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Why I Can’t Kill or Forgive Trevor

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I don’t want to ever forgive Trevor for killing Johnny Klebitz, but after the events of the game I can’t bring myself to want Trevor dead. Out of everyone in the Grand Theft Auto IV world, Johnny had the clearest motivations – he wanted to support his gang and his values, and needs a good reason to kill. Seeing him degrade into a meth addict in GTA V (and getting brutally murdered) goes against everything he (and by extension, you the player) stood for.

In the Lost and the Damned, Johnny tries to help his girlfriend Ashley with her drug addiction, but eventually abandons her to her fate, first by sending her to rehab and then later by telling her to stay away from him. This rationality is carried through all of Johnny’s actions in the game – despite being easily angered, for the most part he takes the time to plan out his actions before carrying through with them. Unlike most protagonists in the series, he’s never forced to compromise his values.

Until he meets Trevor. While it’s not a stretch to believe that Ashley somehow made her way to Blaine County, met Trevor and continued her self destructive behavior, the last time we saw Johnny there was so reason to believe he would continue to associate with Ashley. Suspending my disbelief of that, Johnny was strongly against her drug use. There wasn’t any reason that he would get back with her, much less follow along and get sucked into the same behavior. As many before me have similarly noted, they essentially erased his personality and carried over his character model and name into something unrecognizable. The Johnny that we knew was a warm, strong, and powerful leader – even after the loss of most of his friends, we still got the impression that he’d be able to rebuild and come out of it stronger.

Which brings us to our introduction of Trevor. One of the very first scenes we see is him stomping in the head of Johnny K. For many (including myself) this was a cheap and disrespectful way to drive forward the idea that he was a very disturbed person. He more than adequately proves this in all of his behavior immediately following the act, but instead of painting it in various shades of gray like most of the narrative does, it immediately showcases how out of control he truly is – something that it manages much better later in the story.

A couple people have already talked about the infamous torture scene and if it’s justified. What Spann notes is that the scene attempts to show Trevor’s deranged morality: his powerful distaste for authority and willingness to do something horrific for a quick buck. Moving Pixels noted that Trevor is a send up of whatever everybody has always been afraid of that GTA players do with their time, full of undeniable rage and rampage. He’s the man with a “cut here” tattoo around his neck.

What really showcases Trevor’s insanity is when he kills Debra. Here, you’ve spent time getting to know Trevor. You’ve seen him ‘rescue’ Michael’s daughter from Laslow, and spend time getting to know Franklin. He’s become somewhat likable, if not a bit unhinged. But suddenly, Debra shows up at Floyd’s apartment with a gun, and Trevor is driven to unleash his rage, murdering one or both of them (it’s left ambiguous). This brutal and ruthless scene is a powerful reminder that Trevor is, and always will be, a murdering psychopath.

 The endings of the game are somewhat soured by the same issues that plagued GTA IV, where the rewards for choosing one option highly outweigh the other options. In this case, not being able to play one of the characters and losing access to all of their related properties and activities. But the option to kill Trevor is still there. Morally, it seems like a decent choice. He’s a despicable character who the world would most likely be better without. Even the title for the mission is “Something Sensible.”

But when Franklin chooses to kill Trevor, it feels like you, as the player, are making the wrong decision. Trevor even says to Franklin, “I ain’t been nothing but straight and true with you.” Throughout the game, Trevor has done terrible things, and you’ve even aided him by enacting torture. But the murder of Trevor by someone who he has shown nothing but his own unique brand of kindness to feels wrong and detestable on another level. This also says more about Franklin, who often represents the surrogate child of both Michael and Trevor.

After Trevor is killed, Michael is rattled, and clearly upset by the loss of his troubled friend. Despite his horrible nature, the people who he lets in still care about him, and Franklin seems to have a tough time justifying murdering him. Trevor’s mental state is unhinged and psychopathic, but also very fragile. And it’s this fragility that makes killing him such a bittersweet moment – not something that’s done on Trevor’s terms, in a blaze of bullets and fire (like the C ending) but by taking advantage of his emotional weakness and friendship with Franklin.

While I might never forgive Trevor (or Rockstar) for killing Johnny Klebitz, I don’t want to kill him, either. Just because I don’t like him personally doesn’t make me want him dead. From a narrative standpoint, I even think his battles with the Lost are a fun addition to the story – I just wish they weren’t at the expense of a morally sound character. It would’ve been a lot more fun for Trevor and Johnny to team up to get his gang back in order – even if that sometimes put them at odds, it would’ve allowed for us to get to know Trevor even better in contrast with someone with a moral code like Johnny’s.

After two times going through the story (once as a spectator and once as a player) I still haven’t been able to find myself liking Trevor, or forgiving him for his brutal introduction. I don’t like how he does things, or the reasons behind them. But I do appreciate his devotion to his friends and his honesty – the fact that he doesn’t end up killing Michael after learning about Brad’s death is his greatest saving grace. He’s able to regain his composure after a while, and after the last heist, he begins to let Michael back into his life.  He’s able to show forgiveness for Michael after Brad was killed. I just don’t think I can ever really show Trevor the same forgiveness for killing Johnny.

 Written for Critical Distance‘s Blogs of the Round Table an initiative which seeks to bring the diverse voices of video game criticism together around a monthly topic. This month the theme is “Forgiveness.”

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