RAKKAHOLIC
about Mordecai from Borderlands

3. Plot and personality

⚠ WARNING! SPOILER ZONE AHEAD!
Spoilers abound for both Borderlands and Borderlands 2!

Mordecai as a kid

Mordecai is first encountered at the very beginning of Borderlands: he appears in the opening sequence as the first character to be formally introduced, complete with his own cool little cutscene. During the narration of the legend of the Vault, we even get to see him as a child playing on a tree (and already honing his sharpshooting skills, the precocious little rascal).

Mordecai's interest in the Vault is merely selfish; all he wants is the money and alien weaponry that are said to be contained in it. After all his traveling, he thinks he's finally found a way to get everything he wanted out of life. Guided by Angel, a mysterious voice who speaks to them through the ECHOnet, he puts aside his loner tendencies to team up with the other Vault Hunters - Lilith, Roland and Brick - to travel through Pandora and gather the pieces of the Vault Key.

Sure I'll join ya, just leave the big game to me.

Mordecai, upon joining (Borderlands)

As for what concerns his playing style, Mordecai covers a rare role for a game character: he's suited for both long range sniping and melee combat. He can either pop bandits' heads like zits and they will never know what hit them, or he can get into the brawl and show off his cool knife moves. He's very confident of his skills, and he has every right to. You can understand that would give him quite the ego. As much as he'd like to believe otherwise, though, he's actually extremely dependent on his teammates: Mordecai is the very definition of a glass cannon, and he's usually down in a couple of hits. That's actually pretty understandable: look at him, does he look like someone who can take a punch? NOOOO!! I NEVER DIE! he always screams; truth is, the only reason why he never dies is that the other Vault Hunters are there to pick him up. That doesn't stop his childish egocentrism from being such, though.

During their adventure, the Vault Hunters face many hazards, and most importantly the opposition of Commandant Steele, leader of the private military force of weapon manufacturer Atlas Corporation: the Crimson Lance. Wanting whatever alien technology might be hiding in there, she claims the contents of the Vault belong to Atlas. When the four main characters finally reach the Vault, Steele is there to take the key and see for herself what's inside. Well, surprise! Turns out all the Vault contains is a horrible monstrosity known as the Destroyer, an alien creature sealed away eons ago by the ancient Eridian civilization of Pandora. They wanted to prevent it from eating the whole universe...and Commandant Steele makes a nice breakfast. In spite of everything, the four Vault Hunters manage to defeat this monster. All that's left of the legend of the Vault is a useless key and a dead tentacle monster. At last, the Vault Hunters leave the key in the custody of archaeologist Patricia Tannis for further research.

Moxxi's Underdome

There's still some treasure seeking to do, though; the Vault Hunters keep travelling together and bounty hunting some more. These are the events depicted in the four DLCs of the first Borderlands. The notable one as for what concerns Mordecai is his participation in the Underdome, a life-and-death tournament hosted by a sexy lady known as Mad Moxxi. Mordecai is crowned the winner of the tournament, and awarded with all the riches and weapons he ever dreamed of. However, he refuses all this wealth: all he wants is Moxxi's love. She ends up giving him a chance, maybe even out of pity; however, Mordecai soon learns that princesses whose hands are to win are but a construct, and that there are things he just can't get, no matter how much he tries. Their failed relationship will be explored in more detail in the next page.

One question remains: was the Destroyer the only thing contained in the Vault? As it turns out, the opening of the Vault triggered the appearance on planet Pandora of a rare ore, a mineral that can be used as an energy source and that seems to have some connection to Lilith's Siren powers: the Eridium. As their adventures continue, the Vault Hunters notice an increasing presence of another weapon corporation on the planet: Hyperion, led by a man known as Handsome Jack. He sees himself as a hero with the mission to cleanse the planet from bandits and other scum; eventually, he proclaims himself dictator of Pandora and takes all credit for the opening of the Vault.

Crimson Raiders poster

So, Roland decides to found the Crimson Raiders as a resistance group with the other three Vault Hunters as founding members and a base in New Haven. Following his temperament, Mordecai sits on the sidelines of the organization, helping out by keeping his eyes open and delivering information to Roland.

It was a matter of time before Hyperion attacked New Haven. The Vault Hunters put up a fight, and lose; the mayor, Helena Pierce, is murdered. It also turns out that Handsome Jack has tortured Patricia Tannis and stolen the Vault key from her. There are actually multiple Vaults on Pandora, and he plans on charging the key with Eridium to open another Vault containing an ancient Eridian weapon: a monster known as the Warrior, which will become his tool to clear out all human civilization from Pandora.

The Crimson Raiders move their base to Sanctuary, and try to start over. Five years have passed from their arrival on the planet. The plot of Borderlands 2 starts with a new team of Vault Hunters - Zer0, Maya, Axton and Salvador - being left for dead by Handsome Jack in the Arctic Wasteland. They survive, and another story starts; they are contacted by the Angel just like the first team. Handsome Jack needs to die, she says. And they follow her.

This is Handsome Jack, reminding you that we at Hyperion are still offering bounties for Pandora’s most wanted. [...] We’re also still offering six billion dollars for the capture of the ex-Underdome star known as Mordecai, as well as a smaller reward for the capture of his bird, Bloodwing -- oh, sorry. I read that backwards. It’s six billion for the bird, twenty bucks for the has-been. My mistake.

Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2)

The new Vault Hunters meet Mordecai for the first time in the Tundra Express, where he has been camping. They are sent by Roland to meet up with him, as there is a chance that the Vault key is travelling on a train in that area, and if someone knows more about it, that's Mordecai.

Mordecai's Borderlands 2 intro

Allow me to say, he seems to have aged a lot from Borderlands. He's even starting to go grey! I suppose that's what a few years of extreme stress and overdrinking will do to you, huh. Speaking of which, as soon as he appears it becomes evident that he's also completely shitfaced. However, as he himself says, I'm an even better shot when I'm drunk!. That's actually true. He provides help to the Vault Hunters by sniping perched on the very top of a tower, and patting himself on the back as he does so. He's so good, he's actually kind of annoying - he kills things before you can even get to them, and then compliments himself for the kill. Oh, Mordecai.

Anyway, it turns out that the Vault key wasn't on that train; that doesn't seem to poke a hole in his ego, though, and he's barely ashamed of the whole fuckup. Ah well.

After a while, the Vault Hunters team is contacted again by a very worried Mordecai, who is now in a base in the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve:

Hey, I heard about Sanctuary -- you alright? Sorry I missed the action -- I saw some Hyperion movement out in Tundra Express, so Bloodwing and I checked it out. Didn’t realize we were walking into a trap. Bloodwing gave me time to get away, but...the bastards grabbed her. Brought her here.

Mordecai (Borderlands 2)

Bad news. Angel said that the Vault key is with her and is trying to help the Vault Hunters reach her, but they need an upgrade for Claptrap...that happens to be in a chip on Bloodwing's collar, along with a lot of other important data. So here starts the quest for Bloodwing, with Mordecai watching over through the ECHOnet. As it turns out, the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve is a facility built by Handsome Jack for studying the effects of slag, a by-product of Eridium ore...but not for the sake of science. He's doing live experiments on the animals of Pandora to create better and stronger weapons, and Bloodwing is one of the creatures that will be used for experimentation.

Jack makes me laugh -- he kidnapped Bloodwing so I’d start pissin’ my pants and makin’ threats that if anything happens to my bird, I’ll blah blah blah, but -- Blood and I have been through a lot. I know my girl can handle herself.

Mordecai (Borderlands 2)

Mordecai himself makes it sound as if it's no big deal and he has a neatly laid out plan on the wall of the cave he's currently camping in, but the nervousness in his voice and his continuous calls betray the fact that he's quite afraid.

By when the Vault Hunters finally reach Bloodwing, it's way too late. Slag experimentation has mutated her into some sort of horrifying monster, and Handsome Jack is commanding her to attack the Vault Hunters.

Slagged Bloodwing

Oh my God... Goddammit! Just--just weaken her and I’ll hit her with a tranq! [...] Bloodwing, down! Heel! Never thought I'd say this, but stop fighting! [...] This is gonna be fine -- just gotta tranq Bloodwing, get her back to Sanctuary, and, I dunno, maybe Zed can patch her up!

Mordecai (Borderlands 2)

After a long fight against Bloodwing, who has been mutated to wield elemental powers, Mordecai does manage to hit her with a tranquilizer. All that's left to do is gather the chip and bring her back to Sanctuary. It's then that Handsome Jack triumphantly announces her last power - explosion. It's over. All that's left of Bloodwing is her collar.

If you are reading this, you've probably played this part, and I think you will agree with me when I say that this is one of the most heartrending scenes in any game, ever. Mordecai truly believed that he could have saved her, and just when he thought the worst had passed, Bloodwing is murdered right under his eyes. He's left screaming and crying and unable to do anything; he can't even process what just happened. He has dealt with all sorts of misfortunes, yet this is the first time he's truly lost everything.

I watched Mordecai a lot. You know, he may be a drunken loser, but he never kept Bloodwing in a cage. Never even raised his voice at her. Funny thing -- you wanna destroy a man, you don't need to kill him. You just need to kill what he loves.

Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2)

Mordecai goes from disbelief to murderous rage, and as the Vault Hunters start to travel back to the entrance of the Wildlife Exploitation Preserve, he's heard incoherently shouting and shrieking and setting on fire everything he can aim at. He leaves the Preserve and goes back to Sanctuary; he has never needed the help of his friends more than now. He has two more requests for the Vault Hunters: to avenge Bloodwing's death by setting free other captive creatures in the Preserve and letting them rip the Hyperion staff apart, and to get him some strong Rakk Ale so he can cope with his emotional pain by getting wasted.

As the Vault Hunters retrieve the alcohol for him, they get contacted by Moxxi, who doesn't want Mordecai to deal with that through drinking. Going through grief caused by the murder of your best friend is totally the best time for your ex-girlfriend to pop up and start an argument, no? It doesn't stop here, though; guess what she's offering as a reward? Rubi, the revolver that Moxxi lost and Mordecai retrieved for her back when they were dating! It might be that all Moxxi wants is for Mordecai not to drink himself into a coma, but that's just adding insult to injury; Mordecai is reasonably upset over this turn of events, and the two end up having a nasty argument over the ECHOnet. Regardless of who gets the alcohol, Mordecai is pretty sad by the end of this mission. No wonder.

For a while, Mordecai is left to his own devices. He can be found in Sanctuary, but he's mostly silent or drinking. He keeps providing support through the ECHOnet during missions, although he sounds quieter and less boisterous than before. He clearly hasn't gotten over Bloodwing's death. It might even be that he blames himself for not doing enough to protect her. He understandably doesn't speak a lot about it, though.

Hey. I wanted to tell you -- don't feel bad about Bloodwing. You did everything you could. None of it was...none of that was your fault.

Mordecai (Borderlands 2)

The next plot twist draws near. The Vault Hunters are finally ready to meet up with Angel, and find out a new fragment of the truth. It turns out that Angel is not only a Siren, but also Handsome Jack's daughter, and that he's been using her since the very beginning of the events of Borderlands to get the first team of Vault Hunters to open the Vault because of the Eridium contained in it. He used the substance to charge up the key through Angel's powers; however, the more Sirens are exposed to Eridium, the more they get addicted to it. When the Vault Hunters meet Angel, she's completely dependent on it. The only way to stop Handsome Jack from charging the key is to cut off her Eridium supply, which will also cause her to die - a consequence she has come to terms with. The Vault Hunters grant her wish.

After this, Jack himself shows up. Furious over what he considers the murder of his daughter, he kills Roland and kidnaps Lilith, forcing her to charge the key instead of Angel. Mordecai has been watching the events unfold from Sanctuary, and as this happens he calls back the Vault Hunters to the base to plan the final attack to Handsome Jack. Only him and Brick are now left at the Crimson Raiders hideout. Mordecai is furious over the death of Roland, and through his rage, he seems to have found new resolve; he's done despairing. It's time for action. Handsome Jack needs to die, now.

After Roland...after Bloodwing...I'll do whatever it takes to burn Hyperion to the ground. Even if it costs me my life. It's what Roland woulda done. [...] I used to sit on the sidelines of the resistance. Deliver intel, get paid. No more. It's all or nothing now.

Mordecai (Borderlands 2)

Even though he admits that neither Brick nor him are fit for the role of leader of the Crimson Raiders and he says that the new Vault Hunters should take the reins, he does orchestrate the whole attack on Hyperion. When Mordecai is really mad, he uses his brain. However, as he said, this time he's not going to just sit in Sanctuary while everything happens. He's taking part in the attack and putting his life on the line if necessary.

Mordecai's ending

When the Vault Hunters learn that the Vault is located in Hero's Pass and that Handsome Jack is going to open it, Mordecai and Brick are on the front lines, opening the path for the new Vault Hunters. During the attack, Mordecai and Brick get hit and appear to fall into the fiery lava below. Is this game just going to kill everybody off?! Well, many died, but they survived; after the final battle resulting in the Warrior's defeat and Jack's death, they show up - stumbling and hurt, but alive. This battle is won, but is the war over? It seems like there are many more Vaults in the universe. Looks like there's still much, much more adventuring to do, but for now, that will be it. Who knows what the future will have in store for Mordecai.

As the credits roll, there is a very "circle of life" moment - Mordecai holding a hatchling of what seems to be a creature of the same species as Bloodwing, perhaps the child of Bloodwing herself.