Pagan Min has been described as a “boring” villain by some and shockingly criticised for not having enough “layers” to his character. One of the finest, most intriguing video game villains of all-time deserves more respect and analysis than that. So this is my much-needed exploration of Min’s character. Possible spoilers ahead.
A Brief Introduction to Min
Pagan Min was born in Hong Kong to White-British and Han-Chinese parents. His father, a drug-lord in Hong Kong, hired his son to operate in the working echelons of his business. Disgruntled with the work, Min was forced to continue until his father’s death. Min inherited his father’s line of work and status, but soon became tired of the lack of prestige tied to the work.He set off to Kyrat – a state torn by warring factions, one namely the Golden Path, with an unclear leader at the helm. It is there where he met Mohan Ghale and Ishwari Ghale – two characters that will be discussed later on. Min’s affair with Ishwari led to his involvement in a bloody, violent love triangle. Shortly after Mohan’s death, Ishwari left Kyrat for North America thus abandoning Min – now the “king” of Kyrat.
Although nobody knows his real name, “Pagan” is an adopted forename taken from an old Burmese king who murdered his family to win the throne. This is where Min can be analysed – his father passed away, his mother we can only predict did too; there is never a mention of her. By adopting the name of royalty who murdered his family, Min could be perceived by outsiders as a cold-blooded killer who thrives for power and stardom – the Kyrati throne. After the arrival of Ajay Ghale in Kyrat – son of Ishwari and Mohan – Min is presented to the player, at first, as a demented, intelligent and Hannibal-like human. Ajay’s purpose is to scatter the ashes of his mother, though he is unaware of what is about to be thrown his way.
Let’s look at Pagan Min’s morals and ethics. Are his actions wise or unwise?
The first ten minutes spent in Min’s presence is awkward, spine-chilling and outright frightening. His calm demeanor is shattered twice: once when he repeatedly stabs a royal army officer for not understanding the difference between “stop and shoot” and the other when Darpan – a member of the Golden Path – is texting at the table asking for “help.” In particular the latter, where he carries Darpan over to the ledge of his castle, telling him to cry for help: “from your diaphragm!” Darpan is subsequently tortured. His morals seem distorted as the game progresses. How you view him changes after every cut scene spent in his presence – which is far from often. Min’s sociopathic, murderous actions set him up as an untrustworthy villain, yet his honesty and cordial behaviour toward Ajay is what intensifies the scenes.
Is he going to snap at you? Is he being genuine? These are questions posed every single time Ajay encounters Min. The only true moral and ethical trait of Min’s is love. It is the only time his shield retreats and his heart opens up. His love for Ishwari has grown with the time spent apart. After all, he does offer the anecdotal “when women say they love you, they tend to mean it. But men only really love you in hindsight. When too much distance has built up.” As mentioned previously, Ishwari moved to North America; with every passing year, it is evident that Min’s love has grown. The Ishwari link is important, though, as it sets up a somewhat paternal love toward Ajay. Love is Min’s only moral and ethical emotion.
Min’s Messiah Complex
He is an introverted, almost misplaced villain. He professes his hatred for blood when stabbing the royal army officer to death – yet he names himself after a bloodthirsty Burmese king. Min is about public image. His Messiah complex is threaded throughout every encounter. Firstly, he owns a palace. His face is plastered on the Kyrati notes. There is a golden statue erected outside of his fortress – a statue gigantic enough to tower over the whole of Kyrat and look down on it like a God would.
The bell towers and propaganda letters scattered through Kyrat are always signed off with the same phrase: “may Pagan’s light shine upon you all”. There are three interpretations – whichever one chosen helps split Min into three different paths. The light could be a literal representation to the ever-shiny golden statue, although it could also be a supernatural, enlightening ray of God where he is quite clearly portrayed as higher than everyone else. The final interpretation could be something more angelic. Perhaps Min’s “light” is one of protection over Kyrat, portraying him as a saviour.
Is Min a narcissist?
If Min wants people to view him as a narcissist due to the statue, then there is more to support that theory. His face plastered on Kyrati notes has already been mentioned, but the most narcissistic moment is when Min deploys a “body double”. Although the body double (Eric) dupes Ajay into committing murder over someone he believed to be Min, it is later on that the true narcissistic nature of Eric’s deployment shines through. Min uses Eric for photo-shoots and such. It is Eric who the statue was built upon, the faces plastered on the notes and one can only assume that the propaganda posters were also designed based on Eric’s eerily similar Pagan Min look. One can only assume that Min did not want to be photographed, drawn/painted because he wanted to preserve his aura of Messiah. Think of it in contemporary ways. Many people have attempted to depict what God or certain scriptural figures looked like, but it will likely never be truly accurate.
“If you give food to monkeys, they throw shit at each other”
This is a repetitive phrase used by Min to criticise society. Min believes he is implementing much-needed stability to Kyrat, so that could symbolise “food” if the “monkeys” are its inhabitants. “Throw shit at each other” could be a replacement sentence for engaging in conflict. So, let’s reword the statement: “if you give stability to humans, they engage in conflict.” It’s a damning statement about Kyrat, which struggles to keep its core religious beliefs intact when different factions are warring for economic progression or preservation of the past. Min has no bias to either side.
Ironically, despite being the villain, we very rarely get to engage with Min thus never entirely understanding his side of the story. He is viewed through the prism of The Golden Path and its people. Sabal and Amita – husband and wife with differing views about the direction of the group – both agree on one thing: Min needs to be eliminated. But this is because they want to become leaders, because they never tried to sit down with Min and call an end to things. They inherited a war that Mohan had started and continued to go down the same path. Due to this, Ajay is constantly bombarded with evil stories about Min and, once Ajay joins the Golden Path, the objective is always to eliminate Min in the end.
Due to the infrequent dialogue between Pagan and Ajay, it is difficult to understand Min’s true motives. Why he has this Messiah complex or narcissistic side or why he loved Ishwari so much. It is only through those short moments spent in his presence that his words and actions can be analysed to tell the story. We know he loved Ishwari and we also know he condemns the Kyrati inhabitants for how they deal with the state’s situations.
Pagan Min and Ajay’s symmetry
Despite being culturally, socially, morally and personally apart Min and Ajay share several things in common that shape their similar actions. As discussed already, Min was lodged in between a love triangle consisting of Ishwari and Mohan. When Mohan killed Ajay’s half sister, Ishwari killed him. But they already had differing views on how the Golden Path should operate. Ishwari wanted women to be given the leeway to fight. Mohan, on the other hand, opposed female participation. In Ajay’s story, he is lodged between Amita and Sabal. And, although there isn’t a hint of love between he and Amita, the story is eerily similar. Amita and Sabal have different projections for the future of the Golden Path. Amita wants to advance economically and build a drug empire.
Sabal wants to persevere old cultural and religious buildings, artifacts and outright keep Kyrat in its backward state. Whoever Ajay sides with, be it Amita or Sabal, the other must be killed. One dies, the other survives. Much like the Min, Mohan and Ishwari axis. And in both stories, a child is in the middle although admittedly Ajay was merely an infant and his half sister was murdered; Bhadra is much older. That is not the only thing that the two share in common, though. They both arrive to Kyrat as outsiders but quickly acclimatise to their surroundings and make telling contributions to the society and its development/regression. But the two split there. Ajay makes civilians and Golden Path members feel safe; Min is perceived to do the opposite.
Both could have sought to kill the other a few times, admittedly Min’s four times outweigh Ajay’s one. This is considering that the player opts to spare Min in the end, which adds a multitude of layers to both their characters and makes for a better finale. Anyhow, I digress. They both could have ended the other’s life, yet they decided against it. My personal interpretation is that Min feels indebted to the woman he loved and therefore wants to leave her son with “the keys to Kyrat” whereas Ajay realises that this man means him no harm as they share a common love: Ishwari. Many gaming theorists suggest Min may very well be Ajay’s father, but Far Cry’s creative director, Alex Hutchinson, quashed those theories. Regardless, the fact they stood initially speaks as a testament to how similar the two are to the point where a paternal relationship is pondered.
Min is far from a boring villain lacking layers to his character. He is the complete opposite. A man battling with his own inner-demons, but remaining calm and composed on the outside. His ending is fitting to the character, as he grants Ajay with Lakshmana as he always said he would. He remains honest toward Ajay from the start of the story until the end. Yet we still fear his every word, movement and action. That, for me, is a strongly written and compelling villain.