Please Note: Spoiler Warning
Think of Trevor Phillips and your mind will probably recoil in horror (or demented glee. Either is fine). He's an idiot, a psychopath, a mass-murderer, a cancer. He kills with impunity, is involved in making products that are the scourge of every community in the world. He's also incredibly smart, emotionally damaged by previous relationships (both consensual and seemingly not) and has a bizarre fixation on his in-no-way-embarrassing heritage.
It's the latter parts of his personality that have started to intrigue, now that the initial wahay of the carnage he can cause has worn off. Spend some time with him and there's something under that hobo-with-a-shotgun shell that makes him more than he appears. His appeal, above and beyond that of enabling the player to sleep soundly at night knowing their precious ludonarrative has not been dissonanced, is his fundamental weakness, covered up to the extreme with an action to threat ratio of around 15,000 - 1. He's all mouth, all trousers, all the time.
But it's during some of his more minor infractions that an unlikely frailty is highlighted. One of Trevor's first interactions with a 'Freak' was with a man dressed as Uncle Sam. I walked over and the guy started off on a diatribe of xenophobia and awful 'patriotism'. In response, Trevor asked about the guy's opinion on Canadians.
The Freak told Trevor that Canadians should get out of the country as well, and soon I was stamping on his head: the natural conclusion to any disagreement in Phillips' world.
It struck me as weird at first, why Trevor would be asking about his neighbours, but it soon becomes one of the game's best - and longest running - jokes. Trevor's fear of being exposed as a Canadian is a great gag, one at odds with his psychotic, tough-man image. Later on, during the second Rampage mission, Trevor approaches some gang members on the street. One of them greets him with something along the lines of 'Yo, homie, what's up?' Instantly, Trevor loses it, screaming about only having 'a slight accent' before stealing the man's gun and killing 32 people.
That joke rolls on, but it was my introduction to the rather more serious character behind the violence. Later on, the narrative hinges upon Michael and Trevor being in hock to a seriously deranged Mexican gangster. To make matters worse, 'Uncle T.' has taken his wife hostage. After a few missions where Trevor and Patricia seem to be getting a little more close than they should, he drives her home, blubbing like a baby as he does so. (In my game, Def Leppard's photograph was playing. In Simon's, it was Chicago's If You Leave Me Now. Both are perfect.)
Later on, Trevor will receive sporadic phone calls from Patricia. Each time he does, he answers the phone like a teenager, all hope and expectation. He's crushed every time, as she says hello but then has to hang up, too soon for Trevor to get his words out.
His 'relationship' with Patricia is only part of a series of bitter blows for Trevor that have turned him into the distant, seemingly-invincible armageddon machine he often is. His affection for Michael is evident from the start, and the horror that he feels when it turns out that De Santa has been lying to him is palpable. A lot of the endgame tension comes from the fact that Trevor just can't let it go: the fact that he's willing to let his best and oldest friend get chopped to pieces for the - in the scale of things - rather trifling lie he told says it all.
He's also incapable of getting over what he himself describes as 'a difficult childhood.' In my game that has never been expanded on, but then again it doesn't really need to be. Trevor Phillips is a mess, it seems, for reasons that go above and beyond 'he's just kerazy'.
I'm not saying that Rockstar's creation is a masterpiece, or that we're not asked to indulge in all is insane nonsense. He isn't and we are. But these little snippets have changed the way I play as Trevor. Before, I had him dressed up in a series of mad, Beetlejuice-style suits. Now, I simply play in whichever clothes he's wearing when I switch to him.
The reason? There's an especially damaging sense of cold-hearted nihilism about him, and his actions. It makes perfect sense to me that when he gets exploded by a tank he simply reforms: he's all of the nasty little nonsense Los Santos has to offer, piled up into one unkillable being.
So while my Michael is off climbing mountains or scuba diving in an effort to stop being such a f**king loser, and Franklin is attempting to leverage the stock market like a dollar-crazed caricature of Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, Trevor is just wandering around the city, getting into random fights and not buying any property. What's the point? He's dead anyway, just probably not in the way he wants to be.