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  3. On the Crucible, the Catalyst; Ending Explanation hypothesis (MASSIVE SPOILERS)

User Info: TashaMK

TashaMK
6 years ago#1
The following is a series of EXTREMELY TL;DR posts detailing (to the best of my abilities) my thoughts and theories about the ending of Mass Effect 3. Though like many I was extremely disappointed with the murkiness and incomprehensibility of the ending, I find it's fun to speculate about such things. After a long stretch of extreme sickness leading to many sleepless nights, and celebrating the breaking of said sickness with my choice of slightly mind-expanding narcotics of a certain persuasion, I think I've come up with a possible explanation for the ending of Mass Effect 3 that (if correct) makes things somewhat more forgivable and perhaps understandable. The words 'Indoctrination Theory' will not be uttered in any iteration.

CAUTION, though: They will obviously be containing massive ending spoilers. Also, as previously noted, clocking in at just over 12,000 characters, this explanation is rather verbose. I'm truly interested to hear what other people think, but saying teal deer and bailing is certainly understood. At any rate, on to what is simply titled TashaMK's Ending Explanation On the Crucible, the Catalyst, and the End of All Things...
Nothin' beats the hobo life,
Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife...

User Info: TashaMK

TashaMK
6 years ago#2
Post the First:

To look closer at the endings, we must first travel back to the beginning. Specifically, to the Crucible.

'What is it?' many players and, indeed, many characters ask. 'What does it do?' and 'How does it work?' are usually the predicable follow-up questions. The answers we're given throughout the journey are universally 'Damned if I know, shut up, it's supposed to kill Reapers so let's build the thing.' Which, given the desperation of the situation, is understandable from a character motivation point of view. But we're still left with the inevitable feeling from our observational roles as players that the Crucible is a MacGuffin device. Previously unknown technology that is magically and extremely conveniently discovered when the situation is most dire? We've seen it before in all walks of narrative fiction, and it's use often becomes a necessary evil when the stakes get perpetually raised to that point past all hopelessness. But that doesn't mean it's an entirely forgivable plot contrivance.

We learn later on in the story that the Crucible is the work of countless different cycles, each getting a little further along before their complete annihilation, and a similar pattern begins to emerge: nobody had ever known what it does, nor did they ever know how it worked. They only knew that in combination with an equally mysterious force known as the Catalyst, that it held the key to stopping the Reapers. And thus countless cycles, stretching back for as long as one cares imagine, always wound up putting all their efforts and resources into building it. Until the events of the game, all had failed to complete it before their destruction. These revelations do little to assuage the MacGuffin feel to the device, but it raises questions as to the origins of the Crucible idea itself. Every cycle contributed, but at some point must not there have been a creator, some advanced being or race who came up with the idea and knew of some way to defeat the Reapers?

While these answers are not divulged within the game, the true nature of the Crucible may provide some hints. The Catalyst, as we know, is either an AI within the Citadel, or the Citadel itself, depending on interpretation. It claims to have created the Reapers as it's 'solution' to the organics vs. synthetics 'problem' (though I'll never admit that the logic there is sound), and that the addition of the Crucible has changed its prerogative. Setting aside any arguments regarding the validity of the Catalyst's claims (which I can make all day long), I still find it interesting that this heretofore unknown technology, the nature of which is always completely mysterious to its creators, is a device that is specifically built to interact with the Citadel and grant it abilities no race had ever known it possessed.
Nothin' beats the hobo life,
Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife...

User Info: SazukeEX

SazukeEX
6 years ago#3
You're wasteing your time. You aren't supposed to understand the ending.
XBox Live: Tinklyknight (Not Gold at the moment due to various reasons)

User Info: TashaMK

TashaMK
6 years ago#4
Post the Second:

This plot point may have flown completely over my head (and I'll be the first to admit I can be extremely obtuse at times), and might have been obvious to everyone else, but what if the Catalyst created the Crucible? Though the rapid dominance and overwhelming force of the Reapers generally assures victory, is it not inconceivable that the Reapers may loose, simply from the might of the races they face? Reapers are not invulnerable. Though Sovereign's mission is to activate the Citadel relay whenever advanced races only reach a certain point and not advanced enough to beat the Reapers, within an AIs vast number of calculations, the possibility must be entertained that something could go wrong. The only reason why the current cycle had any chance against the Reapers in the first place was because they could not employ their usual shock and awe and thus were forced to fight conventionally and slowly. They could not isolate, divide, and inevitably conquer; the only option remaining was taking system by system while simultaneously fighting all the unified advanced races of the galaxy, still connected to each other because the Mass Relays were never cut off from them. A brutal war of attrition ensues, one that, if seen through to the end, would probably have caused more Reaper casualties than any cycle before - including the centuries-long Prothean extinction. More Reapers would have died than could ever be replaced, leaving future cycles more and more likely to end in complete Reaper defeat.

Given the nature of the Reapers, that each one is born of the essence of an entire race of organic creatures, this could be seen as an unacceptable scenario for the controlling force. As well, without the cycle, it believes, chaos would reign and organic life as a concept would eventually go extinct. And as permutations of the cycle continue, the eventuality would become more and more likely to happen...call it law of averages. The Catalyst then would require means to control even the eventuality of defeat, and this is where the Crucible comes into play. It was always within the Catalyst's power to enact what it could term a 'final solution' for the galaxy and the eventual end of the cycle, but it left the ability to wield that power within the hands of the organic races it is attempting to 'preserve' through use of the cycle. Convenient plans of a superweapon that, in conjunction with the Citadel, could put an end to the Reaper threat could have been planted among indoctrinated agents of some ancient race in some cycle too many years ago to count. The dominant species of any cycle would be desperate enough to attempt to build it, ensuring that even when the cycle would inevitably come to a close, it still would be within the Catalyst's plans.
Nothin' beats the hobo life,
Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife...

User Info: T_Unit_Tato

T_Unit_Tato
6 years ago#5
SazukeEX posted...
You're wasteing your time. You aren't supposed to understand the ending.
I used to play on the Xbox 360, then I took some sense to the head...

User Info: TashaMK

TashaMK
6 years ago#6
Post the Third:

Given the nature of the Reapers, that each one is born of the essence of an entire race of organic creatures, this could be seen as an unacceptable scenario for the controlling force. As well, without the cycle, it believes, chaos would reign and organic life as a concept would eventually go extinct. And as permutations of the cycle continue, the eventuality would become more and more likely to happen...call it law of averages. The Catalyst then would require means to control even the eventuality of defeat, and this is where the Crucible comes into play. It was always within the Catalyst's power to enact what it could term a 'final solution' for the galaxy and the eventual end of the cycle, but it left the ability to wield that power within the hands of the organic races it is attempting to 'preserve' through use of the cycle. Convenient plans of a superweapon that, in conjunction with the Citadel, could put an end to the Reaper threat could have been planted among indoctrinated agents of some ancient race in some cycle too many years ago to count. The dominant species of any cycle would be desperate enough to attempt to build it, ensuring that even when the cycle would inevitably come to a close, it still would be within the Catalyst's plans.

The Crucible then becomes something of a test for the organic races of the galaxy. A way of self-actualization, if you will, giving them the ultimate choice in how the cycle will end. Once they've proven that they've reached the point to threaten its ending conventionally, that is. When the focus for the Catalyst's power is supplied, it offers the only options it can give while still maintaining the possibility of controlling the final outcome and future of the galaxy.

The Synthesis option is what the Catalyst believes to be the 'best' solution to the 'problem'. With no division between the synthetic and the organic, no inherent conflict between them can exist, it reasons. Recall Saren in the first game, insisting that the fusion of flesh and steel being the next evolution of life in the galaxy. Where did he get those beliefs? A Reaper. Is it possible that Sovereign twisted the spirit of the solution to gain his thrall? Obviously it used the ideal as a method for controlling Saren, but does that rule out the possibility of such a fusion being incongruous with Reaper goals?

Control, as well, becomes an acceptable option, because with the Reapers still intact and the organic's 'champion' in the fold, control is ceded but organic compassion becomes replaced by cold, calculating logic. Once the champion becomes integrated, the Catalyst would reason, he or she could only come to the same solution in time. And the cycle continues.

Why then Destroy? Is it possible the self-actualization the Catalyst offers with the Crucible extends even that far, that perhaps it is necessary evil in the Catalyst's reasoning; a last resort option given should the champion reject all 'logical' arguments? Maybe it's a way for the Catalyst to wipe its hands of the process should organics finally and completely reject the 'help' it tries to give them, twisted though the thought process may be. It is obviously the least-preferable choice for the Catalyst; notice the far harder sell towards the other options and the deck stacking against Destruction.
Nothin' beats the hobo life,
Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife...

User Info: TashaMK

TashaMK
6 years ago#7
Post the Fourth:

"You can destroy us," it tells the champion. "But doing so will wipe out all synthetic life, even the Geth. You yourself rely on synthetics."

Hedging. Playing on the guilt of destroying an ally, be it specifically guilt for the Geth (only a 'potential' ally) or simply for EDI, and on the fear of a meaningless death (as all other options will consume the champion as well). Destruction would be the most 'selfish' choice in the Catalyst's mind, given the nature of its motives, and the selfish are naturally disinclined towards the self-sacrifice of the other two options. It can almost be seen as a 'you're going to die anyway, why not make it count?' argument. The Catalyst can't make the organics choose as it wants, but it can use misinformation and lies to turn them away from not only the destruction of the cycle and the Reapers, but also the eventuality (in its mind) of organic life going extinct. This is the only ending in which Shepard can survive; it calls into question the Catalyst's claims, further evidencing its attempts to steer the choice towards its own goals.

In the Destruction and Synthetic ending, the cycle is broken and the galaxy will continue without interference. The Mass Relays and Citadel, constructs that not only facilitate the Catalyst's final solution for the cycle's end but also exist as a means to control the paths of organic growth, are destroyed. They are not, however, in the Control ending. The comparison shows the Relays very specifically do not explode in the manner the others do (the shot shows it just beginning to break apart before a cut-away, which I believe is more an effect of reusing the cutscene than demonstration of its destruction, allowing the cycle to continue in the future. This cycle's races continue but aren't given complete freedom, only a reprieve; should the technological singularity be reached and synthetics threaten the very nature of organic life, the Reapers still exist to set things straight and 'reset' the cycle from the very beginning.

Whew, I think that's all of it. This theory doesn't address many of the inconsistencies with the conclusion, neither does it explain Joker's cowardice and the amazing teleporting teammates, nor does it touch the inherent logical flaw with the Catalyst's reasoning, but in my mind it potentially answers a few questions I had and makes the whole thing just a little bit more bearable.
Nothin' beats the hobo life,
Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife...

User Info: TashaMK

TashaMK
6 years ago#8
Final post, in which I wax rhapsodic:

But it's not a satisfactory conclusion, and this is something I truly wish they add to the ending in future DLC: the option to reject the Catalyst's choices outright. My Shepard chose the Destroy option; she'd been fighting and putting every last fiber of her being into this war for years, and in the end she was not going to shrink from her mission. However, this is only because no other option was given, or at least none that would satisfy. When it came right down to it, she could not and would not take it upon herself to make that choice to decide the fate of the galaxy. I believe Bioware should have allowed the player to reject the three choices and throw all their cards down on the combined military might they've collected throughout the journey. If you're under a certain level, the Reapers win; if over, the organics do. Varying levels of military strength could then represent the varying degrees of victory for either side, and the ultimate fate of the galaxy (also known as 'the choices we made in this game actually mattered'). If the organics win, Flawless Victory in a sense; Mass Relays intact, Shepard lives, galaxy goes on as it would. Or the player could make one of the other choices, and anyone who liked those endings has their own favorite color of explosion to look forward to.

And I don't see how a change like that would fundamentally alter the artistic merit of the game's ending. Maybe everyone wins, in the end?

My god, I promise I'm not usually so wordy. Congratulations to anyone who actually made it this far ;)

Lots of speculation for everyone?
Nothin' beats the hobo life,
Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife...

User Info: TashaMK

TashaMK
6 years ago#9
Oh trust me, guys, as you can plainly see...I've got a lot of time to waste :)
Nothin' beats the hobo life,
Stabbin' folks with my hobo knife...

User Info: Sentana

Sentana
6 years ago#10
Everyone can postulate what the intentions and truth are. But the only ones who knows it for real are the developers and writers of Bioware. Me? I'm just going to ride all this hoopla and wait a few more months or so. Eventually the truth will come out. I can wait too.
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