My third play through Bioshock Infinite is nearly complete and there are some moments in the game that have come to mean a lot to me. While more than five could be included, these five (with a little cheating) stand out. These events are not in order of impact but in the order in which they occur in the game. This does not mean there will not be heavy spoilers early, because the first one is significant because of the ending and is memorable in many ways only after you have beaten the game.
First, the row boat ride to the light house. Intentionally made to parallel the plane ride at the start of the first Bioshock, the boat ride has even more significance. As the Lutece’s started to repeatedly show up in the game I started to realize that the couple in the row boat were in fact them. But it wasn’t until returning to the start of the game that I realized just how loaded their conversation was with meaning. Rosalind telling Robert that one does not undertake an experiment that has already failed, for example. Or the discussion between them about how Booker doesn’t row. Not that he can’t row, nor that he will not row, but that he simply never does row. Also to realize that they hand you your box. Where did they get it? Did it belong to that Booker DeWitt or was it something they scavenged from Comstock? Also, the delightful conversation they have if you just sit there for awhile. It’s a great start the first time because of the lighthouse, but it gets much better on subsequent play throughs.
The second moment is the one pictured at the top. You are allowed a period to just explore Columbia and the wonders of the city, and one of the first things you come across is a barbershop quartet. Yes, a barbershop quartet in 1912 that is singing a Beach Boys song from the 1960s. That would be odd enough, but if you stop and listen, and then read the billboard behind them, it says:
“The music of tomorrow … today.”
As if a floating city were not enough, now we are talking time travel. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”
A moment is being skipped here. It is being skipped because it is tied to two other moments, the last of which is the pay-off; so we’ll save it for when the last one occurs.
Third, then, is my favorite. A quiet moment that takes place in the basement of The Graveyard Shift, a bar in Shanty Town. After coming down the stairs, Elizabeth is excited that there is a guitar. She laments that she never learned to play, then goes about trying to coax a young boy out from under the stairs. As Booker, you walk over to the guitar and interact with it. Booker picks up the guitar, sits down, and begins to play. Elizabeth then begins to sing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” as you play. She picks up an orange and the combination of her singing and the fruit lure the child out briefly. It’s a special moment. It links Booker and Elizabeth to this song. A song, the last verse of which included in the official soundtrack, goes:
“One by one their seats were emptied
And one by one they went away
Now the family is parted
Will it be complete one day?”
That is the question that is left answered at the end of the game. Is Anna back with Booker? Has their family circle been restored/remained unbroken? This scene is a wonder foreshadowing that Booker is not there simply to bring Elizabeth back to some unknown person; he’s there to restore their relationship.
The fourth moment is at the end of the last big fight. Booker has sent the Songbird to destroy the siphon, but the resulting explosion causes him to drop the whistle. You can hear the panic in his voice as he tries to draw Elizabeth’s attention to the bird. Every time, he had been told, the Songbird would stop him. Is he about to fail again?
Elizabeth, always curious, angry, frightened, or some other high emotional state, is now serene. With a wave of her hand she deals with the Songbird. She might have just sent him somewhere else. But instead she takes you to Rapture. Early we had seen that the Songbird could not survive underwater. Now, he’s too deep to get out. His passing is sorrowful as Elizabeth talks gently to him. But we are in Rapture. It is one of the greatest tensions in video game history. The joy at being back with the mournfulness of Songbird’s death.
Fifth is something that occurs (at least) three times in the game. The first time is when Booker first meets Elizabeth in the library. When she finally stops pelting him with books she asks “Are you real?” and then reaches out to him with her right hand. Clearly we are meant to notice the missing pinky and the thimble but she is reaching out to Booker. The next time that it occurs prominently is when Elizabeth sacrifices herself for Booker. To keep the Songbird from killing him she willing goes with the Songbird. We know how big a sacrifice this is because she had asked Booker to kill her before letting the Songbird take her back. Now, to save him, she goes. But as she goes, she stretches out that right hand and reaches for him. That hand that, ever since she was a baby, has been reaching for her father.
The last time we see it, she is not Elizabeth, but Anna. A baby about to be whisked into another world away from her father. But she reaches out for him, stretching that right hand, and the tear closes on the pinky and part of it remains in her father’s world. While the ending of the game stands as it does, I was hoping that after the credits, as Booker approaches the crib, we would see that hand reaching for him one more time. Whether Booker saw it after the curtain closed for us is up for debate, but I would like to believe the circle was unbroken; the family was complete; and the Lutece’s succeeded in their thought experiment.
Maybe the DLC will answer the question, but I kind of hope not.