A little while ago I talked about Final Fantasy VII’s often-stunning environments. I also promised I’d talk about emotional character deaths that are ignored in favour of the grand sacrifice made by Our Lady of the Brown Army Boots, Aeris Gainsborough
Now, I actually like Aeris. Whenever I start up a new Final Fantasy VII game — I average about three per year, I reckon — I always wind up pairing her with Cloud, even when I’m trying to give Tifa a chance. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing.*
Either way, Aeris’s end is the Final Fantasy series’ most talked-about death. Killing off a main character just wasn’t done. Perma-death was strictly NPC biz until that moment, or at best, a secondary character problem (SCP). Sure, Final Fantasy IV’s Tellah bites the big one, as does Final Fantasy VI’s General Leo. But Aeris’s last ride on Sephiroth’s sword has real consequences. You lose your party’s healer. Shit’s heavy.
So it’s understandable that Aeris’s sacrifice overshadows the rest of Final Fantasy VII’s body count. That doesn’t mean I’m not impacted by another in-game extinction event: The deaths of Biggs, Wedge, and Jessie. All three members of the AVALANCHE resistance group are killed when Shinra ices Sector 7 in Midgar.
These three NPCs are a tricky lot to mourn, however, because they’re essentially terrorists.
Yeah, Shinra milks the planet like a stud bull on a dairy farm, and yeah, AVALANCHE aims to stop a potentially disastrous future event. But the game says in no uncertain terms that innocent people die as a result of their actions.
If you blow shit up for a cause, you’re a terrorist. If you blow shit up for a cause and innocent people die, you’re, like, a New Terrorist +.
And yet I can’t help but cringe every time poor Wedge plummets from Sector 7’s support beam. I can’t help but pity / admire the poor fat bastard’s attempts to make friends with Cloud. Incidentally, I’m always nice to Wedge when I play Final Fantasy VII. He’s engaged in asshole-grade activities, but at the same time I kind of expect he doesn’t fully understand the magnitude of what he’s wrapped up in.
Maybe I’m just making excuses for him because he looks like an anime Peter Griffin.
Jessie’s another AVALANCHE member I feel for. Cloud finds her in her last moments, when she admits she’s getting what she deserves because her actions have taken a lot of lives. She does seem to take a lot of comfort in getting to talk to Cloud at the end of her life, as she’s opaquely in love with the spiky-haired soldier.
She doesn’t monologue breathlessly about what might have been, though. She carries her regrets with her into the other world with admirable dignity. Seeing Cloud simply gives her a little peace as she crosses over.
AVALANCHE. What a bunch of magnificent bastards.
*Sidenote: I’ll be trying very hard to get Cloud and Tifa to shack up in the Final Fantasy VII remake because I’m dying to see how Nomura plans to handle the interlude wherein Cloud throws it to Tifa underneath the Highwind while it’s docked near the Northern Crater.
[Screenshots courtesy of Well Rendered]