"Fallout 4": Why Pickman Deserves to Die
The first time I did the Pickman quest, I hesitated and almost let Pickman live before ultimately deciding to kill him. I started killing him on every playthrough after -- After all, the Sole Survivor has a set personality and I don't believe they would allow someone like him to live.
Over the years, a bunch of discussions have popped up on various forums discussing how Pickman should be left alive and inevitably comparing him to Dexter from the Showtime series of the same name (sigh). I still believe it's wrong to leave Pickman alive, though, and I'm going to explain why.
Pickman is kinda like the Silverhand in Skyrim. He has the initial appearance of being noble simply because he hunts people who cause great harm. At the end of the day, however, he is little more than a monster who hunts other monsters. The werewolves in Skyrim are people too, just as the raiders in Fallout 4 are people. Pickman and the Silverhand are not "good" for systematically hunting them down. They are simply sickos with a fetish for people who happen to make bad choices.
I honestly hate it when people compare Pickman to Dexter (who I love dearly).
Yes, Dexter was a serial killer with zero empathy. The entire point of Dexter's story was that he was trying to learn to be human and fit in and ultimately his house of cards came down.
While Dexter did indeed enjoy killing the scum who deserved it, he did not torture them and paint the walls with their blood. He gave them humane deaths, executions, after forcing them to think about the horrible things they'd done. He was taught this decency by his adopted father, Harry, who knew that if he didn't teach Dexter to reign in his urges, he would become someone like Pickman.
Basically, Dexter was someone we could sympathize with because he maintained some scrap of humanity. While he took pleasure in killing his enemies (just as the Sole Survivor does) he did not torture them and do other sick crap, anymore than it's okay for law enforcement to brutalize people in their care.
Dexter killed monsters without becoming like the monsters he killed. He truly was doing something good for Florida, and while watching the show, I used to wish he was real, that there was someone out there willing to do what the law would not and actually kill the monsters that make the world a dark place.
Yes, pure evil is real. That isn't to say gray morality doesn't exist, but pure evil still exists as well, right alongside it. There are people in the world who do terrible things, not because they are surviving oppression or because they were raised with zero morals but simply because they choose to be evil.
Dexter kills people who choose to be evil and have zero intention (or in some cases, zero ability) of ever changing. But most raiders are people who can still change. Unlike Dexter's victims, they are not irredeemably evil.
Harry taught Dexter to always make certain his victims deserved it. Pickman is making no such distinction. If you have a black and white mentality, then I guess all raiders are pure evil scum and deserve what Pickman is doing to them. But all the raiders aren't pure evil.
During the quest Boston After Dark, High Rise drops a hint about being an ex-raider and "working off past sins."
Sometimes I get settlers who look like ex-raiders. I like to imagine they finally left the raider gangs because someone was willing to give them the chance to live honestly, no questions asked.
Imagine if ex-raiders tried to run their own farm? Or approached someone like the Abernathys to work for them? They would endanger other people by leading their vengeful raider friends right to them. But joining the Sole Survivor's settlements means living under the protection of the Sole Survivor and the Minutemen. It means having the ability to finally walk away from the raider gangs without endangering themselves or others. Without the Minutemen or the Sole Survivor, there was no opportunity to safely leave the raider gangs, thus there were more raiders when the Survivor woke up.
The Libertalia raiders were Minutemen who were forced to turn raider. Apparently, they couldn't farm enough food and started to starve. They needed help, but Bunker Hill wouldn't help them because their leader, Gabriel (who was a synth), was close to blowing their cover, as Bunker Hill was working with the Railroad. So Bunker Hill paid Gabriel off instead. (The Railroad basically knew Gabriel, which was why they didn't want to just kill him, and Gabriel almost blew their cover because he didn't remember them. This is a prime example of why it's dumb for the Railroad to erase the synths' memories.) So Gabriel and the other ex-minutemen became raiders to survive, not because they were "evil."
Deacon is basically an ex-skinhead who used to take glee in lynching synths.
Eventually, Deacon realized what he was doing was wrong, walked away from his life as a self-proclaimed scumbag, and grew up to be a decent human being.
Imagine if someone like Pickman had come along and decided Deacon and his friends all deserved torture and dismemberment. Deacon wasn't evil but participated in an act of evil (lynching someone), and through his unfortunate participation, he learned what evil was and that he was a part of it. He made the choice to walk away and be good.
Being a good person is a choice. Not many people seem to realize that.
I'm not saying the raiders shouldn't be killed.
In the picture above, my character has shot off a raider's arm. He is screaming, sobbing, and surrendering ("F*** it! Take the shit!") right before she (mercifully) shoots him in the head.
My character doesn't hunt down the raiders like beasts and gleefully torture them. She kills them in self-defense and she gives them a clean death (or tries to, rather). She is not dismembering them on purpose -- I am.
Because I am not my character, I can acknowledge that I do indeed torture her enemies, that I do indeed send Nora knowingly into raider dens for the glee of killing everything that moves.
This is, after all, a video game. It's a power fantasy. Part of the fun is feeling scary and powerful and chasing down cartoony targets and killing them in hilarious ways. (I assure you that if the game wasn't so cartoony and silly, I wouldn't find the gore and violence fun at all.)
My character, however, is not a merry mass murderer. She's just someone trying to survive the Wasteland.
Pickman is a merry mass murderer.
Torturing the raiders and putting them on display is sick and wrong.
Pickman is wrong.
What is more, he knows he's wrong and is using "they deserve it/ I'm just like you" as a way of manipulating you into sparing him.
The difference between Dexter/Sole Survivor and Pickman is that Pickman is just like the raiders. He strings dead people up as decorations, just like the raiders, and takes a sick pleasure in what he's doing -- not because he hates the raiders for being immoral (not that this would justify it by any means), but simply because they objected to him hunting and killing them for sport.
This heavily implies that Pickman wasn't always just targeting raiders. He decided to kill them for his art one day, so they came after him. That's it.
When you tell him you are nothing like him, he will use the excuse that "he's just doing what you're doing" when the reality is, he's been killing more than just raiders.
Hancock sends you on this quest (if you don't pick it up randomly) because he's concerned that something disturbing is going on in Pickman's area. If it was just raiders disappearing, would Hancock be concerned? Hancock, the guy who hates raiders as much as the rest of us????
Also, after the quest is over and you return to Hancock with the news, he will mention that he's going to tell his people to stay away from the area. Why? Because he knows that Pickman is dangerous and that his "art" extends to more than just raiders.
Hancock also knows that he's helpless to stop Pickman. He must rely on your judgment because you, the player, are the only one who can stop Pickman -- it's the reason he sent you in the first place.
People often say that caravans and "innocents" don't normally travel in Pickman's area, so it's okay to leave him alive . . . except I've found Pickman's victims and calling cards all over the Commonwealth. Not all of them were raiders. I don't believe that's a giltch, either.
It sort of amazes me that so many people let Pickman go simply because he's polite. As if evil could not be polite? I guess this is how Dahmer got away with murder for so long.
Did no one ever see Needful Things? Polite Evil is such a cliche. Everyone should be familiar with it. At least if they're over the age of fifteen.
Just to further drive my point home, I went through the Lexington apartments on one play through, and after coming across the body of a settler who'd been shot after stumbling into the apartment -- which, unbeknownst to him, was occupied by raiders -- I heard a raider say, "Nothing personal, just you or me . . . God, I hope the next one dies clean."
The raider was referring to the settler I'd found. And she sounded really unhappy about the life she was leading. Why? Because not all raiders are "pure ebil so they must dies!!!" Raiders are as nuanced as any other group of people, meaning some of them are evil bastards who like putting people's heads in refrigerators, while others are raiding because it's the only way they know to survive.
Some raiders are even kidnapped as children and forced to join. One example of this is Nisha from the Nuka World DLC. She's a pretty terrible person, I know, and she deserves to die. I'd even describe her as the sort of Irredeemable Evil that Dexter kills. But did life really give her a chance? Does she deserve to be tortured?
Some of these raiders don't know anything else. And like I mentioned earlier, walking away from a raider gang is probably a death sentence. Deacon -- basically an ex-raider -- tells you that leaving his gang meant getting beat up, which he only survived because he's f****** Deacon.
So while some of the raiders are evil beyond redemption, not all them are pure evil scum who deserve to be tortured to death and splattered across the walls. Some of them show more humanity than Pickman, in that they actually want to give their enemies clean deaths.
A clean death is all any raider deserves. We start decorating the walls with them, and we've become the very thing we hate.
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© 2019 Ash Gray