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"Mass Effect": Udina Wasn't a Bad Guy

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

Udina with one of his famous quotes.

Udina with one of his famous quotes.

Please keep in mind that I'm talking about the way Udina was presented in the games and not in the comics and other side-canon, where he was responsible for setting up Executor Pallin. The games always presented Udina as a flawed human being, while I feel the comics retconned him into a Cerberus goon, even forcing him as the human councilor for the third game just to complete his arc.

I remember years ago, the first time I played the first Mass Effect, I was annoyed by Udina because of his hatred for Shepard and his ridiculous paranoia. And BioWare wanted fans to be annoyed. Good job, BioWare.

Udina screaming that the councilors are anti-human racists just because they don't blindly believe his wild accusations in the first game was embarrassing and cringe-worthy, especially when Shepard is forced to act the same way.

Granted, it's my belief that the councilors were anti-human racists, but they still had logical reasons for not listening to some crazy humans ranting about visions in the first game. It wasn't until the third game that each of them showed their true faces. But I digress.

My screenshot of Udina.

My screenshot of Udina.

In the first game, I was annoyed by Udina. Then there's the part where the council refuses to help, and the camera shows Udina just standing there, head bowed, in defeat.

I remember realizing at that moment that Udina's motivations rested strictly in getting protection for the human colonies. He just wanted to protect his people and his goals were the same as Shepard's.

Udina is Under Serious Pressure


Much like Shepard, Udina has the weight of the entire human race on his shoulders, and he's rude to her because he's worried she'll screw things up for him by doing something reckless and/or making humanity look bad.

He represents humans and is responsible for millions of lives. The pressure has to be real for him. This becomes more evident in the third game, where he can tell Shepard that he is currently the most powerful human in the galaxy and yet his power means zip when the council outvotes him.

To Shepard, Udina, and Anderson in Mass Effect, the council is dismissive of them because they are human. In reality, the council dismissed them because there was no evidence against Saren outside of dreams and wild accusations. The fact that they jumped on board once there was evidence says a lot, though nothing positive.

It says that the council was willing to use humans as tools, something to protect their own interests while they kept their own people safe. Basically, humans were presented as good fighters and could be used as canon fodder. Humans were pretty much treated the same as the krogan, as less than.

We see this happen constantly across the trilogy: in the first game, human lives are sacrificed to stop Sovereign; in the second game, humans are on their own against the Collectors; and in the third game, Earth is sacrificed so that the other races can protect their own planets.

Ashley was right: the council only cared about their own people. They weren't wrong for protecting their own, but considering that humans sacrificed so much to stop Sovereign, it was still a dick move to abandon them when they didn't have the numbers to defend themselves due to the events of the first two games.

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No one expected the council to send all of their people to help Earth, but they could have supported Earth in some way. The asari* evacuated human colonies, but that mostly seemed to happen because of Liara, so the council doesn't get brownie points for that one.

*Editors: names of species are not capitalized. Please stop "correcting'" this in my articles.

Udina Resents What He Can't Control


What's interesting is that even Udina can see this. In Mass Effect 3, he'll tell Shepard the council is just scared and covering their own asses. It's really hypocritical on his part, though. Udina is behaving in the same manner as the council, first using Shepard as his attack dog, then when that doesn't work out, using the Virmire Survivor instead. (Very ironic if the Virmire Survivor is "We humans are attack dogs to them" Ashley Williams.)

Udina is someone who never had faith in Shepard to begin with. In the first game, he constantly scolded her not to mess up.

In the second game, he is very unhappy to see her alive and does not want to make her a spectre again because she refused to be his obedient dog (much like the Illusive Man, he resents Shepard because he can not control her).

In the third game, he still doesn't believe she can stop the Reapers or save Earth, and given the fact that humans have been used like dogs for three games now, he has no faith in Shepard and Anderson's attempts to unite the galaxy.

Udina Felt Alone in the Fight



By the third game, Udina is powerful but still very powerless and feels he is in the fight alone. His job as human ambassador and councilor is to protect human interests, and since Shepard and Anderson appear to be going about it the wrong way, he starts paving his own way.

The first step? Get a spectre he can control. Shepard is completely loyal to Anderson and Hackett and will never take orders from Udina, who hasn't exactly done anything in the past to earn her trust or respect. Perhaps he regrets that now, knowing it has isolated him in his struggle to protect Earth.

Once again, Udina and Shepard want the same things but can't get along to achieve their goals. This is a running theme with humans in Mass Effect: they can't get along with each other, so they can't achieve a damn thing.

We spend most of Mass Effect 3 fighting Cerberus—other humans—and during the Citadel DLC, Maya Brooks hates Shepard for working with aliens but can't see the irony in the fact that she, a human, is screwing over the first human spectre. Add the fact that every human squaddie you have is some various stir fry of asshole, and there it is.

So, unable to control Shepard, Udina turns to the next best thing: a human soldier strong enough to help him. Of course, he turns to the Virmire Survivor. As paranoid as they are about Shepard, they can easily be manipulated against her. The Virmire Survivor is also probably one of the very few people in the galaxy who could last six seconds against Shepard.

The Virmire Survivor, of course, still has some tiny sliver of respect for Shepard, enough that they don't immediately jump on the idea of becoming a spectre. Instead, they ask Shepard for advice, which annoys Udina, who is pissed to see Shepard arrive at the hospital.

It had to be hard for Udina to find help outside of Shepard when everyone in the galaxy was so enamored of her. Even the Virmire Survivor, who wouldn't shut up about Cerberus, still prefers Shepard over Udina.

This puts that two-second moment into perspective when Shepard enters the Virmire Survivor's hospital room and Udina curtly greets her with, "Shepard."

Shepard must be so annoying to him at that moment.

The Virmire Survivor eventually becomes a spectre, but Udina has realized they are too loyal to Shepard to really be controlled and that perhaps they aren't strong enough to stop Shepard after all. I mean, they were just in the hospital after getting their ass handed to them by a robot that Shepard kills easily.

So in desperation, Udina feels more alone than ever and turns to Cerberus.

A Taste of His Own Medicine


This is truly ironic. Because if you kill the original council and choose Udina as the human councilor in Mass Effect 2 (I did once years ago and never again, I say) he will refuse to reinstate Shepard as a spectre, isolating Shepard and forcing her to fight the battle alone.

Now in Mass Effect 3, Udina is the one who is isolated and is forced to fight the battle for Earth alone. The Alliance isn't helping him. The council isn't helping him. So as a last resort, he turns to Cerberus.

Now Udina knows how it feels to be Shepard.

By default, Cerberus became the only way to save Earth, so Udina took the option. I don't believe Udina was ever indoctrinated. He was just desperate to help his people and saw no other way. Just like Shepard.

This makes Shepard look like a true hypocrite later on the Normandy when EDI says that Udina may have been indoctrinated. Shepard will say through her teeth, "He damn-well better have been!" as if she herself did not work with Cerberus in the same act of desperation because she had no other choice.

It really shows how oblivious Shepard was to Udina's struggle and to the person he really was behind all the rudeness. What's sad is that if Udina had attempted to trust Shepard in friendship from the very first game, the third game may have played out differently. But Shepard can't charm everyone and everyone is not going to like her.

It makes Udina one of the most realistic and flawed characters in the game.

© 2018 Lee

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