I felt very compelled to put my thoughts down after finally finishing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain last night. Admittedly, the twist was unexpected. For those who do not know, Chapter 46 retells the events of the beginning of the game where we find out that we, the players, have been controlling Big Boss’s body double all along. The real Big Boss rides off on his motor cycle and begins to assemble his base of operations in Metal Gear 2.
When I first finished the game, I was upset. I hated the ending. The twit felt incredibly forced and I thought Kojima only included it for the sake of having one. After sleeping for a bit and spending extensive time thinking about it this morning, I am not nearly as upset as I was last night. In retrospect elements of the game feel in line with this twist. In particular the music works incredibly well if you pay attention to the lyrics of songs such as Sins of the Father and A Phantom Pain. Venom Snake makes certain decisions that Big Boss seemingly would not. For example, Venom is surprisingly lenient with Huey whereas it is hard to imagine Big Boss would be sympathetic with Huey’s actions against his comrades.
The twist also has other implications. Miller seems to be unaware of Venom’s identity which makes his character that much more tragic. Miller loses everything in Ground Zeroes. He tries to rebuild in The Phantom Pain, only to find out that he has been fighting alongside another person all along and Big Boss is long gone. How can we be so sure that Miller doesn’t know while Ocelot clearly does? In this regard, we can look to Miller’s cassette conversation about Eli’s DNA. Eli is revealed to in fact be Liquid Snake in the credits timeline. Miller tells Venom that Eli is not related because they do not share DNA. As a result, Miller concludes that Eli cannot be a clone. Miller would have no incentive for lying about this information. If Miller was aware and Venom was not, it would make more sense to omit the information about Eli’s DNA altogether. We learn at the end of the game that Venom underwent hypnotherapy to obtain Big Boss’s memories. For a character that is just killed off in Metal Gear Solid 1, Miller’s back story is rather sad and he receives such extensive screen time in later games because Kojima retconned his importance.
What other discussions can we have about the game’s ending? Well, we learn that the mirror scene actually takes place during Metal Gear 1. The cassette tape’s name is actually the mission name in Metal Gear 1 and the Diamond Dogs logo that we can see in the mirror transforms to that of the Outer Heaven logo. This scene lets us know that while the story calls for Big Boss and Venom to be the same person, Venom does have parts of his past self still alive in some capacity. The plot twist also hammers home the idea that the legend of Big Boss is more important than the man himself.
Now, it may seem like I am justifying the ending. I have come around somewhat. It still feels forced, but after thinking about it I can see now that it was intended all along and does carry implications for the core story moments seen throughout the game. I think the game may have been better off concluding the story without the twist. Chapter 43 was an amazing mission both in terms of gut wrenching visuals and as a means of progressing Big Boss towards the villainy we expect of him later in the series. The scene with the ashes and with Huey’s exile felt so final and would have been a nice conclusion without forcing anything (Eli’s departure aside). As it stands, we have to accept the ending for what it is. The ending Is a means to explain away the endings to Metal Gear 1 and 2 as well as exploring the idea that reputation and notoriety is more important that one individual. Even though I am more against the ending than in favor, it says something that I absolutely cannot stop thinking about it, and in that regard the ending has succeeded the most.