The Borderlands franchise is full of mysterious characters, lore, and mythology. One of the most peculiar playable characters in the game is Zer0 the Assassin. It is commonly speculated that he is at least some sort of alien due to his hands only having three fingers, his strange voice, and the fact that he only speaks in haiku. My play style doesn’t jive with the stealthy, melee, sniper approaches that Zer0 offers. I’ve tried to play with him twice, and the furthest I got was level 55 before getting too frustrated to continue. I actually like him a lot as a character, even though I don’t enjoy playing as him, and something that is added to the lore in The Pre-Sequel felt too intentional and specific to be unimportant.
When traveling to Research and Development you encounter some Stalkers. Handsome Jack clues you in about how they can cloak because they have an enzyme that allows them to bend light. He then says how he wants to research it for technology that would allow snipers to vanish and take out enemies from far away. Now obviously this is a direct reference to the annoying Hyperion snipers that show up in Opportunity and Hero’s Pass near the end of Borderlands 2. But to me the Hyperion Snipers are too insignificant and inconsequential to have such a specific narrative element tied to the lore of how Stalkers cloak themselves on command. It is also interesting in light of the fact that Krieg’s story line includes eridium experimentation, so strange experiments on playable characters is familiar to the lore of Borderlands. It should also be pointed out that Angel remarks that she’s not even sure if Zer0 is human when discussing him with Jack on one of the ECHO recordings. And less known is the fact that the Pandoran Gazette, a newspaper piece of art that came with the Diamond Loot Chest edition of Borderlands, has a section where people asked Patricia Tannis questions. When someone inquires about Zer0’s true name and gender, Tannis replies that Zer0 is not his true name and that his name and gender are… The quote is cut off and not continued, so apparently Tannis is not only aware of Zer0’s real name, but also his origins. And side note to those who think Zer0 is an AI, having a real name is not in line with him being a cyborg.
Given that the eridium experimentation either killed people or made them crazy like Krieg it is highly doubtful that we are meant to think any such thing happened to the highly intelligent and finessed assassin we find in Zer0. But where else in the Borderlands universe have we seen sleek and fast moving assassins who use swords? The Atlas corporation in the Knoxx’s Armory DLC in the first Borderlands game. During that expansion you face the Omega Assassins who do similar things to Zer0 with disappearing and slashing you with swords. If you examine their armor and outfits they are very similar to what Zer0 wears, and Omega is literally translated O. This could all be coincidence, but I like to think the Atlas corporation had off the books experiments going on, to develop stronger assassins after the Omega Assassins were so easily dealt with by the vault hunters in Borderlands 1. It is also fun to theorize that because the Omega Assassins were the birth of a new breed and Zer0 could be the first successful experiment. In medical science the term, “patient zero” refers to the first case of an infection, and if Zer0 is the result of experimentation with mixing Stalker and human DNA he may have dawned the name Zer0 after his escape similar to what V did in V for Vendetta. And when you remember that Tannis said Zer0 is not his real name, it starts to seem more plausible.
It may also be worth noting that the Omega Assassins from the Atlas corporation all had red swords, and Zer0’s color scheme seems far more fitting to dawn a red sword. But similar to the contrast of good and evil in Star Wars with the Darth Vader and Obi Wan showdown, Zer0’s sword is blue. Bear in mind his wanted poster says his crime is “Political Assassination” which could have been someone linked to Atlas. It seems strange that the only character who may have ties to Atlas or an unknown group of Assassins is known for killing a politician. It is also worth noting that in Tales from the Borderlands he tracks down Bossanova to his hideout, an abandoned Atlas warehouse. Of all the characters why does he have intersecting paths with Atlas that late in his story arc? Not only that, the mission is to track down the Gortys Project, which is a project that was funded and developed by the Atlas corporation to locate Vaults. This ties Zer0 to the very first game, and some speculate he might be one of the eridium alien guardians, which could fit with all of this. However I doubt he is because having one playable character with that much importance seems unlikely.
Could it all be coincidence?
Obviously a lot of this could just be strange coincidence, but that isn’t typically the way it goes with characters in Borderlands. ECHO recordings have clues and quotes that show up later or get woven in the story in The Pre-Sequel in creative ways. Could the line about enzymes enabling Stalkers to cloak just be there to give some technological background to the Hyperion Snipers. Maybe. Could the numerous clues to Zer0’s non-human origins and similarity to Atlas assassins be purely coincidence. Maybe. And could his story arc rounding out with tracking down Atlas tech and ending in an Atlas warehouse be pure happenstance. Again, maybe. I happen to think when this many things lineup, something else is going on. What do you think?
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