The following article contains major spoilers for Borderlands 3.
Of all the behind-the-scenes content included in the Director's Cut add-on for Borderlands 3, one selection has a particularly heavy emotional impact: a deleted scene of Maya's funeral.
Originally intended to take place following Maya's shocking death at the hands of Troy Calypso in the Promethean Vault, this scene ultimately had to be cut from Borderlands 3's story campaign. Now, thanks to the treasure trove of enlightening extras in Director's Cut, players will have the chance to witness this scene as a voiced storyboard animatic.
To get more insight into the making of this powerful scene, we asked Gearbox's Sam Winkler, Co-Lead Writer for Borderlands 3, about how Maya's funeral scene came to be and what it means to finally share it with the community.
How does it feel to know that the Borderlands community can now see this scene as you originally envisioned it?
Sam Winkler, Co-Lead Writer for Borderlands 3: It's admittedly bittersweet, since it's hard to work on a story without falling in love with it and some things inevitably have to be cut. But I'm extremely happy that players will now get to see these moments. I wish more games had the chance to include the "DVD extras" behind-the-scenes content. Without it, players rarely get to see the development process in rough form, warts and all.
For Director's Cut, we went back and looked at what had been intended for Maya's funeral sequence. We worked with animator Hill Gavin and the original voice actors to bring the scene up to our standard of internal storyboard animatic. Pretty much every cutscene in BL3 went through the same process, which allowed us to prove out sequences that can look very different in text-only script format. It was a lot of fun getting the actors back, because they wear these characters so well and immediately understood the intent and weight of the scene.
During development, when was the decision made that Maya would die? What were those initial conversations like?
Maya's death was built into the plot of Borderlands 3 very early on, before [Co-Lead Writer] Danny Homan and I even came onto the project in 2016. At the time, the leadership team was developing the high-level arc, sketching out the plot structure from planet to planet. The early goal was to cement the Calypsos as having a terrifying new power: the ability to take away Siren powers and use them for themselves. It wasn't until later that we introduced the sequence of Lilith losing her powers to Tyreen that kicked off the whole race, and by then the Maya story beat was solidly locked in.
Were any other major characters considered to be slain by the Calypso Twins, or did it always have to be Maya?
The sequence in the Vault on Promethea was always going to end in Maya's death, simply because of the nature of the moment. The Calypsos had to become more powerful at the expense of the Crimson Raiders. At certain points in development there were other Calypso casualties later on in the storyline, but I'll leave those to the imagination.
What did you want players to feel for Ava in this scene? For Lilith?
The first scene aboard Sanctuary III is about pain and powerlessness. Ava is young, but she has a lot of experience feeling lost and alone. Maya is the closest she's gotten to having a family. After the initial shock is gone, her first reaction is anger—at Maya for being gone, at Lilith for trying to help, at herself for believing things could get better. Meanwhile, Lilith is still grappling with her own idea of herself as a leader. She's lost her powers and now a close friend. As the leader, she takes the weight of responsibility on her own shoulders, even though Maya expressly asked her to stay on the ship.
The second scene on Athenas is ultimately about trust. Once emotions have cooled, the two are able to reach out and admit their fears to each other. In her eulogy, Lilith admires Maya's ability to see things in people even they can't see. Afterward, she and Ava reconcile over Maya's trust in both of them. Without her around, they have to hold themselves true to what she saw in them. Lilith can't replace Maya or bring her back, but she can offer Ava the same family that Maya did. It's up to Ava to accept that offer and surpass the fear of abandonment that led her to lash out earlier.
In the storyboard, we get to see quick glimpses of Krieg and Zer0, who have plenty of experience fighting alongside Maya. What's going through their minds during this funeral scene?
Zer0 is a fairly buttoned-up character, but he respects a warrior above all else. Maya was a fierce Vault Hunter who went through the same trials as he did back on Pandora, so for him the moment is about honoring her in the way she would've wanted in an Athenean ceremony.
Krieg is a tough one. Those who know their history from Borderlands 2 and the 'Meat Bicycle Built for Two' short will immediately understand that Krieg is hit by Maya's death hardest of all. On Pandora, we're able to hear ECHO logs of the progress Krieg had been making in balancing out his two personalities. It was in large part Maya's trust in him that pushed him to better himself. When she died, he felt that he might be unfixable. But as Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck explores, even the dead live on in the ones who remember them.
How was the storyline of Psycho Krieg and the Fantastic Fustercluck impacted by Maya's funeral scene ultimately not making it into the base game?
As players watching the scene might guess from his presence, Krieg was intended to appear in the base game during the Promethea storyline. Cutting him from the sequence left only the Pandora ECHO logs, along with Maya's now-final conversation with him—"Don't worry, big guy. I'll be back. I promise."—hitting far more painfully than was intended when written. So when we started working on DLC4, we knew that we had to address Maya's central importance to him without retreading the already brilliantly executed story of loss in Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep from Borderlands 2. It pushed us to show Maya not just as an object of grief, but as a person that still lived inside Krieg who could persist and grow.
Are there any other characters you would've liked to see attending Maya's funeral?
I would've loved to bring all the Vault Hunters from Borderlands 2 back for this moment. There was talk of bringing in characters who would have known Maya such as Sir Hammerlock and the B-Team (Tina, Brick, and Mordecai), but they hadn't been introduced in the campaign's plot yet and that would've screwed up the timeline.
What does it mean for a Siren to pass on? Do Sirens experience death differently from ordinary mortals?
Ultimately, whatever their metaphysical powers may be, Sirens are human. They die, whether it's a bullet to the head or a tentacle through the entire torso. That said, Borderlands 3 answers a few questions about Sirens and poses even more. When a Siren dies, they are able to choose either to will their powers to another person or release them into the universe. As both Maya and Nyriad mention in different moments, a Siren can still feel the connection to the previous owner of their powers, stretching like a braid or a chain back into the past. They can also imbue their memories into objects and heal themselves from otherwise catastrophic injuries using Eridium. This is all to say that, for Sirens, death might be a little more complicated.