Before reading on, I must warn you; this piece contains huge spoilers for the Borderlands main game series, including: Borderlands 1, Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 and the Presequel. So, if you don’t mind, let’s jump into the Drop-pod and travel to the chaotic land of Pandora, full of monsters, bandits, and secrets that can shake the universe, literally.
Okay, are you comfortable in your seat? Nice! In the meantime, I’ll tell you all about this godforsaken universe. Okay, here we go: once upon a time, there was a friendly humanoid-ant alien species residing on the planet of Pandora. They did all kinds of things: building a bunch of vaults to entrap monsters, hiding loot within them, and the like. They also sacrificed their entire civilization to seal an immortal enormous chunk of destruction inside the planet, in vaults that requires a highly complex mechanism to open, you know, alien stuff. Along with them, some humans, Sirens, can also use the power linked to this species. They are like super rare, only-6-in-the-entire-universe kind of rare. They are the keys to those vaults, and the treasure that lies behind.
And of course, treasures attract treasure hunters, or in this case: Vault Hunters. They have different origins, bringing with them different stories and motivations; but their ultimate goals lie hidden behind those fabled Vaults: fame, fortune, weapons, thrills… and adventures. However, we are not looking at their story today, but those that they fight against, the larger forces who have an eye for power, the villains of the games. Among them, one is considered one of the greatest video game villains – the “Hero” of his own story: Handsome Jack – the main antagonist of Borderlands 2. And then, the Calypsos – main antagonists of Borderlands 3, considered by the community as “wasted potential” with “cringe personalities”. How can they be on the two absolute extremes while being part of the same series? Well, this trip will (hopefully) answer that question. Ah, we have reached the sandy surface of The Drought! Grab your gun and let’s begin this journey, shall we?
- Handsome Jack: The Goddamned Hero and The Man Who Lost All:
“Everyone thinks they’re the hero of their own story”
The history of Handsome Jack dates far back even before Borderland 1 where the Vault Hunters are first introduced and when he is just a small unknown Jack. After a childhood of loss and harassment (from his own grandmother whom he hires assassins to kill later on), Jack ended up as an engineer at Hyperion, one of the leading technology and weaponry corporations of the universe. He even had a small lovable family with the woman he loves and a cute daughter he adores – Angel. Seem like a happy ending, right? The oppressed man going through his hardships and ending up with what he is looking for? Yeah, sound like it, if not for the fact that he is on a planet full of bandits who sells their soul for blood and money; and his daughter is one of the most precious beings in the universe: a Siren.
And the inevitable must come; Angel was kidnapped by bandits and in the process of breaking out, she accidentally activated a gun turret nearby to kill the bandits and unfortunately, her own mother. Broken by the sudden great loss, the nice guy inside Jack is wiped away left behind only the power hungry psychopath who vowed to kill every entity on this dreadful planet at any price, even if that meant his daughter is caged and used to manipulate other people. Towards the end, he pumped a load of chemicals for a chance to open the Vaults, leading to the destruction of the planet (he fails at the end, because of us, the protagonist).
After his wife was killed, he began to slowly rise to the position of the CEO of Hyperion using Angel’s power of talking to electronic devices and started to do anything in his power to open the Vault on Pandora after the event in Presequel gave him a glimpse into the future. You name it, he did it: Steal Identity? Checked; Massacre? Checked; Using and throwing away human lives? Checked; Backstabbing his comrades? Checked; Mass Genocide sentient beings? Also checked. Throughout the entire story, he saw himself as the savior, the hero, the one who will bring back the civilization to Pandora after “cleaning” it, no matter how much innocent blood was shed or how suffering his daughter must be, physically and mentally. He is sadistic, charismatic, humorous, intelligent, and extremely skilled at manipulating people and their emotions. Only when his last precious thing – Angel turns his back on him and helps the Vault Hunters to kill her and destroy the key, can he finally be put down, still cannot accept how a “Hero” like him can be defeated by a bunch of “child killing psychopaths” like us.
2) The Calypsos Twins: The God Duo and Celebrities of a Bandit Planet:
“Don’t forget to like, follow, and obey.”
Unlike Jack who rose from the bottom of the world, Tyreen and Troy Calypso were the result of the love story between the legendary first Vault Hunter Typhon DeLeon and Leda DeLeon on the legendary planet of Nekrotafeyo – the home planet of the alien species that I mentioned before. Recognizing that both of their children are Sirens, our Vault Hunter couple decided to keep the duo on the planet to 1: keep them safe from the others and 2: keep them from power leeching everything in the Universe especially after their mother seemingly died because of them. And what’s worse than putting some children in a cage? Putting them in a cage while constantly tell them about how great, vast, interesting, and dangerous the world outside is, including the details of every discovered Vault, how to get into them, and ultimately how to unleash the monster that cost the entire civilization to seal up. Well, as you can guess, it could not last forever. One day, the duo decided to fix a spaceship, set the destination to Pandora where the Great Vault is, and ran far far away from their home.
Having power from a very young age and detailed information about the (psychopath and bandit) residents of the planet, the duo rapidly gains influence and gather all the bandit gangs on the planet under one single cult. They are always ready to give everything to them, even their lives. Sound familiar right? Yeah, they basically become the celebrities, streamers, idols, whatever you can think of, even “gods.” (Yes, they literally live stream everything, even our moves). Their goal? To become the brightest stars in the sky; to prove to their father that holding them back was a terrible idea.
However, if you play with ink, your hand will get dark. Their goal slowly turned into becoming “The only shining stars in the Universe” and they began to use their followers as throwing pawns, or even food and toys. They then signed contracts with large corporations to gather all the keys to open The Great Vault on Pandora, to release the destruction thingy, leech its power, and truly become gods. Well, that plan bites them in the back. By leeching the power of an “immortal” monster, they accidentally give them a “mortal” body that can die and well, the heroes just come, and kill the big bad monster, and loot everything, thus ending the lives of the most powerful siren duo in the universe.
3) Some final thoughts about the villains:
So, how did you enjoy your journey so far? Did you catch a glimpse of how these two forces were built up, clashed with us (the protagonists), and died? Here are my thoughts after playing through the storylines several times and traveling around the world to look for small pieces of left-behind small pieces of recorders to have the broadest view.
About Handsome Jack, I hate him, I despise him with all my guts, I could readily play the final battle against and against to deliver the final punch to his face for all the suffering he caused, and I love the games for making a villain like that. They make a fleshed out character with a relatable backstory, make him take everything we love on the journey of taking him down, make him taunt us with the death of our comrades, play with us and then finally, we can have the final match him in an epic battle with all kinds of explosions and stuff, and finally finish him as he is suffering from what he has done. That the best feeling I had after a while and I glad that it is the first FPS game that I finished entirely. That is why I was really hyped when playing Borderlands 3, but well…
The Calypsos Twins could not live up to my excitement. I think they have a lot of potential of someone that can further ignite the villain spirit and inspiration that Jack left behind, especially when they have the force to change the world and the charisma to gather every bandit cult, which is seemingly impossible given that I played through Borderlands 2 and saw how crazy they were. I was also interested in the idea of a celebrity/influencer type villain, where the behind-the-scenes movements and conspiracy could add so much spice to the story and development. But all I received were just a power-creep duo of teenagers who have daddy issues and a not-so-interesting motive to rule over the world. However, the gameplay and the guns (especially the guns) of the game are phenomenally great which kept me interested.
So that’s some of my thoughts, what do you think about it? Agree? Disagree? Feel free to tell me more because I like to hear more about others’ opinions, and maybe try some more FPS games in the future. Thanks for reading!