We’re finally saying goodbye to Bioshock Infinite with our last “Burial at Sea” Water Cooler. To celebrate, we’re running Bioshock Week on the Tumblr in addition to featuring the video here. Some things we liked, a lot of things we didn’t. Overall, it’s a matryoshka of terrible decisions.
The full transcript is below the cut.
This episode contains spoilers for the Bioshock series, including the most recent DLC, Burial at Sea Episodes one and two.
JAYLEE: Welcome back to the Push to Smart Water Cooler, where we are prepared to finally say goodbye to Irrational Games’s would-be magnum opus, de facto swan song, Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea.
The second part of Burial At Sea puts us in the shoes of Bioshock Infinite’s heroine, Elizabeth. Leaving behind her dream of Paris, Elizabeth and the player venture back to Rapture for one final adventure, fraught with just as many twists and turns as the original Bioshock Infinite. Almost as if they have something to prove.
STACEY: Yeah, funny how that works…
JAYLEE: Yeah, so let’s just go straight into dream Paris, which was one of my favorite parts of the DLC.
STACEY: It’s like you knew it was a dream, but at the same time it seemed like they were really playing into that Disney Princess joke that has followed Elizabeth around since I think they showed that, I think, clip of her dancing on the beach.
STACEY: So that was kind of fun, though at the same time it was like, is this self-aware? Or is it just more of the same.
JAYLEE: But then once the little bird, like, gets on her finger and starts singing, it’s like, oh, they know.
STACEY: (laughs) Oh they totally know. Right.
JAYLEE: So one of the things… obviously very Beauty-and-the-Beast-y. Very “Bonjour! Bonjour!”
STACEY: Yeah, I wanted to break out into song.
JAYLEE: Exactly, but the thing I found most interesting about this is, you know, we talked about how Elizabeth—most of her knowledge is second hand. And she equated the Vox Populi revolution with Les Mis, and so a lot of her knowledge of France is obviously from books and Les Mis in particular, and the little girl she greets during the dream Paris is named Cosette, which is one of the characters is Les Mis.
STACEY: Yes. Isn’t that the more naive one too?
JAYLEE: Yes (laughs)
STACEY: Maybe they are more self-aware than I gave them credit for?
JAYLEE: I thought that was pretty cool. And then obviously it gets very spooky very quickly. Although I think the little, like, “oiseau ou le cage” kind of—that was too much, I thought. It was a little—
STACEY: I thought that worked because it was right after the bird lands on her finger and that what really clues you in, “OK, this is definitely a dream sequence.” And you immediately go to that, so you immediately know that this is not going somewhere good, and it kind of sets the stage for the rest of the episode.
JAYLEE: But yeah, you get to be Elizabeth! Finally! Was it everything you dreamed of? (laughs)
STACEY: Actually, I really enjoyed it. I was really worried from the trailer they showed us where they have this kind of Dream Booker telling her what to do. But that ended up manifesting itself in a way that still enabled her adventure. Like, I was really worried that it would just be like “father saving the daughter form beyond the grave,” which is what we see in things like Silent Hill 3 and other games that have these female protagonists but their actions are still pretty much dictated and the day is still ultimately saved by the father. But even though his voice is still there constantly, it’s more asking these questions so she has an excuse to tell us—the player—what’s going on. So it’s like, she is still the expert here. She’s still the one who knows all the crazy particle physics stuff to put the machine together, this is just giving her a diegetic reason to say it out loud instead of that really weird way that superheroes announce everything that they’re doing.
JAYLEE: They narrate?
JAYLEE: I love how they continually showed us how knowledgeable Elizabeth was just about everything.
STACEY: Yeah, she was really in control which was nice.
JAYLEE: Yeah, Booker would be like, “how the hell did you know that?” And she’s like, “Let me tell you about physics. And I can do this, and I can do that.” And it was like, really cool and a nice change of pace. And I really actually liked playing as her. I don’t know why, it was just really cool, I thought. And at first it was like, oh, you can’t be lethal at all because you have this crossbow and so, because you’re a lady you can’t do it. And then they give you a microwave gun that makes you, like, explode people. And I was like, maybe I was wrong? (laughter)
STACEY: Which I had a little bit of mixed feelings about that. Like, the stealth element—I thought—it was very straightforward but it really, really worked? And I really liked being able to use the crossbow—like with the sound traps and things like that. And, um, I thought that worked really well. But before you get the microwave gun and you just have an actual gun, there’s like this dialogue she has with the Booker voice in her head about what it means to take a life and how she might not really be prepared to do that. But then, once the game lets you loose after that conversation, you can totally just take the gun and shoot somebody. And there’s no repercussions. And it’s like, what was the point of that conversation?
JAYLEE: It reminded me a little bit of, like, Tomb Raider, where she struggles so much to take a life the first time, and then she’s like Rambo. (laughter)
STACEY: Yeah, it’s like, ‘glad we got THAT out of the way!
JAYLEE: Yeah, now that my conscious is clear, let’s kick some ass!
So one thing I didn’t really like is how repentant Elizabeth was. Because she seemed so in control and so sure of herself in the first Burial At Sea episode, that for her to suddenly become so unsure and so… and regret her actions in such a strong way as to feel that she needs to be redeemed… I don’t know. It just felt like a kind of 180 that didn’t have much merit to it.
STACEY: And it was strange because they really tried to explain it a lot. And it was just like the exposition dump at the end of the first episode where it was a lot of talking at you, and a lot of jargon, but it didn’t make any sense. So, like, she says a lot about how she feels guilty for leaving the little girl there to die, but did we really do that? Like, if she has this infinite awareness, it seems like that would be more in perspective to her, because she sees all these different outcomes; it’s not just focused on one, singular outcome and this one, singular little girl. And the way that they all of a sudden just close the doors on her felt a lot like… kind of… it felt cheap. And it really exposed the idea of the doors as a literary or game-y device. It’s like this is how we justify—it was cool in Bioshock Infinite in that this is how we justify multiple endings or the game over state, but at the same time it’s too easy. It was used in Burial at Sea just kind of… as a quick fix. Like, we can’t really think of a way for her to be in this situation so… door! And now she has no doors so there. You’re stuck.
JAYLEE: Maybe I’m reading a little too much into it, and this is what really frustrates me, is that, the one thing that I really enjoyed about Bioshock Infinite was how their, kind of, thesis of the infinite universe of possibilities all tied to a lighthouse and everything? That was the redeeming factor for Infinite for me. And it felt very much like Ken Levine was opening himself up to a world of possibilities for future titles, and in this, it feels like he’s closing it out because he’s leaving the franchise, which seems very childish.
STACEY: Well, I don’t know when this was made—like if they knew Irrational was closing or where they were—but it was very strange the way it was suddenly… they worked so hard to make it come back to Jack—to Bioshock. And the idea that this was all to service the original, and it makes this perfectly closed loop.
JAYLEE: Oh, I hate that so much.
STACEY: So that no other options could come out of this universe. And it just, like you said, it felt antithetical to what we learned in the end of Bioshock Infinite. And it annoyed me more in that it seemed very passive aggressive towards Bioshock 2. (laughs) Which was not by Irrational Games, but in a lot of ways, was a far superior game. It was much better designed; it dealt with a lot of the themes that Bioshock Infinite dealt with, like the father-daughter relationships, the inherent racism of society, in a way that was much more nuanced, and subtle, and more fulfilling.
JAYLEE: And less racist.
JAYLEE: I have to say, one of my biggest pet peeves is retconning to make something—like everything connect. Hideo Kojima does this all the time! And just… I hated so much… like, flames on the side of my face kind of… WHY. She’s such a great character—Elizabeth I’m talking about, of course—and I feel like now she’s just a tool to get Jack…. I don’t know. I think it kind of made her more… even more of a plot device than a character.
STACEY: Right, which was especially strange—did you watch the “previously on Bioshock” thing before?
JAYLEE: No, because my boyfriend was there and he hadn’t seen it—he hadn’t played Bioshock.
STACEY: Oh, god (laughs).
JAYLEE: And so, I was like, “No! I don’t want to spoil it!” But then at the end of the game he was like, “what just happened? I don’t understand.” and I was like, “well…”
STACEY: Yeah, well, um, both in that and of course at the end of the DLC, it makes the good ending of Bioshock the only ending. Which seems to defeat the purpose of the entire thesis that was proposed at the end of Bioshock Infinite. So it tried to create this, kind of, uplifting, kind of bittersweet message that Elizabeth was dying to enable Jack. And that Jack would finally break the circle that—“when would it be unbroken,” that we heard so much in the first Bioshock Infinite. But then you could play Bioshock and totally give in to the objectivist ideology, and bring the splicers to the surface to destroy the world. Like it was just… it didn’t work thematically with anything that came beforehand (laughs).
JAYLEE: There was… ugh, there was just so much that I disliked about this. I will say that I loved playing as Elizabeth and it was great to get back to Rapture… I really hated that Elizabeth has to sacrifice herself so that a man can come in and save everyone.
STACEY: I didn’t even think about that!
JAYLEE: And also Daisy has to sacrifice herself so a white woman can sacrifice herself so a white man can fix everything.
STACEY: (laughing) oh my god!
JAYLEE: It was just a matryoshka of, like, problematic sacrifice.
STACEY: Which is hilarious because it, like… it was so funny playing through that scene with Daisy because it was like this subtext that we criticized for, like, a whole episode—the idea that Daisy and her struggle ultimately service Elizabeth and her coming-of-age story—becomes the actual text.
JAYLEE: I know! And it was just… so obviously backpedaling.
STACEY: Yeah, but backpedalling to what?
JAYLEE: And he was like, “oh, I know how to make this better!” And I was like, “no.”
STACEY: By making it the same!
JAYLEE: I was actually playing it and because my boyfriend knows just how strongly I feel about Daisy, he was like, “OK, stop what you’re doing. I need to know exactly how you’re feeling right now.” (laughter) And I was just like, “ugh.”
I kind of—in a very shallow way—I liked that she has a choice and she’s aware of what that means to her. But I also don’t buy that shit. I don’t buy that Daisy would rise up, and why would she sacrifice herself so that a white woman could—that just seems antithetical to her cause.
STACEY: Yeah and, ugh. It was one of those things like… I kind of ruined this for you because I texted you when I was playing like, “Hey! Daisy’s back!” But then you’re watching this and it’s just like, “No, no no. Stop. Take it back.” Cause it’s like… it was one of those moments when the characters opened their mouths and you heard the writer’s voice come through. And you knew that—
JAYLEE: And also, why would she trust the Lutece twins?
JAYLEE: It just didn’t make any sense.
STACEY: It was so frustrating, it was like, “no, stop. Stop! Just pull it back, you can turn back. You’re just making it worse.”
JAYLEE: Yeah, that’s kind of the name of the game. “Burial at Sea: Part 2 – Making it Worse”
STACEY: What are you doing?!
JAYLEE: Ok, so we talked about how Elizebeth sacrifices herself, and also, I have to say, for a character who Ken Levine says that he loves so much, she gets the shit beaten out of her. A lot. And not just in-game, but, like, knocked over the head, like, a billion times. She almost gets lobotomized and she dies twice.
STACEY: That’s like, every transition. It’s like, “I don’t know how to get out of this scene. Let’s hit her over the head with something.”
JAYLEE: Exaclty! That’s your progression.
STACEY: Yeah. I really did like the lobotomy scene. My toes were curling—like, I really loved the body horror part to this? That really took it back to the original Bioshock for me. It’s like, if you can’t get the feel of pre-crisis Rapture, at least get, like, the apocalypse Rapture right, and they totally did. With things like—
JAYLEE: Oh my god.
STACEY: Right, I loved the Steinman callback. It was just… I was, like, covering half the screen with my hand with, like, my one finger on the pause button type thing.
JAYLEE: I know, like, when they had the needle up against, I was like, “they’re not going to do this, they’re not going to do that.” And then we he hits it, I literally yelled. “They’re not going to—AH!”
STACEY: (laughs) And then they bring the little girl out to show, like, “in case you didn’t understand what it looked like, here.”
STACEY: I was a little apprehensive that one of the first areas you go into is, like, a sex shop. ‘Cause I was like, “of course, because you’re playing as a woman.” But I felt that it still worked really well in the world of Bioshock, and it, again, it really went into that body horror, and really kind of played in that objectivist toolbox that Bioshock was so good at getting into and making something that is so horrifying and integrating it into the horror iconography that we’re used to in movies and games and things. I thought that was really good.
JAYLEE: Another thing that I really liked was the Big Daddy, Little Sister…
STACEY: Oh, yeah!
JAYLEE: Kind of sweet scene where you have to get the Big Daddy out of the way, and they’re both kind of scared of each other. And she’s like, “you two need each other!” I don’t know. I thought that was very moving in a way.
STACEY: It was—her view of it was quite bitter though, because it was the whole thorn-in-the-lion’s-paw thing as she says out loud as she’s going past it to call back to her relationship with Songbird—which is established to be quite abusive and detrimental to her. Whereas—kind of like you said—my view of the Big Daddies has always been kind of sympathetic. I mean, once you get past that hurdle where they’re super scary in the first game, by the end of it you really sympathize with them and empathize with them. And I found, like, in the second game, I’d be walking and there’s one part when you’re walking outside and you look in, and you see there’s a Big Daddy fighting off splicers with a Little Sister hanging off of him, and I remember feeling while looking at him, like, “you go, guy!” You know, “I’m with you! I know what you’re feeling!” But it was like, you don’t really have that—or, rather, I should say I still have that and so that connection didn’t really work for me—in connecting it to the Songbird for Elizabeth.
STACEY: Cause I was still empathetic… to my Big Daddies. (laughs) Um, and I guess… I don’t know if we should talk about Suchong here.
JAYLEE: Oh, god.
STACEY: And all the…
JAYLEE: I realize that it’s supposed to be set, you know, in the olden days (laughter)
STACEY: But it’s like… It’s not really like, “the olden days.” It’s like Olden-Day, Hollywood-movie version of…
JAYLEE: Yeah… oh my god, and when they started calling him the slant? I was like, you can’t do this!
STACEY: I don’t know where else to put this, but I was really angry that they made us listen to the “will you kindly break the puppy’s neck” audio diary again.
JAYLEE: I don’t remember that.
STACEY: Oh, I found it again. It was in the original Bioshock, I think? Either that or Bioshock 2. And then I found it again in one of the cells in Suchong’s office. And it was like, “really? It was so great we had to do it twice?” Ugh. That’s kind of my thoughts towards Bioshock Infinite in a single sound. Ugh.
STACEY: Well, is there anything you want to say to say goodbye to Bioshock Infinite forever?
JAYLEE: Good riddance. I don’t know. I don’t know! It’s the thing. The things that I did like about Bioshock Infinite has been ruined by this DLC. So it’s like, what do I like about Bioshock Infinite? Nothing.
JAYLEE: You leave me with nothing!
STACEY: Like, I was seeing comments on twitter and tumblr like, this ruined Bioshock Infinite! And it’s like, “hey, hey, hey! Bioshock Infinite did a fine enough job of doing that on it’s own.”
JAYLEE: So that does it for Bioshock Infinite forever! We’re done!
STACEY: Thank god.
JAYLEE: They’re not going to make anymore. We’re good. Maybe we’ll check out the next game—we probably will because Bioshock does this to us.
STACEY: We’re masochists.
JAYLEE: We have, obviously, very strong opinions. We would love to hear your very strong opinions—thoughtfully worded. Please don’t hate us—in the comment section of our video. Please also, if you like what you hear or are at least interested in what we say, subscribe to our videos, and look forward to our next video—which is going to be awesome, but we don’t know what it is.
[Tag this week is just a close-up of a poodle in France. Because poodle.]
JAYLEE: Oh, look at that poodle. That poodle is the best part of the game. You go, poodle. Ken Levine can never ruin you.