KOTOR II Companion Analysis: GOTO
[The following article gives heavy spoilers for Knights of the Old Republic I and II.]
“You do not know the indignity of being compelled to save something you do not believe can – or should – be saved. It is beneath me.”
I find this is a great line, much like the fantastically verbose rant on hate from Harlan Ellison’s famous AM artificial intelligence machine. The genius of it is not only in conveying the emotion stemming from a mechanical mind, but it being a sentiment both uncanny and yet more ‘human’ stemming from a machine.
The introductory quote encapsulates Goto in its entirety, the definitive logic error which created the character, the catalyst for the pessimism which broke it as surely as circuitry, and the resentment that hollows out its mechanical soul.
Goto reflects the inhumanity of the cast not only in look, in its cutting dialogue and poor humour with the group, very eager to argue; but in having the dangerous and uncomfortable aspect of being an individual with power and intelligence, but flawed and unconcerned with use of force. Exactly like The Exile, who is suspected and pretty much stated to be drawing such figures as echoes and reflection of their own psyche.
Goto’s arrogance and the tragedy of its character lead to sympathy with its motives, Goto being entertaining and ‘good’ (or at least constructive) on the macro level to the galaxy and with his scheme to utilise greed in order to protect The Exile (ironically creating an amusing catastrophe and a simple solution of killing all those bounty hunters gathered in one place).
Goto is a fun mystery to unravel and plot instigator. But when recruited, the individual becomes someone difficult to like with the clever shorthand of its appearance. Literally bladed, oddly shaped, no pretence of humanity. Goto is the opposite to the more ‘human’ T3-M4 and HK-47 due to a spherical nor vaguely animalistic or humaniform shape, and its massive black shape, white circuitry and red eye are all opposites to Bao-Dur’s remote, signifying an opposite level of ‘cuteness’ for lack of a better word, the remote being a moon grey little orb again invented for Episode IV and a re-used asset for this game.
The rather cheap -in an efficient way- choice to turn and enlarge the torture droid from A New Hope makes Goto something you could see in a fight, and with the flimsy (but again, very clever) pretence of being a projector turning a droid shape into a more significant character, even the device being a character is a figure you unlock through dialogue. Goto is an unpleasant, uncanny thing hidden in plain sight. It is as memorable an example of this idea used to good effect alongside Sion, the HK-50s (especially the first one), Atris, and Kreia/Traya.
A kingpin companion, a criminal droid are fascinating concepts to put into a single character. The malevolence behind logic also. Goto is not murderous like HK, lacking passion for harm, but alternatively much more malicious in its sarcasm and dispassionate attitude towards the death of large numbers of people. It’s the sterile urge to correct, and hatred of one’s purpose.
Goto says in the third person how a critical conceptual error in its design created the logic error which made it ‘break’, clearly in relation to the past traumatic event which created his present character and bringing a concept applicable to all companions into a clear focus. All of the companions are to a large extent broken, reeling from this reality and all caught up in the maelstrom of circumstance and the desperation to persist and heal their damage. Goto is important due to the literal nature of this breaking, because when seen this way it echoes in the mind when we detect the same sort of backstory, and the same character arc can be applied to other companions around you as you learn the extent of how affected and damaged they are and how they respond to this sudden binding into a group where success depends upon bravery and tenacity.
Goto deals with this situation in the same way he does everything else; with the wry, cynical humour and calculation of an authority founded in intellect and distain for laws or the designs of other beings. He is not befuddled, transforming, or any less irritated than he would be on any other given day. At best, he is given an audience and relishes the ability to be honest with The Exile and make japes. To Goto the commentary to make -and jokes given its capacity for humour and superiority complex- is just too obvious not to share, both on account of the fanatical beliefs of the famous Jedi and Sith orders, and the nature of sentient beings as rather chaotic and befuddling creatures.
On one hand Goto’s tone is hard to take seriously when angered, but hilarious when it notes its own subversion of society with very dry humour, or plainly speaks certain terms and perceptions you affiliate with a gangster archetype it chose on purpose and seems to enjoy and assimilate as part of its character (“people die all the time on Nar Shaddaa” being my favourite bit which could have come out of a Scorsese film) “Compassion and mercy erode respect and power” is a hell of a statement, and it is just delivered neutrally, with certainty and conviction you are left holding.
Goto is a very good vehicle for exposition, and non-Force obsessed dialogue. Certain ideas, such as the Republic losing through bleeding to death with its infrastructure isolates the unique plot of KOTOR II: after yet another war in the stars, after its conclusion, but the high stakes of either stabilising the patient, or letting it die. Computers, evil, and crime all require the reigning government to survive, a seeming contradiction and rarely discussed fact. But it leads to a fascinating alliance. Even a malcontent, a schemer, people with superiority complexes or vast computer networks all need something like the Republic to survive. Unconcerned really with morality or moral reward, the kingpin seeks to aid a government as a parasite doesn’t wish its host destroyed.
To compare it to history, the Mafia willingly lent aid to America especially around the Atlantic ports during World War One, not out of some great moral or political realignment but because of the greater risk to destabilisation and survival. With no Republic, Goto cannot prosper, or even live. Without the crime lord and the faulty AI both, the Republic would already have suffered financial ruin and resource depletion. And as is the case with history, I note that while the criminal element is personally unpleasant; the greater government body or the vast population within it ever regarded or remembered the grey or dubious characters which helped sustain it.
Goto’s reliance on greed, concern for government in a strange way make it more mundane and relatable than other humanoid characters, as does its preoccupation with the importance of commodities to live. While gargantuan in scope; at its most basic none of Goto’s motivations or actions are alien to the average hustler or politician, seeing war as wasteful and logistics essential to sustained society. Goto’s motivations in truth, like its literal breaking can be taken entirely at face value. Goto broke literally, and it wants to preserve a stable system of government. This is both the most relatable and everyday motivation you can give an individual, but it’s also brilliant in the absurdity of it.
Discourses on primal nature make one concede that Kreia clearly did not have Goto in mind, yet it applies to Goto most (if not Atton), despite its clearly machine nature (a thing she despises, again highlighting her narrowmindedness blinding her to the potential of others). Whether her goal was the death of the Force, rebuilding the Order, the odd HK machine supremacy army or grand goals of galactic domination…Goto uses gangster cinema to trick the galaxy to work properly.
It’s hilarious when summarised, but works so well because the palate of the companions is so rich and wide. It’s a very good thing that although Kreia dominates the companions, that neither she nor one single character’s worldview is the entirety of the cast, that purely one conflict or single issue takes up the narrative. Just as we see that kind of reduction break an open and wide cast story such as the later Dragon Age 2, having such a swathe of sentient life with a giant nest of objectives that get roped together by The Exile pay off with Goto’s simplistic antagonist nature (being too blunt and criminal not to obviously come to a bad end by the finale) and witticisms regarding the Sith and the Jedi.
There is much to enjoy and appreciate about one of the few Republic servants in your party being so utterly unwilling and unenthusiastic about it, yet another contrast where a pile of 11 prideful and able people struggle to work together in a confined ship space. It is ripe character drama and fuel for curiosity when not only are the personalities within the Ebon Hawk so varied in background; but their political alignments correlate about as much as they do in real life. The Disciple and Goto have the same goal, as utterly bizarre as the notion of pairing them together is. As it should be. KOTOR II is blunt and repetitive with reinforcing the notion that it is an often mismatched, bizarre net of circumstances that draw in intelligent life striving and only finding progress in hardship, with morality or political beliefs being subdued in importance, or drawing one into alignment with the unexpected, even as you make enemies you cannot even see.
As with all the machine companions I feel there’s a subtle but clever point about the human(oid) preoccupation with lofty and cerebral ideas, and this narrow worldview combined with fixation on personal tragedy leaves a vacuum and massive areas to repair for the underclasses of modernistic society. T3 fixes the ship so you can breathe on it. HK understands that beneath all the philosophising it is a means to eliminate enemies, which is the entire mission and end goal of the ultimate quest: find the hiding Masters, kill the Sith Triumvirate. This worsening habit of leaving mechanical intelligence and automata to literally run the infrastructure of the Republic will grow to the point of confusion, near satire by The Phantom Menace. It makes one wonder if in his own cynical, malefic way that part of Palpatine’s scheme to create the proxy war involving droid armies was a means to also force more organic life to drive their own ships and function as officers and soldiers patrolling and inspecting the galaxy.
A virtue I will give Goto that I don’t think any other companion possesses is part of its sardonic nature; Goto openly admits to being a liar. It’s an amusing thing, not even an open secret. Unlike more seemingly unscrupulous types, or those rude enough to lie anyway to The Exile he is honest. In many ways it is like watching an administrator or police officer organise crime, elements of their efficient and pro-government values peek through no matter how the undercurrent of sarcasm and distain affect their interpersonal speech.
Goto is also from a wider series point very important to the overarching Revan arc. His speculation that Revan was somewhat frugal in his destruction and usage of the Star Forge are vital in both the KOTOR III foreshadowing, but also hints at Revan’s underlying ‘grey’ morality and temperance making him so incredibly interesting.
Goto is less of a prominent figure, but in its voice acting and goals, perhaps one of the most easily translated characters to this reality. Strange as that sounds. Consider it for a moment: a societal ‘expert’, or logistician attempting to remake and sustain a system they despise, or serve while cursing the chaotic nature of those with influence. Goto sounds a little like an economist, a sociologist, or teacher perhaps? While fantastically talented and admirable in probably singlehandedly helping the Republic avoid mass famine due to his efforts, his arrogance and superiority complex undermine everything it does. There was never really a chance for Goto. Outperforming by a massive margin what could be expected; but a person operating off of faulty logic, isolated and mentally obstructed, unable to enjoy or feel their goal is even achievable is a person headed for tragedy even were they not a machine in the kind of series to blow up frequently or be destroyed mid-outburst.
Goto is an excellent exposition machine, a means to show antagonistic dynamics, and place both part of the plot with his plan and a clear-cut set of options for the wider galactic choices. But there is no way you could part peacefully with it. Factions, let alone individuals are bothersome items, Jedi and Sith cults best aided in a 1-0 sum equation and the winner subdued. You know too much, such a secretive being with a massive murderous needle attached to itself obviously radiates threat of betrayal. In relation to the antagonists of KOTOR II; I would say Goto is the mechanical equivalent of Nihilus in his character trajectory, though they have utterly antithetical desires. Goto is already broken, riven, absorbed and obsessed and prideful. It is only a matter of time until final collapse. Which is quite poignant and sad, given his preoccupation is evidently from its efforts the preservation of the Republic, which is a reductive encapsulation for government, civilisation etc.
The choice of obeying the law, or preserving the Republic is a brilliant logic error and fundamental character-building block. Just as a concept it’s memorable, a crime lord droid is memorable, and again it repeats the intended theme. Each companion reflects The Exile and the world. They are broken, barely functional but conscious and filled with potential and ability. The question is where will their direction go? The Exile has many choices for many characters, but the ego of Goto firmly keeps in the interesting (though not singular) position of being a manipulator using you, then a controllable companion, then a character again abandoning the party and becoming a threat. An unempathetic contrast in size and mood to Bao-Dur’s remote, after callously executing it it’s both fitting and hilarious that Goto meets his end at a less moral, less grandiose, but certainly more lethal HK-47.
It speaks to the nature of charisma and black humour that a standout moment is one companion killing another. The evil droid blowing up the schizophrenic crime lord trying to save the galaxy through backstabbing. In a void of morals, authority, or others around, spirit is added to the setting seeing the companions act without player input. And as you learn often in this cynical game; who wins is less a matter of morals or self-importance and more the question of who has the bigger gun and sharper sword?
Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Obsidian Entertainment. 2004.