Wait, what just happened?
If youve played all the way through Irrational Games BioShock Infinite, your head is probably spinning as you try to put together everything that was revealed in the last twenty minutes of the game. Comstock what? Who are these two crazy people popping in and out everywhere? Why did the final scene supposedly fix everything?
Not to worry, though--weve got your back. After replaying the ending over and over, we have answers to all of your questions, as well as some answers to questions you probably didnt even know you had.
We are going to spoil the living daylights out of this game. You have been warned, because SPOILERS!
So... seriously, what's going on with the different worlds?
Before we explain anything we need to get this out of the way. At the center of BioShock Infinite is the mind-bending idea that there are multiple worlds simultaneously coexisting, each blissfully unaware of the others. The idea in its simplest form can be thought of as a tree. Every time someone makes a choice, two new branches are added to this hypothetical tree. Each of these branches follows a path in which the outcome of that choice is different.
As an example, when you woke up today and walked into your kitchen, did you decide to eat breakfast or skip it? Lets say you decided to eat breakfast. At that moment, an alternate universe where you chose to skip breakfast--another branch on the tree--is created. You cant see this branch or even know for sure if it exists. Likewise, the version of you in other branch dont know you exist. In this world, you may have been late to work as a result of stopping to eat, which led to your firing. In the alternate universe, you were on time and received a promotion. Both universes are real to the people living in them, and they never, ever, ever intersect. Well, unless there's a tear.
What are tears and why can Elizabeth open them?
Tears are holes between worlds which allow for travel not only to new locations, but to different time periods. For the most part, people are unaware of these holes and unable to manipulate them. As far as we know, Elizabeth the only person that is able to open tears with her bare hands. This ability is likely the result of an incident that occurred during her kidnapping. When Booker realized he had made a mistake and went after Lutece to get Anna back, Rosalind closed the tear before her entire hand was through. Annas pinky finger was severed, leaving part of her in one world and part in another. This, mixed with the fact that she simply wasn't meant to exist in Comstock's reality, meant she was miraculously gifted with the ability to open rifts on her own.
Other characters are shown as being able to manipulate these rifts in time and space, but must use specially-built machines to do so. The Lutece twins do not appear to be able to open tears on their own, but have the ability to transport themselves through time and space without the aid of tears (more on that later).
Who is Rosalind Lutece?
Rosalind Lutece was a brilliant scientist living in Columbia. Because of Rosalinds close working relationship with Zachary Comstock, Lady Comstock believed her to be the mother of his illegitimate child, Elizabeth.
Comstock was not interested in Rosalind, but was obsessed with her creation: a machine capable of manipulating tears to other branches of the world. This machine, combined with Comstocks belief that his heir must take up his mantle as Prophet of Columbia, would become that catalyst that sparked the events of BioShock Infinite.
Is Robert really Rosalinds twin brother?
Robert Lutece does not exist in the world of Columbia. His place is in Bookers universe. In this branch, the baby that would have become Rosalind Lutece was born a boy named Robert. He is essentially the same person as Rosalind in an alternate universe. "For what separates us now, but a single chromosome?" Rosalind asks in a voxophone recording.
Rosalind made contact with Robert using her machine and enlisted him in Comstocks plan to kidnap Booker DeWitts daughter. During the kidnapping, Robert was stranded in Columbia (perhaps willingly) where he lived as Rosalinds twin brother.
Who is Comstock?
Zachary Comstock is the founder of Columbia and leader of the citys religious group. He gained his title of Prophet by using Rosalind Luteces machine to peer into the future and predict events that would take place. His prolonged exposure to the machine had several side effects, as revealed by Rosalind in a recording found in her laboratory. These side effects included rapid aging, development of cancerous tumors, and complete sterilization.
Because he was unable to have children, Comstock concocted a plan to travel through a tear and take Bookers daughter Anna as his own. To accomplish this, he sent Robert Lutece to propose a trade: if Booker gave them his daughter, they would wipe away his gambling debts. This was a bogus proposal, of course, since Comstock did not actually have any control over Bookers debts. In reality, Comstock is a different version of Booker from another branch, just like Robert and Rosalind. In Booker's universe, there never was a Columbia--that's why he claims to have never heard of it.
What causes nosebleeds?
Whenever a person is transported from one world to another through a tear, their mind attempts to remember what their life was like in the old world. Because they have no memories from the new world, they subconsciously create new memories from old ones. Robert and Rosalind Lutece comment on this memory-recreation phenomenon during the end of the game. As Bookers mind tries to recall his past, Robert tells Rosalind that Booker is creating new memories from his old ones.
Whenever someone attempts to remember a moment from their original branch, the mental conflict caused by the two sets of memories occupying the same space leads to a nosebleed. This can be seen in characters such as the gunsmith, who died in one world but was resurrected when Elizabeth opened a tear to a world in which he was still alive. Booker also experiences this when trying to remember the truth about Robert Luteces offer.
How did Comstock know that Booker was coming?
The Prophet of Columbia prophesied that at an undisclosed point in the future a false shepherd would come to take away the miracle child and lead her into evil. The false shepherds signifying mark would be the letters AD burned into the back of his right hand. You can see this prophecy touted on street signs during Bookers first moments in Columbia. This prophecy kept the public on constant lookout for the false shepherd. But... how did he know?
Comstock was able to use Rosalinds machine to look into the future and see that Booker was coming. He knew that Booker had burned his daughters initials into his hand in an attempt to purge himself of his guilt, and he used this to his advantage.
How does Booker become Comstock?
Bookers baptism is the point that defines who he becomes in the future. In an attempt to wipe away his wrongdoing after the Battle of Wounded Knee, he decides to turn to God. If he accepts the baptism, he becomes religious and undergoes an entire change of personality. He takes on a new name to reflect his life: Zachary Comstock. This is only one side of the branch, though.
The other side of the branch is much different. If Booker rejects the baptism--as we see him do in the game--he turns to booze and gambling to help him forget his past. This version of Booker ends hopelessly in debt and desperate. When Robert Lutece shows up at his door promising freedom from his debt in exchange for his daughter Anna, a broken Booker hands her over. Both versions of Booker which stem from the baptism would never have known the other existed if Comstock had not attempted to kidnap Anna DeWitt.
Why doesn't the preacher recognize Booker?
Turns out Comstock really had a connection with the guy that baptised him--besides allowing him to wash away his sins, he invited the man to join Columbia, acting as the gatekeeper of sorts. You run into him at the beginning of the game, when he asks "Is it someone new?" and basically drowns you. But... shouldn't he realize Booker is Comstock? Sure, it's been a while, but you'd think he'd still recognize someone who is so important to him, right?
Except for one small detail: there's a good chance the preacher is blind. Look at his eyes when he baptizes Booker--they're pale, glazed over, and hen ever really looks around. So, yeah, that base is covered.
Is Anna a parallel version of Elizabeth?
While many of the characters in BioShock Infinite are simply different versions of the same person, Anna is not a separate version of Elizabeth. They are the same person, and only one version of Anna/Elizabeth ever existed. She was Bookers daughter the entire time, but was kidnapped by Comstock (who was also Booker, as weve seen) and taken to his world.
Comstock renamed the girl Elizabeth and told the people of Columbia that she was a miracle child born to his wife after a one-week pregnancy. Lady Comstock knew this was a lie and suspected that the child was the result of an illicit affair between her husband and Rosalind Lutece. Only Comstock, Robert, and Rosalind knew that Elizabeth had been kidnapped from an alternate branch.
What is the the Tower of Columbia?
The Tower of Columbia is a massive tribute to the angel Columbia. According to the local religion, she descended from heaven to give Comstock the idea for the floating city. The tower itself has a much darker story.
The top of the tower functions as Elizabeths prison. From here, researchers tracked her growth, filmed her every move, and setup special observation decks for studying her. The entire top of the tower is quarantined. The general public do not know that anything shady is happening inside, and the few employees allowed in the tower are not allowed beyond the quarantine point without explicit permission from Comstock himself. The bottom of the tower houses the Siphon. The entire structure is defended by the Songbird.
Who created the Songbird, and why?
The Songbird is believed to be a myth by most of Columbia. The children sing about him in their nursery rhymes, and religious signs around the city order the citizenry to sing his praises, but there is fact to this so-called myth.
A voxaphone found in Fink Factory says that the Songbird was created there, and that the idea to merge man and machine in that manner was discovered using a tear--leading many to believe that it was made using the same process that creates Rapture's Big Daddies. The Fink recording says that it was created specifically to serve as Elizabeth's guardian, though some of the details of the giant winged creature are shrouded in mystery (and rumored as DLC).
What does the Siphon do?
Because Elizabeth possesses the unique ability to create new tears anywhere she pleases, her increasing knowledge of the outside world posed a threat to Comstocks plan to turn her into his loyal heir. To counter this, Comstock commissioned the construction of the Siphon.
Designed by the Lutece twins, the Siphon was created to drain Elizabeths power. In her drained state, she is able to open existing tears but cannot create them at will. When Booker orders Songbird to destroy the tower and Siphon, Elizabeths power is returned to full strength and she is able to create tears anywhere.
Why didnt Lady Comstock or the Luteces reveal the truth?
Comstocks plan to make his daughter the head of his church could have been derailed entirely if Lady Comstock or the Luteces had come forward to explain that Elizabeth was not the miracle child that he claimed. Because he couldnt allow that to happen, Comstock set out on a mission to quell the truth.
First, he killed his own wife. To cover up his crime, he blamed the murder on the leader of a local rebellion. This stopped Lady Comstock from telling the truth about his child and turned the tide of pubic opinion against the Vox Populi. Once Lady Comstock was dead, Comstock turned his attention to the Luteces. A voxophone recording reveals that Comstock modified the tear-manipulating machine in Rosalinds laboratory hoping to kill them. The malfunctioning contraption actually had the opposite effect: it imbued the Luteces with the ability to jump between worlds at will. Realizing that they had been betrayed, the twins harnessed their newfound power to enter Bookers world and bring him into Columbia to take down Comstock.
Did Elizabeth really bomb New York?
In one possible branch, Elizabeth is captured by Songbird and Booker does not save her. In this world, Comstock successfully convinces her that Booker will never come for her and breaks her hope. She gives in to his attempts to turn her into the next Prophet of Columbia and takes up his position when he dies. Booker is transported to the 1980s through a tear and sees the results of this chain of events.
Comstock had foreseen the bombing of New York through a tear in Rosalinds machine and prophesied that the seed of the Prophet (Elizabeth) would drown in flames the mountains of men. Booker witnesses a possible future in which Elizabeth fulfills this prophecy by destroying New York City. When future-Elizabeth gives Booker the card with the directions to control Songbird, he returns to 1912 with the knowledge necessary to save Elizabeth and prevent that future from occurring.
What does Rapture have to do with anything?
Once Elizabeth regains the ability to create new tears, she transports herself and Booker to the underwater city of Rapture, which was the location of the first two BioShock games. Doing this kills Songbird, since the underwater pressure causes its machinery to crumble. Its clear from the condition of the room that the moment they jump to is after the fall of Rapture, but before the Splicers did most of their damage.
The inclusion of Rapture is important because it proves that this is not simply Irrational Games rehashing a story weve already seen. The events of the first game and the third game are directly related to each other. Elizabeth later refers to the similar framework of both stories as constants, and the characters who fill the framework as variables.
If Booker is Comstock, could he also be Andrew Ryan?
There seems to be some speculation that Booker is Andrew Ryan based on some Rapture security measures mentioned in the first BioShock. Specifically, the bathyspheres are only supposed to operate for Andrew Ryan or his genetically-matched relatives when Rapture is under lockdown. As we can see from the signs in the bathysphere chamber, all submersible travel is restricted, meaning only Andrew Ryan or his kin could trigger the sub that takes Booker to the surface.
But there are more reasons to believe that they aren't related than that they are. The different versions of Booker are just that--different versions of Booker. Ryan was born later, and the dates and times don't line up. It's easier to think that Ryan, Booker, Columbia, Elizabeth, and Rapture all "variables" in the same math problem, filling the same roles but not being equal. In short, no, Booker is not Ryan. Booker is more of a parallel to the main character of the first game than the villain. Comstock would be a more appropriate match to Ryan, but since he is genetically identical to Booker, it is quite possible that Booker shares some small relation to him.
Where is the land of infinite lighthouses?
When they leave Rapture in the bathysphere, Booker and Elizabeth find themselves in a world filled with lighthouses. This is a place that exists outside of our concept of space and time. Each lighthouse is the door to a potential branch of the future. Every choice that has ever been made can be revisited through these lighthouses.
Familiar stories of a man finding a city run by an egomaniacal old man with whom he has an unforeseen familial relation are playing out in millions of other worlds. Each of these stories has constants, such as a rebel leader who turns into a bloodthirsty psycho, a girl dressed in blue protected by a mechanical monster, and a fantastic city founded on the corrupt principles of a misguided zealot. These constants are filled in by variables which differ from story to story but function in essentially the same role. These towers are the starting point for all of it.
How does drowning Booker stop Comstock from existing?
The goal of drowning Booker was to kill him before he ever made the decision to become Zachary Comstock. When Booker accepts his fate and allows the various forms of Elizabeth to drown him in the river where he is to be baptized, he removes all traces of Comstock ever having lived. Because Booker died before Anna could be born, Elizabeth never lived. One by one the iterations of Elizabeth vanish into thin air, until only one remains.
There's a reason for this: by stopping Booker from becoming Comstock, Elizabeth(s) stop Comstock from ever taking Anna from Booker. This is why, after the credits, we see Booker opening a door and seeing Anna still in her crib--she's never taken away. Booker is still a loser and a drunk in that timeline, but he never loses Anna. In that, Infinite actually has a remarkably happy ending. There are some other theories about what this means, but they all result in the same thing: the Comstock that becomes Booker is drowned, and that "branch" is severed.
Go back in time and play it again
Irrational Games has delivered a brain-breaking masterpiece in BioShock Infinite. One play through isnt enough to pick up on all of the subtle hints at the complex backstory driving the narrative. Did you have any questions that we didnt answer? Still confused about something? Sound off in the comments below and let us know.