Painting from inside the Order. Screenshot courtesy of IGN.

There’s a particular moment in BioShock Infinite that threw me for a loop. Spoilers ahead.

Booker’s time in Columbia had been unkind to him up until that point. Faced with the decision to defile a racial couple with the most American of weaponry, a baseball, he chose to throw it at the announcer, a Mr. Fink, supposedly a famous manufacturer in town. As a result, Columbia’s entire police department came at him with pistols and skyhooks in platoons, dozens at a time, to incapacitate the “False Shepherd”, Comstock’s sworn enemy. They were unsuccessful in their attempts.

Columbia is a strange place with strange people–a ruby floating aimlessly in a sapphire sky–with a zealot as its founder. Their religion, familiar yet unfamiliar, took enormous pride in the city’s American origins, praising the founders as gods. Being 1912, another prominent American figure is strongly dismissed: Abraham Lincoln, abolishing slavery, made him an antagonist of the South and of Columbia, apparently. His assassination warmed a certain sect of Columbia’s people, and John Wilkes Booth became a saint in his own right.

Visited by Booker as part of his epic escape, the Fraternal Order of the Raven prays to Booth, as shown with pride by blackbirds pecking at decaying fruit and a massive statue of Lincoln’s killer between two staircases. A sash overlooking both hallways reads in Latin Sic semper tyrannis, meaning “Thus always to tyrants”. Men crowd the bar to the left, listening to fading music over a phonograph; the right hallway holds a long dinner table, a painting of Booth with gun-in-hand behind Lincoln gawks downward.

Approaching the left hallway, the first instinct of the men inside is to shoot. Not talk to Booker, question why he tramples on religious tiling, or inquire if the man wants a drink. News must travel fast if those men knew of the False Shepherd’s arrival; but the only measure of identification was the “AD” on Booker’s hand. Booker wasn’t half in the door before these mysterious men began littering the floor with rounds. News must travel fast.

Booker continued down the darkened hall to find ravens scattered out feasting on body parts, squawking at him. It was then he sprinted back and struggled up the staircase, opening a large door. A man spoke about the Prophet Comstock leading his people to Peking, and how that day they were celebrating Columbia’s secession from the United States. Booker slyly walked down another set of stairs until one praying man unnervingly yelled “Attack!” The group of ten turned to Booker and he rained unto them a fiery hell, fresh from his burning hand, as the men screamed in agony.

Booker had little inclination as to why these hooded figures attacked with prejudice, without first knowing who he was or why he was there. It was an impulsive response–but as Booker had so comfortably done many times before, he unflinchingly dealt with the situation.

On the wall hung a proud and incredibly jingoistic portrayal of George Washington and a plethora of symbolism: a Cross for faith, arrows for defense, a bird for purity, wheat for prosperity in each corner; a woman on Washington’s shoulders holding a sash reading “FOR GOD AND COUNTRY”; Washington himself holding the Liberty Bell as Americans to his left celebrate and Chinese citizens to his right act fearful; all surrounded by American tapestry held together in the middle with the words “IT IS OUR HOLY DUTY TO GUARD AGAINST THE FOREIGN HORDES”.

Booker remarked on its hedonistic appearance but prevalent racial undertones. It was rough, as he said, to stare even without the constant reminder of American military staying power. He was more mystified, however, by Comstock’s surprising tolerance of a practicing cult in Columbia, even though the city resented Lincoln and his proudest accomplishment. Or so Booker is to believe, but he never had the time to stop and ask. Normally men refuse directions anyway, but he had a woman from a mysterious golden tower to save. Time was an issue.

Turning to the right, Booker comes across an elevator and takes it upwards. Staring back at him is a giant eye with more Latin: Audemus patria nostra defendere. We dare to defend our homeland. Passing through another door, Booker discovers a roundtable covered by more squawking crows and a projector film courtesy of the “Comstock Phrenological Society”. Booker pauses and stares intrigued as pictures of the Prophet and of Native Americans flash on screen in some indecipherable order.

Through another door, he hears a Chinese prisoner screaming about his family. A chain stops Booker as crows mutilate the poor man hooked to the wall. He then encounters a considerably tougher foe: the Crow, who drops “Murder of Crows”, one of those fancy vigors. Drinking it, his vision fazes as a version of the bird flies to his shoulder, a piece of gore hanging from its beak. Booker goes on to discover the brutalizing effects of the vigor, tearing enemies apart peck-by-peck.

In Infinite, the Fraternal Order of the Raven shows a many thing about the twisted and absurdly violent world of Columbia. For one, those vigors are devastating. Two, the cult stands out from the rest of Columbia’s disturbing brightness. In an out-of-place, unbelievable world, the Order stands above as an example of how the sky-city is truly unwelcoming, unsettling, and sometimes absolutely terrifying. Booker encounters this ruthless firm and dispatches of them quite easily, though, players abandon all preconceptions of Columbia when travelling through.

It was interesting in such a way I found puzzling. And I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you. Of course, if you like this post, share it below. Like on Facebook, subscribe from the sidebar, follow me on twitter, and enjoy your Friday! TGIF!

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