The ending explained in the best way I can piece it together (obvious spoilers)
I think what a lot of people are failing to grasp about this multiverse idea is that there are constants and variables. Some things are always going to happen. Some things can change. So...
In universe one(U1) Dewitt is born again as comstock, meets Madame lutece, sees the future, and uses it to his advantage, becoming ruler of Columbia and all around racist douche. He also never has a daughter, as his presence around the luteces machines make him sterile. Instead, he uses the world gap to invade universe two, finding our booker, and existing in this world for an unknown period of time. Here, comstock manipulates booker into debt, until he can weasel the child from him. Currently, the two are the same age, com stock is maybe slightly older. Commie steals Anna, taking her back to u1 and forcing Booker into 17 years of depression.
Back in u1, comstock and lutece discover that Anna (renamed Elizabeth) has powers because the universe does not like things to cross between dimensions. This is how she, and the luteces, are able to do what they do without machines. (Of course, we are talking about the 2nd set of luteces in that instance) comstocks presence near the machines ages him rapidly, which is why he and booker appear to be of such different ages.
When questions start being asked about the nature of the child and the truth gets out between lady comstock and lutece, com stock has them killed to cover up the secret. Framing fitzroy, he solidifies power and awaits the arrival of Dewitt, whom he has seen in the tears.
The luteces of a third and fourth universe see this happening because they have mastered time and space. They decide that in order to prevent the horrible future of the 1980s, that they will set a plan in motion to bring about the undoing of all of Columbia. Thus, they travel to U2 and find booker. They bring him back to u1 on promise of reuniting with his daughter. Dewitt's mind, unable to handle the transition, invents a new reason as to why he is there, forgetting about his daughter. Then the events of the game play out, crossing through what appears to be three(?) more multiverse a until you reach the ending.
Booker always aches the baptismal river. The constant. The variable is what happens there. By forcing himself into the waters, he erases both versions of booker, the good and the bad. But the camera cuts before the last Elizabeth fades. And we get the scene at the end. Thus, they show that there are four possible outcomes, four variants to the constant of the baptism.
In variant one and two, com stock is born and becomes lord of Columbia. Comstock always winds up dead, whether due to his condition or to booker. The difference comes with the rescue of Elizabeth. Booker will always enter a comstock universe. If he fails to save Elizabeth, you get variant one, the cleansing of America. Saving Elizabeth results in saving America and the destruction of Columbia. It also results in the death of booker, and Ts, variant two.
In variant three, you get the booker who sells his daughter. This booker always enters one of the other variants and influences it.
In variant four, booker does not give up Anna.
By going back and preventing comstock from existing, booker erases the first three variants, but only because those three are always intertwined. The fourth variant, separate from the others, is not affected. Thus, at the end of the game, the only variant of multiverse that still exists is one where booker always refuses the baptism, and never gives Anna away. These become new constants.
That's the best I can do to try and close up an ending that seems pretty open ended. You never see if Anna is in the crib. You never see if the last Elizabeth vanishes.
In each of these three other variants, one thing is truly constant. The universe is torn. The luteces are only able to tear the universe with com stocks money. Therefore, when you destroy the other variants, you fix the universe, and everything is as it should be.
Most of this is pretty spot on, the only problem is the idea you get from Letuce and Anna. Anna has her powers because she exists in one timeline as Elizabeth while her pinky is in another timeline. As for the letuces, I don't see how there are different sets of the twins. They became scattered in time only after being betrayed by Comstock and after being scattered in time did they decide to fix everything. So it would be the same Letuces throughout the game, they just have the ability to be everywhere at once.
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Hadn't thought about the pinky. Nice one. The luteces are just so odd.... It's hard for me to keep track of them. They are dead in one timeline though. They say the funeral pictures were taken.
Oh yeah i remember that. I guess that could be the timeline where the machine kills them instead of scattering them in time.
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Thank you, Troy. That was an excellent sum-up. I actually finished the game a few minutes ago and have reading other theories and ideas to see how mine fit in. I saw this chart:
if anyone is interesting. Kind of goes hand in hand with what Troy said, but may clear things up for those who learn easier through visual techniques.
So I guess we do get a happy ending for the whole thing after all if you think about it, right? I wonder what all this means for DLC? I'm not sure if I want to play as Booker again, as I feel everything wrapped up quite nicely.
Chart does a good job of summing up the events of the game, but fails to explain what the consequences are of the ending. I like my idea that bioshock infinite is a result of the universe repairing itself after damage has been done. It leaves a paradox free ending. It's clean, which is tough to do in time travel.
I don't get the baptism part, it seems to introduce a whole new concept of time-travel without any warning or explanation.
How does getting drowned in a river undo anything created by our previous actions? If we get a do-over on the baptism then we aren't just travelling in time, we're jumping into the past *within our own consciousness* right? How the heck does that work - is there a tear inside Booker's head?
I hope I'm missing something, it's like I was watching Twelve Monkeys and then it turned into Quantum Leap for the final scene...
Great stuff Troy, this is essentially what I myself came around to after running everything through my head for a couple hours, barring one major divergence. So in the interest of explaining this divergence, lemme tell ya about the lutece's, because a.) they are not of a third and fourth universe as you posit, and b.) because I think they're the most fascinating characters in the game.
To begin, the lutece's aren't twins. They are in fact two differing versions of the same person from two different universes, one born with a Y chromosome, the other with an X. Robert originally existed in tandem with the Booker who refused the baptism, learned to live with sin, had Anna, etc. Rosalind, as you've elaborated upon above, originally existed in the universe in which booker accepted the baptism, birthing comstock and Columbia.
Now, these two lutece's of differing gender and universes gleaned the existence of each other and the aforementioned alternate universe each inhabited because they were both (being of the same mind, literally) experimenting with the atom. Rosalind on a much more impressive scale via the benefit of comstocks vision, but nevertheless, through their tinkering the lutece's were made aware of their alternate universe counterpart, and they began to communicate via trans-dimensional morse code. This lead to Rosalind's machine, which allowed for comstock to acquire Anna from booker with the help of Robert lutece, the lutece in the non-baptised booker's universe. When you arrive at the end game scene in which booker hurtles down the alley in an attempt to stop the "transaction" you'll see Robert heatedly explaining to Rosalind (who is on the other side of the tear, comstock and columbia's side) his trepidation regarding stepping into another universe, though he ultimately does, along with comstock who is carrying baby Anna. There is a sightseer video that documents the columbia denizens confusion at a lutece twin suddenly arriving in columbia, as no one knew Rosalind had siblings.
The commenter above me correctly pointed out that Anna/Elizabeth's finger inhabiting one universe and the rest of her another is what allows her to tear at will when not restricted by a siphon. A Rosalind voxophone postulates that the girl's power derives from the fact that "the universe doesn't like its peas mixed with its porridge." This likewise explains the craziness regarding the reincarnated lady comstock, as like Elizabeth, she was single entity split across two universes. This concept also accounts for the lutece's brand of universe hopping witnessed throughout the game, but we'll get there.
Anyhow, when Robert jumps from his universe to comstock's, rosalind's, and columbia's he finds his mind, and I quote from the very first piece of information the game presents us with, "desperately struggling to create memories where none exist." And who is this quote attributed to? Why, an R. Lutece no less, from their book The Barriers of Trans-dimensional Travel. While Robert had Rosalind to help him sort things out, it was this period of disorientation that gave him the confidence that Booker would develop a narrative for himself when they ripped him from his universe of drunken, depressed stupor incited by the death of his wife and his sale of Anna. You can hear the lutece's bickering about it in the endgame scene on the seaside outcropping that occurs directly before the lighthouse approach that instigates the game. When booker groggily begins to verbalize his, "bring us the girl, wipe away the debt" falsehood, Robert tells Rosalind see, I knew it would happen, because I lived it.
Is Booker still in debt after though? If so the ending is less happy, but still good compared to the alternative....
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