Warning: this whole post will contain Major Spoilers. And since quite a few people don’t like the good Major, I figured I’ll warn you. Despite his military rank, the guy can be quite annoying – especially when he tells you that “Bruce Willis was a ghost” or that “it was his sled”. So yeah – if you haven’t finished Bioshock and you don’t want to get spoiled, you probably should stop reading around… Now!
Yeah, right now. Otherwise, you will get spoiled.
Those of you who did play the game will probably recognize the quote from the posts title. Those are of course the last words of Andrew Rayan before you club him to death with his own putter. Which btw, is actually completely justified – anyone who has a putting mat in his or her office should be severely beaten with their club. But I digress.
In case you don’t remember Ryan’s speech, let me remind you:
Why did Andrew Ryan do it? Why did he order you to kill him? What is the exact meaning of his last words. I’ve been pondering this for a while now and I can see several possible explanations. I wanted to briefly discuss some of them here and then listen to your thoughts on the topic.
One possible explanation is that Rayan realized that his dream lies in ruin, and that he became what he despised the most – a social parasite. His own actions perverted Rapture into a twisted police state. He willfully engaged in acts that were completely against his beliefs – censorship, forceful nationalization of private corporations, trade sanctions and etc. He realizes he was drunk with power, and acted like a complete a hypocrite.
When he meets you he demonstrates that he has complete control over your actions. He could easily make you kill yourself, or send you after Atlas instead. But he chooses not to. As if to atone for his sins he decides to take himself out of the equation.
He was slave to his own desires, dreams and goals. He was clinging to power where he should have let go a long time ago. This addiction to power has led him astray and caused the downfall of his city. So he chooses to die as a man, and take the blasted city with him.
Then again, if this was his choice, wouldn’t he choose to die stoically proudly? Something in his frantic repetition of that phrase tells me he is not really repenting.
No one kills me, but me
Perhaps Rayan doesn’t see the error of his ways, but simply realizes that his death is inevitable. Atlas seems to be hell bent on destroying him, and with Rapture going to pieces he really can’t expect to live much longer. So he chooses to defy Atlas and die of his own accord.
He decides to take his own life now before Atlas can take it. He won’t give him the satisfaction. His last words are a mockery – he openly taunts you and Atlas. You are a mindless puppet that can be easily controlled, and Atlas is a fool for sending you. You only got this far, because Rayan allowed you to. At any point he could have said: “kill yourself, would you kindly” – but he never did.
That still, doesn’t ring completely true. When he says the line “A man chooses, a slave obeys” he almost seems to be pleading with you.
Awakening the Ghola
My favorite theory is that Ryan is making a desperate attempt to break your conditioning. He figures that the act of killing your own father (estranged or not) is so traumatic that it will free you from the conditioning. Which is actually not as crazy as it sounds.
In Frank Herbert’s Dune series this is actually the standard method of awakening the genetic memories of Gholas – vat grown clones. Since birth they are conditioned with a compulsion to kill a carefully selected target upon hearing a trigger word. Once the clone is the correct age he is exposed to the target – an important person from the life of the original person whose DNA was used for cloning (or a convincing double). It’s usually a spouse, lover, parent, sibling, mentor or favored pupil. When given the trigger the Ghola is compelled to commit the murder, but also incapable to do so. The psychological trauma is so great that it breaks the conditioning, and somehow gives the Ghola access to the memories of the original.
Perhaps Rayan is trying to do the same in a last ditch attempt to both save his life, and save yours. The fact that he doesn’t make you kill yourself shows that he won’t kill his own child, no matter what. So he puts his own life on the line trying to snatch you out of Atlas’ clutches. It also explains why he allows you to get so close. This is the only way he can attempt to counteract the brainwashing you underwent.
Of course he couldn’t allow you to just waltz into his office – that would be suspicious. He must keep Atlas in the dark, and he makes you work for it. He is probably hoping that all the hardships you need to undertake, and the persistent danger will weaken the conditioning.
Until his last breath, he believes you are actually stronger than the compulsion. His last words are directed at you, and you only. Ryan tells you to break your bonds, and be a man. He tells you to choose, because he truly believes you can. The whole experience he designed for you – the stress, tension, fear – all are aimed to fuck with your head, and put you in the right frame of mind. One in which the brainwashing can be shrugged off.
Sadly he is mistaken, but I think this is a decent theory. How about you?
Why do you think Rayan gives you a golf club, and orders you to kill him? What is his purpose? What are his last words supposed to mean? I’d love to hear your take on this.