About halfway through Booker DeWitt’s sprawling adventures through Columbia , Bioshock Infinite (which we reviewed quite favorably) takes a controversial narrative thrust, one that defines its Infinite moniker. Multiple timelines open up, fragmenting how events transpire within the game world. Not only does this create innumerable parallel universes, but it also directly affects the game’s storyline and radically changes the actions and personalities of various characters.
But perhaps no character is more changed by the timeline disruption than Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the Vox Populi and the only significant, named person of color in the entire cast. After Booker is transported to an alternate reality, where he has become a martyr for the Vox Populi cause, he encounters Fitzroy’s forces, who are in open warfare with Columbia’s Founders. This universe’s Fitzroy believes that the existence of the main universe Booker undermines Booker’s sacrifice in this reality, and that his very existence weakens the cause of the Vox Populi. Using revolution logic, Fitzroy turns the Vox Populi against Booker, the very man that sacrificed himself for their cause.
But it wasn’t our Booker that bit the dust; it was an alternate Booker. Just as Booker comes to represent different things in infinite realities, Fitzroy in the ‘”all-out war” reality is a revolutionary terrorist rather than a freedom fighter. In fact, her character change can be best described by a quote from Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil.
“Battle not with monsters lest you become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.”
Fitzroy directly confronts the monsters that are Columbia’s Founders, gazing into the abyss of righteous zeal and racism. And by taking the fight to the streets, Fitzroy becomes all that the Founders represent, her zeal and racism overpowering the intelligence and charisma that she displays in the main timeline.
When Booker confronts Fitzroy, attempting to help her see reason – to help her gaze into the abyss and see what she’s become – Fitzroy instead murders Jeremiah Fink, the sly opportunist businessman, who may be the richest man in all of Columbia. To Fitzroy, Fink represents all that is wrong with the floating city in the sky. His greed, arrogance and guile have subjugated Fitzroy and her socioeconomic and racial brethren; and to Fitzroy, enough is enough. The main universe’s version of Fitzroy is brutal, yes – but she is more freedom fighter than bloody revolutionary.
Maybe, this is because she wasn’t given the opportunity to murder Fink. At least in the main timeline, Fink was the one that initially brought Fitzroy to Columbia, selling Fitzroy into slavery to Lady Comstock. Or, perhaps, the “all-out war” Fitzroy is just far more brutal than her mainline counterpart ever could be. Still though, killing Fink – as he meekly pleads for his life – allows Fitzroy a sense of release, and what we see next all but confirms that she’s become a monster.
Manic and in a state of utter bliss, high from the murder of Fink – justified to the player by Fink’s past actions against Booker – Fitzroy smears his blood on her face, looking at Booker through a glass window, gazing at him through the abyss.
Blood smeared on the glass, Fitzroy calmly orders Booker’s death – as though it were no different than ordering a sandwich.
“Kill the impostors; burn their bodies when you’re done.”
Booker, ever the resourceful man, quickly dispatches the Vox Populi troops, murdering them with a ferocity that not even Fitzroy could muster.
The lyric “the killer in me is the killer in you,” from The Smashing Pumpkins’ Disarm, has never been so accurate – nor so full of irony.
Booker returns to Fitzroy. She is still standing behind the glass window. If blood is smeared across Fitzroy’s face, then Booker is covered head to toe. He stares into the abyss, seeing a monster, but does not recognize the own monstrosity that inhabits his own body. He does not think, only judge; and, before long, execute.
As Booker approaches, Elizabeth is frenetically pounding on the glass window, pleading with Fitzroy, who is obscured in shadow. She is up to something sinister, but we don’t know what yet.
Fitzroy walks forward, a young white child slung under her forceful grip, a pistol pointed at its temple. Whether this is the offspring of Barton Fink is unknown; for the sake of dramatic argument, let’s say it is.
Elizabeth turns to her savior, Booker; the murderer, Booker.
“We have to act – we have to get in there!”
Booker doesn’t murder children, just anyone that gets in his way; but Fitzroy has gone too far. Fink’s death was justified – as much as any murder in Columbia can be – but this child is an innocent. Pure and protected from the harsh realities of the outside world, this small boy, representative of the innocence of childhood and so-called angelical ‘whiteness,’ is an object of scorn for Fitzroy. He represents a privileged life she could never have, an existence that she can never hope to attain. And for that, in her view, he deserves to die.
But to Booker – and by extension, the player – this child needs saving. And Booker is just the man – the only man – to do it.
Booker can’t get to Fitzroy through the abyss of the glass window, but he can boost Elizabeth up into a nearby vent: which he does, without question. He then goes to the window and confronts Fitzroy, her murderous intention now more clear than ever before.
Booker knocks on the glass loudly, a smug sound in his voice as he speaks.
“Is this it? Is this your movement, Daisy?”
Daisy turns around. Booker now gets a clear look at her, blood spattered on her face like a tribal warlord.
“You see, the Founder’s ain’t nothin’ but weeds. Cut ’em down and they just grow back!”
Fitzroy raises her gun up in the air, in what to her, seems to be a triumphant moment.
“If you wanna get rid of the weed, you gotta pull it up from the root.”
And just like that, in the middle of her so-called ‘bad guy speech,’ Fitzroy is stabbed from behind by Elizabeth.
She lays dying at Elizabeth’s feet, blood gurgling out of her mouth. Finally, the last trace of life escapes her body. The “all-out war” Fitzroy is dead, and the boy is saved. But is this really the triumphant moment that it seems?
No, of course not; Elizabeth is now a murderer as well. Fitzroy is dead, her corpse lying on the floor between Booker and Elizabeth – between the abyss that separates them. The glass window opens, revealing murder begetting murder, showing Elizabeth’s full loss of innocence; she is now guilty of murdering a woman that she greatly admired in the main timeline.
Booker rushes to comfort Elizabeth, but it’s useless. She runs from his advances, spurns his identification as a fellow murderer. Behind closed doors, Elizabeth changes, both mentally and physically. Not just from her murder, but from the realization that what she had done might have actually been wrong, that even an alternative timeline version of Fitzroy, however brutal she was, did not deserve to die.
And this is why Fitzroy’s death is such a powerful moment in Bioshock Infinite; for the way that it blends perceptions of murder, race, and classism into one scene – filled to the brim with character development and depth. It takes the idea of death and loss of innocence, and brings it forward a step further – by telling us that no one is truly blameless in Columbia.
Not even Barton Fink’s son.