When it comes to choosing a favorite character from Grand Theft Auto V’s three playable protagonists, a lot of people go for Trevor. He’s brash, funny, and likes to blow shit up — totally symbolizing the spirit of Grand Theft Auto. I’ve also heard quite a few people who like Franklin’s heist-happy twist on the classic rags-to-riches story.
That’s the fun of GTA V: having three playable characters, you have three chances to find a story that engages you. For me, it’s all about Michael, a man who made a career of robbery until, 10 years ago, he staged his own death to live a quiet life in a Los Santos mansion with his wife and two kids. There are plenty of reasons to like Michael, so here are mine…
He Has a Compelling Character Arc
Maybe I’m just a sucker for the self-loathing types — the ones who try to convince themselves they have good hearts but can’t quite escape their dirty pasts. Michael is very much that type, and one of the first scenes in GTA V shows him pacing around his psychologist’s office. He wants to be a changed man, and that makes him a character to root for right from the start. But let’s face it: nobody wants to see him change. Be happy, yes — but being boring isn’t good for video games. The transformation we want to see is him becoming a badass criminal just like he used to be, and now with the age and money to do it in style… in a suit.
But never mind what we’re really rooting for. With Michael, the most important thing is that he has an interesting arc. Franklin’s story is almost a coming-of-age type, while Trevor is just Trevor, forever and always. Meanwhile, Michael’s story is that of real change in middle age. Maybe it’s about being a better person — a family man — or maybe it’s about embracing those inner demons. Either way, the start of the game sees Michael conflicted and on the cusp of major change, and you know you’re going to see him whirl in one direction or another as the story unfolds.
His Family Missions Are Some of the Best Missions
Most of my favorite GTA V missions so far have been the ones revolving around Michael’s family life. Early on, these include forcing his teenage son to go on a father-son bike ride, dragging his teenage daughter off of a boat filled with porn film makers, and being trapped into doing yoga with his wife. All of these missions are just a tad over-the-top and totally hilarious; they’re perfect satires on what everyone must imagine life to be like living in an LA mansion with a “perfect” yet dysfunctional family.
Besides that, players can go visit Michael’s psychologist at different points in the game to listen to Michael dissect his life. Players have the option of making Michael agree with the psychologist or not. And to make everything even sweeter, we get to see hints of the slimy side of the psychologist, who always says time is up just before Michael gets to his epiphany in order to weasel more sessions out of him…
It’s this satire that makes Michael’s storyline an easy win for me. Although I have to say that rampaging with Trevor is a lot of fun, Michael’s family missions are lower key and all the more funny for being relatable.
His Temper Makes Him Totally Lose It
Put in context with Trevor’s somewhat deranged side and Franklin’s youth, there’s something satisfying about seeing a middle-aged man with a family go berserk on people once in a while. Even if we do root for Michael to succeed at being a good husband and father and embrace things like health juice and yoga (yeah, right…), we’re secretly longing for those moments when he starts to unravel.
Michael has a lot of obvious flaws. He’s arrogant, critical of others, and a little too sarcastic. Best of all, he’s a classic overreacter who’s always ready to fly off the handle over the most trivial things. One of his first missions has him chasing down the tennis instructor who has been having an affair with his wife and literally pulling a mansion off the hillside it was built on, all in the name of revenge. And when he’s not overreacting, he’s bitching about things. About being too old for triathlons. About his son sitting on his ass all day playing video games. At other drivers for scratching his expensive (even when stolen) car.
Personally, I can’t wait for those moments with bitching becomes action, and he loses it. It’s that combustible combination of everyday family man and slightly unhinged criminal that makes Michael so fun to be around. Just as he fights that part of himself that loves crime, we players hope he gives in to his bad side, because it’s so much more GTA than his good one.