The ending to BioShock Infinite is not an easy one to digest. Irrational Games has spun an intricate web that culminates in a mind-blowing twist guaranteed to leave you thinking. What exactly is the connection between Booker and Elizabeth? How does Comstock figure into the overarching plot? What the heck is up with the Lutece siblings? There are a number of theories surrounding what exactly went down, but here is my interpretation of the epic conclusion to BioShock Infinite.
*In case you don’t understand why you are here, this post contains MAJOR spoilers. Like, all the spoilers*
The key moment that ties BioShock Infinite together is Booker DeWitt’s baptism after the battle of Wounded Knee. As you no doubt noticed after finishing the game (you did finish the game, right?), baptisms are a common theme throughout the game. The first thing you see when you enter the lighthouse to Columbia (more on those lighthouses later) is a basin of water with a sign proclaiming “Of Thy Sins Shall I Wash Thee”. You have the option to use the basin, but when you try, Booker stops right before using the water, muttering “Good luck with that, pal.” Booker doesn’t believe his sins can be washed away. Booker’s refusal to believe he could possibly atone for his sins is an important plot point. Next, you must accept a baptism to enter Columbia. It is literally impossible for you to get into the town without accepting the baptism, so, in a sense, Columbia doesn’t exist until Booker is baptized.
Look back at Booker’s past before Columbia. His military service took him to Wounded Knee, where by all accounts he did some pretty bad things. Things that could break a man. Cornelius Slate, a fellow soldier at Wounded Knee, says this in a voxophone recording “Booker DeWitt is coming here, to the Hall! DeWitt…we called him the White Injun of Wounded Knee, for all the grisly trophies he claimed. A man such as he…might just grant us the peace we seek.”
Now let’s take a look at Zachary Comstock for a second. We hear him claim early on that he was the hero of Wounded Knee, but Slate shoots that notion down, telling us that Comstock wasn’t even there. However, Comstock claims that after the battle, a heavenly vision led him to create Columbia. Booker too has a vision soon after entering Columbia, except what he sees is the destruction of Columbia. And who is responsible for Columbia’s final destruction? We learn early on that, while Elizabeth is supposed to be the savior of Columbia, she will actually eventually lead to it downfall. “The seed of the Prophet shall sit the throne and drown in flame the mountains of man,” is a phrase heard numerous times through Infinite. What is Columbia if not a mountain of man?
Of course, one of the big reveals lets us know that Booker and Comstock are actually the same person. How is this possible? As Elizabeth shows us at the end of the game, there are infinite universes out there, each with infinite possibilities that could happen/is happening/will happen. It all comes back to the exorcism after Wounded Knee. Everything in the game turns on that moment, so it is fitting that should be the setting of the final scene of the game. Imagine two separate realities: In one, a man named Booker DeWitt performs unspeakable acts at Wounded Knee, and believes that absolution is beyond him. When confronted with a possibility to wash these sins away, he laughs it off and continues on with his life. This Booker is a drunk whose gambling problem spirals out of control, until he finds someone to make him a deal. “Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt.”
But what would have happened if Booker had accepted that baptism, and attempted to simply wash away his sins then and there. That Booker would get a false sense of redemption and would never have to face the possibility of actually atoning for his sins. That Booker would have received a “vision from God” that would eventually lead him to create a floating city…and change his name to Zachary Comstock. That version of Booker would have set into motion a disastrous chain of events: the secession of Columbia and its eventual destruction are the most prominent elements of this reality, but the untold millions of deaths directly related to Columbia have to be taken into account as well. Simply put, it’s pretty much good for nobody in the end if this Booker gets his way.
Now look at these two Booker’s like a fork in the road, with the split occurring at the baptism. Let’s follow Comstock Booker for a second. After receiving his absolution (from the same priest who later offers baptisms at the gates of Columbia), Booker receives a vision from God telling him to create Columbia. However, he is no scientist. He needs help to create his utopia, and finds it in the form of a quirky quantum physicist named Rosalind Lutece.
Read on to discover just how important Rosalind Lutece is to the plot of BioShock Infinite.