Earlier in the series I mentioned that Trevor bullies his way into an apartment while pulling off the failed Merryweather heist. Let’s circle back and talk about that apartment and the people who live there.
Trevor needs a place to stay in Los Santos while he’s looking for Michael and running this heist. So he “befriends” Floyd, a simple redneck who works on the docks. Floyd has, by some miracle, landed an affluent girlfriend who lives on Vespucci BeachBased on Venice Beach, which is a REALLY nice neighborhood. LA itself is already a really expensive place to live, so you can imagine how expensive its beachfront property must be.. Debra is on a business trip during most of the story, but Trevor forces his way in and begins living with Floyd and Floyd’s cousin Wade.
We can learn a lot about who Debra is just by looking around her condo. She’s evidently quiet, tasteful, and reserved. She’s got little motivational messages up on her bulletin board and the whole place has a very soft, effeminate vibe. On her bed is Mr. Raspberry Jam, a teddy bear that evidently means something to her. It’s obvious that this place belongs to Debra, and Floyd is just lucky enough to be living with her. The dialog establishes that she and Floyd both abstain from profanity. (And to them, even the word “crap” is profanity.)
As the story progresses, Trevor’s antics take their toll on the place. Every time you visit, the condo looks a little worse. Items are broken. Televisions get smashed. Booze bottles all around. The couch gets covered in sewage due to a misadventure that would take too long to explain. Doors are bashed in. Pornographic magazines and sex toys end up strewn around the bedroom. Mr. Raspberry Jam is made a part of this debauchery to the point where I don’t think Debra would ever want him back, even if he were laundered and mended. Trevor writes on the walls. The carpet is ankle-deep in trash. It’s a madhouse.
This is some pretty good dark comedy. It reminds me of the hotel trashing scenes in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The debauchery and insanity are so extreme you begin wondering what happens when the devastation is uncovered. What happens when the hotel sees what’s been done to the room? What sort of madness brought us here, and how much worse can it get? Half the joke is trying to imagine the answers to these questions.
This is also some good characterization for Trevor. It shows that he’s this force of chaos. His disgusting trailer back in Sandy Shores wasn’t an anomaly. This is just how Trevor lives, and everything around him is torn apart by his madness. No matter how rich or or successful Trevor becomes, he’ll always be doomed to live in squalor, because if he gets his hands on anything nice he’ll just destroy it. It’s just who he is. And maybe deep down he doesn’t feel like he deserves nice things.
First, let me show how I would end the joke:
We leave the actual aftermath the the audience’s imagination, because it’s funnier that way.
Instead the writer has Trevor return to the apartment after Debra has come home and cleaned it. That’s… weird. The escalating damage was funny, and it seemed like the kind of thing that would take weeks to sort out. Having the whole place restored to its pre-Trevor state is like taking a line of standing dominoes and putting them back in the box instead of pushing the first one down. It’s not wrong, but it does feel like a disappointing waste of potential.
Trevor gets into a three-way argument with Floyd and Debra. Finally she gets fed up, goes into the kitchen, and gets…
A Gun? Really?
This story hasn’t told us much about Debra, but the few things it has told us have been very clear. Some people own guns. Some people would never, ever own a gun. Debra is very much the latter sort of person. But even if she did own a gun, she would own some dainty little novelty pistol and not this menacing thing. But if she did own a serious full-sized handgun, she would have it inside a safe with ten locks on it and the bullets in a different safe. But even if she did keep a loaded gun, she wouldn’t keep it in the kitchen. But even if she did keep a gun in the kitchen, she wouldn’t keep it in the silverware drawer because that’s just weird. But even if she was the sort to keep a loaded weapon on hand in the kitchen, she wouldn’t aggressively point it at people. Instead, she would nervously – perhaps even apologetically – brandish it. But even if she was going to point it at someone, she wouldn’t point it at Floyd, because that makes no sense. And even if she was going to point a gun at Floyd, he’s too meek to threaten her back. And even he was strong enough to threaten her, he certainly wouldn’t do so with a knife.
None of this works. It’s certainly a “crazy” situation, but it’s not true to what came before. The writer wanted this to end in a wild standoff, so they just made that happen without regard for the world or the characters they’ve built.
You could argue that the writer is trying to make the point that these two seemingly-nice people were actually just deeply repressed and just one bad day away from becoming killers. Or maybe that Trevor ruins people just like he ruins apartments. That’s a fine premise for a story, but nothing before this point has built up to that. There’s been a ton of dialog between Trevor and Floyd, and none of it suggested that Floyd was struggling to keep a lid on some dark inner self. If anything, Trevor’s total destruction of Floyd’s life was solid proof that Floyd was exactly the spineless milquetoast simpleton he seemed to be. If there was more to him, then surely Trevor’s antics would have brought that out.
It feels like the writer spent all these scenes setting up the “What happens when Debra comes home?” situation for a big payoff, and then in the final scene they’re trying to pay off a totally different idea that was never set up.
Sure, this world is filled with cartoon characters and if the writer wants to claim that Debra keeps a loaded gun on top of her teaspoons then FINE. I’m not saying it’s an impossible turn of events in a world as crazy as this one. I’m saying it doesn’t flow naturally based on what we already know. This is a non-sequitur and so it doesn’t work as a conclusion or payoff to what came before. This is a punchline for a different joke.
This scene is just one example of many. It would be tedious if I cataloged each and every one of them, so I offer this as an example of the widespread problems with the script. It’s not that these scenes are intolerable, or stupid, or full of plot holes, or any of the usual problems I’m usually on about. It’s just that the jokes don’t work and so it feels like we’re burning all this screen time for nothing.
Anyway, we end up in this three-way standoff between Trevor, Debra, and Floyd. Then we do a time-cut and Trevor emerges from the apartment, unharmed, covered in blood. You can decide for yourself if that works as a punchline or if it has anything to say about the characters. To me it felt like the writer didn’t know how to finish the story so they just killed everyone and moved on.
Despite all the attempts to imitate Hollywood, these games still struggle when it comes to establishing themes, maintaining characters, telling jokes, and creating tension. These problems have always been there, but as the games have become more extravagant with regard to visuals and more heavy-handed with their social commentary these shortcomings have become more obvious.
 Based on Venice Beach, which is a REALLY nice neighborhood. LA itself is already a really expensive place to live, so you can imagine how expensive its beachfront property must be.
Quakecon 2011 Keynote Annotated
An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.
A screencap comic that poked fun at videogames and the industry. The comic has ended, but there's plenty of archives for you to binge on.
A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.
Trashing the Heap
What does it mean when a program crashes, and why does it happen?
C++ is a wonderful language for making horrible code.