Happy Birthday Commander Shepard, You Deserved A Happier Ending

Born on April 11, 2154, Commander Shepard is officially -133 years old today. The hero of the Mass Effect trilogy is just 29 when things begin in the first game, and the galaxy’s fight against the Reapers only takes a few years to wrap up. I’m in the group of folks who were fine with the way Mass Effect 3 ended things at large – I didn’t mind choosing between green, blue, and red. Honestly, it felt rather fitting, and I thought of the entire third game as the end. So, when I selected Synthesis, I was at peace with my decision. Shepard’s fate was where my true beef was. I realize all endings aren’t happy, and often my favorite ones aren’t, but there was something that felt terribly unjust about Shepard’s death. Even as a staunch Mass Effect 3 defender, Shepard, I think you deserved happiness.

Everyone wants to see the hero come out on top, that’s natural. And to be clear, Shepard did win the battle she set out to finish. As things get tense in the final showdown on Earth, it’s pretty obvious that all signs point to things going south. Shepard will say her goodbyes, parting ways with a lover, crewmates, and her friends. I’m not one to usually beg for the plot armor to work and Mass Effect made its stakes clear from the beginning. We got a taste of it sprinkled throughout; BioWare wasn’t afraid to kill your darlings. They did warn me, but as I watched Shepard sprint towards her last encounter, down a battlefield where I left Garrus behind, I hoped—prayed—that BioWare would give me a scrap of kindness.

And I thought seeing Anderson’s tragic death was it. When my favorite space dad laid out beside my beaten and bruised Shepard, I thought this was BioWare’s final stab to my heart. In exchange for my girl’s life, I thought they were sacrificing this man in the saddest way possible. I desperately wanted Anderson to see things to the end, especially considering the hardship he faced and the personal sacrifices he made to get there, but he didn’t. I made my peace, wiped my tears, understood that perhaps this was the cost for Shepard to go on to the end, but that wasn’t it.

When Shepard arrives on that final platform from the Citadel, how unfair it’s all going to become is apparent. During her talks with the Catalyst, I was convinced there would be another way. There was something I was missing, something that didn’t add up. But no, I had to slowly guide my Shepard to one of my choices, sacrificing her life for all of the galaxy – I was pissed. She was alone, Anderson couldn’t have even made it up there with her, and I said goodbye to Garrus in a rush of gunfire and explosions. Shepard dies after an exchange with an unsympathetic AI that I wish I could have sent off with the Illusive Man.

Depending on your choice, at the end of Mass Effect 3, you can hear a loud gasp under the rubble. It’s supposed to be Shepard, but that’s not the closure I was asking for. Shepard spent her life fighting for a cause undermined by the system’s governing bodies again and again. My Shepard was kind, made hard choices, but ultimately saved everyone she could. The commander had friends she adored, a partner in Garrus, and when I replay the Citadel DLC it all makes me feel a little more bitter. That content was what I envisioned for her after the fight, not a final hoorah before.

I’m not gonna pretend like it’s the most logical, or that it’s even a satisfying conclusion for folks who want more realistic, pained stories. But I wanted my Shepard to live. I wanted her to select Synthesis, and then for Joker to come rushing in somehow with a drop-ship and to just take her away. Garrus would be there, waiting to hug and hold her after saving the day. It’s all a bit too idealistic, but perhaps what I’m trying to say is that it’s okay, and I think she deserved it.

I’m not asking for a new game to begin her story anew, like hinted at from the new Mass Effect trailer. I’m just asking that my Mass Effect 3 journey end with a Shepard who saved the world and lived to see it. I desperately want her to meet Garrus again at that bar, live to see Wrex and his Krogan babies, watch Tali grow into a leader among the Quarian – I just want a Shepard who can rest. In a world that sucked so damn much, I think Commander Shepard deserved that—she deserved a happier ending.

Next: Mirror Mode: The Next Mass Effect Game Should Be Set On Earth

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Andrea Shearon is a news editor at TheGamer who loves RPGs and anything horror related. Find her on Twitter via @Maajora.

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