SPOILER WARNING: If you have not finished BioShock Infinite, do not read any further. If you haven't, please come back when you do!
"Songbird, Songbird see him fly, drop the children from the sky, when the young ones misbehave, escorts children to their grave. Never back-talk, never lie, or he'll drop you from the sky!"" ―A Columbian nursery rhyme
Throughout BioShock Infinite, Songbird is seen as the enemy. Elizabeth explains that she hates Songbird for what he had done to her and how she would rather die than go back with him. I see it differently, I see Elizabeth as using Songbird as a conduit to express her hate towards "The Great Prophet", Comstock. Songbird is only a tool, created by Fink Industries for the sole purpose of being the "Protector of the Lamb". His designs were based off those found through tears, and seeing how closely all the realities are linked, not unlike that of the Big Daddies of Rapture.
Eyes changing from green to yellow to red depending on mood? Unparallelled loyalty and protection of that most important to them? Part-man/part-machine? Mirrors almost exactly what you would expect of the aforementioned Big Daddies. That's not all, however, as Songbird's deep-sea diving friends aren't the only callbacks from the first BioShock.
That one question, one of the thematic similarities carried over from Rapture, made me rethink my initial feelings about this character. Why do I assume that Songbird is evil? Is it because he was told to protect Elizabeth from those that would bring her harm?
Picture yourself as a father/mother (unless you already are one...then...CONGRATS!), would you not do anything in your power to protect your child? Would you not destroy the entire world if it meant keeping that most precious to you safe? That is what was asked of Songbird. In no uncertain terms, he was asked, "Would you kindly protect Elizabeth?". What choice does he have? In his eyes, he was the father and Elizabeth the daughter.
That fierce determination and belief, as well as the 60-foot winged frame, helped not only ensure the safety of Elizabeth, but ensured that Comstock could extend that fear and strength of will to control his people. As was mentioned at the beginning of this article, not only were there toys made in Songbird's honor, but there were cautionary rhymes and tales told in his name. If I were a kid living in Columbia and heard of a 60-foot bird that would swoop me up and drop me off into the sky if I stepped our of line, I would think twice before committing any type of crime.
At the end of BioShock Infinite, as we return to Rapture and Songbird was living out his final seconds, Elizabeth comforted him. In a small gesture, she let him know that she was ok and that she was safe. He had done his job, and for the first time in his life, was allowed to rest in peace. As his eyes changed from red to green one last time and the pressure of the ocean was too much to bear, we saw the acceptance and happiness he felt as his mission was finally complete.
Songbird was seen as the enemy, he was seen as an unrelenting force that haunted your every step. While that is true in some sense of the word, it goes much deeper that it seems on the surface. Songbird is like any tragic character because in his eyes, he was doing the right thing. Nothing in this universe was more important than Elizabeth. Nothing would stop him from seeing her safe and out of harms way. He loved her with everything that he was and did so until his final breath. In all honesty, I'm not sure I would have acted any differently.
How do you feel about Songbird? Do you agree with my analysis or feel differently? Let me know below as I would love to hear your thoughts on one of the most fascinating characters to come our way in a very long time!
Adam Bankhurst is one of the co-hosts of The Gamer's Advocate. Send him all your thoughts or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him @adambankhurst