[Spoilers for Borderlands 2 Below]
When playing a game, there’s nothing more satisfying to me then when I can start to sympathize with the main antagonist. And there’s no character in the past couple of years that I can think of that has encapsulated this as perfectly as Borderlands’ Handsome Jack. When I began my new journey on Pandora, I hated him. I hated him so much, him and his stupid crystal pony and stupid surveyors. (GAH! Could there even be a more annoying enemy?!) I loved to hate him. Then I made it to the BNK3R and it all went to shit. And after going to the Arid Nexus it went even more to shit and I actually began to like him.
The shift from over-the-top despicable to 3-dimensional character who is still awful, but has motives that one can empathize with was amazing. One aspect that really helped propel Jack’s character was his relationship with his daughter, Angel. Fraught with power struggles on both sides and a general feeling of helplessness, it was something that so strongly motivated the now Hyperion CEO, but in ways that weren’t, and still aren’t fully known to the audience.There just wasn’t enough on their past together for me to be satiated. More. I wanted more. Luckily, Cybertronic Purgatory has taken up the slack with their fic, Becoming Pandora.
While traversing the Arid Nexus in game, the player can come across several logs that spottily tell the story of what happened concerning Jack and Angel before any of the vault hunters we’ve come to know and love landed on Pandora. Becoming Pandora takes us to a time before even those logs and lays out Jack’s—then still called his real name, John—life, starting out with the unwanted birth of his daughter. From day one, he forms this conflicted relationship with her: he hates her for what she is, but can’t help but love her because, after all, she’s partly him. So delicately Cybertronic Purgatory lays out the lies from which Jack is built from. Each passive aggressive move against his daughter and each move she so cleverly makes in return drill another crack into Jack’s psyche. This progression from Hyperion code monkey to the most dangerous man on Pandora seems entirely believable and even more frightening because at the end of the day Cybertronic makes the case that he’s still human and is working completely on human desires and fears.
There are two things about this fic that really make it stand out to me… well, besides the writing style which is simply fantastic. First off, Jack’s wife, who we already can assume died by Angel’s hand, is expertly characterized. She is a pillar of strength in Jack’s life, a woman who he worships and wants to improve himself for, as well as a woman that strengthens his co-dependence on his family and fuels his downward spiral into villainy. She’s clever and does the best with what fate has given her, but she’s not infallible and, in her actions, is even cruel herself.
Secondly, the way Angel is characterized is… oh god, it’s just so perfect. In game, Angel is portrayed as, well, as close to angelic as one can get on Pandora, but there’s so much more depth to her. There has to be, for her to be on the even playing ground with Jack that she is. While Cybertronic Purgatory does give us Angel being emotionally abused and manipulated by her father—there’s no way that wouldn’t happen—they also give us Angel equally manipulating her father back. She can be cruel and she has a power over Jack that no one else does, siren powers or not, which she utilizes when it suits her. Overall, the characterization in this story is superb which is such a vital thing with characters like these.
If finishing the Borderlands campaign left you with a burning desire to learn more about the man who would be Jack and his otherworldly daughter like it did me, definitely give this fic a read. Each chapter is quite extensive, but not wordy enough to make it seem droning; it’s obvious that a lot of thought, effort, and love go into each chapter. Also, now that the final chapter has been put up, you can read it all in one fell swoop—you know, if you’re the type of person that likes getting your heart torn out. But, hey, that’s really the spirit of Borderlands: getting your heart torn out by characters you didn’t think you’d get attached to.