The MGSV Master Theory - Part Two: the Phantom Pain

Who's the bandaged man? Will Hayter return? CVG expert Dan Dawkins delivers the ultimate analysis

Previously: The Metal Gear Solid 5 Master Theory - Part One: Ground Zeroes

And: Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes: The 'swoosh code' conspiracy

Who is the bandaged man?


He's almost certainly an extension of your damaged psyche and not a real, physical person. We've touched on this previously in 'The Phantom Pain and its 21 significant MGS ties', noting how the bandaged man appears in every scene with Snake, subtly guiding his progress.

It's possible that Snake's coma gives 'birth' to the bandaged man, who might represent the sane (or soldier) part of Snake's subconscious. In the MGSV trailer, we view Snake and Miller on hospital beds from a fixed third-person perspective. It's only when the doctors confirm that "he's stabilised, but it took too long, he's in a coma", that the camera 'detaches' and zooms in on Miller's face. "What about him?' Miller asks, as the camera retracts to a 'third bed'. Does the mobility of the camera symbolise the 'birth' of a new entity?

If the bandaged man is real, he's obscenely cruel. What kind of person would stand in a doorway while Snake thrashes around on the floor like a jellied eel? The bandaged man does 'help up' Snake in some scenes, but the movement is subtle, like he's geeing up Snake's subconscious to move his body.


Kojima's GDC play through of The Phantom Pain is the most revealing. "Okay, Ahab, it's time to go", says the bandaged man as Snake comes to. "What happened to the woman?" says Snake, presumably referencing the nurse. "The woman, I, we gave her a light, she took the short way down" replies the bandaged man. Why would he switch from 'I' to 'we' mid sentence?

"Who are you?" asks Snake.

"Who am I?" reflects the bandaged man, addressing the question to himself in perhaps a clearer echo of the duality. "I've been watching over you for nine years", he says, while pointing at Snake,

"You can call me Ishmael."

If Snake has been in a coma for nine years, as the doctor suggests, the timing is no co-incidence. The bandaged man has been watching over Snake for the same number of years, when the coma began - and he was 'born'.

The Ishmael / Ahab references have clear symbolism in light of the Moby Dick Studio reference, but we'll get to that later...

Is there proof that the bandaged man is fake?


There's a telltale scene in the middle of Kojima's GDC play through. Snake crawls up the corridor, when Psycho Mantis appears in the lift. A flaming explosion knocks Snake and the bandaged man to the floor. As the bandaged man rolls around, half unconscious and trying to pat out the flames, Snake is approached by a demonic character. The moment the demon disappears the bandaged man rouses himself and stands up. It's as if Snake's psychic devils take hold when the bandaged man isn't there to protect him - or vice versa.

One theory is that Snake's psyche knows he is succumbing to trauma or rage, possibly as a result of the events of MGS3, Peace Walker or the destruction of Mother Base (as we see in the MGSV trailer), and he's split his identity to protect who he really is. The bandaged man is 'real' Snake, bandaged to symbolise that his real self is in a state of recovery.

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Some claim the bandaged man is the burned man from MGS: Ground Zeroes and - while you can't entirely rule it out - the corners of the bandaged man's face are far less damaged to be an exact match.

It's worth noting the ambulance crash in the trailer. The bandaged man is sat in the driver seat as the vehicle spills, but where has he gone when Snake crawls out of the vehicle and is confronted by the Psycho Mantis look-a-like? It's likely because he doesn't physically exist, and Psycho Mantis is affecting his ability to manifest himself. The bandaged man might be driving, but Snake still has one hand on the wheel - explaining how a 'ghost' can steer a car.

Is Bandaged Man really voiced by Kiefer Sutherland?

No one knows, but the bandaged man's voice at the start of the GDC play through - "Ok, Ahab, it's time to go" - sounds a *lot* like Kiefer Sutherland's aggressive whispering in 24.

So, is David Hayter out the picture, then?

Snake's regular voice actor David Hayter doesn't seem to be involved with MGSV, but a *tiny* glimmer of hope remains. He recently tweeted a long explanation of how he hadn't been asked to lend his voice, and why he was sad to be leaving the series behind.

Fans were naturally aggrieved, and many hold out hope that this is all a big Kojima rouse with Hayter being confirmed later on - not impossible given the bizarre reveal of The Phantom Pain and Joakim Mogren. You could argue that unveiling David Hayter might be a plot spoiler, since it would confirm Solid Snake as appearing in MGSV. That said, Hayter did play Naked Snake in MGS3, who later becomes Big Boss.

But Solid Snake is a child during the main events of Metal Gear Solid V, so a shift forwards in time would be needed for Snake's voice to be sufficiently gruff enough to be played by Hayter. Say, for example, in 1999, during the Zanzibar Land disturbance in which a young Solid Snake is sent to stop the surprise villain... Big Boss.

David Hayter

However, Kojima was recently asked whether a new actor would be playing Snake / Big Boss in a post-GDC interview with Geoff Keighley.

"I can't say that, yes, it will be a new person. I can't say who just yet".

Keighley followed up by asking Kojima why he didn't bring Hayter back. "It's a new type of MGS game and we want this recreated in the voice actor as well", he replied.

It's interesting that Kojima doesn't explicitly mention Hayter by name, or rule him out - it's all inferred in his replies to Keighley. This leaves three core scenarios: 1) The bandaged man is Kiefer Sutherland, and this Hollywood reveal is being saved for later in the campaign. 2) David Hayter will return, but his name is too much of a plot giveaway and is thus being held back as part of an elaborate rouse. 3) Richard Doyle will voice Big Boss as he does in MGS4, explaining the 'I can't say it's a new person' comment.

My bet? Solid Snake will play a part in MGSV, albeit in the final act as a rookie soldier on his way to Outer Heaven in 1995. It'd be a nice stepping off point, allowing the next MGS game to be a remake of Metal Gear on MSX. There are all sorts of other scenarios that could involve Solid Snake, from his appearance as a child in the early '80s, to a post-MGS4 (2014 onwards) tale involving VR training. Damn.

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