Never let it be said that I have never been willing to see something to the bitter end. Roughly one month ago I came home from work, kicked off my shoes, sat down on my bed, plugged my laptop into my television, poured myself a glass of wine, and watched the finale of mspaintadventure’s Homestuck.
Here, roughly a month later, I am still trying to decide what I think about what I saw that evening.
Reactions to the ending have varied, but tend to range from confused resignation to outrage. I myself tend to err more on the former, but I cannot deny that I can at least see the basis for what fuels the ire of the latter group. The ending gives us a lot to mull over, but very little in the way of closure.
For those of you not familiar with Homestuck, I’m sorry, but the comic is seven years old and to bring you up to date would be another article in and of itself. If you are interested, I still wholeheartedly recommend the comic in spite of it’s divisive ending. I’m going to try to put things into somewhat broadly understandable terms, but I make no guarantees that everything will make sense out of context. Further, I am making no effort to avoid spoiling the ending in this discussion. So, if that is a concern of yours, go get caught up on Homestuck, this article is not going anywhere anytime soon.
I think my biggest frustration with Homestuck’s ending is not actually with the ending, but with myself. I cannot help but shake the feeling that it is I that am at fault. I feel like I am missing something. I feel like the answers are there somewhere but I am failing to read the subtext appropriately. To that end, this article is as much for my own reflection as it is for any audience. I make no guarantee that there is any revelation or enlightenment at the end of this road. I only invite you along for the ride.
The final animation opens on the drawing back of curtains, a recurring motif signaling the beginning of an act proper. We see Calliope the Muse, alone and severe. From our last dialogue with her we know that she is preparing to do her role in the undoing of her brother, and that she has resigned herself to what she expects to be her demise. This is further informed by information further back in the comic. She, like Lord English, is the product of a single player session of Sburb. We know that these sessions are both tremendously more difficult than normal sessions and, for the victor of such a session, there is a choice. Either live on with immense power as a terrible and destructive force in the universe, or give your life to be a great boon to all of existence. Caliborn, Lord of Time, chose the former and became Lord English. Callieope, Muse of Space, chose the latter.
Next, we return to the scene we last saw before the animation. The Wandering Vagabond and the Peregrine Mendicant stand atop the volcano on Jade’s world, the Land of Frost and Frogs. This volcano is clearly meant to be the Forge designed to craft the new World Frog that is Sburb’s victory condition.
Remember when I said things were going to be difficult to follow without context?
Though I don’t remember it ever being explicitly stated, it seems based on this scene that a key part of completing the forging process is the destruction of the Queen’s rings in the forge. As they melt down, out comes flying a tadpole, roughly the size of an 18-wheeler from what I can tell in the few shots where we see it with any sort of reliable reference.
The following shots are beautiful, if not maybe a little drawn out. This was a common complaint among friends of mine who also followed the comic. For amount of plot that needs wrapping up and the amount of time in the animation to do it, it feels like an inordinate amount of time is spent on the birth of the new galaxy. I understand the reasoning. This is the moment they were all fighting for. This is a big victory rally for our heroes. It is a scene that is supposed to carry the weight of the plot.
But, of course, there is still an antagonist to be addressed. Midway through the birth of the frog scene we get a brief glimpse at Calliope the Muse’s final act, becoming a black hole and beginning to devour the Green Sun. After the scene, we see her work come to fruition as the last remnants of the Green Sun flit away into the black hole and it becomes a static, stable, but no less dangerous spacial gravity sink.
We hard cut to Lord English. Last we left him he was locked in combat with the ghost of Meenah, having obliterated the other ghosts with her. We immediately see the green flames of energy he is typically cloaked in dying off and his eyes, which flash in the images of various billiard balls, solidify into 8 balls. We never see Meenah in the course of the animation. We do see, however, Vriska, with her own ghost retinue, marching forward. Vriska has the chest that contained “The Ultimate Juju.” It became solid after its interaction with John, unsticking him from continuity. Behind Lord English, the cracks in paradox space caused by his rampage shatter, showing Calliope’s black hole literally tearing through time and space.
Now, this is right about the point where things become hard to follow. The handling of Lord English in the finale is perhaps one of the most contentious parts of the ending.
I feel it important to note that the Black Hole at this point has a marked resemblance to the eyes of Lil Cal, the puppet who served as Lord English’s vessel and prison at one point. I don’t think this is an accident.
Vriska opens the chest while the black hole expands behind Lord English. Before we get to see it’s contents released, we cut back to pre-English Caliborn closing that same chest. Here we see Homestuck engaging in what it has made something of a time honored storytelling tradition as we watch two sets of events that, though temporally and spatially are far separated, are thematically tied and therefore thematically synchronous, which is a thing that has weight in paradox space, as demonstrated heavily in [s]Cascade. Here we see the true source of Lord English’s power. After all, he is not the only God Tier Sburb player, nor is he the only God Tier to harness the power of the Green Sun. What makes him special is what he begins to do in this scene.
In every scene where a God Tier player dies, we see a shot of a clock of sorts, ticking back and forth between two options, “Heroic” and “Just”, the only two deaths that a God Tier player cannot get back up from. We see Caliborn, armed with the Juju-breaking crowbar, begin to destroy his clock, thereby rendering him immune to this judgment. Caliborn is therefore the only truly immortal force in creation.
We cut back to Vriska. The Juju rises into the air and takes shape. It is the Sburb symbol as it appears in the beta kids (John, Dave, Rose, and Jade, for those of you who may have forgotten) session. Each of the four sections is emblazoned with the god-tier aspect of one of the four of them. It shimmers a rainbow of colors and floats there for a moment while Vriska stands triumphant and self assured. The Juju goes white again before crashing down behind Vriska, cracking the ground and sending up a plume of smoke. We get another shot of Caliborn destroying his clock, followed by a close up of the Juju as a door appears on it.
We then cut to a shot out in the white space by the Black Hole. Aradia is there. I am not sure what she is doing. I am not sure what happens to her. This is all we see of her.
We get another brief shot of Caliborn destroying his clock before we cut back to the kids who were baring witness to the birth creation. The Sburb symbol, understood to be the gate to the player’s final reward, goes from being the red color used to delineate the alpha kid’s session to stark white, matching the color and, consequently, general appearance of the Ultimate Juju. A door appears upon it, mirroring the door that appeared on the Juju in the face off with Lord English. John shoots Karkat a thumbs up, and we pan to show Jade in possession of Earth, shrunken down to convenient travel size.
The following shot implies a couple things without directly saying them. We see that much time passes. Anything of the Earth that was is an ancient relic if not dust. The carapace people seem to become the primary sapient lifeforms on the planet other than our main characters, and what we seem to be shown is them reaching their endgame, even being shown a congratulatory message from Sburb, “thank you for playing.” It is important to note, however, that these seem to be visions of the future, as we cut back to the crowd.
We have a cut back to Caliborn, having destroyed the clock. He begins to take in the power that would fuel his rampage as a victor over a solo session who chose destruction over salvation, cut between John going to open the door to their ultimate reward. The last shot we get is John reaching for the door before the screen goes black.
And that’s it. We get a few closing notes of music, then one more page where the curtain is drawn on Homestuck. The End.
So, what happened with Lord English? What happened with the other characters? Did the door take them to their final reward? Did it take them to the battle with Lord English? If it did, how did that go down? That seems like it would be an important bit to see. If not, what did the final Juju do to him? Did he get kicked into the Black Hole? Did he get sealed in the Juju somehow? What happened to Aradia? Or Meenah? Or Vriska, for that matter? Vriska was still alive. Did she just give her life to go out like a hero? That would be awesome, and maybe worthy of some sort of note.
And here we reach the point of contention. Aside from an epilogue that the creator mentioned would probably be coming at some point down the line, this is the end. I think the only reason I’m not more bothered by this ending is that, at some point, I began to suspect this was the sort of ending we were going to get. It’s a very late 90s, early 2000s JRPG sort of ending. It reminds me of the endings to Final Fantasy VII or Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s a “its not about the details” sort of ending.
But, and here’s the crux, it is. Homestuck has always been about the details. Its world lived and breathed on these details. And that is why I am worried that perhaps there are simply details I am missing. Is there something that would explain or, at least, heavily imply how the Lord English fight ended? Did I miss something?
For now, I don’t know. I can only wait to see if the epilogue comes to fruition. I understand that now that the comic is over, Andrew Hussie has a Kickstarted video game that is probably taking the lion’s share (horse’s share?) of his time, so I honestly don’t expect to see it any time soon. In the meantime, I suppose I will continue to rewatch the ending, along with [s]Collide and everything between and that came before. I will continue to theorize and ponder.
I rode this train to it’s destination, but I’ll be damned if I know how we got here or where we’ve ended up.