Really, of the four options Shepard can face when she finds the Catalyst, the only one that I can stomach is Control, and even that I have problems with:
1. It would make the Illusive Man "I told you so" and that prick does not get to told me shit after I blow up the Collector Base and run away with his ship.
2. I get that the Reapers are ultimately machines following through on a spectacularly backfiring plan instituted millions of years ago by a culture that was totally cool with mind control, but going "yoink" on their agency still kinda squicks me?
3. Have to LALALALALALALA to write post-ending fic in which Shepard is a live human person.*

The only way to win is not not to play: rejecting the Catalyst's three choices is straight up shooting the shaggy dog. Sure, Shepard-qua-Shepard doesn't have to immediately cease existing due to heroic sacrifice, but after everything Shep and allies have done and risked and lost to get to that point, to just turn around and let all spaceflight-capable life in the galaxy get wiped out again like "eh, let somebody else fix it (in 50,000 years), I'm too badass to take any of these choices"? Works for Renegade!Shep I guess, but to me that's OOC and double-depressing.

I see why Synthesis is supposed to be the "ideal solution" but my disbelief doesn't suspend that far--merging all organic and synthetic life into a "new DNA" makes less than no sense science-wise, even in the handwavy land of space opera. On top of that it's jarring, plot-wise, (and epistemologically kinda gross) because it spits on a lot of (what are IMHO) Mass Effect's most interesting themes and characters.

My favourite thing about the Mass Effect universe (as opposed to narrative, gameplay experience, etc.) is that the world-building tries to be meaningfully diverse. It's not perfect, obviously, in many ways and for many reasons (eg., no fat people anywhere [yet occasional fat jokes]; serious imbalance in gender representation for all species except humans, quarians, and technical exceptions**; queer representation present and increasingly prevalent from first game on but consistently biased towards non-heterosexuality for women/feminine-identifying entities more than for men/masculine [most obvious manifestation being that Female Shepard has female/feminine-presenting romance options in all three games but Male Shepard doesn't get male/masculine ones until #3]; specific RL axes of oppression like gender and race [as a social construction within rather than as a synonym for species] are mostly dealt with obliquely if at all); but the people behind the game clearly put some effort into making their non-human cultures distinct and holistically congruent. Seriously, my anthropology background wants to throw confetti all over them for their attention to historical particularism in linking physical and social, material and philosophical, ecological and political, etc. For the Synthesis ending to come along and smooth that all out, and for it to be explicitly described as the ideal and ultimate destiny of organic and synthetic life? Actually kinda hurts me. It smacks too much of "I don't see race, I see people", to me, implying that the way to deal with conflict and oppression is to pretend difference doesn't exist or, worse, to make it not exist (in a killy conquery way, not a healthy egalitarian way).

I'm ranting about diversity among organic cultures because I can't see how that would realistically survive a galactic metamorphosis whereby "organics gain perfection through integrating with technology and synthetics gain perfection through understanding organics" or whatever the creepy kid-Catalyst says. But even ignoring that to focus on erasing the division between organics and synthetics is gross, for much the same reason that I can't support the Destroy ending. Yes, if you've built up a strong enough military force, Shepard survives Destroy, whereas Control and Synthesis are guaranteed atomization. But with Destroy, even if Shepard's name doesn't go up on the memorial wall, EDI does. The Reapers all shut down, yes, but so do the geth--which might not matter if you sided with the quarians instead of making peace between them, but if you did (or if you sided with the geth and they destroyed the quarian fleet), what the fuck, why did you bother. Legion already died to disperse the upgrades, you're going exterminate all their newly fully sentient kind now anyway?

I don't want to destroy synthetic life to save organic--I'm here to stop genocide, not commit it! I love all the geth-and-quarian stuff in ME2 & 3--not the vague Israel-Palestininess of it all, that makes me uncomfortable, but the philosophical-anthropological sides of it--what life is and what it is worth, quarian culture and aesthetics and the ways these reflect living in the Migrant Fleet, geth culture (the very idea of the geth consensus!) and aesthetics and the ways these reflect pre-Fleet quarians and their own subsequent evolution in isolation. I love Legion and the way they completely overturn everything living organics thought they knew about geth (and I reject following the characters in calling them "it" or "he"; they are plural they/we when they are 1,183 geth protocols on one mobile platform and singular they/I when Creator Zorah acknowledges their soul). I love that they can't explain why they used a piece of Shepard Commander's smashed-up N7 armour to "repair" a hole that a) is still gaping and b) had already been there for months. I love the relationship Legion and Tali (can) have by the end of Legion's (and Tali's if you're playing wrong) road. And I love EDI and her reactions & contributions to all the other conversations about synthetic life that happen around the geth and the Reapers and I love her personality development and how it is fed but not singularly propelled by her relationship with Jeff, and I respect her saying that she'd risk non-functionality for him and the other organics on the Normandy (which remains her body even after she also occupies the Eva gynoid in ME3, thank you very much) but I'd rather not force her to follow through.

Destroy ending just blows a wet raspberry at all of that stuff--major themes and characters throughout the trilogy and in the last two games particularly--and dances off into a smashed-up sunset (also, lot of good it does Shepard to wake up gasping in a pile of rubble in London, let alone on the remains of the destroyed Citadel, when all her friends are either dead or wherever they end up after the mass relay system goes kerplooey). Synthesis kills nobody except for Shepard and pretty much everything I liked about the worldbuilding--there's room for some exploration of what it's like to live in a completely different (impossible) galactic ecology, but, like, then what? You're Borg. You're unflavoured gelatin. Where is there to go? Paragon!Control (with high military strength) does the least physical damage to the galaxy apart from Synthesis and immediately starts repairing that damage thanks to consciousness-that-used-to-be-Shepard-controlled Reapers, and no more AIs are killed in the making of this ending.

My own ideal ending (the one I am already writing as fixit fic) is that at least Javik and Liara make it to the Citadel after Shepard does. Javik gets Liara to drag Shepard to relative safety while he triggers the Catalyst, redirecting from Destroy to Control at the last moment because living with Shepard & co. has gradually changed his previously severe stance on synthetic life ("if a machine can talk, kill it"), and if he's giving the "primitives" who rule this cycle the chance at a future he might as well give it to them all. (Javik is the vengeance-bent last member of an otherwise very extinct species and depending on how Shepard's prior conversations with him went he might be planning to off himself after this battle anyway; he is the empirical best choice for heroic sacrificing.)




*I should maybe note that I'm assuming Paragon!Shep, here, and specifically Paragon!Shep who cured the genophage with Wrex leading the krogan because WHY WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE. I know it's possible to get the necessary military strength and even to accomplish most of the important-to-me plot events by bullying rather than charming/talking down/making deals etc., but I'm not comfortable playing that much of an unapologetic jerk. Also assuming throughout that everybody who can survive the suicide mission at the end of ME2 did because I played it so they would (except this time I didn't recruit Samara because I don't like her or Morinth).

**Salarians actually do have a really high male:female ratio for reasons of social adaptation to biological fact (external-fertilizing amphibians who regulate population size, basically assigning a minority of eggs to hatch female and the majority male by controlling how many eggs get fertilized--and they don't have sexual or romantic feelings like other species and reproduction is arranged by negotiation between matriarchal dynasties so there's no competition or possessiveness wrt mates), and salarian women mostly stay close to home and govern while men go off and do science and business and espionage and so forth.
Asari only have/recognize one gender (they all read and as far as I can tell all identify as women and their reproduction is sort of a weird version of parthenogenesis that involves mothers using genetic material from a partner of any species, gender irrelevant, to scramble parts of their own).
Geth should have no concept of gender because they're software--(an) AI that get(s) smarter the more programs are networked together. The bipedal bodies organics call geth are just hardware platforms on which varying numbers of geth programs can run, so physiological characteristics are pretty much arbitrary. Individual identity ascribed on basis of physiology isn't meaningful here (this might change based on player's actions but I don't believe that individual awareness will cause some of them to suddenly sprout Ms. Pac-man eyelashes).
At the time the games take place, krogan women and kids live apart from adult males and rarely leave the homeworld or interact with aliens (this will hopefully change over the next few generations, depending on player's actions), so there's an in-game excuse for why we don't meet a live krogan woman until ME3 (she is fantastic btw).
Visibly & vocally distinct turian women only show up in the Citadel and Omega ME3 downloadable content, but given that there doesn't seem to be any cultural reason for turian women not to actively interact with other species (we know from dialogue that young adult women do the same mandatory military service as young adult men, for example) I have to pretend/assume that a lot of the turians we encounter or see in the background actually are women and would read that way if the gamemakers hadn't lazed out of designing/implementing a female morph sooner.
Batarians have the excuse of a rigidly stratified and patriarchal culture to argue that their women don't get out much, but my personal headcanon (thanks in part to the fic I linked to in my last ramble) is that they're not sexually dimorphic to the human eye or ear.
Hanar are wobbly pink invertebrates that I think ought to work something like one of the above categories.
As for elcor, volus, vorcha, and yahg? We don't talk to enough of them and the codex entries don't have enough info on biology or culture to say anything about sex or gender, so who the hell knows (I headcanon vorcha as hyena-ish but have no idea what anybody else thinks).



These come from different points during the Priority: Tuchanka mission sequence.
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