Early Thoughts on Grand Theft Auto V Part 2: There’s Something About Trevor Philips

Here be spoilers. 

Trevor Selfie 02

Just been tazed, lol. #latergram

Since the last time we talked, I have played an additional nine hours of Grand Theft Auto V, according to Raptr. I’m up to 22.13% game completion. In case it seems like nine hours is a long time for only ~6% completion, you’re right. Most of those hours were spent  variously as Trevor, riding the cable car up to the summit of Mount Chiliad, taking a dirtbike back down and dying a few times along the way, stealing motorcycles to offroad with and dying a whole lot more, punching some potential business partners in the face, burning down rival meth labs, and waking up in front of a speeding train in my underwear. Life as Trevor has been, arguably, the most exciting life I have had so far in the game, successfully beating out my tenure as Michael by almost 20%. This may be due to the fact that, following the first heist with Michael and Franklin, players are locked into Trevor only for several missions (as the other characters were ‘laying low’), and my routine failure during the mission, “Crystal Maize,” frustrated me enough to decide to take a break from the main story and explore the scenery instead. Or, moreover, see if I could break into Michael’s house before Trevor actually knew he lived there. If you’re curious, by all means, try it yourself. You can make it into his yard, but his house is still off-limits.

I wanted to be able to talk about Trevor in my last post, but I hadn’t been able to spend enough time with him to say anything of use. This post is meant to serve as more of an addendum to last week’s post, and subsequently offer some early perspective on Trevor’s character.

TL;DR: I love Trevor Philips.

But I don’t love Trevor in the way you might think. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a horrible person.

We are first (re-)introduced to Trevor in his mission, “Mr. Philips,” having sex with somebody else’s girlfriend: meth addict, Ashley. When her boyfriend, Johnny, leader of a motorcycle gang, comes to accost him for his crimes, Trevor curb stomps him. And that was relatively tame.

trevor selfie 03

Cool guys don’t look at explosions.

What follows from there is a ridiculous, sideshow-esque murder extravaganza, with Trevor taking down scores of motorcycle gang members, threatening rape and violence on his friends and followers, and sporting a general Johnny-Knoxville-on-methamphetamines vibe to his character. A few minor points about his history become apparent in these early moments; his conspirator friend Ron, for example, mentions Trevor’s past as a military pilot, while the opening sequences place him as a criminal partner and friend to Michael de Santa. Trevor can, even at some (brief) moments, actually be quite charming and funny.

To be honest, I was frustrated playing Trevor at the beginning. I didn’t like that the game gave me no choice but to be him for an indefinite amount of time and I struggled with his seemingly consistent desire to arbitrarily massacre anybody he didn’t particularly like that day. He’s also kinda gross (sorry Trev) and playing him felt like the developers were just asking me to debase myself in the way that many players choose to do freely when they load up sandbox games, and play in a way that I usually don’t like to. It wasn’t until a particularly ‘charming’ random event, where I approached a seemingly empty van and was subsequently tazered (tazed?), stripped to my underwear, and placed on the train tracks, that some pieces fell into place. As I was forced to make a walk of shame in my briefs, Walter-White-style across the desert until I found a car I could steal, I noticed for the first time that Trevor had a pretty sizable tattoo on his arm. It was a memorial piece, in honor of none other than Michael himself.

I kind of, sort of, started to get it.

It came together a little bit better when I was finally free to resume my control of both Franklin and Michael. Franklin, though the most likable character in the series, is unfortunately the most boring (which, I guess, Rockstar tried to even out by applying the extra ‘weird’ Strangers and Freaks missions, such as the one about UFOs to him like a bandage), and I naturally jumped to playing my favorite asshole Michael first. His initial mission, “Fame or Shame”, deposits the player back into the de Santa household, where Michael finds his son Jimmy’s–literally–brick of weed in the freezer. His frustration begins a fight with his wife Amanda, which turns into a four-way fight with Jimmy and Amanda’s yoga instructor, Fabien, until Trevor walks in.

Ignoring the fact that Trevor and Fabien miraculously appear in the de Santa kitchen, having bypassed both their gated property and front door (a.k.a. one of a myriad of loosely explainable plot holes), what follows is my favorite scene in the game thus far. Amanda and Michael, who both share a past with Trevor, are frozen stiff at the sight of him. Michael, in another brief moment of parental clarity, nonchalantly urges Jimmy out of the way, putting himself protectively between Trevor and his son. Trevor, who so brilliantly maintains the perfect tension for the scene, casually recounts Michael’s crimes back to him–faking his own death, running off with the heist spoils, and ultimately betraying his former best friend. Watch the scene–and the mission it is attached to–below, if you care to see it firsthand. I highly recommend it.

When it is revealed that Tracey, Michael’s spoiled daughter, has gone behind her parents’ back to audition for the American Idol-esque gameshow, the titular “Fame or Shame,” Trevor is the one who demands that ‘we,’ meaning himself and Michael, go rescue her. When Michael hesitates, Trevor says, “What? Are you just going to stand here and argue while your daughter becomes a national laughingstock? Huh? You’re worse than I thought.”

In an almost surprising twist, Trevor, despite his grotesque personality, turns out to be both highly affectionate and protective of Michael’s children. I would almost dare to call him, at least, a more proactive father than Michael is. I can’t villainize Michael completely, of course–my last post highlighted his own fatherly frustration and growth. But Trevor maintains an amazing ability to see straight through Michael’s pretense, calling him out for being a bad parent and husband, and subsequently accuses him of carelessness, maintaining that his presence is the only thing that is forcing Michael to actually be a good parent to Tracey. “I know you, Michael,” he says.

In spite of this, it doesn’t change the way Trevor is. It doesn’t change the fact that he still holds a deep grudge against his friend, reminding Michael constantly that he is as fake of a friend as the fake life he leads. And, of course, his relentless torment of the show’s host, Lazlo, echoes the questionable moral compass we have come to know well thus far. In comparison, we see Michael balking in the heat of the moment–something that is questionable against his natural extremism demonstrated toward Amanda’s tennis coach early on, but perhaps understandable as he seemed to find his boat more valuable than his son’s life in an earlier mission. Is it possible, perhaps, that Michael’s personality is a lot like Trevor’s, something only balanced out when Trevor is around? Is it possible, maybe, that Michael cares a lot more about his ‘property’ (including his wife) than he does about his children?

And we watch as Trevor forces Lazlo to strip to his underwear, capturing the event on his camera phone while Michael, suddenly the voice of reason keeps asking, “Don’t you think he’s had enough?”

“This is your daughter!” Trevor replies. “You should be wanting to rip the fucking ponytail off the back of this guy’s head!” As Trevor pulls away from the scene, leaving Michael alone, we are left to ask, why doesn’t Michael care as much as Trevor? Can we say that the latter man’s abrasive extremism in the moment kind of, sort of, might be, just a little bit, completely justifiable?

3 responses to “Early Thoughts on Grand Theft Auto V Part 2: There’s Something About Trevor Philips

  1. When they were running out of the studio someone in the waiting room was saying “Think that there’s something really noble about…” I didn’t hear the rest of the sentence and its killing me.

    Aside from that, this is another great piece. I really love learning more about Trevor. From what I’ve read he seems like the most interesting character. The paring of his more undesirable traits with his loyalty and concern for Michael’s family makes him an oddly like-able character.

    The scene where Michael is clearly upset by his daughter’s dancing makes me think that maybe he does care, but that he is incapable of acting in those situations. At least without Trevor. And during the chase scene, Trevor is driving, taking action, while Michael just sits in the passenger seat giving directions and snide remarks. Maybe he just prefers being above it all instead of getting involved.

    (Also I just noticed the smiley face at the bottom of the page. 10/10 would see again)

    • I do agree to some extent; given Michael’s exasperation with Jimmy during their ‘bonding’ mission, and his subsequent frustration at the lack of a strong relationship between them, it’s evident that he does have, at the very least, some level of care and love for his children. He crashes a party on a yacht just to protect Tracey, though the adrenaline rush he gets out of it seems to be at least part of the motivating factor. I’m not sure if it is that he wants to be above it all or that he just doesn’t really know how to be a parent.

      He’s basically a manchild in this regard; he’s passive with his children but extremely reactive when his pride or authority is threatened (e.g. the boat chase incident, the tennis coach and yoga instructor). It sets Amanda separate from the kids and more like an object, as he treats all of her indiscretions as a blow to his ego. He reminds her a few times that she ‘owes’ him for setting her up with a nice house in the Vinewood Hills. It gets kind of mixed up when comparing Michael’s reaction to Tracey partying on a boat with porn directors to his reluctance to keep her from embarrassing herself on live television, but there is something to be said about the kind of adrenaline rush he received (and loved) from the former, which, were Trevor not there to take everything to the extreme, he wouldn’t have gotten from the latter. He really likes being a criminal. He literally cannot help himself when it comes to crime. It’s like an addiction.

      Trevor, on the other hand, gets it. I think he has a great grasp of right and wrong and is completely aware and honest of his own bad side. He loves being bad, he thrives on it. The infamous torture scene was incredibly fun for him to be a part of. But, in this way, I think his vision is not clouded by pride in the same way that Michael’s is. It goes back right to the beginning–Michael struck a mutual deal with an FBI agent so he could get rich and disappear. Trevor mourned for his friend and wrote letters to the imprisoned heist member, who he did not know was already dead (and buried in Michael’s place, no less). He loves murder, and admits it, but is intensely loyal when he wants to be, and perhaps even quite loving. I would say he’s far more connected with reality than Michael is, maybe just because he’s actually capable of being honest with himself.

      I guess what it comes down to is less of one of them being a ‘better’ person, morally speaking, but that Trevor is simply far less narcissistic when it is the most important not to be. Michael kind of starts and stops at being a d-bag.

  2. Pingback: 52 Weeks/52 Games — Understanding the Important Cultural Implications of Watch_Dogs | Rebecca Fay Hoffman·

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