What’s going on with the final final ending of BoI?
In the absolute final ending, Isaac defeats XXX, and we see a series of Polaroid photos. Some of these photos are inane, some revealing, and some simply intriguing and obtuse.
Let’s have a look at them, shall we?
#1: Isaac with his mother, and what appears to be his father. A small man with a white undershirt and sweat pants, with thin hair and a mustache. Isaac looks up happily at his mother, who smiles down benevolently at him, while Isaac’s father grins with what seems like fatherly pride. This is one of the simple ones: Isaac’s family, complete and happy.
#2: This photo adds a great amount of evidence to the “alternate characters are Isaac in costume” theory many fans have presented. At no point in any other part of the slideshow do we see any reference to siblings of Isaac (though they might be in that basement somewhere), so the little girl dressed to look just like Mommy could very well be Isaac in his Magdalene form. This makes Magdalene seem a much more important character; the version of Isaac that loves his mother and her God more than anything. No other alternate of Isaac appears in the polaroids, meaning that Magdalene existed for Isaac before things got bad. Or perhaps Magdalene is the manifestation of Isaac wanting to return to this simpler, happy time, when he could walk with, and pretend to be, his mother.
#3: Things start to get darker, and more suggestive. Isaac is turned away, in what looks like shame and rejection, from a dark devil-like shadow in the corner of a room. The seed of some evil in Isaac? The shadow looks much like him, and recalls the scenarios of the previous 2 endings (Isaac flipping to various forms of himself, ending with a dark shadow form, and Isaac seeing himself as a devil in the mirror).
#4: Isaac’s mother and father, holding hands, looking very much in love. Their relationship, we can presume, was not one based solely around Isaac: they had very true feelings for one-another. Note that in #1, Isaac is looking up at his mother; in #2, Isaac is dressed LIKE his mother. Isaac’s father seems merely secondary at all times to his own son. Could it be, perhaps, that the shadow in #3 is some Oedipean jealousy Isaac feels? The picture in #4 establishes that Isaac’s mother loved her husband and did not live merely for her son, so perhaps Isaac felt (unjustly) that his father was stealing his beloved mother?
#5: Isaac standing alone, looking sad. Shores up the speculation of #4; Isaac is alone, apart from his mother and father, and is not happy about it. Isaac is only happy when he is with his family, and most particularly, his mother.
#6: Isaac, crying in front of a chest, naked. The theme of the chest is always prevalent in BoI: chests contain good things for Isaac. Chests also hide things away. Isaac goes into a chest in one ending: he always finds a chest with something valuable (or terrifying) inside in previous endings. The final boss of the game is a dead baby inside a chest. Chests can contain terrible secrets, as well as hidden treasures. What secret is contained in this chest?
#7: Isaac’s mother, holding a knife aloft in rage. Considering #6’s relative similarity to the typical gameplay of BoI, and #7’s connection to the main plot line of BoI (Isaac’s mother coming to kill him with a knife), these two seem to be simply references to the main game. But consider:
-Pictures 1-5 all seem to tell some semi-linear story. If 6 and 7 retell the story the player just went through, then what place can there be for #8, which would also be BEFORE the main plotline (introduced in the opening cut scene)? It would be very poor storytelling to interrupt a prologue with en medius res, and then just as abruptly return to the prologue.
-Isaac’s mother is holding the knife with clear anger in her eyes, not the vacant and insane expression she has when she tries to kill Isaac in the opening cutscene and in the game’s first ending. Her expression is purposeful and hateful…she is attacking someone for a perceptible reason. But what reason? Who is being attacked?
#8: Isaac and his mother, watching a figure (appears to be his father) leaving the family. Isaac’s hand is on his mother’s back. The hand on the back is a human gesture for two things: comfort, and possession. Considering the jealousy exhibited in the previous photographs, perhaps Isaac’s father leaving was something Isaac WANTED, because now Isaac would get his mother all to himself.
And, once all the photos are gone, watch carefully…it shows up for just an instant, faintly:
“Get in the box!”
From these observations, a few theories can perhaps be strung together:
1) Isaac’s inner evil spawned first from his love for his mother, a love that went beyond conventional and into fetish (dressing like her).
2) Isaac, in his jealousy, did something bad. Isaac did something to make his father go away, leaving his mother behind. What could get a loving couple to split so dramatically? Perhaps a well-told lie. Isaac may have fabricated that he was stripped naked and stuffed into a chest to die. His mother would have found him sobbing in front of his “prison”, and when asked what happened, Isaac might have said something like this: “he told me to get in the box.”
3) Now the anger in #7 has a clear focus. In an effort to protect his son from a perceived mad-man, Isaac’s mother attacked her husband, likely cursing and shouting. Isaac’s mother is, of course, a woman of the Lord: she would not kill him as long as she was still sane. But she might threaten him, might tell him to get out of the house and leave her son alone…
4) And so, he does. Isaac’s father appears meek and weak in the photos, and as a weak man, he walked away, with just the shirt on his back, completely driven from their home. So Isaac got exactly what he wanted: his mother’s love, all for him, shared with no one.
Assuming the above statements are true, then the evil within Isaac his mother hears about from “God” would be the terrible sin Isaac committed to drive his father away. The theory also helps to provide reasons for some of the personas of Isaac.
Judas: Judas is known as the betrayer of Christ. Judas is also the simplest character to unlock, requiring that one simply beat the full game. Thus, closest to Isaac’s heart next to Magdalene (referenced before the events in the game took place), is Judas the traitor and scoundrel, who sold out his lord for a few silver pennies. Perhaps Judas is Isaac’s way of accepting his sin, and living as a traitor while relishing it (Judas’ unlock portrait is quite siniter). After all, Judas and Isaac both got what they wanted for their betrayals: Judas got his silver, Isaac his mother. Yet, when Judas realized the true scope of what he had done, it is said that he hung himself in shame. It so happens that the item the players unlock directly after Judas is Transcendance, the noose, with which Isaac hangs himself. If Isaac did lie to his mother to get his father removed from their family, then Isaac directly follows in Judas footsteps, up to and including suicide as payment for sin.
XXX: the blue baby, fought as the final boss. The fight is nearly identical to the fight with Isaac in the Cathedral. Two plot-relevant bosses, who fight with the same style, and look similar, likely have a connection, the most likely one being what many fans already suspect: that XXX is the “corpse” version of Isaac himself. Most interestingly, this corpse is fought in The Chest, the same chest that Isaac may have cried crocodile tears in front of when he condemned his father. XXX could be the fate that Isaac would have suffered had his lie been true, and perhaps, is the fate that Isaac now feels he SHOULD suffer (he has, after all, killed his beloved mother, his whole reason for causing all this trouble). The item “fate” is also XXX’s head, and in one of the endings, Isaac actually DOES lock himself in the chest. It would be a sad, but poetic, end to the game if Isaac killed his broken mother, then locked himself away, the way he claimed that he was in the first place.
Cain: In the book of Genesis, Cain was the first child of mankind, and was also the first murderer and exile. Cain committed his sin because of jealousy for his brother, whom God loved best and favored. Isaac committed HIS sin because of jealousy for his father, whom his mother loved best (at least from Isaac’s perspective). Because Cain committed his sin, and was judged, he was condemned to wander the Earth, but protected with “the mark of Cain”, so that no one would slay him in retaliation for the crime he committed. In BoI, “Cain” is the fastest character (murderers and exiles are always on the run), and he is missing an eye, a very easily-seen “mark”. “Cain” also starts with the “luck foot”, which ensures that random events will not harm him. Cain is perhaps Isaac’s identity as a criminal and sinner, doomed to wander without hope of redemption.
Eve: Eve was the first woman, born of Adam’s rib, and was the first human to sin. She was tempted by the serpent to take the fruit of the tree of wisdom, which she had craved. Isaac was also tempted to take a forbidden fruit: his mother’s love and full attention, without his father getting in the way. Before Isaac’s sin, his family lived happily and innocently, pure and WITHOUT sin. Thus, Isaac’s sin is the “first” sin, and his identity as the originator of the pain and suffering of his family (and the mental breakdown of his mother) is personified in the character Eve.
Magdalene: Much of Magdalene’s significance is already described above, but a few more interesting connections reveal themselves when she is considered. Magdalene was a whore who loved and followed Jesus; some even speculate that her and Jesus consorted together and had children. Isaac loved his mother, enough even to “follow” her by dressing up as her and walking about with her. Whores sell their own bodies, and it happens that Magdalene in BoI is the most ready and capable to sell herself to the Devil for power. Isaac sold his soul for his mother’s love, and the definition of a whore is someone who sells themselves. And even if a whore wants to receive salvation and redemption, the ease with which they can slip back into sin is never gone (again referring to how easily Magdalene can use Devil Rooms, devil beggars, sacrifice and curse rooms).
Samson: Samson was a judge of the Hebrew people, who possessed superhuman strength given to him from God in exchange for his upholding the ancient “Nazarite Vow”: that he would never touch a corpse, consume anything that grew on the vine, or cut his hair. In the end, Samson dies when, blinded and humiliated by his Philistine captives after inadvertently breaking his vow, he pulls down the pillars of a heathen temple, killing himself and hundreds of Philistines with him in an act of martyrdom. Samson sinned when his hair was shorn, and he only redeemed himself through his martyrdom. Isaac also sinned, and his redemption comes only from a similar act of martyrdom: killing himself, along with legions of other monsters and sins in the process. Samson is Isaac fueled by his last purpose: to atone for his crimes in blood, the ancient manner in which all murders and betrayals were paid for. His unlocked items all relate to blood: bloody lust, being Samson’s drive to kill until he is cleansed; blood rites, magic by which blood is given up for power and purity; and the bloody penny, a reference to the ancient practice of “blood money” (paying a family for the murder of a family member to end a feud without any more killing.)
So what happens after Isaac defeats XXX?
Presumably, considering the previous endings to the game, Isaac locks himself away in the chest. His mother is dead, killed by his own hand to defend himself; his mother went insane because of Isaac’s sin; his father is long gone, a condemned shell of a man. Isaac has nothing left but his precious chest, that bought him his happiness and ultimately tore his life apart. He accepts his fate, and most likely, if anyone came to that house on the hill, they would find a dead woman lying in front of a chest…and the mummified body of a little boy inside.