The Soapbox: The Endings of Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V has been out for almost a month now and it goes without saying that many people have seen the ending of the game. Rather I should say that many have seen one or more of the endings in the game because GTA V actually has three different ending, depending on a decision you make at the start of the final mission. Before we go any further, I’m letting you know right now that this entire article contains massive spoilers, including each of the endings in the game in full detail, and should only be read if you have finished the main story of the game. So SPOILER ALERT! Alright, let’s continue.
Grand Theft Auto V’s story is not the strongest the medium has to offer but it does tell a compelling tale and excels in developing each of the characters you play as in the game. You really get a sense of who Franklin, Michael and Trevor are. So it pisses me off that the endings in the game do an injustice to that character development and range from disappointing to detrimental to the story as a whole.
Let’s begin with the setup to the final mission. Franklin is visited by Devin Weston, a millionaire tycoon who has dipped his feet in various ventures like movie production, real estate and national security, and asks Franklin to kill Michael. Franklin protests because not only does Franklin feel loyal to Michael but the FIB has asked him already to kill Trevor. Devin then spells out Franklin’s choices: Kill Michael, Kill Trevor, or let both live and spend your whole life running from him and the FIB.
The problems begin with this setup. Earlier in the game, Devin was presented as a potential next step up the ladder for Franklin. Devin even tells Franklin that Michael and Trevor are weighing him down and he should leave them behind and work for him. However, later in the game, Devin stiffs Franklin on payment for a multi-mission job Devin asked him, Michael and Trevor to do, with some assistance from his childhood friend Lamar. This means that Franklin has no sense of loyalty for Devin and even displays complete disdain for Devin when he shows up at his house. Before Devin asks Franklin to kill Michael, Franklin even asks Devin if he has a death wish and if he should just kill him right then and there.
Now in regards to each of the endings, the worst is easily if you choose to kill Michael. While it could be argued that Michael ultimately has his own interests at heart and is essentially using Franklin, he is not aware of that and is really up for debate. What’s more is throughout most of the game, Franklin and Michael are on good terms. Considering that Devin Weston, whom Franklin dislikes, is asking him to kill Michael, whom Franklin does like, doesn’t make any sense. There’s no motivation for Franklin to want to do that, not even money since the mission prior to the last has you pulling a heist worth tens of millions of dollars.
The problems don’t stop with the motivation. The final mission with you killing Michael unfolds like a stereotypical Hollywood ending to an action movie or a mafia flick. Beat for beat, Michael gets good news about his daughter, you have to chase him in a car, you have to dodge his bullets, he climbs up to a high place, he falls over some railing, you ultimately try to help him up but he hits you so he falls to his death anyway. It’s the most clichéd thing ever. Some may say that this is Rockstar being satirical over endings like that but here, it’s just copied to a tee. Even if Rockstar itself is aware, it doesn’t show in the game. The mission itself isn’t very good either. You drive a car after Michael, then chase him up the oil fields while dodging him shooting at you (you can’t shoot back because the game has it so that you always miss) and watch a cutscene where Michael dies. You don’t actually do it yourself.
Choosing the kill Michael option is terrible because it actually goes against the story and character development up to that point. Choosing to kill Trevor however is bad more so because it’s just a strange turn of events. The reason the FIB ask Franklin to do it as oppose to Michael (which would make perfect sense) isn’t really clear, and there’s no concrete reason for Franklin to do it. Franklin and Trevor at this point were on good terms and Franklin saw the method to Trevor’s madness since he was able to get tasks accomplished through sheer ingenuity. Then again, Franklin killing Trevor makes sense in that Trevor is ultimately too unpredictable, and the other option being to kill Michael, which Trevor actually wants to do. The mission itself is similar to Michael’s, except that you do get to actually kill Trevor in an explosive and somewhat disturbing though probably fitting manner.
Now the final ending, which has Franklin decide to kill neither is easily the best. Franklin asks Lester for help, they arrange a shootout between the FIB and Merryweather agents (whom Devin Weston is a major shareholder) with Michael, Trevor and Lamar, and then kill off the group’s four “main” antagonists, Wei Cheng, Stretch, Steve Haines and Devin Weston. This ending is admittedly guilty of some clichéd moments like the Michael ending but at least this ending makes sense. The actual enemies of the three protagonists are the ones who end up killed (even the ones with little to no development like Stretch and Wei Cheng) and the conflict that’s been present in the story up to this point is still present, like between Michael and Trevor and Franklin and Lamar.
The disappointment comes from the simplicity in which everything gets wrapped up. The ending essentially is “we have a lot of money and all are enemies are gone so huzzah”. That’s not very satisfying. The other issue, that’s actually present in the other endings but is magnified by the “wrapping up” jest done in this ending, is there are a lot of other situations and characters from the game that are not addressed, such as Trevor’s relationship with Patricia Madrazo. The final ending’s real crime is being not good rather than bad or harmful. Also, the third option is by far the most interesting from a gameplay perspective. You have a long and interesting shootout from three fronts, three murders to carry out in three different ways (while driving, sniping and on foot), a clearing out a home full of guards and then a final drive.
It goes without saying also that if you kill Michael or Trevor, you won’t be able to play as them after the game is over and get 100% completion since you can’t complete their missions. I think my main problem with the endings of GTA V, specifically the killing of Michael or Trevor, is all the drawbacks those outcomes give you. It’s to the point that I’d rather not have the option. It also goes without saying that for a game that has a solid story and good characters, it’s sad that Rockstar dropped the ball with the ending. While I never liked any of the three characters I played as, I did sympathize with Michael, I did feel compassion for Trevor and I did understand the struggle Franklin has. For all that to fall apart at the end, Franklin, Michael and Trevor deserved better.