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"Mass Effect" Character Analysis: Aria T'Loak

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


After ten years of Mass Effect, I've noticed that people still don't understand Aria, so I'mma break it down for you. Mostly because Aria—despite her obnoxious behavior—is one of my favorite characters in the Mass Effect universe.

Before I begin, though, I just want to point out that I find Aria equal parts annoying and awesome. Probably because she (and possibly Samara as well) is clearly set up to be the antithesis of Liara. In Mass Effect 2, you have to go to both Aria and Liara (who hate each other, I might add) for help, and you rely on both of them for information, and the writers push really hard for you to like them and think they are badass . . . which is kind of what makes them both exhausting.

Still, I enjoyed Aria for what she brought to the games as a female character. It's just a shame about her outfit.

Aria was the Most Powerful Being in the Galaxy

Aria glares.

Aria glares.

Before Shepard came along, Aria was basically the most powerful being in the galaxy, and she went unchallenged for 1,000 years.

That's a long f******* time.

We know she's very old because it's been confirmed that she is Aleena, Wrex's friend from his story in the first game, and Wrex is, like, 700 years old or something.

There was also further evidence of Aria's ancient age in her DLC for Mass Effect 3, If I recall correctly. (I could be wrong, though. Been years since I played it.)

So Aria is quite old. And we know that no one in her life has ever been able to oppose her.

We also know that Aria has been ruling Omega unchallenged for 300 years. Without her, Omega would be chaos (more so than it already is). She keeps the mercenary gangs in check and does it because she enjoys the constant game of juggling and balancing power.

She also enjoys smugly remaining in power and flaunting it while she sits on her couch, staring at tits, having drinks, and giving orders. It's a good life. She is basically above the law being in the terminus systems and has her own little corner of Heaven where she can do whatever.

Then along comes Shepard, the first person in 1,000 years who can best her. Aria basically lived her life being a powerful pirate version of Shepard, and now she's no longer the most badass in the galaxy. Now she must defer to someone more beautiful and more powerful and infinitely younger, who could easily take over her station and destroy everything she worked so hard to keep for 300 years.

Aria hates it.

Aria Wants Shepard's Respect

"I AM Omega."

"I AM Omega."

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Aria hates being obligated to help Shepard, because she's never been obligated to help anyone before. She's never been threatened by anyone before. With anyone else, she'd tell them to f*** off her station, but with Shepard?

In Mass Effect 2, she is forced to help you recruit your people, knowing that you could easily overthrow her if she doesn't. So she helps you grudgingly, insulting you all the while in defiance, and all she asks for in return is that you respect her and her territory.

"Don't f*** with Aria" is Aria's way of asking you to recognize her as an equal.

There is some serious scramble when Shepard arrives on the station, because Aria, the most powerful being in the galaxy, is threatened by you.

I honestly love interacting with Aria when playing Earthborn Shep because I imagine a Shepard who started out a gangster on Earth could have easily become someone like Aria. There could have been so much good commentary about the Earthborn background in the second game given that it took place to the terminus systems, but sadly, all the backgrounds were completely ignored once the games stopped being RPGs.

Anyway. There are also multiple other reasons for Aria to hate Shepard.

Aria Puts Up with A lot of Crap in the Comics

Aria flirting with Liara in the comics soon after Shepard's death.

Aria flirting with Liara in the comics soon after Shepard's death.

In the comics Aria:

  • is rightfully terrified of the Collectors, and Shepard's death brings them to Omega in droves, causing chaos on her station.
  • also despises Cerberus, who are responsible for the death of her daughter, and Shepard is working with Cerberus. Shepard's death also brings Cerberus operatives onto her station who fight with the Collectors over Shepard's corpse.
  • openly flirts with Liara only to a) get rejected and b) later realize Liara's head over heels for Shepard, the same annoying dead person whose corpse is causing chaos up and down her station as people fight over it.

Given all that Aria has lost in her life (her lovers, her children) it must stir some jealousy in her to see how utterly devoted to Shepard Liara is, even in death. Aria must look at Shepard, who has both Liara, and resent that the life she chose means sacrificing close relationships.

Aria can't afford to be close to anyone, because when you wield a great deal of power, betrayal is always just around the corner. We also learn in the Omega DLC that she was dumped by her girlfriend Nyreen, while Shepard's got a lover willing to face-down both the Collectors and the Shadow Broker for her.

Then there's the fact that Aria was best friends with Wrex once upon a time.

Aria Lost Her Best Friend

Wrex attempts to shoot Shepard.

Wrex attempts to shoot Shepard.

Aria loved Wrex so much that she refused to kill him when a situation forced her to, instead blowing a station and faking her death to avoid it. Depending on Shepard's actions, Wrex could be dead or maybe you're his new best friend, two situations in which Aria would resent you.

I know if Wrex replaced me with someone younger and more powerful as his best buddy, I'd be pissed.

Trying to talk to Aria early in the game gets you a big old "f*** off," and she warns you not to waste her time. At this point, she still resents you and does not want to talk to you. At all.

Aria Has the Hots for Female Shepard

Aria kisses female Shepard.

Aria kisses female Shepard.

And finally, perhaps one of the most blatant reasons for Aria's resentment is that she wants to bang female Shepard (not male Shepard. Sorry, lads). Really, given all the reasons she initially resents you, wanting to hop in the sack with you on top of that has to be really annoying. "Man, I hate her, but damn, she's hot!"

She makes a comment about how female Shepard needs to get laid in the second game, and if you complete the Patriarch quest, she opens up a bit, sharing her backstory with Shepard but gently refusing to partner up with her if Shepard offers.

Aria is very old, has suffered a lot of loss, and seems perfectly comfortable on her own. It's only natural that she would avoid new romantic entanglements. So like most asari (Samara . . . Liara . . .), she will push Shepard away while flirting like hell and basically being a big ol' tease.

Shepard on Aria's couch.

Shepard on Aria's couch.

But later in the third game, Aria has grown to like Shepard. When first speaking to her on the Citadel, she offers to chat with her if she "ever wants to talk." And if Shepard gets drunk enough to blackout, she will wake up on Aria's couch, the implication being that Aria put her there out of . . . affection.

Now Shepard has been recognized as an ally, an equal, and perhaps even a friend. Aria is very flirty with Shepard in the third game, jokes about sleeping with Paragon Shepard, and actually kisses Renegade Shepard.

I loved seeing her go from resenting Shepard to adoring her like everyone else. At first, I was disappointed because it was refreshing that Aria was one of the few asari not trying to get into Shepard's pants . . . but then I came to enjoy the fact that I had basically earned the respect of the most powerful being in the galaxy in the last 1,000 years.

© 2018 Lee

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