So now we get to the bit where we talk about Mordin Solus.
The New Genophage
In Mass Effect 2, Mordin reveals to you that your initial impression of the Krogan genophage in Mass Effect 1 was incorrect. (Or, if we’re not feeling generous, that it’s been retconned.) The Korgans were no longer dying out. Their numbers were increasing. Natural selection was helping the Krogan overcome the genophage. The effect was small at first, but left unchecked the Krogan would again become a problem once their numbers increased too far.
The Salarians worked on a secret project to create a new strain of the genophage that would correct this. They took great pains to make sure that the new genophage was strong enough, but also that they didn’t make it too strong. Krogan extinction was seen as undesirable an outcome as Krogan proliferation. Mordin was part of this team.
I see the events leading up to Mordin as being the outcome of 4 important decisions, each one more difficult and problematic than the last:
1) Open the mass relay leading to Rachni space. There wasn’t much reason to agonize over this. Nobody suspected danger on the other side. An easy decision with powerful consequences. The decision was basically: Explore vs. Don’t Explore.
2) Lift the Krogan into space to use against the Rachni. A slightly tricky decision. Certainly any space-faring race would be aware of the problems arising from introducing a species to a new environment, and the idea of giving space age armor and zap guns to a bunch of bloodthirsty badasses might have given a few people pause. But still, they didn’t know that things would turn out bad. So the choice was: Oblivion vs. Unknown Risk.
3) Infect the Krogan with the genophage. Here is where people being to get their hands dirty. Now the choice was: War vs. Atrocity.
4) Renew the genophage. Note that the Krogan hadn’t become a problem yet. (At least, no more of a problem than usual. Having millions of Krogan merc thugs bouncing around the galaxy probably wasn’t anyone’s idea of an optimal arrangement.) The Krogan hadn’t invaded anything. They hadn’t built up dangerous numbers yet. The Salarians simply assumed that the Krogan were inevitably going to be a problem, and so they decided to re-commit – or at least renew – their earlier atrocity. They probably saw it as holding the status quo, but it was really a new decision: Likely eventual war vs. Atrocity.
At the start of the game, Mordin is more or less satisfied with his involvement in the genophage project. He sees the need for it, decides it’s the best course of action, and does it.
Mordin’s Loyalty Mission
Mordin gets word that a Maelon, a former colleague, has been captured by a clan of Krogans and is being held on Tuchanka. So far the new genophage has been kept a secret, and Mordin is concerned about what will happen to Maelon in the hqands of the Krogan. He’s also worried that Maelon will end up telling the Krogan about the new genophage.
The Krogans have turned an old hospital into a fortress and are holding Maelon there.
Once you reach the hospital, you find many dead Krogan. They died as willing test subjects as part of a program to find a cure for the genophage. Many died in pain. It reveals that whoever is running this place has abandoned the rules of respectable science and is basically running a mad scientist lab with sapients as little more than guinea pigs. (There are non-Krogan test subjects here as well, which is fine from a story standpoint but the justification is terrible.) It also reveals just how far the Krogan are willing to go to find a cure. At one point he says of a dead Krogan female, “Her death not my work, only… reaction to it.”
Mordin enters this mission as a pragmatist, and has his beliefs challenged when he sees the cost of the genophage up close and can no longer think of them in abstract terms.
Here is how his loyalty mission plays out for Paragon Shepard: (With combat edited out.)
At the end it turns out that Maelon wasn’t kidnapped. He came here willingly in order to find a cure for the genophage. He’s young, angry, and idealistic. Like many such people, I think he’s prone to over-corrective thinking: He sees an injustice in the behavior of the establishment and tries to counter-balance it through radicalism. The rest of the world is slightly in favor of Coke, but if I embrace PEPSI EXTREMISM maybe I can even things out! Obviously not all radicals are formed this way, but it is a path that some young people take. Maelon’s radicalism wasn’t that he wanted to cure the genophage (although I’m sure that was an unconventional position) but that he was willing to go to such unethical extremes in pursuit of it.
In the end you get to make a couple of interesting decisions. You can kill Maelon or let him go. You can erase genophage cure or keep the data for later. The latter is something I wished the game had given us in the first game with regards to the Rachni queen: Spare her life, but not turn her loose. I’m very glad the game didn’t make us choose between “destroy cure” and “release cure”. It’s nice to be able to play cautious, humble Shepard who realizes he doesn’t have all the answers and shouldn’t go around making moral decisions for the rest of the galaxy.
It’s a solid, thought-provoking story that enriches both the character and the setting. It uses the established Mass Effect backstory as a launching point for an interesting discussion, but is subtle enough to let the player draw their own conclusions in the end.
But none of that is the reason Mordin is the best character in the game. This is:
Thanks for reading.
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