Of course, this contains spoilers for Destiny 2’s Season of the Splicer, and in particular story events following Week Four (this cutscene has been out for three weeks).
All screenshots, including the featured image, were taken by me.
So, Destiny 2’s story is in a very interesting place currently. The sci-fi looter shooter has a season pass model, with this current season, Season of the Splicer, lasting from early May to the end of August. It centres around the Vex — essentially robot aliens who are capable of looking at multiple timelines and choosing the ones they like the look of (needless to say, the ones where they win) to try and make real — plunging the last civilisation on Earth into an ‘endless night’. It’s a simulation, sure, but it’s undoubtedly getting everyone down — you’ve been in the UK during the winter, right?
Mithrax is this season’s central character: the leader of a group of Eliksni (also known as Fallen, because of their history with the game’s God-figure, the Traveller) who have sought refuge in the Last City. The Eliksni, pirate scavengers, are an alien race like the Vex, and are therefore also encountered as enemies, but Mithrax’s bunch are good, with their devotion to the Traveller and their clear respect for those who have let them in (Mithrax is also key in lifting the endless night, so they have more than enough reason to be in the City). Tensions, however, have run high, largely stirred up by Lakshmi-2, a politician of the City. Many citizens see Mithrax’s group, the House of Light, as no different from the Eliksni who have killed indescribable numbers of humans throughout history, and have accordingly turned their frustration on them. Some of the lore from this season has been brutally cruel — arguably too cruel, in a few cases. The main element I wanted to focus on, however, is a particular cutscene from a few weeks ago.
Saint-14, a legend in the City and an important character throughout the game’s story and lore, is the biggest enemy of the Eliksni. Two key battles in the history of the in-game universe, namely Six Fronts and Twilight Gap, were fought between humanity and the Eliksni, and Saint is considered a hero of both, a one-man (well, technically Exo, so… robot man?) wave of destruction. It is undeniable that the Eliksni were the greatest enemy of humanity in this time, too. The Eliksni fear him more than anything, with good reason, so of course the House of Light moving into the same space as Saint was going to have consequences. Those tensions bubbled away for the first few weeks, with Saint showing grudging tolerance and Mithrax trying to do what is best for his people, before Saint drops a line about Mithrax somehow expecting the City’s people to ‘live alongside their monsters’.
Hoo boy. What follows is one of the most striking cutscenes I’ve personally seen in a game.
Mithrax tells us a story. In it, we see Saint as the Eliksni’s monster — a truly terrifying being, reptilian in nature, clawed and fanged and hideously strong. Of course, this is not how we, and the City’s citizens, see Saint, but that is exactly the point.
Mithrax refers to the time when the Eliksni were in the Traveller’s grace, and how everything fell apart when it fled, leading this terrible creature to tear through the Eliksni, ‘fuelled by hatred’. He speaks of how Guardians can be brought back from death, meaning that Saint could not be stopped. Everyone was excited about seeing baby Eliksni before the season launched, but it is implied that no Eliksni was safe from Saint, and it builds to a point where we see Saint dragging an Eliksni into his ‘foul shell’ to its death. We know this ‘foul shell’ as the ‘Ward of Dawn’ – a special ability belonging to the Titan class (Saint-14 is one of the most famous Titans) that is associated with protection and empowering your allies. It emphasises the cutscene’s main point: someone can be both a legend and a monster, and all that separates the two is perspective. The cutscene is only about two minutes long, but it takes on a horror vibe after the midway point, with Mithrax essentially putting Saint in his place, telling him that his people are as terrified of him as Saint’s people are of the Eliksni within the City.
I can’t put it any better than Mithrax does — ‘if we wish to survive, we must all learn to live alongside our monsters’.
The cinematic ends on a lightning strike that illuminates a grotesque skeletal figure within the iconic silhouette of Saint-14. It is chilling. How can we see Saint — The Saint, as Mithrax calls him, a title given monstrous connotations — in the same way again?
Of course, Saint eventually responds. He is horrified to be confronted with how the Eliksni see him: Mithrax’s story marks a turning point, where he begins to accept the House of Light, but it’s quite horrible that it took Mithrax spelling out the atrocities that Saint had committed against the Eliksni of the past for Saint to come to this decision. Saint never excuses his actions throughout history, saying that although he (and other Guardians) felt they had no choice, that ‘monstrous’ acts were the cost for survival, there is no reason to now reject the innocent House that seeks refuge in the City’s walls, Eliksni civilians as worthy of protection as the human civilians they share their space with. He takes their willingness to work with him, despite all that he has done, as a sign that humanity should extend the same courtesy to them. The whole thing, both the cutscene and Saint’s response, provokes so many questions, and it is so fascinating to see the perspective flipped for once. We’re forced to look at a ‘legend’ through different eyes: eyes that would give him an entirely different title. The presentation of the cutscene, too, is gorgeous: Destiny frequently uses this hand drawn style for non-CGI cutscenes and it’s always a treat.
With only a few weeks left of the season, I’m curious to see where it goes, but when I look back on Season of the Splicer, this cutscene, and everything it raises, will be in the forefront of my mind.