Mass Effect 3 Ending: Analyzing The Indoctrination Theory
Why It Could Be an Even Worse Ending
The trouble with the Indoctrination Ending is that it leaves things even more fluid and disturbing than they already were. I’m reminded of an awesome episode of the rebooted TV show The Outer Limits, in which a character is bitten by an alien that injects a hallucinagenic venom into its victims. The character spends the rest of the story switching between being stranded in a crashed spaceship and being back home on Earth, post-rescue. The drug makes it impossible to distinguish the realities, but the twist at the end is that neither was reality — the alien bugs actually had successfully attacked and cacooned up all the survivors. Their hallucinations left them docile and vulnerable — and the ending was even more horrific for it.
That ending bit that explained the plot was crucial to that episode, and Mass Effect 3 as it stands right now lacks an epilogue that would make Indoctrination make any sense whatsoever. If we do assume that Shepard was indoctrinated, the ending of the game is basically meaningless. If that’s the case, then the reality of the game’s ending is that the Reapers probably won, or It Was All a Dream starting with Harbinger’s, which is even less satisfying.
Without more information — perhaps in forthcoming in DLC — the idea that Shepard is indoctrinated makes for an even more bleak, senseless ending than if he wasn’t. At least there’s some closure to the endings as they stand; if we start to re-interpret it as Shepard being manipulated, things make a lot less sense. The Indoctrination Theory absolutely requires more ending than we currently have in order to work.