Mass Effect: Aethyta Is Shepard If Shepard Was an Asari
Who doesn't love Aethyta from Mass Effect? Voiced by the phenomenal Claudia Black, she first appeared in Mass Effect 2 as a bartender, serving Shepard drinks, lore, and her hilarious flirt line:
"Sorry, babe. No sex. Just cleaned the bar."
Little did Shepard know that Aethyta was actually there to spy on Liara, who had become a powerful information broker, to the point that the asari government was in terror of her and wanted to keep her in check.
Aethyta, being Liara's father and wishing to keep her daughter safe, volunteered for the job. It is revealed in Mass Effect 3 that she actually bugged Liara's office on Illium. This is embarrassing in hindsight for people who romanced Liara and may have made out with her in the office in-between the occasional lover's spat.
On one of my recent playthroughs, it occurred to me that Aethya actually has a lot in common with Shepard, especially the female version of Shepard. Given that people tend to gravitate toward mates that resemble the personality of their parents, it suddenly makes sense that Liara would instinctively fall in love with Commander Shepard.
Or maybe Liara just took after her mother, Benezia (voiced by the lovely Marina Sirtis).
The first game made a lot of purposeful parallels between Benezia and Liara, as well as Shepard and Saren.
Saren is presented as an evil, racist, anti-human spectre while Shepard is presented as a good, pro-alien (depending on roleplay), pro-human spectre. Likewise, Benezia is presented as evil (until the player learns otherwise) while Liara is presented as good.
Benezia and Liara both serve as advisers to a powerful and charismatic spectre.
They are also both very powerful biotics. Liara in the first Mass Effect game -- while something of a glass canon -- is incredibly overpowered. I remember the first time I used her in my squad alongside Wrex, I felt guilty, like I was cheating just by using her.
Before her indoctrination, Benezia was a matriarch concerned with the future of her people, who attempted to teach Liara how to one day lead and build that future. In rebellion, Liara became almost obsessed with the past, the Prothean race in particular. Then the Reapers came and ruined her research, getting her laughed out of her field and forcing her to focus on preserving the future. Ironically, as her mother always wanted.
By the events of Mass Effect 2, Liara has become just like her mother -- so much so that she has the matriarchs ready to place a hit on her. She is dealing with shady people, criminals, and cover-ups. She has her own hired thugs. When Shepard first walks in Liara's office, she is threatening someone using the same line her mother said in the previous game.
It is later revealed in both the DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker and in Mass Effect 3 that Liara was only pretending to be hard and ruthless in order to survive in a dark galaxy without the protection of Shepard.
Before knowing Shepard, Liara spent all her time away from civilization, digging in old ruins with research teams and occasionally coming across mercenaries and privateers. She purposely distanced herself from places like Illium and the dark world of corruption her mother navigated. But with the deaths of both Shepard and her mother, she found herself forced to put all of the skills she learned from Benezia to use and to become a bit darker.
Aethyta reveals in Mass Effect 3 that she and the matriarchs believed Benezia to have been evil. Thus the reason why they were so frantic over Liara's growing similarity to her mother.
Aethyta's belief that her daughter has gone off the deep-end would also explain why she believes Shepard is an evil Cerberus supporter. If Liara has gone evil, why wouldn't she hang out with an evil racist spectre, just like her mother?
Since asari basically breed through parthenogenesis, Liara is pretty much a clone of her mother. Not surprising she has some of Benezia's personality traits and preferences.
It's my belief the writers basically wanted us to see Aethyta and Benezia as an older, asari version of Shepard and Liara.
In Mass Effect 3, Liara can have many conversations with Aethyta. In one conversation, Aethyta mentions that Benezia left her while she was still pregnant with Liara. Just up and left. Aethyta isn't certain why and gives a few possible reasons. But it is clear that Benezia is the one who did the leaving.
The relationship of Liara's parents is echoed in Shepard and Liara's romance: Liara spends the entire trilogy pushing Shepard away.
In the first game, though she admits she's attracted to Shepard, Liara says she isn't ready to enter a relationship and that they should focus on Saren.
In the second game, Liara is cold and distant because she is terrified Shepard will die again and doesn't want to be hurt again.
In the third game, Liara seems to believe that Shepard is going to leave her. Shepard has just spent six months being yelled at by everyone for Cerberus, and Liara is the one who gave her body to Cerberus. Liara made a choice for Shepard, and now Shepard is being blamed for it.
If the player doesn't complete the Arrival DLC, then Anderson yells at Shepard about Cerberus. Only a few minutes later, the Virmire Survivor is doing the same thing on Mars. Compound that with whatever Shepard had to deal with during her six month arrest -- during which Liara was unable to visit her -- and it makes perfect sense that Liara might be feeling guilty and would expect Shepard to be mad at her: she basically put Shepard in that situation and then left her to face it alone.
I'm not blaming Liara and I know she had no choice:she was looking for the Crucible while Shepard was under house arrest. I'm just tellin' it like it is.
Shepard can actually argue with Liara in Mass Effect 2 about being given to Cerberus. Or she can thank Liara for saving her life, to which Liara will show relief and say she was worried Shepard would hate her.
So just like Benezia, Liara pushes away the one person she loves the most and chooses her duty over love, focusing instead on protecting the future for her people by stopping the Reapers.
Now that we've established all the ways Liara is like Benezia, let's examine how Aethyta is like Shepard.
If the player speaks to Aethyta in Mass Effect 2, she will mention that her father was a krogan. Later, if the player completes Lair of the Shadow Broker, they can see a video of her actually headbutting a krogan.
Commander Shepard, meanwhile, is constantly compared to a krogan. In the first game, Shepard kills a krogan battlemaster to save Liara -- which is kinda a big deal. In Mass Effect 2, she can drink ryncol -- a toxic krogan beer -- without dying. Dr. Chakwas will mention that even a krogan can't out drink her. Wrex wants to make her an honorary krogan. During Grunt's loyalty mission, headbutting Uvenk (the annoying krogan who treats Grunt like crap) will delight the krogan shaman. Killing the Thresher Maw during Grunt's rite will also earn Shepard the respect of the entire Urdnot camp. In Mass Effect 2, because Shepard is a cyborg, she can wield a shotgun that would normally break anyone but a krogan's arm. Traynor cracks a joke about Shepard having krogan balls, and last but not least, Shepard breaks the scoreboard at Armax Arena after an entire group of krogan battlemasters could not.
"If I flee, I might trip over all the krogan I killed to get here."
-- Renegade Shepard
Shepard is basically the most krogan human in the galaxy, and Liara -- just like Benezia -- seems to be drawn to people with krogan-like personality traits and abiities.
In Mass Effect 2, Shepard has been banished to the terminius systems by the council and has been discarded by humans, her own people.
Aethyta is likewise banished to the terminus systems to spy on Liara and is outcast by her own people. She explains to Shepard that she was treated like she was crazy (just like Shepard) and that no one would listen to her (just like Shepard) about how the asari needed to train their youth earlier and do more productive things than strip in bars and then she turns out to be right in Mass Effect 3 (just like Shepard).
Aethyta is also funny as hell. Her and Shepard both have the same smart-ass sense of humor, and -- if Shepard romances Liara -- they both care a great deal about Liara and are always trying to protect her, which is what makes Aethyta's argument with Shepard in Mass Effect 3 so amusing.
All-in-all, I can't help but feel as if Aethyta was written specifically to mirror Shepard.
And I find it endlessly hilarious.
© 2018 Ash Gray