Grand Theft Auto Online’s relationship with GTA V’s timeline and narrative has been weird for years, thanks in large part to continued free expansions that sometimes contradict past updates or events. However, that hasn’t stopped Rockstar from trying to connect GTA Online and GTA V’s narrative and the latest DLC starring Dr. Dre and Franklin makes numerous references to the original game, including an easy-to-miss piece of dialogue that confirms Michael is still alive in GTA Online as of 2021. It also is one more piece of evidence that Ending C is canon.
Released yesterday for all major platforms, The Contract is the newest GTA Online update which adds a series of missions revolving around a post-GTA V Franklin. In it, he works to help famous rapper Dr. Dre recover his lost phone that contains a lot of unreleased and unfinished material. While GTA Online’s more annoying qualities, like long load times and crappy servers, make it hard to enjoy sometimes, it’s still a great update that’s a real treat for fans of Franklin, Lamar, and GTA V in general.
And for those sickos (like me) out there who care about the lore behind the GTA universe, this update contains a brief confirmation that Michael is alive in 2021. Better yet, it gives us a glimpse of what he has been up to since the end of GTA V, which is set in 2013. Let’s set the scene.
At one point during the update, as you drive through a movie set, you start chasing a dude in a golf cart who has angered Dr. Dre. During the chase, Franklin says, “Man, shit, I know one of the producers around here. I hope his ass ain’t at work today.” This is a reference to Michael, who towards the end of GTA V becomes a producer at that same movie studio, letting him work on films and live out his dreams. Michael being alive and still working there in 2021 seemingly confirms only one ending is now possibly canon in the GTA universe.
For those who never beat GTA V back in the day or who did but now nearly a decade later you forgot what happened, here’s a quick rundown of the endings.
Towards the end of GTA V, Franklin is given three options for how to end the game. Option A sees him kill Trevor with the help of Michael. Option B has Franklin instead go after Michael alone, killing him after he learns his daughter is going to college. (Awkward…) Finally, there is Option C aka “The Third Way” which has Franklin work with Michael and Trevor and some other characters to basically clean up all of the trios problems and loose ends in one long, complex but satisfying conclusion.
In my mind, Option C has always been the real ending of GTA V. It never made much sense to me as to why Franklin would kill Michael. And sure, killing Trevor is a bit more reasonable, though still feels out of character for Franklin. And it seems, Rockstar agrees! This new voice line coupled with a piece of dialogue spoken by Ron in a past GTA Online update confirming Trevor is still alive means that the only possible ending that can be canon now is Ending C, where both main characters survive.
Now, some super GTA lore nerds will point out that we sort of already had it confirmed that Michael survived via a piece of dialogue in GTA Online’s Diamond and Casino update released in 2019. During a mission involving the Los Santos Country Club, Tao Cheng mentions in Chinese that he almost died here. This is a callback to a part of Ending C involving Cheng and his dad getting attacked by Franklin. However, Michael isn’t directly referenced in this mission, so I still think this is a big deal for GTA lore sickos like myself to have indisputable proof. He’s alive! We know what he’s up to now.
Now the question is this: Franklin and Trevor have both appeared in GTA Online, so when will Michael finally appear? Personally, my dream is he shows up for one last GTA Online mission and at the end says he’s leaving to go to Vice City. Y’know, to be a part of GTA 6. Listen, a man can dream.