You shouldn't be reading this unless you've played the game, right? Played it and finished it. Then played it again, to enjoy how the world fits together with your new knowledge, even if the plot is flapping raggedy up a flagpole. This article is replete with spoilers, from the very second you make the jump.
OK, last spoiler warning. Spoilers will definitely begin after the image we've dropped in under this paragraph, to give you precious last inches of ruination-free content.
Good. Now it's just us. I can only assume that you're all in the same hot-pot of bewilderment as I've been stewing in, along with Craig Owens, Edge alumnus who's been helping around the OXM offices recently. He's sat next to me now, if that helps you imagine the scene.
We've been talking about what does and doesn't work for what feels like an expressible percentage of our lives, now. And before we peck lovingly at the plot threads, let's tip the respect hat: some things work wonderfully. The battle with Slate is brilliantly rewritten when you know that Slate's accusations are false, and he's been driven mad by living in a world whose facts don't match his memory. And as Craig pointed out, Comstock's bile towards DeWitt becomes much more poignant when you know it's a man hating what he could have become. Much of it works: we're not sure the ending is included in that. Here's why, and much else that has left us stumped or unimpressed.
1. Booker's Death
Log asks: Why does it do anything?
This is a symptom of other assumptions that don't make sense to me. For example, when Booker plans to kill Comstock as a baby. The number of universes is as close to infinite as makes no odds. So how would killing one baby, in one universe, help? Any choice is doomed to futility, knowing that you're simply one of infinite people making that decision, while an infinite army simultaneously makes the opposite decision.
Given that, how did killing one Booker remove any more than the single Elizabeth he fathered? Is it different, when Elizabeth does it? And surely the very act of drowning Booker, given that we've accepted a multiverse, creates another universe in which the Elizabeth mini-hive didn't drown him? This is no solution. This is fixing nothing.
The real ending shouldn't be one of death and sudden, fake resolution. The only possible sane ending in Bioshock Infinite should be one where DeWitt appreciates the endless scale of these events, and his impotence within that framework. The only possible conclusion can be: stick to your own universe. It's the place you're least negligible. I suppose that's one possible interpretation of the post-credits reset, to Booker in the office with Anna. But even then, I gain no satisfaction from seeing that, after the drowning of my Booker. It reduces the multiverse to a stock of extra lives. This Booker might be an absolute arsehole.
Craig asks: Why drown Booker?
My problem with this is that it seems to break the rules that have just been established. The first time Booker and Elizabeth come across the baptism scene, Booker rejects the submersion, as he did all those years ago. We're given to understand that there's a "branch" at this point: in all the universes where Booker wasn't born again, he became a Pinkerton agent, had a child, and gave her away. Meanwhile, in all the universes where Booker did accept the baptism, he became Comstock, founded Columbia, and ended up stealing his own daughter from an alternative version of himself.
We already have proof, in other words, that even if Zachary Hale Comstock doesn't emerge from the waters in one universe, he's still going to do so in an infinite number of others (okay, technically Elizabeth says "millions and millions", but let's face it, the clue's in the title). Why then, does killing Booker change this? Surely it just creates a "third branch", another offshoot of universes in which there's neither a Booker nor a Comstock? Obviously these worlds would be very different, but how does this change things for the people, the Columbians and the Elizabeths, in the first two universe branches?
I think there's some significance to do with the fact it's Elizabeth doing the drowning. Indeed, it's multiple versions of her. Perhaps the idea is that all these infinite Elizabeths are bringing infinite Bookers to this point in space and time, using their interdimensional powers to make the effects of the drowning spill across every universe. But I am reaching, desperately and without evidence, to make that theory work.