Miriam Schäfer

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intermission – Zack Theory – The Ending and what it (possibly) means. SPOILER!

Caution:
This post contains several major spoilers, thoughts and theories about Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Crisis Core, Advent Children & Dirge of Cerberus!
If you haven´t played the games or watched the movie yet and want to have an undisturbed experience with it, NOW it is time to stop reading!

If you prefer the German version of this text: go here.
I am still in the process of finding and eliminating possible errors in the language. Please be indulgent, I so rarely write much in English ^^‘

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intermission - The unknown Journey begins

After the ending of Final Fantasy VII Remake gave us some food for thought, Intermission does it again. Honestly – would you have guessed?
Well, that the Final Fantasy series has special endings and often an extra coockie after the credits isn’t really news. But – quite honestly – what the „little Yuffie DLC“ offered us – wow. I had not expected that. So I was all the more pleased to be able to take a look at Cloud, Tifa, Barret, Aerith and Red XIII after Yuffie’s adventure. Yes, it was „only“ the way to Kalm, but … hello?! It was the way to Kalm! :D It’s so wonderful to watch how the characters interact with each other. Those little details! *aaww* I wouldn’t even know where to start listing them all – I wouldn’t stop after all ^^‘ So let me just say: This short „Intermission“ was perfectly staged for me and contained more than I would have ever dared to dream. But then … yes … then we saw him again – Zack. And that’s the point where it gets really interesting. Interesting, exciting, confusing, inscrutable, and therefore so insanely good.
Let’s talk about it …

Is Zack alive?

Zack in front of the church of sector 5That’s the all-consuming question. Is Zack alive?
Remake already invited to the wildest speculations last year. Is what we have seen the reality? Is Zack alive? Or does Aerith feel his presence because he died in exactly THIS place? Does she only feel his memory, his echo? The shadow of his existence in the Lifestream? Or was time actually messed up by the destruction of the Whisper in the Singularity? Are there now two timelines in which the action takes place? And is the one in which Zack lives still identical to the one in which our party embarks on its journey? Are there now two Clouds? Or one timeline in which Zack lives and one in which Zack died?
Questions upon questions. And none of them could be answered clearly so far.

If you want to know my detailed thoughts on the ending of Final Fantasy VII Remake, feel free to check out my „Remake-Ending-Analysis/Theory“ from last year. That might make it easier to follow me to Intermission now. And again, a disclaimer: This here is my theory, it’s my thoughts and conclusions drawn with my (partially rusty) knowledge of the Final Fantasy VII Compilation and what I’ve interpreted from the new parts. I make no claim to be correct. It may turn out to be total nonsense. Just because I think one way is logical and another is narrative nonsense, it may still turn out differently. There are actually some successful things out there that I personally don’t think are well told ;) So – I don’t want to say that anyone is stupid because they see something differently or have drawn different conclusions than I have. *peace*

But back to Zack.
Crisis Core - Aerith senses Zack in the LifestreamIntermission has strengthened my opinion on some points and changed it on others. I’m still convinced that we’re not dealing with different timelines, i.e. a plot that splits into two separate strands after the destruction of the Moiren or Whipser, respectively. Sure, theoretically it would be possible – but we’re dealing with Nojima and Nomura, Kitase and Sakaguchi, fantastic writers and storytellers. Deux Ex Machina is mostly a rather cheap grab at the bag of tricks and, with a few exceptions, doesn’t testify to a particularly good storytelling style. The creative minds behind Final Fantasy VII simply don’t need that, especially since their universe already has everything they need. I’m pretty sure that the things that currently confuse or puzzle us have to do with the Lifestream. And Zack’s appearance in Intermission further reinforces my assumption.

Let’s take a step back:
After his appearance in Remake, I could easily imagine the scene at the end of Remake showing that Zack might actually have survived. But at the same time, I considered that it could have always been that way then. Cloud, our unreliable narrator, just might not know that Zack actually didn’t die (at that point), it could once again be a false memory. There are a few points against it, though: Crisis Core is not Cloud’s story, it’s Zack’s story. Crisis Core - Angeal takes Zack into the Lifestream Why would his own story tell the untruth about his end? Then there are the scenes with Aerith & Angeal. Aerith sensing Zack’s death via the Lifestream, and Angeal reaching out to his friend and welcoming him into the Lifestream. But since we were still completely in the dark about what was really true and what wasn’t, (almost) anything could still be possible.

Intermission now narrows down the possibilities:

Intermission – Zack back in Midgar?

Final Fantasy VII Intermission - I'm back - Zack back in MidgarWhile Remake ended at a point that at least left room for interpretation and one could speculate that the moment Zack is killed still follows what was shown on screen, Intermission is clear on this point: we see Zack back in Midgar. He is standing in front of the portal of Aerith’s church in Sector 5, thinking of words he could say to her when he now returns to her after so long without any sign of life. He pushes open the double doors … and freezes. No Aerith far and wide. Instead, the interior of the church is full of mourning people. And Aerith’s flowers are trampled …

My first spontaneous thoughts on this were:

  • Ok, so Zack is actually alive.
  • Aerith is not there because she is out with Cloud and the others.
  • The flowers are flattened because Cloud landed on them just two days before. Or maybe it’s just the boy’s fault, standing right in the middle of the flower bed.
  • The people? Probably grieving and injured refugees who have found refuge in the church after the plate accident in Sector 7.

So simple, isn’t it?
Perhaps too simple. Because actually, that can’t be right, right? If we want to stick to the chronology of the story, then the whole thing doesn’t quite fit together.
Depending on which source we follow, between Cloud’s return to Midgar and the first Bombing Run, between 2 weeks and almost 2 months passed. In that time, Tifa helped Cloud halfway cure himself of his Mako poisoning and trauma. The way Remake has presented itself so far, time might have been even tighter and Cloud might not have been so „sick“ – but that’s pure speculation on my part. In any case – if we first assume that Zack actually survived and brought Cloud back to Midgar, then he would have taken a hell of a long time to visit his Aerith if he didn’t show up at her place until after the plate fell. Wouldn’t he? What more important things should he have done in the meantime? He probably wasn’t with ShinRa (at least not voluntarily) after they first locked him up for years and then tried to kill him, too.

Intermission - Aerith's ChurchSo WHEN is Zack standing in front of the church?
Since we know many of the grievers inside the church from the intro, they could be victims of the first bombing run. But even that would mean too much elapsed time. Zack received Aerith’s letters near the end of CC – the entire batch. Surely he’s not going to wait weeks before visiting her – his great love. I mean, one of his first paths, if not THE first, after getting Cloud to safety would have to have led him directly to her. So the whole thing would have to have taken place so early that we can’t even know why people are in the church, since the active action of the game wasn’t even going on at that point. And – Cloud can’t possibly be the reason for the crushed flowers then.

De-Sync – Time out of sync

Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade Intro - Time De-SyncIn fact, it is thus – at least superficially – obvious to assume a new timeline. At the moment of the Whipser explosion, a new line might have opened up, running alongside the known one. If it started only at the moment when the Whispers exploded, then yes, it would be like the Zack line running a few weeks behind the Cloud line. In purely chronological terms, that would be a simple conclusion. If we also assume that Cloud himself – since he was in the singularity – was unaffected by any changes in the outside world, then the two buster swords would also be explained and then this theory could be accepted as a thoroughly „simple and logical“ possibility.
The de-synchronization of the two intros of Remake and Intermission would fit to this. I just noticed that the music is a bit different (I found Remake btw. clearly nicer – but Intermission is a lot more disturbing …! Whoo …!), but Sleepezi has posted a great video online about it, in which he runs both intro versions side by side. Check it out and see for yourself! The two intros are visually no longer congruent. Of course, this could just be due to the changed music and the fact that they wanted to match sound and image in rhythm, but … you never know with Square … ^^

But back to the timelines. Does that really make sense? I don´t think so.
Because – with two timelines, two Clouds would have to exist now. We saw Zack at the end of Remake dragging Cloud2 – past Cloud1 – back to Midgar. So there would have to be one Cloud that marches with the party towards Kalm, and one that Zack places somewhere in Midgar. How would that be possible? Wouldn’t we then rather even have to assume a second reality, which is spatially completely separated from the first one? Zack & Cloud on their way to Midgar But how, please, do you want to merge it with the original one later, if Cloud exists twice? Wouldn’t there then inevitably have to be a Cloud left over or destroyed in the end? And – do we want to see that? Do we want to have to decide in which timeline Cloud is allowed to survive and in which not? A very scary thought!

So – yes. I agree – it may sound coherent at first glance that the plot is told in different timelines. But once you think about it more intensely … if time travel or alternate worlds were possible in this universe – then why not prevent Cloud from even throwing Sephiroth into the Lifestream in Nibelheim? Why not set it even further ahead and create a timeline where the ShinRa can’t find Jenova at all and can’t create Sephiroth? This play could be continued endlessly and in the end there would be nothing left of the original story but „What if …?“. And that would be a real shame, wouldn’t it?

And even if we would accept the story only as it is currently presented to us and with two timelines – if we then think it through to the end (and we do assume that it is a good story ^^), the result inevitably leads to two different endings or two storylines that cannot easily be brought together again.

Is there a way around this problem? Sure. It’s just not two timelines. (tada! ^^)
If „time travel“ were possible, but we can’t go back to other salient events in time, that means that this time travel ability must be limited to a specific time period. So we would either have to deal with the „timeloop“ already hinted at in last year’s article, or …

Everything happens as it always has

Kitase saidI actually think we can trust the producers and writers. Kitase already said in an interview last year (I think in Ultimania – link to Audrey’s translation (Twitter)) that there will be no drastic changes in Remake (from now on). Toriyama recently added (Gamesstop News) that the changes we can expect will be about how the scene at HoneyBee Inn changed from the original. I interpret this to mean that there may be adjustments in design and flow. The narrative might be added to or take a new turn here and there, some things might get a higher emphasis, others might be dropped, but at all that won’t change anything about the big, important main story.

What does this mean for Zack?
Possibility One: Look above. – Zack never died on that hill. He actually brought Cloud back to Midgar, took care of him and died at a later time – but in any case BEFORE Cloud’s reunion with Tifa (since he would have had to get the Buster Sword at point X by then). So Remake could simply tell us „the real Zack story“ in these Zack flashbacks. That would be plausible. Plausible – but pretty unexciting.
Crisis Core - Zack's DeathIn addition, it would be a lot of new content that would exist only to contradict or completely negate one of the most monumental moments of the Final Fantasy VII Compilation – Zack’s Last Stand. Sacrificing one of the greatest moments just to create a WTF moment? Didn’t we want to assume good storytelling? No. I don’t believe in it.

And option two?
Let’s go back to Zack and the church and take a closer look at everything:

Two different churches

The first thing I noticed when watching the scene a second time was that the church in Intermission seems much tidier than the one where Cloud and Aerith met in Remake. There are more pews in the room, there is no debris leaning against the walls, and the floor seems less battered as well. When I went to check and compare, I noticed the cross above the altar:

The Cross in Aerith's Church - Intermission The Cross in Aerith's Church - Remake

In Zack’s version of the church, we have a wooden cross on the wall. In Remake, it’s just a cross carved into the stone. Coincidence? Design adjustment? Definitely no.
Because for one thing, Zack’s church is actually less broken than the Remake church – for another, the cross in Zack’s version is identical to the cross from Crisis Core, Advent Children, and the Final Fantasy VII original. A wooden cross existed in all three parts of the Compilation!

The Cross in Aerith's Church - Crisis Core The Cross in Aeriths Church - Advent Children

The Cross in Aeriths Church - FF7 Original

At that moment, I decided to take a closer look at a few other things that I had noticed, but to which I had attached little or no importance. After all – why should graphic changes between Remake and OG have made me wonder? After all, the original is over 20 years old. Of course, a current PS4 game would graphically upgrade elements so that they differ from the original. But – why would there be design differences within the game itself?

Two different midgars

The midgar in the Remake intro is insane. I don’t think there’s an FF7 fan out there who wasn’t totally blown away by the sight of it. Although I did notice one detail here on first viewing: Midgar seemed larger than in the original. The outer district behind the reactor ring was already much more developed and didn’t just consist of undeveloped plates like in the original. But surely they had simply saved on the graphics back then and given us the full drone today. Wow!

Midgar - Final Fantasy VII Original Intro Midgar - Final Fantasy VII Remake Intro

But now that I’ve rewatched all the scenes that feature Midgar – that answer turns out to be not so simple. Because the Midgar that Cloud in Remake views from above after he enters the Singularity – that is identical to the original. The outer district is still undeveloped and the way the reactors are labeled is also different.

Midgar Reactor in Final Fantasy VII Original Midgar Reactor in Final Fantasy VII Remake Intro

Midgar in the Remake Singularity - OG Design Midgar Reactor in the Remake Singularity - OG Design

Quite clearly, the old „empty“ design is then seen at the moment when the Whispers explode before Zack’s eyes:

Midgar in the Remake - OG Design

Also in the ending of Remake, we can find more visual differences from things in FF7R itself. When we visit the destroyed Seventh Heaven in Chapter 13, its nameplate appears more damaged than in the ending sequence when we watch the inhabitants of Sector 7 rebuild (note the wide crack in the letter E in HEaven). Consider additionally that while we are looking at the shield in Chapter 13, a huge container comes crashing down from above and crashes onto it …

Seventh Heaven - Chapter 13 Seventh Heaven - Final Sequence

Anyway – so we are dealing with two different Midgars. The one where Remake takes place and the other one we know from the previous Compilation. The Midgar in Remake – and the one in Singularity. Coincidence? Certainly not. So is there a reference to an alternate universe here?

Yes and no.
Yes – there are two Midgars. But – in my opinion – this is not about an alternative universe in the sense of a parallel universe. We don’t need an additional timeline or reality with a new plot level. We don’t experience a (what I would consider – extremely stupid) „What if…“ scenario. No. Remake actually has a narrative purpose and uses elements that Final Fantasy VII has always had: the Lifestream and the memories of all life and times in it.

„Zack is alive … somehow“

Recall a statement by Nomura (in Ultimania – I can’t find the relevant direct quote right now, just the long version (inverse.com) in which he confirmed: „Zack is alive (somehow).“ I trust the writers. But in my opinion, we should give less importance to the word „alive“ here than to the word „somehow.“ The producers love to tell us the truth and mislead us with it at the same time.

I’ll say it again for good measure: these are my thoughts and theories. They don’t have to be right, they can turn out to be total bullshit. But to me they are plausible and logical, and in fact the only way (that I can think of – so doesn’t have to mean anything ;) ) to keep the story consistent without losing it to a silly wishy-washy narrative. Yes, Remake still has the potential to bring itself down. But Part 1 showed me that Square actually still has it. So I’m going to trust them until they prove me wrong.

Crisis Core - Angeal welcomes Zack to the LifestreamTherefore – I don’t believe Zack is truly „alive“ as we understand life. But I do believe – yes, Zack exists.
I believe Zack died exactly as it was seen in Crisis Core and in the original in the fight against the ShinRa. At that moment he crosses over into the lifestream and „lives“ on there. He is at Cloud’s side from that moment on – just like he always was in OG and AC.

Existence in the lifestream

For those who want a detailed explanation of how the lifestream works, or how I understand it, please take a look at my „Remake Ending Analysis“ from last year.

Now let’s remember the stories „Lifestream White“ and „Lifestream Black“ in the book „On a way to a smile“. Here it is explained that there are some entities that are so aware of their self that they keep their „bodies“ and identities in the lifestream, that they keep their „face“. And that Aerith and Sephiroth are like that – but so is Zack. It goes on to say that the lifestream is blocked, that the other souls are cut off from the cycle of life and cannot return to life as long as Sephiroth is there.

Advent Children - Cloud & ZackMy theory now is that Zack passed into the Lifestream after his death (on the hill). And that the lifestream, which contains all life and all memories, looks to him like the life he knew. So, in principle, he does not even realize yet that he has died. Instead, he goes (with Cloud on his shoulders, I’ll get to that in a moment) to the place where he was going to meet Aerith: the church. To him, the church – and Midgar – looks exactly as he remembers it. Zack hasn’t been there in over four years. Considering the advanced technology – this period of time is perfectly sufficient to further develop the outer ring of the city. The church, on the other hand, has continued to deteriorate during the years of his absence, the wooden cross may have fallen down or been taken down … This would explain the differences between the remake design and the „lifestream design“.
But then why do OG and AC also resemble the Lifestream design in Remake? Keep that question in mind!

I see dead people!

Let’s get to the other people in the church first. I assume they are actually seeking refuge there. But I don’t think they are survivors of the plate accident. That might be indicated by the fact that none of them seem to respond to Lifestream-Zack when he enters the church. But I think they are much more souls, the very ones who can no longer participate in the cycle of life and are trapped in the blocked lifestream. Perhaps their wailing is what Aerith and Barret call the „cries of the planet.“ Maybe that’s why they don’t notice Zack, because they are so preoccupied with themselves and their suffering.
Intermission - Refugees in Aerith's Church?I could imagine (and now we’re getting into a very, very speculative realm) that it could become Zack’s job to motivate them, give them back their faith, and make them into some kind of … Fighter of the Lifestream. I could further imagine that Aerith, at the moment when the Whispers buzzed around her in her old room in ShinRa HQ, and she said the strangely incoherent phrase „Follow them, the yellow flowers“, was not talking to her friends, but to them, the Whispers and souls. She was pointing them in the right direction. To where the Lifestream is still pure, she showed them a place where they can go, where they are protected from Sephiroth. Maybe Aerith even knew that Zack would come there. Maybe this is all part of her plan: to concentrate the powers of the Lifestream in one place.

Follow the yellow flowers

The Yellow Flower crumbles to petals the Whispers follow them?

Cloud and Zack – Connected in Spirit

If Zack has died – how can Aerith perceive him carrying Cloud back to Midgar?

Remake Zack & Cloud meet Cloud & Aerith

Well, especially I would like to refer to the white light here. The white light in which Aerith and Zack disappear at the end of Advent Children. In which Tifa and Cloud lie in the flower meadow, in which Cloud visits Aerith to ask forgiveness. This white light clearly represents the lifestream, or at least a spiritual level, where you are also when you faint, for example. -> See Cloud in „conversation“ with his „subconscious“ after falling into the church. Theoretically, this conversation could be directly linked to the end of Intermission! At least, if we assume that he is not talking to „Real Cloud“ as I had assumed so far, but to Zack …? But more on that later, too.
Anyway, we also see this light behind Zack when he stands in the church portal in Intermission. But we also see it at the end of Remake, when the two „worlds“ touch in Aerith’s perception. First there’s Aerith and the others in the rain. Then Cloud and Zack appear, walk past them, and at that moment the scene fades into the bright light. I think this is a clear reference to the Lifestream.

Advent Children - Farewell to Aerith & Zack Intermission - Zack's Return

Advent Children - Cloud & Tifa Subconscious. Cloud & Real-Cloud or Cloud & Zack?

The weather could also provide some clues here.
In CC, Zack’s fight began in sunshine. The scene of his defeat takes place in the rain in both CC and OG.
In Remake, we see Zack only in sunshine – even at the end of his fight.
But he drags Cloud in the rain towards Midgar (as in CC and OG).

So in Lifestream, so far, there seems to be only sunshine ;)
So I think the way to Midgar is partly Cloud’s memories (or just reflects the weather around Aerith’s current reality). Cloud remembers the rain. And I also believe that Zack was actually with him in some sense. Not physically – but on the lifestream / spiritual level as a mental succor. Cloud had been relying on Zack for months. He was so out of it because of his Mako poisoning that he didn’t notice a lot of things. Zack has carried him all the way since Nibelheim, telling him stories. Cloud will have held on to Zack and Zack’s words even after Zack’s death, perhaps more than ever, – and that’s why we see both of them together here. It’s more a symbol than reality, so to speak. And who knows? Maybe Cloud only made it back to Midgar at all because he had Zack’s ghost by his side?

Cloud actually having Zack by his side is a fundamental point of the FF7-OG storyline. Cloud pieces together his own past from Zack’s story(s). He partially thinks of himself as Zack. He imitates his way of speaking, moving and fighting – this is also well seen in Remake (missing here is the link to a website that has both characters from CC and Remake side by side … I can’t find it again right now ^^‘). Cloud can’t draw a clear line between himself and Zack in his condition. Tifa feels the differences, even if she blames them on not seeing Cloud for a long time. But I’m sure Aerith knows exactly about Cloud’s condition in Remake. And in her scene in chapter 14 she also addresses him about it quite clearly („All your feelings would be imagination“).

But how long does this connection last? Well, Cloud finds himself again with Tifa’s help in the Lifestream. However, he still has Zack by his side until far beyond that. Even in AC, Zack gives him strength and confidence in battle. Advent Children - Farewell ... forever? I’m not quite sure, but I had always interpreted Zack and Aerith’s goodbye at the end of AC as „I accept their death and can now live my life“. And could imagine, only this is the final farewell of Zack from Cloud’s mind. Of course, you can continue to hold the people who died in your heart and with you. But something about this farewell felt to me …. more final than before.
And I’m very curious to see how Remake will handle this close connection between the three.

Anyway – if the „Zack carries Cloud scene“ takes place in the Lifestream, that would simultaneously explain any time differences. The lifestream always is. It contains memories of past, present & future. And memories can be retrieved at any time.
So, in a way, different times and interconnected narrative levels do exist – but they have nothing to do with time travel, timelines or multiverses. It is solely about the life stream.

Life and Lifestream – Reality and Memory

Now here it becomes a bit more difficult with the interpretation, simply because there are too many possibilities without clear indications in any direction. I will try to point out a few of them, maybe someone of you has an idea how it could be most likely?

From Memory to Reality?Let’s talk about memories.
Sephiroth no longer wants to „just be a memory“. Means => he no longer wants to exist only in the lifestream. Jenova had the ability to give memories a form. Is it a coincidence that Sephiroth can be perceived by the other party members in front of Jenova’s body in the ShinRa HQ, although he existed only in Cloud’s visions and memories so far? Has he already achieved one of his goals with this?

And if the Midgar that Zack returns to is the one from his memory, if it coincides with the one in the Singularity and with the one from OG … what does that mean?
I would imagine that then everything that took place in OG up to DoC was actually „just“ a memory of the Lifestream. From the moment Sephiroth became part of the Lifestream, since Cloud pushed him into it, Sephiroth was trapped inside it. Sealed, perhaps even by the Whispers. In the Lifestream, the fate of the planet revealed itself to him, that which we witnessed in the plot of the Final Fantasy VII original and subsequent compilations. And in Remake, the Whisper have made every effort to preserve this path. But Sephiroth is no longer playing the game. He’s tired of „just being a memory.“ He is looking for a way out.

Sephiroth frees himself from his prison?And by destroying the Whisper for him, we destroyed the path laid out. We have changed the destiny.
That means, from now on many things COULD happen differently than in the OG. Sephiroth, for example, should know that he must not kill Aerith, that her death means his downfall.
But maybe it’s not the Whispers that are keeping us on track now, maybe it’s Aerith? It could still all end exactly the way OG ended. Maybe the plot will take other turns in between, whenever we stray from the path of the planet. But we could always be led back to it, the path of the original.

I btw also think the reverse is possible – that OG happened as it did, and Remake is a reconstruction of those memories. I just don’t quite know how one would then be able to overwrite reality with the new memory. Or if one even needs to do that? Maybe something automatically becomes reality when as many people as possible believe it to be true? Mother Jenova can give shape to memories – but to the memories of an entire planet? Is this what is meant by terra-corruption? Or am I holding too tightly to my reality thinking and there is no clear boundary at all between the Lifestream and the „real world“? Or is this where Chadley comes in with his virtual reality? Does Hojo want to overwrite reality with a VR through him? Or is it actually his job to imitate Jenova’s ability and create reality out of memories? There are just countless possibilities.

In any case, I like the idea of Final Fantasy VII Original being a memory or „Predestined Fate“ the best. If only because it would be cool on a meta level as well – after all, is OG a memory for all of us. It would forever preserve the original for what it is, and it wouldn’t (almost) matter how the remake continues and ends – because it wouldn’t negate our memories, but name and honor them as such. It would acknowledge OG as the destiny changed by Sephiroth’s intervention. But whether Sephiroth succeeds in his scheme, whether we can thwart his plans, or even change fate for the better … all that can’t change in this case that OG is what it is: destiny.
And this once again sheds special light on actual statement from Hamaguchi. He said in an interview with IGN „… For the next part (of Remake), it is of utmost importance not to damage the memories of the source material …“ ^^

„I am reminded that for the next installment, it’s of utmost importance not to damage the memories from the source material while reimagining it so it surpasses people’s expectations.“

(Am I the only one who has her true joy in these word interpretations? Certainly not, right? :D )

Biggs

Anyway, I would imagine that all the differences we experience in the designs are due to the lifestream/memory vs reality difference.
The church, Midgar … maybe even Stamp (but that’s another topic in itself I won’t go into here – others have better ideas for that ^^). I could even imagine that the scene at the end, where the „too little defective sign“ is set up, could also be a Lifestream scene. After all, the golden Whisper/Souls shards are raining down from the (brilliantly bright) sky here, too, just as they did with Zack on the hill outside the city.

And the symbolism in the scene speaks volumes:

Reunion

Girl in pink in intimate reunion with a shaggy dog? While two guys and a girl walk past both and on? … Or am I reading too much into this? It just reminds me of the symbol image of Cloud and the Avalanche cats outside Jessie’s house ^^‘

Avalanche cats Cloud cat

In favor of the Lifestream at this point is the fact that – when we pan from Sector 7 to Sector 5 following this scene – the golden sparks can also be seen there. And here something extraordinary happens: we witness ONE SINGLE of these sparks disappearing in the body of the unconscious Biggs – exactly in the second before he wakes up.
Could this perhaps indicate that Biggs has not survived either, as we have previously assumed, but that he (and perhaps Jessie) has been „recruited“ by the Lifestream, along with Zack, to join the fight against Sephiroth in it, or rather on this plane of existence?

Biggs is awakened?

Then in the next scene, we see Marlene – just a few feet away from Biggs in Aerith’s house. As she looks out the window, the golden slivers don’t exist – she sees the yellow petals swirling through the air instead … So this could be the plane of the living again.

Whisper Rain over Sector 7For me, it is conceivable that the scenes with the glitter and the „old designs“ represent the Lifestream. The scenes without the glitter the reality. – But of course it could be completely different. Pro: In both scenes there is no sky, only bright light. But that could also be due to the perspective. On the other hand, I am puzzled by Marle, who can be seen during the cleanup in sector 7, but whom we found still alive after the fall of the plate. Of course, she could have died later and now exist in the Lifestream, but … could perhaps both worlds simply coexist or overlap? Could they overlap and be perceived differently depending on the level one is on?

The Crushed Flowers

I want to go back to Zack in the church at this point. To the last scene, where we see the shot of the crushed flowers and he says „Aerith?“ in such an oddly questioning way.

Intermission - Zack and the flowers in the church

What does this mean? What is Zack seeing at this moment?
Well, I’ve heard a theory that Aerith is already dead here, and that’s why people are lamenting in the church, but there is – in my opinion – no evidence for that.
Nevertheless, I think this moment is important. At first I thought it was just to show us that Aerith is no longer here and therefore the flowers are not cared for. But they are not withered after all – they are trampled and crushed.
My first thought on this was, maybe they look that way because that’s just how Zack remembers them. If the church is the one from his memory, then why not the flowers? Surely his most precious memory is how he fell into the flowers and met Aerith. Therefore I can imagine that as an explanation.

But what makes me a bit puzzled are the boots you see standing in the flowers in the last shot, which look suspiciously like Soldier boots. The perspective is almost identical to the one in which we first encounter Zack in Remake, before his final fight. Okay, we could see two kids squatting in the flowerbed before, but their clothes don’t quite match the close-up of the boots for me. So I thought, maybe there is someone else lying in the flowers, who only gets up during the perspective change? Who could that be?

Of course, there would be various possibilities – starting with me being wrong and it just being the kids‘ shoes.
But I also considered that Zack might be seeing himself here. Wouldn’t it be conceivable that he has returned to an important moment in his memory, the moment he met Aerith, and that by seeing himself in this memory, he realizes that he is no longer alive?

Cloud in the flowerbedAlternatively, I could also imagine it being Cloud’s boots. That Zack might even be watching Cloud and Aerith at the moment Cloud crashed through the church roof. Simply because Zack is so closely connected to Cloud after his death, and – as we saw earlier in „The Road to Midgar“ – is always with him. Perhaps he sees from the Lifestream what is happening in reality around Cloud. Maybe it’s to make it clearer to us how connected the two are, or when Cloud is exhibiting the „Zack behavior“ or when Aerith is perceiving Zack in him?
I could also imagine (I mentioned it above) that this scene directly follows the one where the unconscious Cloud communicates with his subconscious after falling out of the reactor – or recalls at that moment words Zack said to him during their escape from Nibelheim.

As I said – mere theory. But both scenarios could indicate that both „worlds“ run into each other in such a way that certain people can perceive both levels. Aerith can clearly Do reality and lifestream meet here?sense what is going on in the lifestream. She senses the threat of Sephiroth and Jenova, she talks to the Whispers, she senses Zack. So why shouldn’t Zack also be able to partially see into reality from within the lifestream? At least in places or moments where people close to him are also strongly connected to him?

Change – The unknown Journey

Goodbye, City of MakoBut you can tell – all of this again contains many maybes, countless possibilities, and bristles with subjunctives.
Even if I’m sure about some points (e.g. that Zack is really dead and that there won’t be a wacky timeline-multiverse story), they can still turn out to be nonsense. And besides the big questions, there are countless little things we can only speculate about that are still open and can develop in various directions.
We could talk intensely about Chadley. About Stamp, the Whispers, Hojo, Weiss, Genesis … We could discuss Yuffie’s story, question Wutai’s path, or speculate what will come next. Of course, I have thoughts on this. For example, I’m relatively certain (or find the thought fantastic, anyway!) that Remake Part 2 will begin with a Cloud/Sephiroth flashback. Or with a Zack section, but I don’t think they’ll do us that favor. ;)
However, I’ve been sitting on this text for weeks again now – and at some point it’s just enough. There are so many great videos on Youtube on the subject – check them out! I still recommend Sleepezi and his eye for detail ^^
And feel free to tell me about your thoughts & theories?

All that remains for me to say at this point is what I said last year: I’m impressed. I admire Square for being able to spark such interest in a game that’s over 20 years old, while keeping us in the dark about what’s to come – even though there’s still a chance that not much has changed at all overall. I LOVE IT!

Of course, I respect the opinion of those who don’t like Remake. However, I don’t share the „it’s all different“ argument most often read at all. For me, Final Fantasy VII honestly hasn’t changed at all. Remake is exactly how I always perceived Final Fantasy VII. It just shows some things more clearly, makes little swerves and adds to what we previously had to read between the lines. It makes the world seem so much more real and alive, and breathes so much more life into everything that you can almost feel the world and believe it above all else. No matter how skeptical I may have been beforehand, I’m still loving every moment after the DLC.

Remake - Boundless Freedom

Yes, I too still see a chance for Square to screw this up. If in the end there is indeed a „here … bla … x timelines, Zack lives in this one, no one lives in that one, and everyone lives in that one except Cloud, but no matter, because in some universe everyone is happy and satisfied in the end anyway“-story out of it – then I’m out.
I also think that they shouldn’t drag the mystery around Zack over x more game endings. It needs to be revealed slowly now, piece by piece. If it remains too vague and ambiguous until the end, then that would raise expectations for the resolution to dizzying heights – which could then easily turn into a crushing disappointment. I think it’s important to indicate an intention in time – even if it’s only through hints. Otherwise we’d be back to bad storytelling – though I really don’t see the danger here. On the contrary. Remake does so many things so damn right.
And basically, there’s more to Remake than Zack, which makes it mysterious and exciting.

„Fate seems stronger than death,“ Nanaki said after the Whisper revived Barret. Who knows? Perhaps the same is true the other way around? Can fate be stronger than life?

We'll read us again after the next Remake part
Anyway, I’m looking forward to experience and discover all future adventures and secrets of Final Fantasy VII Remake.

Thanks for your attention and – we’ll read us again after the next Remake Part! =)

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All graphics and the „Final Fantasy“ trademark are copyrighted by Square Enix.

2 Responses to Final Fantasy VII Remake Intermission – Zack Theory – The Ending and what it (possibly) means. SPOILER!

  1. […] (Want to know my thoughts on the Intermission Ending too? Follow this link.) […]

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