As always, the below will contain spoilers
As I was playing through the loyalty missions on Mass Effect 2, I started to notice a theme: damn near every one of them is about bad fathers. There’s a lot to go through here, so we may go through a couple characters at a time to keep it unreasonable.
Our first set is Miranda Lawson and Grunt.
Miranda tells you rather early own that she’s genetically modified, and you come to learn she’s an extreme version. It isn’t just gene-therapy to avoid diseases. She doesn’t really have a mother. She is her father’s genetic material planted into a donor ovum. The genes were then selected to make her who she is, and every thing about her was a conscious decision. She tells you “Physically, I’m superior in many ways. I heal quickly and I’ll likely live half again as long as the average human. My biotic abilities are also advanced.”
She lets you know she’s smarter, more athletic, and better looking than other people by design. She tells you her father told her she was “better than other people”. She was raised to be his heir, to take over everything he built.
She had nothing but his expectations to define herself. She was never treated as a person, just potential, and never given any choice in the matter. Her father’s ideal of perfection was more than even she could live up to, and she never received praise for her accomplishments as a child, just admonitions to try harder. She was expected to do as she was told, to be a scion for her fathers will as well as his dreams and ambition. When she excelled, she met his bare minimum requirements, and nothing she did was every exemplary. In the end she ran from her father, and she joined Cerberus to escape this life of expectation without accomplishment..
She’s so broken by the expectations of her father that he defies him outright at any possibility. She was never given a choice in her life. In order to replace his lost hier, her father makes a twin of her, an exact genetic copy using the same template made before. This child is to do all the things her sister didn’t. Miranda decides to ensure the child has the choices she never had. She kidnaps Oriana, her twin, and places her with a foster family to protect the infant from their father.
Her loyalty mission is about how the child’s whereabouts have been compromised. She goes to help move the child. Niket, an old ally, turns out to be helping Miranda’s father recover the child. He explains that he helped Miranda leave because it was her choice, but Oriana was never given the option to stay with their father. Niket is killed, either by Miranda or one of the mercs sent to bring Oriana in, and you rush to extract Oriana.
Oriana and her family are evacuated, and no one gives Niket’s point a second thought. No one offers Oriana the same choice, to go back to her father. It’s assumed that because Miranda was treated poorly, Oriana would be too. No one considers the father could have changed and learned, although if you follow the paragon paths through the mission, Miranda changes and learns to let go of her anger. She’s able to stop committing the same mistakes.
However, Mr. Lawson, as a father, is considered unable to do right by the second daughter as he messed up with the first. He is condemned for being a poor father, and is never seen on-screen to defend himself. You only ever have what Miranda or Niket say about the man, and Niket doesn’t think he was a bad person. The crew of the Normandy, however, doesn’t need convincing. Fathers are bad.
If your Shepard is following the moral high ground of the game, the paragon path, he has the option of forgiving a criminal who has engaged in piracy, slavery, drugs, and all manner of illicit experiences. You can forgive the founders of one of the most brutal mercenary companies in the galaxy. You can forgive an assassin who knows no life but killing for money. You can forgive the clandestine organization which has appropriated human resources to their own ends and puts our species above all other sentient life. You can forgive a scientist who is a proponent of what amounts to eugenics, who has sterilized an entire species of those he considers undesirable.
You have no option to forgive Miranda’s father, who pushed her too hard, who expected perfection from his daughter. All those listed above, you give them the chance to change, to be better than they were. This option is never extended to Mister Lawson. He doesn’t get to try again with his second daughter. Bad parenting is the one crime Shepard can’t forgive.
Grunt is similiar to Miranda in that he was genetically engineered to be the perfect example of his species. Okeer, a krogan warlord, made him to overcome the genophage, a condition placed on the krogan race so that only one in a thousand pregnancies come to term. Okeer fears this has made the warlike aliens weak, as they coddle the few newborns they have.
Chosen from a huge pool of genetic material, and having been preceded by thousands of experiments, Grunt is considered by his “father” Okeer to be the prime example of the krogan species. His entire education comes from imprinted knowledge his father left him in the tank.
Okeer died before Grunt was awakened. Grunt was provided with fighting techniques, battle strategies, krogan history. His head is a massive text-book full of information Okeer left the tank-bred.
Being a krogan, Okeer didn’t realize he failed to offer any sort of perspective. Grunt is lost in the information overload, unsure why he feels happy looking at certain violent memories from the tank. Okeer made the error in assuming given the same information, his creation would draw the same conclusions.
Without the traditional tribal upbringing of his people, Grunt had no concept of honour, or discipline. The knowledge confuses him, as his father failed to provide explicit moral judgements, interpretations, or perspective on the information. It was all data, with no analysis, and it nearly cripples Grunt. His loyalty mission is figuring out why he feels the way he does, because his father had no connection to him beyond the intellectual.
If you don’t do his loyalty mission, and help him learn, he will die. Basically, his father, for all his effort in designing a perfect warrior from a perfect warrior race, has failed by being too scientific.
Grunt differs from Miranda in that he doesn’t know what’s expected of him every step of the way. While they are both expected to be ideal members of their species, Miranda’s father guided her every step. Grunt’s father did the opposite. Okeer provided a basis, but no process, and expected Grunt to do great things.
When we meet Miranda, she’s a sucess. She runs major projects for The Illusive Man, is made Shepard’s second in command, and is a powerful force in her own right. She can’t forgive her father for outlining every single step in her journey, but it’s the lack of this guidance that can lead to Grunt’s death. Miranda’s father is condemned for being too harsh, and distant from her, but he made her into the powerful force she is. His methods are too extreme.
And in this games, there’s a eugenists on your team.
continued next week, with Tali’Zorah and Jacob Taylor