When I reviewed Mafia 3 a couple of weeks ago (read that here), I went out of my way to avoid story spoilers. Whatever my problems with the game, I think the story is relatively well-done and worth experiencing. That is, up until the very final cutscene in the game, which ... well, you need to see this for yourself.
With that said, I’ll place an obvious big old spoiler warning right here. If you haven’t played Mafia 3 and don’t want anything ruined for you, quit reading and don’t watch the video at the bottom of this story. For everyone else, let me provide a little bit of context.
As mentioned in the review, Mafia 3 follows the story of Lincoln Clay, a mixed race Vietnam War vet living in New Bordeaux, a fictionalized version of New Orleans. After returning home from the war, Clay finds himself set up against the Italian mafia, led locally by a crime boss named Sal Marcano, after they kill Clay’s family and leave him for dead.
There’s a narrative problem Mafia 3 faced in this revenge quest: How does a relatively poor guy who’s just lost everything go toe to toe with a rich, powerful crime organization? The game’s answer appears early on in the form of John Donovan. Donovan is a CIA agent who, we discover, served with Lincoln as part of an elite military group in the Vietnam War. In New Bordeaux, he provides Lincoln with weapons, tech and leads on how he can continue dismantling the Marcano crime family.
To make explicit what the game’s frequent symbolism suggests, Donovan is basically the devil on Lincoln’s shoulder to the angel played by Father James, a priest who frequently tries to get Lincoln off the path of revenge and bloodshed. Donovan not only provides Lincoln with the tools he needs to carve a path of destruction through New Bordeaux, but he frequently verbally pushes him in that direction as well.
Throughout my time playing Mafia 3, I kept wondering why. Why would this clearly resourceful, smart, savvy CIA agent help Lincoln Clay do this? The game’s framed narrative features Donovan testifying before a U.S. Senate Committee about his actions, and he frequently justifies them here by saying that Marcano needed to be taken down and the police and FBI weren’t getting the job done. Fair enough, but he strikes me as the kind of character who wouldn’t do something like this unless he got something out of it. He had to have ulterior motives, right?
As it turns out, yes, absolutely. Mafia 3 ends with the player able to make some choices about whether Lincoln Clay carries on as New Bordeaux’s new crime lord or takes off to the west coast to live a quiet life, but whatever choice you make, a final scene of the Senate hearing with Donovan awaits after some of the credits roll.
You can watch the scene for yourself below in a YouTube video courtesy of the Gamer’s Little Playground channel. For those who can’t watch, I’ll provide a quick description, because it’s pretty wild.
Donovan has been full of contempt for the senator asking him questions throughout the game, but here we finally find out why. Donovan begins the scene by asking the senator where he was on the day JFK was assassinated. The senator can’t remember.
“Let me tell you where I was,” Donovan says. “A muddy hut in Vietnam, slowly dismembering an old woman, cutting her apart bit by bit.”
Oooookay then. Cool story! Donovan goes on to say that this torture “saved the lives of an entire platoon,” and comes to the point that he “did a lot of terrible shit over there” all in the name of the USA. As such, discovering that the president had been killed made him extremely angry, and he decided “to make it right, no matter how long it took.”
As Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” starts playing, Donovan gets to the big reveal: He claims that Sal Marcano, the mobster he worked with Lincoln Clay to take down, was part of a group of conspirators who murdered Kennedy. The senator calls this accusation absurd, at which point Donovan pulls out a gun in the middle of his hearing. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING.
Donovan goes on to suggest that he believes this senator was specifically involved in Kennedy’s assassination as well; his name was, apparently, all over Sal Marcano’s files. The senator points out that this hearing is being taped, and that Donovan couldn’t possibly get away with killing him.
“I want them to see this, you stupid asshole,” he replies, turning to the camera. “Because then they will know I’m not finishing with you. I’m starting with you.”
Then he shoots the senator twice and leaves the room. WELL!
So what does all of this mean? All of the previous Mafia titles have been connected. Could this ending hint at plans for a Mafia 4 where the player goes after a much bigger conspiracy? Or maybe it’s something tied to Mafia 3 DLC plans? One of the announced downloadable add-ons, titled “Stones Unturned,” will see Donovan and Lincoln working together.
Or, hey, maybe it’s just a goofy shocker of a way to end the game. I will say that it feels really strange and out-of-place in a game that — gallons of bloodshed aside — tends to take itself pretty seriously. Either way, check it out for yourself below.