Ever since that first cinematic in the museum, Reaper (Gabriel Reyes) has always seemed like the most basic and straight forward character in the game. He wears a skull mask, shouts about death a whole lot, and has a former identity as a black ops leader. The accepted interpretation of Reaper, based off of what has been published around the game and what the fanbase commonly agrees, is that Reyes was furious that he served with Jack Morrison, aka Soldier 76, in the Omnic War... but when Overwatch formed and won the war, Jack got the position of Strike Commander and Reyes got to be second banana.
Despite the fact that Reaper is a skull-faced, black hooded, infinite shotgun wielding dudes with lines like “I’m not a sociopath... I’m a high functioning sociopath.”, fans have always been incredibly sympathetic to Gabriel Reyes. I mean, look! He makes costumes for the team!
Back during the Uprising event, he just sounded like a regular ol’ person!
See? He’s not hurling shotguns or telling anyone to die. He sounds like a nice, competent team leader.
With all of this in mind, fans have always been curious about what led Reyes to turn into Reaper. Jeff Kaplan recently answered a question for us that really begins to change the Reaper backstory during a recent Q&A session.
An awesome fan on Twitter went ahead and transcribed a question about Jack Morrison and Gabriel Reyes that seriously changes the fan understanding of their relationship. While Jeff Kaplan admitted Blizzard haven’t “explained it well yet”, his response shines a light on Morrison and Reyes’ dynamic as heads of Overwatch and Blackwatch.
Oh yeah, if people were curious for more info about Reyes and Morrison~ pic.twitter.com/htnZQIHJh9— (((manolo مانولو))) (@Autolikescake) November 9, 2017
The relevant information here is that while Jack Morrison did get promoted as the golden boy of Overwatch, complete with a statue in his image, Reyes wasn’t embittered over the decision. This is interesting, and actually puts the spotlight on Angela Ziegler, aka Mercy. Why does this lore have bad implications for our favorite angel? An in-universe newspaper article speculates on the wild conspiracy theory that Soldier 76 is Jack Morrison. There’s a clue hidden there:
According to Overwatch's former agents, this outcome was inevitable. "After Morrison's promotion to strike commander, his relationship with Reyes changed," Dr. Angela Ziegler, medical director of Overwatch, stated during a UN committee hearing. "The tension became more pronounced as time went on. I tried to mend things. We all did. Sometimes when the closest bonds break, all you can do is pray you stay out of the cross fire."
There are two options here: The first is that Mercy is intentionally making things up out of wholecloth. We know she, as a healer, hated the military side of Overwatch and the violence they perpetrated. This testimony is pretty damning.
But would Mercy really make something up that could easily be testified against by other agents of Overwatch? Mercy is literally a genius, she’d understand that’s a mistake. That makes our second option more likely: Reyes and Morrison were drifting apart.
That suggests Reyes was going further and further with Blackwatch. giving Morrison “questionable actions” to defend. Blackwatch had always been a black ops unit, but it sounds like the organization kept pushing forward to increase the strain on Morrison.
Reyes had an eye for talent. He had recruited McCree from the Deadlock gang when nearly any other commanding officer would have let the young criminal go straight to jail. He saw similar potential in Moira after Overwatch shut down her operations due to ethics.
Except Moira, no longer shackled by law, immediately started using Reyes as a test subject. The artist of the piece has confirmed that Reyes is scared—he’s not exulting in his new, glorious form.
Now, here’s where things get interesting: Overwatch disbanded less than a decade ago, but Reaper has been active for decades according to his biography on the site. This isn’t a mistake, that is a purposeful inclusion.
The Reaper story has always seemed incredibly open and shut. Reyes got jealous, Reyes made a run for the top, and Morrison and Reyes blew up the HQ in the resulting brawl. This new info dramatically changes the story. Morrison enabled and encouraged Reyes. Was Reyes donning the Reaper mask during the Blackwatch days? Was it because of Moira? Did Morrison know?
We don’t know the answers, but at least we’re starting to know the questions. The world of Overwatch just got a lot more complicated, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.