“The boring biotic.” That’s what I used to call Jacob Taylor when I was 16 and impressionable. Anything alliterated is true, except for almost every combination of alliterative words in existence. I could say the brutal biotic, the bromidic biotic, the banal biotic. I won’t, though, because Mass Effect 2’s Jacob Taylor is the brilliant biotic – I was just too stubborn to admit it as an angsty, “why doesn’t he hate the universe?” teen.
Jacob doesn’t indulge in the same kind of pessimism or nihilism as a lot of the other squadmates in Mass Effect. He has a concrete system of beliefs and the conviction to act on them. His views aren’t necessarily comparable to other companions – Thane’s religious justification for killing is different, while Grunt’s innate propensity for violence isn’t even close. Jacob holds secular, developed, and well considered perspectives, although he’s not one-note or tunnel-visioned when it comes to being challenged.
When you first meet Jacob in Mass Effect 2, he’s cracking mech skulls in a Cerberus facility that’s about to blow. Despite being shocked to see you, he keeps his cool and clues you in on the fact that Cerberus scientists have been stitching your dead body back together for two years. “You’ve been comatose, or worse, that whole time,” he says. “Welcome back to your life.”
In hindsight, I think it’s pretty confusing that so many people vehemently dislike Jacob. I understand when people call him boring – he’s a relatively ordinary human, as opposed to being a rogue turian detective or a geth crackshot on the verge of recognizing free will. But so many people hate Jacob, and for what? Because he’s not as funny as Mordin? Not as clever as Liara?
Sure, he’s not the most specifically skilled squadmate, but he’s smart, strong, and has his heart in the right place. If you actually take the time to speak to Jacob in between missions, you’ll learn that he was part of an Alliance covert ops team for five years – top secret, and if they were ever found out, the military would pretend they never existed. He didn’t join Cerberus for power or a pay cheque – Jacob joined Cerberus because he was wasted in the army. He had the will and strength to work towards good things but was stopped by paper-pushers every step of the way. That’s not what Jacob Taylor is about, and his ability to realize and act on that makes him fascinating in and of itself.
That’s mostly why he doesn’t give a rats about public perception of Cerberus. I mean, let’s be real – Cerberus is majorly shitty. Jacob, on the other hand, merely uses it as a means of enacting good, despite the fact that he’ll probably never be recognized or rewarded for doing so. He cares about humanity, but doesn’t discriminate against other species – he’s one of the most measured and level-headed people on the Normandy, but most of what he does is quiet, occurring in the background. He knows this, too.”A good deed is like pissing yourself in dark pants,” he tells Shepard. “Warm feeling but no one notices.”
Like most of you, I’ve been replaying Mass Effect over the last week. Also like most of you, I’ve made almost the exact same decisions I did nine years ago. But do you know what? I’m glad to at least admit that my mind has been changed on Jacob. I don’t think he deserves half the vitriol he gets, and I’m honestly inclined to bring him on tons of missions this time around – which reminds me, his loyalty mission is ace, innit? Tali’s is great, too, and I love Grunt’s, Samara’s, and Kasumi’s – but Jacob’s was always way up there. I’d love to go back in time and say to 16-year-old me, “What do you mean you don’t like Jacob? Just talk to him and listen to what he’s saying.” Because ultimately, saying Jacob is boring is just an even more boring take. He’s great if you’re willing to be interested enough for him to show how interesting he is. Just have a chat with him, alright? Thank me later.
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