The Most Shocking Scene in 'The New Colossus' Shouldn't Work, But It Does
When a character referenced, but not shown, in the original game makes an appearance, everything stops.
Image courtesy of Bethesda Softworks
There are a lot of shocking moments in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, including the courtroom sequence I wrote about a few weeks back, but the one that’s stuck in my mind, long after finishing the game, was B.J. Blaskowicz’ audition on the planet Venus. I know, I know. Surprising advancements in interstellar travel aside, after Blaskowicz sneaks into a casting call for a Nazi propaganda film, you meet the acting competition, glance at the lines you’re asked to remember, and wait for the film’s director to arrive.
Warning: There are major spoilers for Wolfenstein: The New Colossus below.
The director, it turns out, is Adolf Hitler, the Mein Führer himself.
I hadn’t closely followed the marketing for The New Colossus, which had apparently (and in restrospect, wrongly) teased his, so the reveal hit me like a pound of bricks. It was the last thing I expected to see. There are references to Hitler in The New Order, but it’s nothing more than that: references. A letter here, a diary there. You never meet Hitler, and more importantly, the game doesn’t obsess over him. You’re introduced to a different cast of monsters who call Nazism home and Hitler their boss.
Don’t get me wrong, you can’t separate the horrors of Nazi ideology from the man behind it, but World War II media, especially games, often fixates on Hitler because he's become an easy, cartoonish target. Hitler is, obviously, evil. Hitler is, obviously, a bad guy. But the Third Reich was fueled by millions of complicit individuals who were not Hitler, and MachineGames’ reinvention smartly pushed Hitler to the background.
I figured there was a chance the developers decided to sweep Hitler under the rug. At one point, maybe you discover a piece of intel suggesting Hitler has been dead for decades, but to prop up the mythology of Führer, Nazis higher-ups continue to pretend otherwise, knowing the demise of their dear leader would cause anxiety among the rank-and-file. It’s closure, but a story beat that keeps the focus on the people below Hitler, and allows these games to tell a different kind of story.
And yet, there was Hitler. After the initial shock wore off, I worried MachineGames was about to jump the shark. I know, I know. This is a game where the main character’s head is chopped off in front of thousands of cheering Nazis, rescued by a drone, and plopped onto an aryan super body, allowing Blaskowicz to come back from the dead, stronger than ever. But even for a series that’s handled tonal whiplash as though it’s something games have been done forever, fumbling Hitler seemed easy enough.
They didn’t. The scene where you interact with Hitler is, in a game with a lot of “holy crap” moments, possibly the most impressive sequence, largely because of the stakes.
You can watch the whole scene thanks to the YouTube channel GamerrZOMBIE:
Hitler enters the room in a Hugh Hefner-esque bathrobe, perhaps signifying the extent to which the man behind a mass genocide has clearly entered a Don’t Give a Fuck Phase of his life. But whatever image his clothing projects, it’s immediately undercut by a coughing fit, as Hitler attempts to brandish a hidden pistol inside the robe. He nearly falls trying to yank it out, screaming his disappointment at the caliber of actors recruited for his latest motion picture, chronicling the death of Blaskowicz.
“These are the best we could find?” he snarls, as spit ejects from his mouth, the result of yet another set of uncontrollable coughs, unable to steady the gun around his fingers.
It doesn’t take long before Hitler, unprompted, begins accusing everyone of being spies. Remember, this is a universe where Nazis have unquestioned control of America, Europe, and space. Though Blaskowicz and his band of rebels have caused headaches for the Nazi regime, they’re nowhere close to toppling them. Both The New Order and The New Colossus are about savoring small victories, not saving the world. Despite this, and though this scene takes place on fuckin’ Venus, Hitler remains endlessly paranoid.
When one of the actors refers to him as Mr. Hitler, instead of Führer, he doesn’t merely lash out, but accuses the person of something worse than a spy: being a Jew.
“I’m from Arizona,” the actor stutters, as Hitler backing away, wide-eyed and rabid.
Moments later, without hesitation, Hitler fires a bullet through his head. Slumped on the ground, Hitler empties the clip into the lifeless body. No one in the room blinks.
“Always they come,” he stutters,” wolves in sheep’s clothing. Conspiring, lying, deceitful Jews. I see them coming from miles away.”
(Did you catch that actor was actually Ronald Reagan? Goddamn, MachineGames.)
He grabs a nearby bucket and begins to urinate in front of everyone. While trying to monologue, he misses the bucket, piss spraying all over the nearby carpet. Again, no one blinks, as if this kind of behavior has become understood, if not expected.
It’s not a show of power, or demonstration of strength. It’s sad. Not sad in an empathetic sense, but sad in the way every human, Hitler or otherwise, eventually crumbles to fate. At some point, we’re all going to be doing the equivalent of pissing into buckets, but not all of us will be cursing Jews along the way, unable to enjoy the fruits of their monstrous labor. As the last gasps of urine escape his Nazi dick, Hitler brags about the “successful” capture and killing of Blaskowicz, alternating between pain and pseudo-orgasm, as the name escapes his mouth.
This all happens, of course, while Blaskowicz—a Jew—looks on.
Hitler can’t make it through a soaring pitch of his new film without his body giving out, and he loudly vomits on the floor. He didn’t even have the decency to reach for the bucket, and waits for someone else to clean his face. All the while, his mind floats in-between varying states of sanity, calling out for his mother because he’s “cold.”
Hitler had a mother. Hitler was lonely. Hitler is afraid of dying. The New Colossus humanized Hitler without humanizing him, if that makes any sense. By stripping away history’s lionization of Hitler as a charismatic leader, and presenting him as flesh and blood who, in spite of an ideology of personal supremacy, is a God-fearing coward, he becomes a person. In doing so, Hitler becomes loathsome in a far more personal way.
As the auditions play out, Hitler lies on the floor. He shoots another actor.
"At some point, we’re all going to be doing the equivalent of pissing into buckets, but not all of us will be cursing Jews along the way,"
Perhaps the most important moment comes when you’re asked to “fight” a soldier to prove your strength, which has you walking past a groaning, squirming Hitler, still lying in the floor. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who took the opportunity to kick Hitler and those who didn’t. It wasn’t about the achievement. It was about killing Hitler with my foot. I killed him with my foot. It felt good.
Naturally, you’re eventually chosen for the part.
“Oh my god,” Hitler screams into the sky. “He is better than perfect.”
Despite what the optional achievement allows for, the canonical version of the scene has you (and Hitler) walking away from one another. That’s because the mission—for Blaskowicz, for the destruction of the Third Reich—is bigger than Hitler. It’s always been bigger than Hitler, which is why the games took so long to introduce him.
You don’t see Hitler again, and I don’t know what MachineGames’ plans are for him, if they’re allowed to make the third in their planned trilogy (fingers crossed). Like so many things in these games, Hitler’s appearance shouldn’t have been so effective, but that’s the story of MachineGames: they’re always capable of surprising you. People have joked about the appearance of Mecha-Hitler, a reference to the boss from Wolfenstein 3D, but I’d be happy if this was the only appearance of Führer. It was a powerful moment, one that could be robbed of its weight, if he were to appear again.
Let the sad piece of shit live out the rest of his sad piece of shit life on another planet.
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