The Chassis Theory

I noticed that here haven’t been a lot of theories that explain why the character models for GLaDOS are different between the two games.

So, it all started when I read this paragraph on the Half-Life Wiki article for Chell:

”Despite GLaDOS’ apparent destruction, only a part of her was destroyed. GLaDOS reactivates a room full of Personality Cores and re-captures Aperture Laboratories, filing a letter to Chell, informing her that she is still alive and “not even angry” about Chell’s actions- but not before extinguishing a candle on the cake, which was not a lie after all.”

It made me think; What if after GLaDOS promised the scientists that She’d behave, they decided to build her a more permanent body (the one from the first game seems not only severely restricted, but very prototype-ish). However, in a move that only Aperture would do, they decided to let the majority of Her personality files move to the new body and keep the old body running the main systems, Her core functions, and all of the cores that kept Her under control. This gave Her the ability to have Her own “space”, while still ensuring that She wouldn’t kill them all. A possible side effect of doing this would be that She could “port” Herself back and forth between the two.

Now, knowing that the scientists would interfere with Her “true science”, She hatched the Bring-Your-Daughter-to-Work Day plan, killing mostly everyone (except Rattman) who wasn’t in a relaxation vault. Those who did survive were forced into compulsory testing, until they all died. At the same time, GLaDOS spent ample time trying to eradicate Rattman, fearing that he’d interfere with her “science”. This would give time for all of the bodies of the deceased to be taken care of (I’d imagine that a place as big as Aperture would have some form of automated cleaning system).

Having Rattman running around behind Her back wasn’t something that GLaDOS was too happy about. She spent quite a lot of time trying to kill him. Eventually, Rattman had the idea to go and move Chell to the top of the Testing Roster, knowing that her stubbornness and tenacity would be the perfect thing to take GLaDOS down.

Whether because all of the surviving scientists had been killed or for other reasons, GLaDOS shifted her focus from Rattman to Testing with actual Test Subjects. Pulling Chell out of Cryo-Sleep, the events of the first game took place with Rattman watching and waiting behind the scenes. The first game progresses, and Chell eventually set out to destroy GLaDOS. When She realized this, She began leading Chell to the old chassis. Knowing that the old chassis’ defenses were minimal, she counted on Chell destroying it. Doing this would allow GLaDOS full, unrestricted access to the entire Facility, which was what She wanted in the first place (this idea is supported by GLaDOS’ lack of surprise in the line she says when the player steps into the AI Chamber: “Well, you found me. Congratulations.” Also, GLaDOS uses quite a bit of reverse-psychology to convince Chell to pick up the Morality Core).

However, while Chell destroyed the cores, it somehow severed Her connection with the newer chassis and caused a portal-event above the old chassis at the exact same time. The mainframe system must have sensed the failing hardware and, in an attempt to save as much as possible, initiated a core dump. This managed to save GLaDOS, but with the connections severed, the system was unable to reboot Her because the suitable hardware didn’t register in the system. The portal-event dumped Chell and GLaDOS’ old body outside of Aperture, in the Employee Parking Lot (which was empty because of looting/scavenging due to the events of Half-Life). The Party Escort Associate robot retrieved Chell and put her in Extended Relaxation. Rattman witnessed her being taken back in, and went back to try and save her. Being unable to get her out of Extended Relaxation, and with the Main Life Support Grid blown, he was forced to run through a Test Chamber to get to the reserve controls. Unfortunately, he got shot in the process. Although he was successful in patching Chell into the Reserve Grid, it is unclear if he survived or not (my theory is that he eventually woke up, got out of the Short-Term Relaxation Bed somewhat healed, and managed to escape Aperture).

On the other end, GLaDOS, through her limited connectivity, managed to activate the other cores to run the systems that needed to be ran and filed a log in the system about Chell (“Still Alive”) before getting stuck in the loop that made Her re-live those last moments over and over again.

Now, years and years pass away. One by one the Administrative Cores that GLaDOS activated fell into disrepair, or malfunctioned, or were incapacitated through other means. Seeing as the Facility was running on the bare minimum back-up systems, I’d imagine that the Cleaning System and the Repair System were not very high priorities. Slowly, the facility falls apart. Eventually Wheatley (probably put into the system as a replacement for a better-functioning core) comes and wakes up Chell, thus starting the second games events. Soon, they reach Her chamber. The new chassis had fallen into disrepair and much of the chamber is overgrown or has fallen apart. However, it is clearly different from the first game’s model, and actually seems to be in a different part of the Facility.

Later, Chell and Wheatley accidently turn the entire Facility back on. This initiates a full systems power-up. Because the entire Facility was restarted, the system’s protocol automatically reconnected all available systems, i.e. the newer chassis. The “Black Box” memory module that GLaDOS has been stuck in for who-knows-how-long had most likely spent most of its time doing two things: Keeping the files active and “alive” by looping the last two minutes of GLaDOS’ life and scanning the mainframe for suitable hardware so it could reboot Her. Now, years later, as the Facility reconnects all the systems it has, that module finally finds the suitable hardware it had been looking for. GLaDOS gets put back in the newer chassis, along with countless years of built-up anger towards Chell, and the second game progresses.

Some of the lines in “Still Alive” are something to consider as well:

  • I’m not even angry. I’m being so sincere right now. Even though you broke my heart. And killed me. And tore me to pieces. And threw every piece into a fire.
    • The only reason I could see GLaDOS not being angry is if it had been the plan all along for Chell to destroy the old chassis.
  • And we’re out of beta. We’re releasing on time.
    • This could confirm the prototype status of the old chassis, as well as Her plan to destroy it.

One last thought: The Co-Op DLC confirms the existence of a prototype chassis. However, instead of having a core plugged into the DOS Mainframe, it was a computer and keyboard. It stands to reason that when the scientists finally put the Genetic Lifeform part into the Disc Operating System to create GLaDOS, the first iteration of Her existence was never meant to be more than a prototype. Even having a different chassis design in Portal 2 suggests that. The only reason why it took so long for them to put Her in the “Final Form”, was the fact that She was trying to kill them!

I hope that I haven’t bored you to death, but after initially coming up with the idea, I kept thinking of ways to back it up! Thanks for taking the time to absorb all of this!

Rock On Portal Fandom! Feel free to comment below.

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