Editorial: Character Study: Garrus Vakarian

Very impressive how Bioware can make such an expressionless face so full of character.

Also, he’s a badass.

Hello there, LusiTurians. I am continuing to play Chrono Trigger and having either a good or bad or great or horrible time with it (find out which in the official Lusipurr.com Playthrough Thread!). But before I got my copy in the mail, I had been playing through the Mass Effect Trilogy on the PS3; my first time replaying the series. The long and short of my experience so far is that both my praise and criticisms of each title are magnified; I just wish I could take the best from all three and create one super title. Anyway.

The point is that one of the bright spots was the perhaps unexpected warmth and excitement I felt when reuniting with the series’ cast. The writing of the games was always strongest when developing relationships – platonic or otherwise – and this strength showed through in my emotional reactions to re-meeting some old virtual friends. So to that end I would like to focus on who I was even a little surprised to realize was my favourite character, Garrus Vakarian.

Everybody has their own shit to deal with in the Mass Effect games. It is what makes it work. Shepard’s team is not a collection of one-dimensional characters who suddenly have no life or problems or history once they hear that they can save the galaxy. They still remain humans. Or, er, aliens too, I suppose. And while many of the original game’s cast served as a method to represent each race’s major struggle, Garrus was able to elude this. Partly because of the Turians’ status as an established Council race, but the Asari came first and even Liara is more of an information booth about her people than she is her own character.

No, I discovered that I found Garrus the most interesting, convincing, and endearing because of his adult way of dealing with his demons, but also his willingness and honesty in becoming friends with Shepard. Garrus is a man (or male Turian, whatever, give me this one) who has an intriguing balance of pride and humility. Pride and honour are natural values to a Turian, but Garrus’ life finds ways to keep the themes ever-present. He tries to follow his father’s footsteps, but becomes too wrapped up in his own sense of justice to follow all the rules he is given. He is a little rebellious in this way, but Garrus manages to largely escape coming across as a hothead. He recognizes the importance of structure, but becomes frustrated when it stops him from tracking down and stopping people he considers to be menaces.

Also he was inspired by Shepard to become a vigilante. So cute!

Also, he was once nicknamed Archangel. Only cool dudes can manage that.

So to him, Shepard with her mission on the Normandy is his ideal place. He has somebody to respect and answer to, but somebody who is allowed to make her own rules. It is never explicitly stated, but it is not subtle that Garrus – much like most of her crew – joins her for selfish reasons. And this is not selfishness in the strictly negative sense. Garrus has something to gain from this new life and that is the reason he joins. He is not looking to exploit Shepard.

But it is through Shepard that Garrus finds inspiration that he never expected to. Shepard may have the power to make her own rules, but Garrus is surprised to find the restraint and focus that the power comes with. And so respect to his superior turns into respect for a human being. Garrus is not a tortured soul who is so guarded that his need to be loved is almost written on his chest (*cough* Jack *cough*), but he is also a discerning adult who is not going to open himself up at the drop of a hat just because he found someone he respects and finds interesting (*cough* Liara *cough*).

Garrus is able to learn from Shepard and she is able to learn from him. And is that not what a good friendship should really offer? Garrus has his own motives and luggage to sift through, but he realizes that his problems do not define the mission and it is only after a friendship forms and with some endearing awkwardness does Garrus open up to Shepard. I love that, although an alien, Garrus is respected so thoroughly as a character. His actions and words reflect all the events of his life so perfectly, and his eventual connection to Shepard is even more meaningful because of how few people he actually feels understand him. He never throws pity parties for himself, but he also realizes that emotions can be even more harmful when shoved down inside and are never addressed. He is far from perfect, but is he a nuanced and ultimately loyal character and a great example of what the Mass Effect trilogy did best.

Of course, my interactions with Garrus are heavily based on the way my Shepard treated him. What are you experiences with Garrus, LusiKeepers? If Garrus is my favourite character in the series – and he is – who is yours?

3 comments on “Editorial: Character Study: Garrus Vakarian”

  1. I don’t remember this character in Chrono Trigger.

  2. I like Garrus enough by himself. What ruined him for me were the fans. But then again, that tends to happen a lot and even then, I was more inclined towards Ashley Williams as one of my favorites of the first game.

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