A look back at a certain character’s resurgence during the grand finale of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, as a decades spanning timeline comes to its conclusion.
Metal Gear Solid 4 ends with Otacon and Sunny looking at the rising sun, as a symbol of new hope, of a new world freed from The Patriots’ grip. The screen fades to black and the end titles appear, listing the voice actors. The last one on the list is for Big Boss, which is strange, as he wasn’t really in the game. Or was it just in one of the flashbacks? But no. Just when you thought the game was over, the story seemed concluded, everything seemed to be wrapped up, at that moment we are presented with one of the most shocking and memorable plot twists of the series. After we already thought we’d seen the last of Solid Snake, the game brings us back to the graveyard where we’d left him, where we thought he had ended his own life. But it turns out he didn’t, he’s still at the graveyard, on his hands and knees, breathing heavily. And then, a sudden voice breaks the silence. ‘That’s right. Good. No need for you to go just yet’. Snake freezes. He seems to recognize the voice, and it leaves him in utter disbelief. Slowly, Snake turns his head to the side. The figure remains obscured to the player, and leaves him wondering ‘who is this? who can it be?’ We see the character’s legs, his clothes, a long, brown trench coat. The camera tilts up. And there he is, unmistakable: Big Boss. His iconic figure, as we’ve only seen in artwork is now there in the flesh: trench coat, grey hair slicked back, white beard and eyepatch and a weary look on his face. Before we can process what’s going on, Big Boss raises his hand, holding The Boss’s unique gun, The Patriot. He aims it directly at Snake, who quickly readies his own handgun in response. What is this, one final boss fight? But no, Big Boss lets go of his weapon, and as it drops to the ground, he lunges forward to grab Snake. But not to attack him, but to hold him in his arms for the first time, the son he never wished for, and who up until this moment has always been his nemesis. ‘I’m not here to fight’.
For many of the characters, the events of MGS4 is about redemption. They finally have to face their mistakes, accept the reality of where their past decisions has led them. Face the difficult consequences head on, with all of their senses. For Big Boss, it’s no different. He came to that graveyard for many reasons – to free Snake, to end the Patriots once and for all, and most of all, to come clean with what he’d done. As he breathes in the FOXDIE virus, instigating his own end, he uses the last of his strength to stumble to The Boss’ grave. And now, fifty years after he pulled the trigger and killed her, he finally understands. He understands what she did, he understands how the pain and sorrow caused him to make mistake after mistake. He sees things clearly now, and it makes him experience all kinds of senses: regret, longing, and sorrow, but also peace. As he rests against her tombstone and smokes his final cigar with his son, there’s one feeling that lingers. ‘This is good… isn’t it?’ Surrounded by the peace and tranquility of that graveyard, he dies.
This final scene is one of the longest cutscenes ever in the series, and for a franchise that’s known for lengthy cinematics, that’s saying something. But it’s so well-made, with its melancholic feeling of finality and penitence, a bittersweet ending, resting somewhere between sad and peaceful, but with a positive feeling towards the future. And so a story that spanned decades of global events, about life and death, about war, and ideology, about the very nature of humanity – ends with the drop of a cigar.