After a lengthy wait, Gearbox Software is finally bringing back the Borderlands franchise. Revealed earlier this year, Borderlands 3 takes the popular class-based, looter shooter gameplay and adds in plenty of modern touches like mantling, cross-platform play, a ping system, and plenty more.
While Borderlands 3 still features Pandora as one of the many locations players will be shooting their way through, the Calypso Twins are the new baddies along with their Children of the Vault followers. The duo seemingly have an interesting and outgoing personality but their arrival signals the likely end for previous antagonist and fan favorite character, Handsome Jack.
Jack's popularity with fans led him to be featured in Borderlands 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, and the Tales from the Borderlands spin-off leaving many to wonder if he'd continue his streak into a fourth game. Even though Gearbox has previously confirmed that the villain is dead for good, we've put together a list of some of the weirdest Handsome Jack facts from the series lore.
Handsome Jack and Jimmy Kimmel
The ultimate goal with Borderlands 2 was to create a compelling villain-centric story. In order to do that, the Gearbox team needed to develop a character to act as a driving force for the player, something the first game didn't really have outside of the overall goal to reach the vault. Jack was created to serve as that force, a character that was very clearly the bad guy, but since it was Borderlands, he had to an element of humor to him. The lightbulb moment came when the team came across an interview from the Jimmy Kimmel Live late night show. Kimmel was interviewing Nathan Fillion, and actor most video game fans will recognize by this point. During the discussion, Fillion displayed this sense of being charming, slightly arrogant, and funny all while being down to Earth. Following that interview, the team based Handsome Jack's personality in what they call a "wink-and-a-smile arrogance."
In my opinion, there are two kinds of arrogance: boring, Emperor Palpatine-type arrogance where you just sort of cackle a lot and never show enthusiasm at anything because it’s beneath you, and the more bombastic, wink-and-a-smile arrogance that pretends to be friendly and jocular.
While the team now had the style and tone locked in, it was time to give a name to this very important character. Borderlands 2 lead writer, Anthony Burch, referred to the villain as Handsome Jack, a reference to Captain Jack Harkness from the popular franchise, Doctor Who. The codename wasn't intended to stick, but the name became incredibly popular around the studio, so the name ended up sticking permanently.
Infiltrating The ECHOnet
While Handsome Jack isn't first encountered until the second game in the Borderlands franchise, he actually set the events of the first game in motion from behind the scenes.
Near the start of the original Borderlands, players meet up with Claptrap as well as a mysterious woman through a communication device known as ECHOnet. This is the player's first interaction with the Siren known as Angel, a character that players don't realize is actually Handsome Jack's daughter. Player's also don't know that she's an unwilling participant in guiding them through the events of the first game to the Vault of the Destroyer, something she eventually attempts to prevent from escaping containment. While the player eventually defeats the boss creature, Jack's plan to have Angel track and assist the player through the Hyperion satellite 4N631 ('Angel' in 1337speak) orbiting around Pandora works and enables him to gain access to a steady supply of the alien substance known as Eridium.
Having also stolen a vault key from Patricia Tannis, his plan to take over Pandora through awakening and controlling The Warrior is nearly complete. However, the next phase of the plan leads directly to the events of Borderlands 2 and the process of using his Siren daughter to act as a catalyst to charge the key.
Jack's Slow Break With Reality
Handsome Jack wasn't a hit right off that bat inside of Borderlands 2. As Burch describes it, "the first draft of the script, Jack was a nonstop jokepocalypse." This led the character to feel a bit one dimensional and repetitive. To shake that feeling, the team gave Jack more of an arc which starts out when the player first meets him. At first, he comes off as this irrelevant and arrogant person who basically cracks jokes and thinks everything is hilarious. To Jack, he's the hero of the story, with everyone else being just a bandit and an obstacle in his way.
Things take a major turn once his daughter dies during Borderlands 2. By this point, Jack stops being goofy and stops seeing the player as amusing, replacing those emotions with unhinged hatred and anger. His lines become less "frenemy" and angrier for the first time. He basically has a one track mind by this point to take vengeance on the player for his daughter.
To fix this, we treated Angel’s death, and the leadup to it, as Jack’s breaking point. Before his daughter dies, everything is hilarious to Jack. After Angel dies, however, we tried to make a clear break – he stops making jokes, and starts getting angry for the first time in the entire game.
To pair with this story arc, the team also set out to increase Jack's threat level as the game went on. For the first portion of the game, he is supposed to come off as funny and somewhat harmless as evidenced by his Butt Stallion jokes. Eventually, his behavior starts to change, becoming darker and more dangerous through his actions of the bombing attempt of Sanctuary, manipulation of the player, and the killing of Bloodwing. The team set out to show Jack's mental decline and hopefully inspire the player to feel hatred and motivation to take him out.
A Sketchy Home Life
Considering his lack of empathy, indifference to suffering, and willingness to murder to get his way to the top, it should be too surprising to learn that Jack didn't have the best upbringing. In fact, his father died when Jack was young, leading his mother to abandon him with his Grandmother. According to the game's lore, Jack's grandmother was a less than ideal guardian for the youngster, resulting to both physical and emotional abuse. These events are clearly not forgotten by the villain and players can actually take part in an optional quest given from Jack to go check on his grandmother. As it turns out, players discovered that the bandits inhabiting the small cottage were hired by Jack who reveals that the vault hunter was actually sent there to not check on the already dead grandmother, but kill the bandits so they wouldn't have to be paid.
Jack's lack of a stable home life also extended to his wife and their child, Angel. As previously discussed, Angel was born as one of the universe's rare Sirens, which he exploited to gain control of Pandora's ECHOnet. However, Jack hints that trapping Angel was actually done as a result to restrain her growing power and the implication that it in some way caused the disappearance of her mother. Whatever actually happened to Jack's first wife is still up for debate though it is one of the many reasons that Angel has never forgotten or forgiven Jack for.
From Human to AI
His execution at the end of Borderlands 2 wasn't actually the end for Handsome Jack. For those who played Tales from the Borderlands, the lead character of Rhys is someone who dreams of essentially becoming the next Handsome Jack. As it turns out, an AI version of the villain becomes integrated within Rhys after the latter plugs an ID drive into himself to track stolen Hyperion money. Oddly enough, when Jack awakens, he's in disbelief to learn that he's actually dead.
This version of Jack is self-aware and can manifest himself as a hologram, pushing Rhys to return to Helios in order to transfer his consciousness into a new body. For helping him out, Jack promises Rhys a stake in running Hyperion with Jack. This ultimately becomes a major part to the story as the group returns to the Hyperion offices on Helios and Rhys becoming CEO of the corporation. The final episode in the season depicts a climactic battle between Rhys and a newly reborn Jack, though his ultimate fate is left up to the player to decide. Let him continue to be trapped within Rhys' ECHO eye or see him destroyed for good.
Borderlands 3 launches September 13, 2019 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.