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"Mass Effect: Andromeda" (2017): Romancing Peebee

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Lee has an embarrassingly deep love of all things "Mass Effect." Her favorite is the original first game.

Fanart of Peebee.

Fanart of Peebee.

I've written a couple of other articles where I criticized Peebee and her romance a lot. But to be absolutely fair, I made those criticisms before I really got to know and understand her character and also after having essentially given up on her in frustration.

In my Jaal article, I explained how I eventually found Jaal a more fun and interesting character (some of his conversations with Sara are really amusing), but it was only once I got tired of forcing myself to romance a male character (and once I got tired of Jaal blubbering and crying), that I decided to go back and finish Peebee's romance. It turned out I loved it. And now I'm here to put all the pieces together and discuss why.

A Cross Between Leliana and Isabela

My screenshot of Peebee during her introduction.

My screenshot of Peebee during her introduction.

One of the reasons I listed for (formerly) disliking Peebee's romance in my Peebee criticism article was the fact that Peebee seemed to have some of the worst traits of both Leliana (from Dragon Age: Origins) and Isabela (from Dragon Age 2), who (ironically) are two of my favorite BioWare romances (after Liara).

As a lesbian trying to roleplay a lesbian in a monogamous relationship, I used to hate that Isabela flirted with men and never, ever seemed to shut up about them. Probably one of the best things about romancing Leliana was that at least she had some history with women and even flirted with women (those banters with Morrigan were pretty funny, even if they made Leliana seem creepy and predatory. To be clear, Leliana's gross behavior wasn't funny; Morrigan's reaction was), but Isabela had the problem of coming off as straight-until-proven-bi that most bisexual characters in BioWare games have.

Female bisexual followers never show any attraction to the same sex until a switch is flipped in their head by a protagonist of the same sex flirting. This is to protect the targeted male audience from feeling "threatened" by their love interest liking women. I recall some male fans being upset that Leliana was bisexual and had an ex-girlfriend, and since then, the bisexual female follower has almost always been presented as straight-until-proven-bi. Peebee was the first departure from that in years. (And, no. Lesbians wanting their pixel girlfriend to actually be attracted to women and show it is not the same as straight men feeling threatened that bisexuals actually (gasp!) like women and men.)

The bisexual female follower also never shows any restraint, often hitting on every male in the party even long after a romance is locked in. Peebee was just a repeat of this.

Peebee and my Ryder chat.

Peebee and my Ryder chat.

While Peebee does hit on Cora, it's very, very subtle and not blatant like the way she flirts with Jaal and Scott Ryder. Hell, Sara Ryder doesn't even get any Nomad banter comments about her body from Peebee, just Scott (who gets an entire banter about his ass).

It's like BioWare is willing to have gay content in their games, but only if it's the half-assed, hidden alternative to the straight content and/or it's sequestered off to the side with a non-squad mate. I can't decide why. Maybe they just don't care about gay people enough to give us the same amount of content (romance banter, flirting) that straight people get. I guess it's just another one of those "target the biggest demographic" things. Or maybe they're still afraid of Fox News.

Either way, it sucks.

No harm, Peebee.

No harm, Peebee.

Of course, that's not Peebee's fault. She is forced to act more "straight" because of BioWare, not because she's a bad character. This is something I had to stop and recognize after years of being bitter (ha) that bisexual women in BioWare games are always treated like they are straight and not bi.

Thanks to Andromeda, I finally realized I was blaming Isabela and Peebee for something that's . . . .not their fault. And now that I've got my frustrations sorted out, I feel like I can better tolerate Peebee hitting on Jaal and having more lines for Scott about his body.

Because I also now accept that it's just Peebee's personality, same as Isabela, to be playful and flirty. She doesn't really mean any of it.

The Crazy EX-Girlfriend Trope

Peebee first mentions Kalinda.

Peebee first mentions Kalinda.

As for Peebee vs Leliana, the thing Peebee has in common with my sweet Leliana is her good and gentle heart and the fact that she was abused in the past by a horrible ex-girlfriend. Leliana had Marjolaine and Peebee had Kalinda.

I was a little annoyed by the similarities because, having romanced Leliana, I had done the whole "crazy ex-girlfriend" thing before. It was also starting to feel homophobic that they were constantly showing lesbian relationships to be toxic and abusive. Sure, we hear about Isabela's husband being an ass, but we never see it on screen. There's a huge difference between seeing something and just hearing about it secondhand. Seeing something over and over forever cements it in your mind as true, even if it isn't.

And sadly, thanks to BioWare, I have seen actual fans online talking about how "toxic" lesbian relationships are because of the many unfortunate depictions of them in their games.

Sera violently threatens her girlfriend.

Sera violently threatens her girlfriend.

I mean, this is something they have done over and over. Sera in Dragon Age: Inquisition emotionally abuses female Lavellan (threats of violence, insults, emotional blackmail). Jack didn't want to get close to female Shepard in the original Mass Effect trilogy because she had been abused by a woman. Leliana was sent to a torture prison by Marjolaine and was mentally scarred (depicted as "crazy") from it. And now we have Peebee.

This is irresponsible because people are dumb sheep who believe whatever the media tells them (if you don't believe me, Google "Rick and Morty, Mulan sauce"), and BioWare has been telling them for years that two women can't have a loving, committed relationship. Fans won't see that they can unless they play their protagonist as a lesbian, and even then, they will just attribute it to them controlling the character and making her loving and good (unlike us real-life evil lesbians!).

So you can see why I would be tired of the murderous ex-girlfriend trope. It sends a negative message to people and even encourages them to be homophobic.

My Ryder and Peebee mind meld.

My Ryder and Peebee mind meld.

But I will admit that I actually kind of enjoy it for what it is (I mean, beggars can't be choosers, I guess). Back in Origins, I liked killing Marjolaine to protect Leliana, and I liked showing Leliana that love with a woman could be beautiful.

And in Andromeda, I actually liked protecting Peebee from Kalinda during the scene where Kalinda bursts into Peebee's apartment. Ryder can really show her teeth by shutting Kalinda down and "escorting" her out, and Peebee's face is priceless in the moment because I don't think anyone had ever protected her before.

My Ryder comforts Peebee.

My Ryder comforts Peebee.

Then during her sex scene, Peebee talks about how she never trusted anyone enough to mind meld with them and how Ryder is the first. Ryder's response is that Peebee is safe with her.

Ryder would never hurt Peebee and Peebee knows that now, after spending the entire game trying to convince her. I thought it was very sweet and even rewarding to be able to earn Peebee's trust in that way, the same as Jaal.

That said, Jaal is still my favorite romance in this game by far, even if his crying does annoy me. I am a sucker for the fluff and plot relevant goodness. If only Jaal had been a woman. Or rather, if only lesbians were ever given the fluffy, romantic, fully fleshed-out romances for once. It's just a shame Peebee's entire arc had to rely, once again, on a negative stereotype of lesbian relationships.

Speaking of Kalinda. . . .

Should You Kill Kalinda?

My Ryder saves Peebee and Kalinda.

My Ryder saves Peebee and Kalinda.

I'm going to vote "no." Yes, even though I killed Marjolaine, I did not kill Kalinda and I'm going to explain why both choices are different.

First off, Marjolaine and Kalinda are not anywhere remotely the same person and they do not pose the same level of danger.

Marjolaine was a cold-hearted woman, selfish to the core, who meant business. She sent Leliana to a torture prison to protect herself from getting caught betraying Orlais. Then she sends people to assassinate Leliana, and when that fails, she tries to kill Leliana and the Warden both in a final boss fight.

There is a choice to make Marjolaine just leave, but by that point, Marjolaine has already proven herself a real threat that Leliana needs protection from. And because Marjolaine actually attacks you (rather than begging on her knees for mercy and surrendering), killing her is not murder.

Marjolaine dies trying to kill Leliana because she is paranoid, delusional, and believes Leliana is a threat to her. It's actually kind of . . . sad.

Marjolaine is confronted by Leliana.

Marjolaine is confronted by Leliana.

Kalinda, on the other hand, never seriously meant for Peebee to die. When you first meet her in Peebee's apartment, it's made clear that she knows who the Pathfinder is and what Ryder is capable of (she backs down pretty quickly if Ryder gets angry). While Kalinda is emotionally abusive, she is not out to kill Peebee. Most emotional abusers keep their victims alive so they can keep screwing with them, which is the pattern in Peebee's relationship with Kalinda.

I'm not saying that Kalinda's abuse of Peebee was okay or that it should be allowed to continue. I'm saying that she never intended for Peebee to die and always knew that Ryder, the same woman who carves her way through thousands of kett without breaking a sweat, would protect her.

Kalinda never intended to kill Peebee. She just wanted to hurt her (which is still terrible, I know). In fact, I'm pretty convinced that she only showed up again because she was jealous of Ryder and afraid she would lose Peebee to her. It's implied that Peebee and Kalinda have been on-again-off-again for decades. This is a very old cycle of abuse that Ryder has disrupted.

Kalinda orders Ryder and Peebee's implants carved from their skulls.

Kalinda orders Ryder and Peebee's implants carved from their skulls.

Yes, it was evil that Kalinda threw her goons at Peebee and Ryder to slow them down (dozens of people were killed so she could steal the artifact and escape), but she's . . . an evil person. Just not on the same level as Marjolaine. She makes some mustache twirly threats during Peebee's loyalty mission about killing Ryder and taking her implants, but it's all talk.

If Kalinda really wanted Peebee dead, she could have killed her ages ago (sneaking on the Tempest without being seen or caught is a huge thing). Instead, she continuously plays childish pranks on Peebee to hurt her. The only reason Kalinda hordes Remnant tech is to hurt Peebee, which is why she gives it all to the Initiative if Ryder spares her.

The breaking of POC is an analogy for how Kalinda used Peebee and left her broken.

Killing Kalinda is Murder

Kalinda begs for help.

Kalinda begs for help.

The point I'm making is that Kalinda is not a threat to Peebee's life, so killing her to "protect" Peebee is pointless.

It's also murder.

Kalinda was unarmed, terrified, and begging for help. Also, she personally never tried to kill or attack Ryder and Peebee. The whole point of sending her goons at them was to slow them down so she could get the artifact first, not kill them. Her hanging from the ledge and begging was supposed to show what a pathetic person she was and how pointless it would be to actually kill her.

It is also a pretty messed up thing to do. I killed Kalinda once just to see what would happen and was shocked by how coldly and cruelly Ryder zaps Kalinda from the ledge and orders Peebee to save the Remtech.

Peebee is Deeply Hurt by Kalinda's Murder

Peebee sadly speaks of Kalinda in her apartment.

Peebee sadly speaks of Kalinda in her apartment.

When Ryder kills Kalinda, she shows that she is just as manipulative and controlling as Peebee's ex. In killing Kalinda, Ryder ignores what Peebee wants completely, ignores Peebee's feelings, and orders her around.

Peebee was willing to give up the Remtech, which she had risked her life to get, to save Kalinda's life. To me, that speaks volumes about her love for Kalinda. And yet, Ryder ignores that to either a) condescendingly decide what is best for Peebee in order to "protect" her or b) simply because she doesn't care about Peebee's feelings.

I made a criticism on another article that Peebee should have left the Tempest if Kalinda was killed (would have been nice for our choices to actually matter), but I think Peebee stays either way because she has a soft heart and would go on loving Ryder, even if Ryder mistreats her, the same way she went on loving Kalinda.

Peebee Idolizes Ryder

Peebee grins at my Ryder when Kalinda is saved.

Peebee grins at my Ryder when Kalinda is saved.

As I've mentioned on other articles, there's also the fact that Peebee's loyalty mission isn't so much about Kalinda as it is about finally revealing how Peebee feels about Ryder.

Peebee sees Ryder as a hero, the knight in shining armor who came out of nowhere to save Eos, magically turn on the Remtech, and make everything better overnight. When we meet Peebee, she is trapped in a bubble similar to Liara, only the bubble is an analogy (or a metaphor or . . . whatever).

Talking to Peebee over the course of the game paints a sad picture of her life in Andromeda up until the point where Ryder appears. Before Ryder, Peebee witnessed the Nexus uprising (or at least part of it), was dumped by an abusive girlfriend who became a violent exile, and wound up wandering alone, with no family and friends.

On top of that, she watched both settlements on Eos fail, getting slaughtered by kett and struggling to grow food on a hostile world. So she tries to turn on the vault and save the planet, but she can't figure it out. The situation is utterly hopeless.

Then Ryder swoops in on her big ship and saves the day, just like that, by immediately activating the vault and placing a settlement. In Peebee's eyes, Ryder is a shining hero. (This is something that Jaal, when you romance him, takes the entire game to figure out, while Peebee knew it the second she met Ryder.) But if you murder her helpless and sobbing ex-girlfriend in front of her, Peebee becomes disillusioned.

My Ryder escapes with Peebee and Kalinda.

My Ryder escapes with Peebee and Kalinda.

If you kill Kalinda, Peebee is shocked to realize you aren't her idealistic, shining hero she thought you were. Instead, you're a murderer who doesn't care about her feelings and has no problem gunning down an unarmed person who has surrendered.

In her state of shock and sadness, Peebee doesn't smile at Ryder as you flee the planet with her, and she doesn't make jokes about her "bedroom" being lost (the escape pod). And back on the Tempest, she will make a comment about people showing who they truly are in times of duress. It sounds like she's talking about Kalinda . . . but she's really talking about how much Ryder has disappointed her.

Sadly, Peebee loves Ryder no matter what, so she doesn't leave or even clearly state her displeasure. Instead, she expresses her shock in coded language, and when Ryder first walks in on her, she is staring sadly into space.

The entire scene after killing Kalinda and Peebee's shocked, sad reaction was enough to make me never do it again (I only did it in the first place because it was my "do everything different" playthrough).

I'll never understand how fans can't see how hurt Peebee was by them basically murdering her ex-girlfriend after she begged them not to (again, so condescending and manipulative). That so many of them insist they are "protecting" Peebee is mindboggling.

Probably the biggest difference between Marjolaine's scenario and Kalinda's scenario is that Leliana agrees to help you kill Marjolaine, even if she feels guilty about it later. Peebee specifically asks you not to kill Kalinda. People who kill Kalinda think they're helping Peebee end a cycle of abuse, but . . .

You can't help someone without their consent.

Peebee Can't Express Herself

Peebee "kinda, sorta" loves Ryder. . . . ha.

Peebee "kinda, sorta" loves Ryder. . . . ha.

Another thing I realized about Peebee (now that I've finished her romance) is that she, like Liam, is too emotionally immature to properly express herself.

At the very end of the game, after finishing the main storyline, Peebee struggles to tell Ryder that she loves her by saying that she "kinda, sorta" does. This was hilarious and actually made me love Peebee more, especially given Ryder's casual response (see image below).

I think Peebee really loves Ryder but is afraid that Ryder doesn't feel the same, even if Ryder actually said "I love you" before (mine did). So to avoid being hurt and vulnerable, Peebee makes a timid, halfway attempt to tell Ryder how she feels.

It's so cute. And it would have been great to see Peebee become more trusting and confident over a trilogy but alas, there shall be no Andromeda 2.

Ryder is "kinda, sorta" happy about that.

Ryder is "kinda, sorta" happy about that.

Avoiding the dreaded three words was also something Liara did in the original trilogy. Instead of saying "I love you," Liara always said "Thanks for everything" after she and Shepard were intimate. It was her way of saying she cared without directly saying it for fear of being hurt.

I don't believe Liara actually thought Shepard loved her, especially if Shepard cheats. If Shepard "steps out" in Mass Effect 2 but gets back with Liara in Mass Effect 3 and tells Liara that she loves her, Liara will be surprised and stammer that she loves Shepard too. This also happens if Liara is romanced in the third game but not the first two.

Otherwise, if Shepard was loyal the whole time, Liara will say "I love you, Shepard!" without preamble. It's the first time she ever says it in the entire trilogy, and Shepard is startled enough to look over her shoulder in surprise before saying it back.

It's a shame we won't get a scene like this with Peebee.

Peebee calls my Ryder corny.

Peebee calls my Ryder corny.

Aside from being emotionally immature, Peebee just isn't a sentimental, mushy person. So saying "I love you" is not something she'd do readily.

I was actually kind of relieved by this after romancing Jaal a couple times and being forced to listen to his blubbering. I love Jaal as a character, but I really hate some of his emotional conversations with Ryder. Sometimes I just skip them, especially the one where he cries about his people being artificial constructs at the end of the game.

I like that Peebee isn't a soap opera character and that she teases Ryder a little for being emotional instead of casual. She doesn't like every little thing about Ryder but still loves and accepts her despite her (perceived) flaws.

If only Peebee would learn the difference between harmless flaws and actual abuse.

She Has the Best Ending

Peebee kisses my Ryder.

Peebee kisses my Ryder.

I'll admit I'm probably biased because . . . Peebee is the only fully fleshed-out f/f romance, and as a lesbian, I prefer to romance a chick. So the "best" ending is completely subjective here.

I don't really care for Cora as a character, not even enough to roll Scott and romance her, and Jaal's mother, while hilarious, is kinda creepy in how she sends emails sizing you up for grandchildren.

What I love the most about Peebee's ending is the codex entry. It describes Ryder waking up everyday next to Peebee (implying that they now share Ryder's cabin) and going off on adventures.

My Ryder and Peebee walk away.

My Ryder and Peebee walk away.

Peebee was meant to be a fun, adventurous, adrenaline junky like Ryder. I think their codex ending fits them perfectly and it also just sounds so fun. It's an ending equivalent to riding off into the sunset, so maybe it's a good thing that we aren't getting any sequels or DLC.

At least the game won't be ruined by a controversial bad ending.

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