Ah, the Lutece Twins. Some of the more interesting characters not only in Bioshock Infinite, but in video games in general. In part, by the end of it all, you still don’t know who and what they are. As The Doctor might say, wibbly wobbly, timey wimey.
So I’ll explore what we see of them in the game. But it’s more than that, my interest is more, the connection. Because the Lutece Twins remind me of something else, remind me of absurdist plays. They remind me of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
One part character study, one part absurdist play comparison, this is what I have for you. The Lutece Twins both fill a story and plot purpose, but exist as an interesting result of that plot, of the quantum mechanics that make the game so interesting. Spoilers ahead!
The Bird or the Cage?
You meet the Lutece Twins first enigmatically. They seem to keep showing up and know to talk to you, as opposed to other NPC’s who wait for you to talk to them – you’re just a face in the crowd. But the Lutece’s seem to know you are special.
I don’t quite remember when I really noticed they were recurring characters. You see them several times early on – flipping coins, offering you a choice between the Bird or the Cage, in a building where you’re hiding out and getting your hands on a gun. So I didn’t notice, for instance, that they are also the boatmen at the beginning, rowing you to the Lighthouse. So they’re with you from the very beginning.
Of course, them being there begs the question, how did they make it up to the sky, how did they join you in Columbia? How do they keep finding you? How can you not kill them when you shoot at them – an Easter Egg in the game, where they comment on you missing?
As you start to see them more and more in the game, it becomes quite apparent there is something more going on.
Lives, lived, will live. Dies, died, will die.
As Holly talked about on Monday, there’s far more to Columbia than meets the eye. This is a direct result of Rosalind Lutece – and her somewhat brother, Robert.
In Time Travel stories, you’re always told that one should not meet oneself – that it could have dire consequences, that it could change all of history. And so you tend not to see it happen. You get amusing sequences like in the Back to the Future movies with Marty having to avoid meeting himself, but it’s rare for characters to meet. It becomes a major plot point that old Biff meets himself, for instance.
So it’s rare to see what Lutece went and did – went to an alternate timeline, and found herself. Well, the possibility and potential of herself. The flip of a coin: male, instead of female. Optimistic to her pessimistic. Often contrary to each other, but both completely and utterly brilliant. Combine those two minds, and they changed not only their own two worlds, but many others.
Frequently in Time Travel stories, you see the main character as the one who built the time machine or time travel. Not so with Lutece, who is sidelined to Booker and Elizabeth. But how could you even tell the story of Lutece?
Because when it was deemed they had grown too dangerous and knew too much, they were killed. But by then, they had dabbled in time so much that they were unstuck in time: they existed, and did not, throughout time, throughout the multiverse. So of course they could find Booker wherever he went. And, you go in as agents of their revenge, to stop Comstock.
So they create Columbia, the time travel; they bring the characters together multiple times; they lead you on throughout your adventure. The Lutece “Twins” make Bioshock Infinite happen. But they matter, too.
Rosalind and Robert are Dead
So one of my favorite plays is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. The movie is pretty excellent as well if you get a chance. The story and title are based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s friends and the King’s agents, die off-stage as part of all the plans and counterplans.
The play is about their two lives, bringing them to life in between the events in Hamlet. However, it recognizes the fact that they live and exist to serve the purposes of Hamlet, the play, and Hamlet, the man. So their life is full of absurdity and is completely out of their control. Every time Hamlet shows up and a scene from Hamlet is happening, it hits them like a whirlwind, whipping them up in it, and then leaving them behind bedraggled.
This is what the Lutece Twins feel like to me, floating absurdly through time and space and possibility, running into your plot like a whirlwind and then bouncing back away. They are already dead, killed and buried, and yet they are there and taking action.
Their exchanges, in particular, are very much like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who often feel like they are exploring reality like they don’t already know it or understand it. There are a lot of great Lutece exchanges you can find online, but my favorite has to be them flipping coins, and betting heads or tails.
Because that’s exactly how Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead starts. Heads. Heads. Heads…