Spoilers ahead for the latter half of the game! Spoilers!
Many people agree that the writing and humor in Borderlands 2
is pitch perfect. The new Vault Hunters have decent in game banter, the old Vault Hunters are fleshed out, Claptrap is a neurotic little idiot, the humor is really at home when enemies are renamed Bonerfarts, and there's an entire subspecies to bandits for midgets. Handsome Jack is also the most killable jerk ever. But the game also becomes uncharacteristically dark and serious near the end of the game. Not to say it doesn't do dark bad. But we're talking about a game where later on in the game, you personally receive a quest from Jack from the bounty board to go kill yourself. And when you do, you can either not kill yourself for the experience reward or simply pay the fee to respawn after jumping off Lover's Leap and receive a whopping 12 eridium. But either way, Jack mocks you as the idiot you are.
Case in point though: his daughter Angel.
In the mission, Where Angels Fear to Tread, the last portion of that quest tasks you with killing Angel, who is heavily guarded by force fields, shock generators, and robots. Jack needs a Siren to be able to control The Warrior. To that end, he has Angel under lock and key while pumping her Eridium. So much that breaking the pipes that feed her would kill her.
Most of the time, Jack is a lovable jerk. Constantly saying demoralizing, humorous banter in an attempt to get on your nerves. But while you're in the process of breaking the eridiums pumps, Jack displays what can only be described as an odd level of anger and concern. He guilts you about killing an innocent girl, reasons with Angel about how everything he's done was for her sake, and threatens the Vault Hunter if he goes through with killing Angel. Angel tells you to ignore Jack. That he is just trying to guilt you and that he is just an asshole who happens to be her father.
Sure, that much really is true. He's manipulated everyone around him to his own ends, including his own daughter. He doesn't bat an eye when his actions send hundreds to their doom. Even if you kill his girlfriend, the Sheriff of Lynchwood, he only mildly passes it off as being pretty pissed
at you. But he is still the father to his daughter, no matter how twisted he is about it.
What if he really did manipulate everyone around him for Angel's sake? What if, in his own warped mind, he displayed his concern for Angel by launching a campaign that would put him in control of one of the most powerful, Eridian weapons in existence? What if, in his reasoning, he would take the dangers of Pandora himself in order to protect Angel, even of it meant hurting her?
After hours of promotional content showing what Jack is like, and hours upon hours of hearing Jack first hand belittle my self-esteem, it's almost hard to believe Jack can be serious in any capacity.
On the other hand, I'm not a father. But I understand that the bond between a parent and child is not something to be taken lightly. I do believe that despite the backwards idea of hurting his own child in order to do something for their sake, he really did do everything he did for Angel.
There comes a point in the game where you can learn more about Jack by finding lost ECHO logs revealing snippets of his life during the events of Borderlands. A time when Jack was still John and when he was still a code monkey working at Hyperion, not owning it. These logs certainly cement Jack's place as an asshole, even during the opening ECHO logs where he clearly is forcing Angel into his plans. Still, when someone mentions his dead wife, he responds by strangling him while telling his secretary to note that he is strangling him, not choking him; just for bringing up his "dead" wife in casual conversation. Perhaps, evidence that somewhere deep down, Jack isn't just an asshole. He's a person too.
More comes up as you head into Borderlands 2's end game. As you enter the Vault, Jack taunts you, calling you a child killer. When you defeat the Warrior, as Jack stands there dumbfounded as to how you defeated a five story tall, stone behemoth, you can allow him to monologue for a while before placing one last bullet in his head. He wanted to destroy everyone on Pandora, sure, but because Pandora is beyond saving in his opinion. And frankly, he's right about Pandora being a cesspool for violence. The majority of the surface is ruled by either bandit warlords or anarchy. The frontiers are largely untamable due to ferocious monsters. And all Jack wanted to do was start Pandora over on a clean slate. As he states, if you let him live long enough, he was going to be a goddamn hero. And oddly enough, what he says about you, the Vault Hunter, is true. You're a bandit, since you were inducted as a slab under Brick's bandit gang. And depending on your character, you are slightly deranged for various reasons.
I find these shattered pieces of John
quite interesting. Handsome Jack must be facade he created as a means to escape the insanity of Pandora. Hell, every person living on Pandora is crazy in their own way. But unlike everyone else, who embraces their insanity to be apart of their identity, Handsome Jack's facade is strapped on so tightly that there's almost no sign of the original left. All that's left is Handsome Jack, not John. He's the self-proclaimed hero of the Hyperion corporation and of Pandora. The Vault Hunter, a bandit from the Slabs, killed his only daughter and ruined any chances of Pandora becoming even slightly united and habitable by normal people.
So I guess, in the end, Jack had the last laugh. Everything he taunted you with, was at least half true, if not the complete truth. Perhaps twisted by Jack's ever warped sense of self and justice, but truth nonetheless.
If you're playing Borderlands 2 and played to that point and beyond, do you think Jack was sincere about what he said? Did he truly love his daughter? Is there really any redemption in Jack's actions to start Pandora over through its destruction?
Or was he really just an asshole?