The Dissection of Isaac Part Two
A little while ago I wrote an article on my interpretation and analysis of the meaning of Edmund McMillen’s game, The Binding of Isaac. Since that time, the game has seen a significant update which has also introduced a new ending. If you haven’t finished the game all full and proper, then stop reading and play it! Not only because you won’t know what I’m on about, but because it’s a fucking good game.
The twelfth and final ending depicts Isaac reading a book (presumed to be the Bible) which he then closes and sees his reflection in the mirror. His reflection turns into a black version of himself with red eyes. Upon seeing his own reflection Isaac once again looks across the room and sees the treasure chest. We can only presume that he then proceeds to lock himself inside.
We would only have to presume but McMillen has said on his formspring that this ending comes before the eleventh and that would actually make some sense. As I previously noted in my other article, I believe the game is about creativity and a lack of understanding of a child’s imagination. Isaac is constantly told that his drawings and over-active mind are the work of the devil and not ordinary for a child of his age to be doing. After finally finishing his own story through his drawings he takes some reflection upon his work and contemplates that maybe his Mother and religious teachings are right and he isn’t a normal child at all.
The inclusion of his Father in a Polaroid picture with both his Mother and himself only emphasies my belief that his Mother is not abusive and is not the Mom we know within the game. My reasoning is is that Isaac’s father is presumed to have passed away so the only authority figure for Isaac to rebel against is his Mother, hence why she appears so vile within his imagination.
The two different final battles between either the Devil or Isaac are also interesting when we consider the floor that they both appear in. The Cathedral is what Isaac presumes to be the ‘correct’ and ‘right’ choice to make and Sheol is going further and further within in his psyche. It’s interesting to note that Isaac believes the right thing to be doing is to be destroying himself and taking himself out of this world. He does so as he has had the reinforcement from his Mother and the Bible that he is not a normal child. The fight with the devil is just Isaac digging even further into his own beliefs. He’s already killed his Mom in his imagination and the only other figure of authority has been the fear of the Devil. Upon killing the Devil in his own mind (as he does with himself when killing Isaac) he snaps out of his imagination and reaches the same conclusion.
The amount of depth and story intertwined within this game is quite astonishing considering that there is a lack of an actual gameplay narrative. A lot of the story is taken from inference and implication. I’m really glad McMillen kept the ending pure and also expanded upon the eleventh ending. I still believe that the game is far more personal than we will ever know but only McMillen will know the true meaning of who Isaac is.