Bioshock Infinite Ending Explained
Bioshock Infinite is a remarkable game. It’s not a perfect game (the fairly un-diverse/non-useful amount of weapons and powers comes to mind as one flaw), but the fascinating story-telling and beautifully realized worlds have kept people talking since its release.
What follows is not meant to be an explanation of Bioshock Infinite’s storyline but, rather, the beginning of a discussion. After playing through the game, then scouring the internet for theories, these are the conclusions I’ve come to. They may or may not be correct, but they should help steer people towards understanding. Yet, even with all this research, there are still many questions left unanswered.
Before beginning, however, it should be noted that the following contains significant spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk.
First, a little back-story:
You play Booker DeWitt, a private investigator in 1912 with a sordid past – and an undisclosed debt. To clear this debt you been asked to retrieve a girl, Elizabeth (a young woman with a missing pinky finger), from the floating city of Columbia (“Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt,” is repeated throughout the game).
The entrance to Columbia, like the entrance to Rapture in the original Bioshock, is inside a lighthouse. You’re brought there by a man and a woman in a rowboat. The bickering “brother and sister,” Robert and Rosalind Lutece, make frequent appearances throughout the game and play an integral role in the overall story.
Soon, you’re sitting in a small rocket ship and flying to Columbia. To enter the city, you must be baptized – another key story point. You are, and you’re almost drowned. When you come to, though, you’re in the beautiful floating city. And beautiful it truly is. Where Rapture was a decimated world, Columbia is flourishing, with carnivals, parades, and happy people. The beach, seen about a third of the way through the game, really leaves an impression, with the man-made oceans dripping over the sides of the airships, the water being recycled below.
Your mere presence though, and a marking of “AD” on your hand – signifying you’re the false prophet, is enough to throw this peaceful city into a warzone. Soon, you’re immersed in battle, both helping and trying to stop a revolution (Columbia is basically a slave community, where people of a certain skin color have little to no rights and wage war against Columbia’s leader, Comstock, who only wants to stop you from leaving with Elizabeth).
It’s all fairly straightforward, or so it seems. What confuses things is Elizabeth’s ability to open tears in the universe, seemingly pulling things through from – or passing herself and others through to – an alternate universe. This ability is widely used in the game play to help bring in weapons for combat, but it has a bigger impact on the story as the whole. And that’s where the explanation to Bioshock Infinite’s twist ending begins.
The game exists within the concept of a multiverse. A multiverse, according to Wikipedia, is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes (including the historical universe we consistently experience) that together comprise everything that exists and can exist.
What does this mean? For every action there is a choice, or a possibility, that can occur (or many choices or possibilities). Each of these possibilities branches off to a different “universe.” These choices are often minute and can even exist on such a small scale that they’re barely imperceptible. The result: an infinite number of possibilities and an infinite number of universes, all of which are constantly branching. Hence the title.
Bioshock Infinite explores this theory – focusing on a major choice that affects many of these paths and has global consequences. This choice is one that Booker DeWitt made many years before the game started. After the battle at Wounded Knee, Booker is wracked with guilt over the atrocities and murders he committed. He’s given the opportunity to cleanse his past and start new with a baptism. At the moment he’s about to be baptized, in one specific universe, two distinct “worlds” are created: one where he goes through with the baptism and one where he doesn’t. From each of these worlds, infinite other worlds branch off, but this one choice creates two distinct paths.
In the world where Booker chooses not to be baptized, he returns home and remains himself living with the pain (and possibly falling into gambling/alcohol debts). The path we are playing is one of these. Here he starts a family, has a baby named Anna, and his wife dies, likely during childbirth.
In the world where Booker chooses to be baptized, he starts life anew, and changes his name – to Zachery Hale Comstock.
That’s right, Booker and Comstock are the same person. In one of the paths the Booker that becomes Comstock meets one of the Lutece siblings – most likely Rosalind, who is a scientist. Rosalind builds the floating city, but also creates a machine that allows Comstock to open tears in the multiverse – both in space and time – thus visiting other “worlds.”
It’s because of this that Comstock is called a prophet. He uses this technology to see the future and adapt it along his path so that he remains an ultimate ruler (and why you are labeled the false prophet – since you’re only sort of him). However, there is a drawback to this technology. It’s left Comstock infertile. He and his wife, Lady Comstock, cannot have children. And therefore he cannot have an heir (he needs an heir with the ability to see the future in order to keep his empire intact).
So what does Comstock do? He opens a tear to one of the universes where his alter ego, Booker DeWitt, had a child – more specifically – our character’s universe (which branches off into an infinite amount of others thanks to the multiverse theory). In this universe Comstock and Rosalind first contact that universe’s version of Rosalind Lutece, who happens to be a man: Robert. They blackmail Booker and to pay his “debt” they force him to hand over his baby. Booker regrets this decision, tries to stop them from getting away, but as they climb back through the tear, it closes on the baby’s finger and a tiny bit is chopped off – leaving it just like Elizabeth’s finger.
That’s right, the baby, Anna, when raised by Comstock grows up to be Elizabeth. Which makes Booker Elizabeth’s dad. “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt,” refers not to rescuing Elizabeth but to handing over the baby.
Booker goes mad, and Comstock becomes a dictator. He implants Elizabeth with the ability to use the tears, then locks her in a tower with a giant songbird protector. The tower siphons Elizabeth’s powers so she can’t see the past and future until Comstock fully trains her. When he does he uses her powers to wage war on the rest of the planet in many different universes. Robert and Rosalind Lutece watch this earth shattering world war and decide to do something about it. They pull Booker through a tear and erase his memory – hoping he can rescue Elizabeth and stop the madness.
However, with Booker’s mind a blank slate, he “fills in” the missing information with things like his quest to erase the debt – thus creating a rescue scenario he was never truly hired for. When he and Elizabeth finally defeat Comstock (Booker kills him, ironically, by drowning him), and destroy the tower she was kept captive in, all the siphoned powers return to Elizabeth and then she remembers.
That’s when things really get crazy.
We learn many things in the next section of the game – some that will be touched on more below. The important thing, though, is that each star they see in the sky is a doorway to another path of the multiverse, physically represented by a lighthouse when they get closer (with its light on top acting like a star). Each of the infinite lighthouses leads to a single infinite possibility. Elizabeth takes Booker on a tour through these, until he learns the truth about his child and himself.
Elizabeth finally brings Booker to the time right before the baptism – the moment that caused the Comstock/Booker split. Multiple versions of Elizabeth converge to drown Booker before he makes thatchoice. By doing so they’ve eliminated the choice of the baptism (a dead person can’t choose, after all), and because of that Comstock can never be born.
Now the important thing to take away here is that there are still Booker DeWitts in existence that go on to have a baby Anna. There were plenty of Bookers living on other paths of the multiverse (and seen in the short scene after the credits where he wakes up and hears baby Anna). Some of these Bookers go on to have a baby named Anna, which is why the baby exists. However, there are no more Comstocks (at least on this specific path), and because there are no more Comstocks, he can never kidnap baby Anna, and help her grow up into the person that becomes Elizabeth. So every Elizabeth disappears from existence (right after Booker is drowned).
It’s a clever twist, parts of which I saw coming and parts of which I didn’t. It kind of hurts the brain to think about and certain things aren’t explained and are left open to interpretation. However, there are some interesting observations made that can support all of the above.
- Elizabeth, when she first regains her powers, takes Booker to Rapture. Therefore, it is implied that Rapture is part of the multiverse. From there we can infer that, in the first Bioshock universe, Booker is Jack, Comstock is Andrew Ryan, Elizabeth is the Little Sisters (or a representation thereof), and the songbird is the Big Daddy. Rapture is one of the possible infinite paths that occurred from the baptism decision. And, if that’s the case, it can be assumed that Andrew Ryan is snapped from existence at the end of the game as well. (Some theories online discuss Jack’s plane crashing because it went through an accidentally created tear – starting the first Bioshock game). Of course the original Bioshock takes place in a different time period – so this whole theory could be off, or when Jack arrived in the crash he also traveled through time and Ryan is one of the original Comstock descendents.
- The Lutece twins have been trying to reverse this for some time, apparently. Early in the game, they ask Booker to flip a coin and it comes up heads. They state this has happened every time (people online have counted 122 on the tallied chalkboard) – indicating this is the 122nd version of Booker to try this. Why it always comes up heads is interesting (while not a choice, minor changes in the way each Booker flips, etc. would create changes leading to a tails) – perhaps the fact that this Booker is currently not in his own universe is effecting the outcome in a predictable way.
- We learn that actions in one universe have an effect in the others. Death, being a powerful change, seems to resonate the most. That’s why when Booker kills Comstock (in essence killing himself), he gets a nosebleed. We see this nosebleed throughout the game, likely signifying that other Bookers have failed/died. For example, we know for sure of the Booker, or many Bookers, that helped the Vox Populi revolution and became a martyr (dying before they could complete the “mission” of stopping Comstock). And we see the other Booker/Elizabeth pairs at the lighthouse that have made it as far as we have.
- On this same token is the story line between Elizabeth and her “mother” Lady Comstock, who has since died, but had an awful relationship with her “adopted” daughter when the child was younger. It’s possible, since it was Comstock himself who was infertile, that Lady Comstock is the same woman Booker had a child with in his world. However, in Comstock’s world she has no children, so she can’t die in childbirth. Yet because of this “echo,” she feels the pain of death when she’s given Elizabeth – a feeling can drive anyone mad, and possibly turn them into the siren she becomes upon being woken up from her tomb.
- Comstock knows that the baptism is what created him – hence the reason for all people entering Columbia needing to be baptized. It’s as if they have to pay homage to him.
- The AD on your hand stands for Anna DeWitt – which you put there to remember her after she was taken. Comstock knows you’re coming to stop him, because he has the ability to see the future. But to stop Booker in every world is impossible; there are an infinite amount of them. So Comstock creates the idea of a false prophet and tries to permeate it through every branch of that multiverse (perhaps going back in time to the moment Columbia is founded) so that the people in Columbia will try to stop Dewitt for him.
- By nature of the multiverse theory, there were an infinite number of Bookers who decided to go to the location of the baptism and make the choice of going through with it, but here we only kill one of those. Each of those other infinite Bookers branches off on his own timelines. The one specific combination that resulted in the Comstock that brings about the end of the world (in its own series of infinite timelines) is the one that the players in this story can fix. Basically we’re looking at one fixed moment and only concerning ourselves with the timeline branching forward from that point (nothing preceding it or parallel to it). Besides, with an infinite number of worlds there are an infinite number of outcomes. Fates far worse than the war Comstock started have certainly arisen in some of those. But the Lutece twins can only fix so much (and by nature of the word infinite can’t fix anything, it will likely happen somewhere eventually) – and they’re trying to fix what they feel they directly caused.
And that’s it. There are a lot of interesting concepts in Bioshock Infinite, all of which can be discussed in the comments below. Also, all the above are simply observations and interpretations based on playing the game once in normal mode and searching the internet for other “ideas” to help me form my own conclusions. Were I to play again, many of the above theories may change.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions on the Bioshock Infinite story line. Please feel free to leave a comment.