Mass Effect 3 updates will most likely start tomorrow night. It goes without saying that from here on out, every post will contain spoilers for ME3, so if you haven’t played it yet you might want to stop reading the blog until you do.
Now that our long, harrowing, slow-updating trek through Mass Effect 2 is over, it would be valuable to take stock and try to figure out exactly what in God’s name my mother imagines the story of Mass Effect 2 to be.
If you’ll recall, we learned in Mass Effect 1 that The Illusive Man is Kaidan’s older brother, and CEO of the Calvin Klein corporation. When blue-jeans sales in the Terminus Systems colonies began to plummet, he discovered that it was because the Collectors were abducting humans for some unknown purpose. With his vast resources and keen business acumen, he determined that they were working with the Reapers, an ancient race of machines that are planning to eradicate galactic civilization and throw the fashionable blue-jeans industry into turmoil. His right-hand woman Miranda Lawson tells him the simple fact that neither of them want to admit: the only hope for the future of the company is to bring Miranda’s mother, Robyn Shepard, back from the dead.
Decades ago, Cerberus instituted a program to genetically engineer new agents. They infiltrated the science department of Virmire Community College, where they used the students as a source of cheap, quiet labor. Donnell Udina and Benezia T’Soni were two such students. The project led to many artificially produced or “petri dish” life forms, including Jacob Taylor, Saren Arterius, the Thorian, and even a new Rachni Queen. Working with Warlord Okeer, they also developed a means to mass-produce krogan soldiers, working around the genophage to create a new breed of subservient krogan soldier. Experiments continued on Virmire while Okeer headed to Korlus for a new development in krogan biology: presumably by combining krogan and thresher maw DNA, he was able to develop krogan that could grow from mere spores. Okeer pretended to develop this technology for the Blue Suns mercenary group, in order to use their funds to finance the project and keep his experiments off of Calvin Klein’s books.
One such “petri dish” experiment was a project labeled “Robyn Shepard.” The pinnacle of human potential, Shepard would one day mature into an unstoppable supersoldier, charismatic enough to serve as a spokesman for the corporation, strong enough to exert Calvin Klein’s will through force in the uncivilized swathes of the galaxy, and beautiful enough to work as a model.
Unfortunately, the experiment was a failure. Though Shepard possessed many of the traits that she was intended to, she was also highly unstable. Her learning abilities, attention span, and empathy were all far below normal human levels. While the other experiments were sent out into the galaxy to serve as soldiers and sleeper agents, Shepard was sent to earth, where she was kept in a CK-owned blue-jeans factory, where she was looked after by a “sister.” Whether this person was a genetically engineered caretaker or simply a volunteer that adopted the young bastardization of science is unknown.
Cerberus hoped that Robyn Shepard could one day develop into the asset they designed her to be, but her destructive and rebellious nature made this possibility ever-more remote. At a young age, she fell in with a local gang, The Reds. By age 13, she was selling her body, using Calvin Klein’s connections to gain access to such elite clientele as Henry Lawson.
As we know from the events of Mass Effect 1, the state of affairs on Earth soon fell to pieces. Shepard’s “sister” became romantically involved with one of The Illusive Man’s brothers, while another brother, Kaidan Klein, murdered them both. Kaidan’s motivations remain unclear. Is he truly the unhingend sociopath that Robyn Shepard believes him to be? Or did he simply wish to escape the paramilitary/overpriced clothing empire he had inherited, and enlisted in the Alliance to find some way to atone for his and his family’s sins? It would explain why he is so angry that Shepard has chosen of her own volition to continue working with Cerberus. Perhaps we will finally discover his underlying motivations during the course of Mass Effect 3.
After defeating Saren, Shepard was killed by an ambush from a Collector ship. With no other choice, Cerberus revives her, hoping that her passion for revenge will assist in keeping her focused on killing the Collectors, rather than themselves. In order to keep her satisfied, The Illusive Man provides Shepard with a sizeable paycheck, a highly equipped ship, and surrounds her with specialists, most of which are selected due to the low likelihood that Shepard would attempt to murder them. These included: her former pilot and occasional love interest Jeff “Joker” Moreau; her fellow genetic supersoldier Jacob Taylor; her “baby brother,” the experimental krogan prototype known as Grunt; Jack, another Cerberus experiment and fellow violent sociopath; and her daughter, Miranda Lawson.
This final decision proved to be a serious miscalculation. Shepard’s contempt for her daughter utterly dwarfed that of the Collectors, and while she ultimately did accomplish the mission with which she had been tasked, her constant attempts to murder Miranda led to the operation being carried out in an even sloppier and more reckless fashion than Shepard’s usual output. Dozens of Cerberus officers, along with many highly talented and highly paid specialists and experts, were killed while assaulting the Collector base. Even worse, in a final fit of rebellion Shepard destroyed the base and finally succeeded in murdering her daughter. The commander hijacked the vessel and the remaining Cerberus crew and departed for parts unknown. Had Miranda been omitted from the Normandy SR-2’s crew, the mission likely would have cost Cerberus far less time and money.
Some readers might read the above paragraphs and suggest that, for instance, none of this makes a lick of fucking sense. Timelines don’t seem to add up, character motivations seem to contradict actions depicted in the story, and much of it seems to go against established Mass Effect canon. Some might suggest that these issues can be attributed to my mother not particularly giving a shit and just making up nonsense as we go along in a desperate bid to find entertainment in something she finds fundamentally boring. However, the more cultured among you will realize that such an opinion is naive and ignorant of the vast literary depth of the narrative that my mother has constructed.
The so-called “Indoctrination Theory” for the ending of Mass Effect 3 gained a large amount of popularity when it was first conceived (though I’m personally a bigger fan of the Intoxication Theory). If we as a fanbase have already accepted the possibility that some events depicted in the Mass Effect series may not be what they appear on the surface, then why has this interpretative lens not been applied to Mass Effect 2? Allow me to present the Mental Illness Theory of Mass Effect 2.
Shepard frequently sees similarities to herself in other characters. She claims that she looks similar to both Miranda and Grunt. Most perplexingly of all, at one point she mistakes the Horizon colonist Lilith for herself. As The Illusive Man himself informs us at the start of the game, “the patterns are there, buried in the data.”
Robyn Shepard suffers from a severe crisis of identity and a shattered psyche. Inconsistencies with the plot presented to us are the result of Shepard being a mentally unstable and unreliable narrator.
Shepard frequently expresses feelings of jealousy toward Miranda. She claims that they look alike, but also seems to acknowledge that she’s a more attractive woman. What’s important to realize is that Miranda represents an aspect of Shepard’s personality, her potential as a temptress and capable Cerberus operative. She simultaneously craves from the depths of her heart to be Miranda, and hates the idea of accepting a destiny that has been forced upon her by external sources. She dreams of greatness but wants to defy the expectations that others have established for her.
Enter Jack, The Convict. The opposite of Miranda in every way, Jack’s motives seem to mirror Shepard’s. At a young age she escaped from Cerberus and ever since has acted as a criminal and rebel, determined to reject any limitations on her imposed by society. Jack also represents a facet of Robyn Shepard, her potential to defy society’s rules and forge her own path, destroying any that would deny her this right. This is why Jack is the only female that Shepard befriends. She admires Jack, and unlike Miranda these feelings are not accompanied by jealousy.
Unfortunately, it eventually becomes clear that Jack’s way is also not a path to happiness. Jack is a broken individual carrying a vast amount of emotional trauma, and in spite of her tough exterior she will never be able to escape the pain in her heart. While becoming Jack will fulfill Shepard’s basic desires, it also represents a forfeiture of hope. Because of this, Shepard is constantly torn between which woman she will become, Jack or Miranda.
Shepard identifies Grunt as a “baby brother,” and even claims that they have a family resemblance. She feels obligated to protect and care for him, and yet in spite of this she doesn’t seem to actually like him all that much. The reason is clear. Grunt is everything that Shepard fears becoming, an ugly, brutish killing machine designed to fight for reasons she neither understands nor cares about, but that she cannot reject lest she lose any purpose in life. Grunt obtaining his own purpose through the Tuchanka Rite of Passage is the first glimmer of hope on her path to self-actualization.
While visiting Horizon, Shepard lays eyes on a colonist named Lilith, walking with Kaidan Alenko, a man whom she once tried to become romantic with. For a moment, Shepard believes herself to be Lilith, and imagines living an ideal life with Kaidan in the beautiful fields of Horizon. Lilith represents an ideal that Shepard strives for, a life of peace and happiness defined on her own terms. The idyllic moment is cut short, however, when the Collectors and their Seeker swarms descend upon the colony, representing the turmoil in Shepard’s soul that prevents her dream from becoming reality. Shepard continues to perceive a happy, quiet life of love and happiness as an impossibility, such as when she sees two confused men argue about which of them has a beautiful and loving wife and claims that both men are liars.
Throughout her quest to defeat the Collectors, Shepard is anchored by one man. Jacob Taylor. Like herself, Jacob is a genetically engineered supersoldier, designed to serve Cerberus’ whim. Unlike Shepard, however, Jacob is a confident individual who is able to balance his personal desires with his own expectations. Even when confronted with Ronald Taylor, Jacob’s own personal demon, he weathers the emotional storm perfectly, and emerges from the ordeal victorious. While Jacob is not a facet of Shepard’s personality, he is an ideal that she aspires to, the ability to reconcile one’s desires with one’s role. He has accomplished what she has not, and she grows closer to him in an attempt to learn his secrets. Shepard’s nicknames for Taylor, “Dark Chocolate” and “Hot Chocolate,” are both symbolically significant as well. Dark Chocolate is said to work as a mild antidepressant, and Hot Chocolate is known for its ability to warm a cold body from the inside out.
The conflict between Shepard’s various ideals and conceptions of herself comes to a head when she heads to the galactic core to confront the Collectors once and for all. Throughout the aptly named “Suicide Mission,” the representations of Shepard are killed off one by one.
The first to die is the colonist Lilith. Shepard is forced to watch in horror as her hopes and dreams of peaceful, idyllic life are literally obliterated before her very eyes.
Grunt is the next to die, symbolizing that while Shepard has been denied the perfection that Lilith embodied, she has also grown enough to escape the grim fate that Grunt once represented. It’s worth noting that Grunt is not killed on-screen, but rather ascends into the sky.
Jack is the next that is killed. As much as she wants to, Shepard can no longer accept the solution that Jack embodies. To reject everything is to embrace nothing, and Jack’s death reflects Shepard’s realization of this fact.
In the climax of the game, Jacob, the symbol of stability and self-determination, is sent sliding into a vast pit of darkness. Shepard barely manages to save him, and in doing so, saves herself.
Miranda is the last aspect of Shepard to die. In saving Jacob and discarding Grunt, she has learned that she can forge her own path in life, and does not need to live by the expectations that others have attempted to impose on her. Her conflict regarding the Miranda persona is finally resolved, and she can shed her once and for all.
There are many more casualties during the Suicide mission. In fact, every female character dies during the course of it, with the exception of one: Tali’Zorah vas Normandy. A woman who has only recently come of age, Tali is an alien who has been stripped of her original surname, and has been forced to take on a new one that represents not who she is or who she wants to be, but merely her current place in life, fittingly, a powerful and versatile vehicle. She has worn a mask her entire life, and has never shown her true face to the world. She is the only facet of Shepard’s psyche that remains, and represents the potential that Shepard now has to “remove her mask” and reveal any person that she wishes to the world. It is this persona that Shepard carries with her into Mass Effect 3, where she will finally become her own, independent and self-defined person as she takes on the ultimate embodiment of her personal demons, The Reapers.
Also she has a hole cut out in the back of her shirt to allow for fart ventilation.
It is time once again to remember those who were stupid enough to come within twenty miles of Commander Shepard, and lost their lives for their transgression.
Maestro, if you’d be so kind.
Commander Robyn “Mama” Shepard, Systems Alliance N7 Operative and Citadel Spectre. Killed during a routine patrol by a Collector ambush. Later resurrected by Cerberus’ Lazarus Program, arguably the single most foolish project the terrorist group has ever undertaken.
Alliance soldiers Jamin Bakari, Garmeen Barrett, Addison Chase, Silas Crosby, Rosmund and Talitha Draven, Alexei Dubyanski, Hector Emmerson, Robert Felawa, Harvey J. Gladstone, Caroline Grenado, Marcus Grieco, Orden Laflamme, Helen M. Lowe, Monica Negulesco, Abishek Pakti, Charles Pressly, Mandira Rahman, Raymond Tanaka, Carlton Tucks, and Amina Waaberi. Killed during a routine patrol by a Collector ambush. Commander Shepard was asked to retrieve their dog tags from the wreckage to present to the bereaved families, but she thought that sounding boring and didn’t do it.
“Wilson,” first name unknown, possibly an alias. Chief Medical Officer of Cerberus’ Lazarus Station and agent of the Shadow Broker. Killed by Miranda Lawson for attempting to sabotage the Lazarus Project. So incredibly poor at subterfuge that even Commander Shepard immediately identified him as a double agent.
Forvan, full name unknown. Bartender at Afterlife. After trying and failing to poison Commander Shepard, was forced to drink his own poison and died. In poisoning Shepard’s drink, became Shepard’s second-most-hated enemy, behind only Miranda Lawson.
“Jaroth,” “Garm,” and “Jentha,” full names unknown, possibly aliases. Leaders of the Omega chapters of Eclipse, Blood Pack, and The Blue Suns, respectively. Killed by Commander Shepard while attempting to storm the vigilante Archangel’s stronghold. Shepard was reluctant to kill them as they were planning to assassinate Aria T’Loak, an enemy that all four parties shared.
Name Unknown, batarian citizen of Omega. Victim of the Collector plague that ravaged Omega. Died a staunch racist toward humankind, a belief that Commander Shepard was happy to affirm.
Daniel, full name unknown. Doctor and protegee to Prof. Mordin Solus. Killed by Blue Suns mercenaries, who believed he was filling Omega’s ventilation system with the plague virus. Shepard’s half-hearted attempt at saving him from his assailants was unsuccessful. The commander reportedly did not care.
Name unknown, varren member of the Blood Pack. He broke fan.
Kuril, full name unknown. Blue Suns mercenary and warden of the Purgatory prison ship. Killed by Commander Shepard after attempting to imprison her and hold her ransom, which was arguably the stupidest idea ever conceived in the history of the galaxy.
Donovan Hock, possibly an alias. Notorious crime boss. Killed by Kasumi Goto and Commander Shepard after an attempt to rob him went awry. Described by Commander Shepard as “both ugly and hideous.”
Name unknown, Blue Suns mercenary. Killed by Commander Shepard because she compulsively takes every Renegade Interrupt that presents itself.
Jedore, full name unknown, possibly an alias. Killed by Commander Shepard for attempting to weaponize her test-tube krogan brothers.
Warlord Okeer, clan name unknown. Krogan biologist and expert on cloning and genetics. Possibly responsible for the creation of Commander Shepard.
Captain Ronald Taylor, acting captain of the MVS Hugo Gernsback. Committed suicide with a gun given to him by Jacob Taylor, at the prompting of Commander Shepard. Shepard admired Jacob’s heinous abuse of his crew’s deteriorating mental health, and hopes to establish a similar situation for herself one day.
Aresh, full name unknown, likely an alias. Unemployed, survivor of Cerberus’ child biotic experiments. Killed by Jack, who, in a state of high duress, believed he was capable of acting on his paranoid fantasy of resuming the Teltin facility’s atrocious experiments. Jack likely would have refrained from shooting if Commander Shepard hadn’t been egging her on.
Niket, full name unknown. Occupation unknown, childhood friend of Miranda Lawson. Killed by Miranda Lawson for attempting to kidnap her sister from her foster family. Shepard likely could have prevented the killing but didn’t care enough to do anything.
Enyala, full name unknown, possibly an alias. Eclipse mercenary. Killed for committing the classic blunder of assuming that she was a bigger badass than Commander Shepard.
Gatatog Uvenk, krogan battlemaster and leader of Clan Uvenk. Killed by Commander Shepard and Urdnot Grunt, who considered the gunfight a highly enjoyable family bonding experience.
Lantar Sidonis, occupation unknown, former member of Garrus Vakarian’s vigilante squad on Omega. Murdered by Garrus Vakarian for betraying him and killing his fellow comrades. Received assistance from Commander Shepard, who didn’t really understand what was going on but is always willing to murder a stranger in cold blood.
Name unknown, salarian construction worker. Died from gunshot wounds inflicted by Blue Suns mercenaries, because Commander Shepard refused to share some of her medigel with him.
Nassana Dantius, asari diplomat and corporate businesswoman. Assassinated by Thane Krios, client unknown. Krios was able to get through her defenses because she was distracted by Commander Shepard. In Dantius’ defense, she was focusing on the far more dangerous threat.
Kasumi Goto, master thief. Killed during the Normandy’s approach to the Collector Base. The tragedy could have been avoided if Shepard had ever bothered to speak with her technical expert, Tali’Zorah vas Normandy, about upgrading the ship’s shields. Shepard was not particularly torn up about it.
Legion, advanced synthetic life-form and Geth ambassador to organic life. Killed during the infiltration of the Collector base, because Miranda was too distracted by the drama between herself and Commander Shepard to issue orders in a timely manner. Commander Shepard did not understand why everyone was so torn up about losing a piece of equipment.
Urdnot Grunt, unemployed younger brother of Commander Shepard. Killed by Seeker swarms in the Collector base after Jacob Taylor’s biotic barrier failed. Had Shepard chosen the best person for the job, instead of merely assigning the role to Jacob in a strange and bizarre attempt to flirt with him, Grunt may very well have survived the operation.
Jack, alias, real name unknown. Escaped convict and close friend of Commander Shepard. Killed while leading a squad during the attack on the Collector base. While clearly unfit for a leadership role, Commander Shepard valued her friendship with Jack highly, and chose to forego common sense in order to make her feel good. The bullet in her abdomen presumably did not, in fact, make her feel good.
Unnamed larval human Reaper. Killed in battle against Commander Shepard. She didn’t understand what it was or why she was fighting it, but she found it ugly and therefore it needed to go.
Miranda Lawson, Cerberus officer, second officer of the Normandy SR-2, and illegitimate daughter of Commander Shepard. Lawson successfully evaded countless attempts on her life by her mother, until finally letting her guard down during the battle with the larval human Reaper.
Prof. Mordin Solus, retired Salarian STG researcher and general practitioner of medicine. Killed while holding the line against Collector forces. Commander Shepard has described him on several occasions as “a big ugly turd.”
Dr. Karin Chakwas, Yeoman Kelly Chambers, Engineer Kenneth Donnelly, Engineer Gabriella Daniels, and the rest of the crew of the Normandy SR-2. Killed while attempting to escape the Collector base. If Commander Shepard had sent just one single operative with the group it’s very possible that they might have survived, but such a display of basic competence would have been uncharacteristic of the commander.
Total Casualties: Approximately 80.
Final Statistics, Mass Effect 2:
Robyn “Mama” Shepard
-14 hours, 51 minutes
Most Used Squadmate: Jacob Taylor
Least Used Squadmate: 5-Way Tie
Most Hated Squadmate: Miranda Lawson
Squadmates that were not recruited: 1
Loyal Squadmates: 2
Loyatly Missions Completed: 4
Kasumi: Stealing Memory
Jacob: The Gift of Greatness
Jack: Subject Zero
Miranda: The Prodigal
Sidequests Completed: 3
Omega: Batarian Bartender
Omega: The Professor: Missing Assistant
Illium: The Prodigal: Lost Locket Found
Sidequests actively refused: 10
Normandy Crash Site
Omega: Archangel: Datapad Recovered
N7: Lost Operative
Normandy: Special Ingredients
Normandy: FBA Couplings
Illium: Indentured Service
Citadel: Krogan Sushi
Citadel: Crime in Progress
Waterfalls Investigated: 0
Secrets Discovered: 0
Number of Posts Tagged “#Moms hate Miranda:” 25
Expositions Paid Attention to: 0
Number of Toilet Jokes My Dad Made: 13
Drinks Consumed: 9
Revenges Taken: 1
Men Bedded: 1
Surviving Recruited Squadmates: 5
Tali’Zorah vas Normandy
Element Zero: 57,956
Cash Earned: $481,682
We hail Joker and tell him to come get us. He tells us that none of our crew made it back to the ship, and that Mordin died holding the line. Harbinger offers us a final warning that our actions here will prove fruitless, and that the Reapers will eradicate us one way or the other. Shepard makes a flying leap for the Normandy.
Me: Uh-oh. Are you gonna make it?
Mom: Of course I am.
She does, and is pulled back into ship. We fly off and narrowly outrun the explosion.
Once we’re safely out of the galactic core, we contact The Illusive Man. He’s livid that we destroyed the Collector base, telling us that we’ve doomed humanity with our naive idealism. We blow him off and hang up. Shepard heads to the cargo hold where we’ve prepared coffins for the squadmates we lost. We have a moment of silence for our fallen comrades as the camera reveals a vast army of Reapers closing in on the Milky Way.
Mom: Where’s the closest bar.
We take out the human Reaper. With its dying breath, it releases a roar and smashes the platforms that we’re standing on. We’re separated from Jacob and Miranda, and dive to catch Jacob before he falls into the abyss.
Mom: Whoa whoa whoa you better not be getting Jacob killed!
Me: I didn’t decide to bring him.
Mom: You should have warned me!
Fortunately, Jacob is loyal to us, and Shepard manages to grab him. On the other side of the room, Miranda gets crushed under a piece of rubble.
Shepard runs over to help her up.
Mom: What the hell are you doing? Leave her there and go!
Shepard cradles Miranda in her arms.
Mom: Oh dammit, she’s alive isn’t she.
Me: Nah, she died.
Mom: Phew. Drop her stupid body and get out of here!
With the human Reaper dead and the crew (sort of) rescued, all that’s left to do is destroy the Collector base and get the hell out of dodge.
As we’re preparing our bomb, however, we receive a transmission from The Illusive Man. He suggests that there might be a better option than destroying the base. If instead we release an intense burst of radiation, we can kill the Collectors while leaving the base intact, allowing Cerberus to study it in order to develop defenses against the Reapers.
Me: Do you want to blow this place up or give it to Martin Sheen?
Mom: I can’t trust him, he’s stoned all the time. And he already betrayed us!
Me: That’s true.
Mom: Let’s blow this mother up.
The Illusive Man is furious, and commands Miranda to stop us. She refuses and defends our choice.
Me: Hey, Miranda’s sticking up for you.
Mom: Too little too late.
We hang up on The Illusive Man just in time to see that the larval Reaper is back. We reload our gun and get to work.
We head into the base’s core with Jacob and Miranda in tow. After taking out some Collectors, we come face to face with the reason that they’ve been kidnapping humans. They’re melting down our genetic material and using it to build a new Reaper!
Mom: He’s ugly.
We take out the tubes feeding the larval Reaper and send it plummeting into the chasm its suspended over.
Editor’s note: It is incredibly hard to find screenshots depicting a specific set of surviving crew members!
With friends lost and obstacles overcome, we now stand at the entrance to the base’s core. It’s time to choose our squadmates for the final fight.
Mom: I’m still pissed off about Jack.
Me: Maybe you should’ve been a better leader then.
Me: Anyway, we can mourn the dead later. We’ve got a job to do! Who are we taking?
Mom: If we take Miranda can she die?
Me: …Yeah, okay I’ll throw you a bone. Yes, Miranda will die if we take her.
Mom: Finally. Then let’s take Miranda and Jacob.
Our two chose squadmates ascend the platform alongside us, and we prepare to venture into the belly of the beast, while what’s left of our crew hunkers down to defend the position.
Mom: Why did those bugs grab Grunt and not Miranda?
Me: Miranda just got lucky, I guess.
Mom: Bitch. I’ll get her next time.
We head to the rendezvous point. The distraction team approaches us. Jack has a nasty gunshot wound in her side. She collapses to the ground.
Jack offers Shepard a few brief parting words before passing on.