptism still existed. However because Booker and Comstock’s worlds crossed, all parts of Booker’s life that included Comstock or anything from the Comstock dimension itself was removed from his life. There were no Lutece twins who came to collect his daughter, no Columbia, no Comstock, and no adult Elizabeth in his, or any other, dimension. Ever. He then went back to the last time in his life that was free from Comstock-related madness: Booker in his apartment with Anna as a baby before he met Comstock.

Now people may come back with “But Elizabeth disappeared from the scene after drowning Booker,” and while this is true, it makes sense — and is also one of the most depressing parts of the game despite its happy ending. Elizabeth in that form never existed. The girl you went through the entire story with? She never existed. Anna is Elizabeth, but because every outcome of baby Anna’s life was to end up in Columbia with Comstock in that tower and grow up there, when Comstock died and everything he had done and had effected died with him, the adult Elizabeth also went. There was no adult Elizabeth in any other dimension that Comstock wasn’t in. Because he was in every world she was in, when he died, the adult Elizabeth died too, leaving only baby Anna. This means that while Anna will be free to live with Booker, she will never turn into the same person. She will never be able to open tears, as that was an ability given to her by the Lutece twins in Columbia. She may never be able to pick locks (why would she need to learn to do that?), and a lot of her personality that was influenced by being in Columbia will be different. She will never be Elizabeth. She will always be Anna, a completely different human than the one we got to know. So, in a way, Elizabeth did die. That, to me, is a very depressing thing indeed, as Elizabeth was an incredibly crafted character and the best female portrayal in any game I’ve ever played.

Here’s another quick thing to note, something players may mention: Why did they even bother to stop Comstock? Why not just change what had happened by going back to old memories and parts in time through those lighthouses? The thing is that they can’t. When you go back to previously, already, made memories, you can only relive them — you cannot remake them. Booker couldn’t go back and choose to run off with Anna, because his decision to sell her was made, and he must go through with it even if he went back knowing it was wrong. Even in an alternate reality where he didn’t sell her, Comstock still came to steal her away.

Now, the only slight odd thing about this is: if it isn’t possible to change already made memories and situations, how did Booker allow Elizabeth to drown him and kill off Comstock if that isn’t what happened? Well, while Elizabeth was not in his memory, and could not effect proceedings to do with other people, you’ll notice she can still touch and interact with Booker. So while her control over the scene is limited, she can kill Booker in that scene herself and end it there.

So, there you have it! Ask any questions you want in the comments and I will try my best to answer them!

The Cliffs Notes version

If you want a summary of what happened minus the confusing shit: Comstock was Booker in an alternate reality where he didn’t decline the baptism. Comstock took, either by force or through buying, Booker’s daughter, Anna (also Elizabeth). Booker went on a cycle of trying to get her back that never ended and always ended up the same. In the end, he let himself be killed at the point where he turned into Comstock, and thus everything “Comstock related” died. He became himself in his last pure, Comstock-less memory, which was him with baby Anna.

The end.

P.S: A quick note I forgot to mention: The AD on Booker’s hand stands for: Anna Dewitt. Comstock foresaw Booker coming now doubt because he knew he would try and get his daughter back because he never wanted her to leave.

Since writing this ending explanation, I have since written a new piece answering many recurring questions about BioShock Infinite’s ending. This can be found on my blog (address below or in my GamesBeat bio) so if you have any questions check out that article to see if I answered them!


Thanks for reading and remember to check out my blog (michaelthekyle.blogspot.co.uk) for more exclusive content including the BioShock Infinite Q&A, and follow me on Twitter @mookyst.

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