Because I'm not alone
I have to say, the ending to FFVIII is one of my favorites in the series. Squall only has a couple lines of dialogue before he sinks back into time compression, but they speak volumes about everything he's gone through in the game, and how very far he's come.
Squall: (...I'm not alone. ...If I call out, they will answer.) Where is everyone!? Rinoa! Where are you! Rinoa! Zell! Irvine! Quistis! Selphie! (...Am I...alone? Rinoa? I want to hear your voice. Which way...do I go? I can't make it back...alone. Rinoa? Am I...all alone again? Where...am I?)
The rest of the ending is told without words, but the visuals are powerful enough to not need them. Squall is lost to time compression, doomed to wandering an endless wasteland until he reaches the end of his strength. For the very first time, he can't do it all alone. He's finally, finally accepted that he needs other people in his life, and that's what makes him sink into the haze of time compression. You can see him getting wearier and wearier, unable to bear it all by himself.
When the images assault him and try to drag him under, they focus on his lifeline, Rinoa. Yes, yes, I know, she's his romantic interest. But Rinoa is the one who took a scared kid and helped him to start seeing the world again. She is his tether to the rest of the world, and she doesn't hear when he calls out for her. She starts going fuzzy and indistinct (or covered with every Photoshop filter circa 1999, but whatever).
As Squall loses his grip on reality, he loses his grip on Rinoa — and by this point, Rinoa is what keeps him grounded. The idea of going back to a life without her in it, of being alone again, is too much to think about. He can't do this without her.
I think we could be here arguing about what these final images mean all day — and that's awesome. The best things have the most interpretations. The image of Squall without a face, reminiscent of Ultimecia's final form, appears only for an instant, but it's the last thing that appears before that final shot of Rinoa. The way I interpret these shots is that Squall truly is empty without her — that before Rinoa, his loneliness consumed him. I think he's lost enough in the vision that when he sees her broken helmet, he believes that he really did lose her out in space, that he couldn't save her. And that's when he gives up.
He can't do this alone.
(I think it's also possible, given what I talked about on the last page, that Squall sees many of the previous timelines converging. After all, this is time compression! It's entirely possible that Rinoa did die out in space in one of them, and that's what sends him over the edge.)
In the end, Rinoa is the one to find Squall in time compression. We see her in the flower field, searching for him, having made it back safely. But somehow, she manages to go back for him. She finds him there, lost to the cacophony of all time existing simultaneously, and thinks he's gone for good. But when all seems lost, they manage to get back to the flower field where they made their promise, safe and sound.
The true hero of Final Fantasy VIII is neither Squall nor Rinoa. It is their relationship, and how one person caring about another can mean everything in the world. Even with everything he learned in the game, Squall never would have made it out of time compression if he hadn't let himself start caring about Rinoa, and let her care for him in return.
All Ultimecia wanted was to exist in a world alone. At the start of the game, Squall might have agreed with her, but by the end, the very opposite saves his life.
If you've read through this whole site, thank you very much! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions or comments — or if you'd simply like to talk about FFVIII — please feel free to leave a message in the guestbook.
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