because this place is important to me
I'm going to skip over Squall's stint in prison, because while it's certainly illuminating for the plot, it doesn't expand Squall's character much. Furthermore, the key moment — where Squall decides whether to keep resisting the torture or to give in — is left up to the player.
See, one of the things that I find most important — and most often forgotten — is that this is a video game. A role-playing game, to be exact. It's text-heavy, but it's not a visual novel: you can freely move around and interact with the environment. As the player, you're given a lot of little options along the way to help shape your Squall. It doesn't change the overall story, or his character development on the whole, but it does make each player's experience unique.
I personally feel that the times the game hands over the choice to the player don't reflect what Squall wants to do in the given scene — they reflect what you think he should do, or what you personally would do. And to that end, there's not a whole lot of use analyzing what happens. For example, I had Squall decide that he wanted to live in my most recent playthrough because of what I wrote on the death page. But, considering the personality traits he's shown in the game so far, I don't think the other option is out of character, either.
Ultimately, the scene is left up for the player to decide. It adds a great level of immersion to the game, but doesn't give me a whole lot to analyze from Squall's point of view.
This same issue of game vs. story crops up when Squall and company return to Balamb Garden, only to find it in the middle of a sudden mutiny. You don't actually have to do much more than find Xu on the second floor, who leads you to Cid, but you can take the time to go to every last area of Garden and rescue the students from the attacking monsters. There's a tangible reward in that most of them give you items for the trouble, but the whole thing is up to you. Would Squall take the time to help out everyone he could, or would he hurry to find Cid as soon as possible? The game lets you do it, and there's no time limit or countdown until the missiles are due to hit, but the choice is still there.
For some players, of course, it's not a question of personality at all, but one of time and effort — is it worth going through the trouble of helping everybody out for a couple of items, or should I just move along with the plot? But once again, this is a video game, and what's important here is that the option exists. You don't have to do it, no, and neither does Squall. Maybe he wouldn't care either. All the same, it's something to consider.
I like to think that everything in a video game exists for a reason; they don't spring fully-formed out of their developers' loins, everything is intentionally coded and written. So, too, with this.
Anyway, now that we've got that horrible metaphor out of the way, on with the plot. Squall and company finally find Cid, whose brilliant plan is to evacuate. But sir, whatever are you going to do! Well, son, he's going to do something really fucking dumb, because he's in charge and that's how these things go. So Squall decides he wants to help, and Cid asks why.
Here's the thing: Squall really doesn't have to do anything. Okay, Cid screwing up is a genuine concern, but this is the first real point in the game where he's doing something purely because he wants to, not because he's been ordered to or because he's under obligation. Squall might be a reluctant hero, but here he steps up and says hey, I want to help. I can do this.
Of course, what he says out loud is that it's not about how he feels, but Cid knows he's full of shit, and is gentle about it. Not that Squall realizes that. There's a line I didn't cap here before Cid's where he says Quistis was right, and Squall's instinctive reaction is to turtle in on himself and assume he's being laughed at and judged, rather than the reality — that Cid is showing his appreciation.
Balamb Garden is the only home Squall knows. Protecting it is his duty as a SeeD, but it’s one of the very few things he admits matters to him. He’s self-absorbed, but he does care about the people inside. And I spent the time to go and help out everyone in the different wings of Garden before finding Cid just to drive home that point. It's not necessary — but I think it's true to Squall's character.
.........what a shock.
I know this page is getting obscenely long, but this doesn't really fit in anywhere else, so here we go. After Squall and company get the Garden flying, Squall gets called to the Master's room in the basement, and finally meets the elusive Garden Master, NORG.
Okay. What? What? You just found out that your school, the only home you've known for the better part of your life, is funded by a guy who appears to be a distant cousin of Jabba the Hutt, and all you have to say is what a shock? Seriously? Look, kid, I know you had a screwed up childhood and you're bad at expressing yourself, but HOW THE FUCK DO YOU ACCEPT THIS.
I know you can go to the Shumi Village later in the game and make sense of this but I just. No. I'm sorry. NORG has not and will never make any god damn sense in a game that makes very little goddamn sense to begin with. How this doesn't keep Squall up at night is beyond me.
Let's just move on.