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Why You Shouldn't Feel Bad About Liking GTA V's Protagonists

Warning: This article contains huge spoilers for the ending of GTA V. If you would rather experience it for yourself then for the sake of all that is holy, do not read on.

When I first saw Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas as a media student and proclaimed it to be my all time favourite film, I also started to have doubts about my own moral code. I mean, this was a film about the criminal underworld and the abhorrent crimes that its members were responsible for. None of these serial offenders had redeeming qualities - they were scum; living the high life through theft, murder, extortion and pretty much every violent crime under the sun.

GTA V

Despite all of this though, I couldn't help but admire the world in which they lived, and the unspoken camaraderie that its members shared; being a family by association rather than blood. I thought Scorsese's film was a one off, an example of a film's characters and world being so meticulously well-made that it was impossible not to be somewhat absorbed by a narrative about something so wretched. But then GTA V happened, and that feeling of guilty admiration made a return.

Trevor, Franklin and Michael's intricate, interwoven relationships are, for me, one of the greatest ever seen in any form of entertainment, let alone videogames. It's not just their actions and situations that make them so memorable, but how believable they are as living, breathing members of society. You're unlikely to know anyone whose life is as psychotic as Trevor's, but his voice actor (and everyone else's) combined with Rockstar's excellent character animators would make you believe that someone as depraved as any of the three main characters could easily be found just a stones through away from your humble abode.

This is what Rockstar has achieved. They have made us care about characters that don't deserve the sympathy, and this is made all the more evident when Franklin is given the triple ultimatum towards the end of the game.

After 30 plus hours of reprehensible criminal activity committed by the triple threat, Franklin is given the choice to whack Michael or Trevor. There's a third option of course, and that's a balls-out gunfight between every government agency and crime syndicate that one of the main characters has wronged throughout the course of the story.

GTA V

 

If the same option was presented to you before this point, with no prior knowledge other than the introduction and basic development of each character, chances are you would have no qualms with killing one of the buggers off.

But the more time you spend with each character, the stronger the attachment becomes. When you're finally presented with the choice, you realise that each protagonist actually has a lot to lose - you're tricked into wanting to save them because of the potential collateral damage. Trevor may be a total sociopath, but small glimmers of hope arise that suggest that he actually has a shred of decency beneath the psychotic tendencies. His relationship with Patricia Madrazo and his complete refusal to help Franklin kill Michael (if you choose that option) suggest that he does have some kind of moral code - however warped it may be. On the other hand, Michael has his wife and kids to take care of. They're the most dysfunctional family to ever grace your TV screen, but they still care deeply for each other in their own twisted way.

Franklin has the least to lose. He's from the hood, has no family other than a self-absorbed Aunt and a friend - Lamar - whose only saving grace is his devotion to the two's friendship. This could be why Rockstar decided to burden Franklin with the three options, but I'm more inclined to believe that the developers did this because he's simply the most grounded and relatable character for the player.

If you look past this and decide to off one of the trio, you'll soon realise that Rockstar wanted you to feel this way, as each character's demise is nothing short of painfully graphic. If you choose to waste Trevor, he'll instantly turn heel and run in his car, prompting Franklin to give chase to an abandoned warehouse where Michael appears and takes out his ride.

GTA V

 

Trevor's pure hatred for Michael's betrayal burns brightly as he writhes around in the spilt petrol from the tanker his truck crashed into. As you light him up and watch him flail around in the flames, you actually feel sorry for him. His whole life since Yankton has been a lie, and his earlier tirade against Michael - stating that nobody gives a f**k about him - makes it all the more poignant, especially when Michael consoled him by saying he cared for his old accomplice.

Likewise, Michael's utter disbelief that Franklin has come to assassinate him is just as punishing. When you eventually corner and knock the movie-lover over the water tower and hold him by the hand, you're presented with a last-ditch chance to save the old-fashioned mobster. It's too late though, the choice has been made, and even if you have a last change of heart, Michael nuts Franklin in the face if he tries to pull him up, subsequently falling to his death. That's the sad truth. Even though you may have the resolve to end their lives, Franklin himself still has reservations right up to the grisly end.

I hate agreeing with everyone else, but Rockstar deserves the praise heaped on them for GTA V. Say what you will about the gameplay, but from an objective point of view, Rockstar have crafted their finest narrative yet in the crime series and that's borderline undeniable. Niko, CJ and Tommy were great characters in their own right, but none of them were as believable - or likeable - as Trevor, Michael and Franklin. Your brain will tell you every minute that these characters don't deserve a shred of respect and you'll try your hardest to reinforce the notion, but in the end, you'll secretly know that you're lying to yourself.

JoeP | 2nd October, 2013
HarrieSilver's picture
Want to read this so bad! I will hurry up and play through
Platinum's picture
So much temptation to read a article
Jamz's picture
Great article my good man, thoroughly enjoyed it.

Played through it and finished it up to 75% or so in 3 days and I chose the option of having the all out gun fight.

I could never of brought myself to killing either Michael or Trevor, it didn't even cross my mind!

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