When the topic of “Greatest Villains of All-Time” comes up there is only one person that pops into my head: Handsome Jack. So who is this man that I hold in such high regards? Only the main antagonist of what I consider to be one of my favorite games of all times: Borderlands 2.
Jack is the kind of villain that doesn’t see himself as one. His goals are for the betterment of Pandora (the planet the games take place on). Ultimately, his goal is peace, and the elimination of the Bandits that run rampant in the wilds of Pandora, creating trouble and violence for the people who live there. But that isn’t where his story starts. Jack was just a lowly programmer for Hyperion (a mega corporation that makes guns and robots). During a corporate attack between Hyperion and Dahl on a Hyperion space station named Helios, Jack is disgraced and ultimately loses the station, fleeing to the Pandoran moon Elpis. Throughout this adventure, Jack comes face to face with the corruption on Pandora, and the cut throat nature that the inhabitants have adopted. Finally, the turning point for Jack, a betrayal by the people that he trusted. This marked a shift in the psyche of the man known as Jack, and the dawn of the new man and tyrant of Pandora: Handsome Jack
The most endearing quality of Jack is that he, for the most part, isn’t too serious. He is sarcastic and jokes, making fun of the player character throughout the whole game of Borderlands 2. But jokes only get you so far in my book. What makes Jack so great is that what he is doing is objectively right, but he is going about it in a ruthless and evil way. Pandora is a lawless wasteland, and one that needs to be unified and protected. Jack just sees it as irredeemable, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people means nothing to him as long as he achieves his ultimate goal.
Jack’s character is further elaborated on during side quests in the Borderlands games. One of the biggest sticking points for me in the second game was how Jack treats his daughter, Angel. He uses her as a tool, a weapon, to further his goals. But throughout the rest of the Borderlands games you slowly begin to learn more and more about what he was doing and why. In one sidequest you hear memories of the altercation in which Jack lost his wife at the hands of Angel. Angel is what is known as a Siren, an immensely powerful being, only seven of which can ever exist in the universe at a given time. This is discovered when Angel awakens to her power (the ability to control machines and electronics) when a defense turret is activated unknowingly, killing her mother. Jack is terrified of her new power, and tries to contain it, so that she doesnt hurt anyone else. As his mental state degrades, he starts to view Angel as the catalyst for his goals; A necessary sacrifice so that he may change the world, and save it. Now I want to clarify, I don’t like what he has done, but I understand.
The self proclaimed “Savior of Pandora” does everything for the betterment of society. The only problem is that in his quest, he has become deluded by his own goals, causing him to stray from the path of the righteous, and into the path of the villainous. It doesn’t matter that the main force of “good” in the game is trying their best to fight for freedom, he views them as lawless bandits that do whatever they want to further their own goals. The issue here is that both of these viewpoints are valid. Yes, the Crimson Raiders want freedom for the people of Pandora, but they achieve it through methods of violence and resistance, something that Jack sees as defiant and ruthless. However, on the flip side, Jack accomplishes the same thing through similar methods. There is alot of “grey area” in Jack’s morality, and for me, that’s what makes him so intriguing.
Jack is a charismatic and sympathetic villain, that much is undeniable. His psychopathic tendencies are rooted in understandable rationalities. This is what makes him so compelling. He isn’t evil for the sake of being evil. He truly believes what he is doing is right, and that he will save all of Pandora. Even at the end, he truly does believe he’s the hero. I’ll leave you with these quotes by Handsome Jack from the Tales From the Borderlands game:
“Take a good look around you… this is what success looks like. You’ll see… after a while you start to measure it by the size of the pile of destruction around you. You’ve gotta break it down to build it back up. This is your first step in that. It’s the only way, you’ll see. And there’s so much to break down, before you can build again.”
“Everyone thinks they’re the hero of their own story.”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the ones you love litter the roadside…“