Character Analysis: Murray
The Sly Cooper series stars the eponymous not quite Robin Hood-like raccoon Sly Cooper and his gang, who steals from criminals for his own profit along with the occasional art museum. Rounding out the band of thieves are his childhood friends he met in an orphanage; Bentley, the brains of the group who plans every step that Sly takes in advance, and Murray, who…well his role differs depending on which game in the series is played.
Let us start off with Murray’s representation in the first game, which wasn’t the most flattering to say the least. Murray’s only contribution was being the one who drove the getaway van, along with providing comic relief, often at his own detriment. Sly, himself, described Murray as “part time driver, full time burden”. In the first game he did assist notably in two racing sections of the game, a brief section where he utilized the van in a combat situation, and a couple of sections where he infiltrated an enemy base to retrieve a key with Sly providing covering fire. However, outside of these two sections “burden” was a fairly apt description. In the aforementioned sections where he infiltrated an enemy base he was notable defenseless in a scrap and throughout the game he was shown as being not very bright. It’s notable that Chris Murphey’s voice portrayal of Murray characterized him as very meek, almost as if he knew that he was the weak link in the trio. He seemed insignificant, almost like he was the one guy who wandered onto the table where the cool kids sat and no one yet complained that he should leave.
This is a very stark contrast to the character Murray in the second game.
Quite literally, Murray crashes into the second game with newfound strength, calling himself “The Murray”. The compliant hippo from the last game is no more. From the get go, Murray is hamming up a big act, proclaiming his unbridled strength whilst uttering hilarious lines such as “Another barrier stands before you…fear not, I shall bend it like the truth”. As of the second game, Murray’s role was inexplicably changed from simply the defenseless driver, to the brawn of the operation. His sections of the game focus on his ability to take out large amounts of opponents with ease or tap into his incredible strength and stamina. Is this a case of poor writing? What on Earth became of the milquetoast hippo from the first game?
While this may initially seem like an unwarrantable character change, it is not to say that the Murray from the first game could not be same from the first. The following is a possible interpretation of the change by examining Murray's portrayal in both games. Again, Chris Murphey should be mentioned as well as some subtle dialogue and delivery that hints that the mild character from the first is still present.
Here's some conjecture. The hammy act of “The Murray” seems to be played as little more else, just an act or perhaps an alter ego that the introverted Murray from the first game utilizes to allow himself to comfortable express himself more socially. "The Murray" may be a mask he wears, or to put it another way a character he becomes to assist the gang out. Consider this possibility. As mentioned before, Sly, himself, considers Murray to be a "burden" to the team despite the obvious brotherly love the trio have. Murray knows this, or at least probably suspects it. Sly is the leader of the team and does most of the work, sneaking in and stealing from the target. Bentley is the brains of every operation, calculating every move the gang should take and coming up with plans on the fly at times. Notably, Bentley provides constant information to Sly while he's on missions. Meanwhile, Murray is little more than the one driving the getaway van, a task that Bentley could do on his own, once he learned how, as seen in Sly 2. The infiltration missions he did in the first game could have easily been accomplished by Sly on his own. Of course Murray would feel insignificant compared to his friends, the genius and the gentlemanly acrobat. In order to become more valuable to the group, Murray would need to find a way to incorporate his abilities. Hippos are powerful, at times frightening, creatures of territory. It's likely that Murray may have unbridled strength at his disposal, but he does not have the courage to utilize it. How could he overcome his cowardice? By inventing the persona of "The Murray", a character he plays who is unafraid of unleashing his power against those who oppose the goals of the Cooper Gang. He even now wears a mask and gloves, not to mention the scarf he wore is now tossed behind him for the purpose of flowing dramatically in the wind. "The Murray" is practically a superhero.
Murray’s self consciousness can be seen clearly in the event of Sly 2’s ending as well as the beginning of Sly 3. Due to circumstances around Sly 2’s end, Bentley is injured in a way that paralyzes his lower body. Here, the facade of "The Murray" is broken. While hardly the one to blame, there was indeed more that Murray could have done to prevent this and from the moment this happens, Murray blames himself and walks away from the trio, casting aside the outfits both he and Bentley wore as symbolically showing their departure from both the Cooper Gang and perhaps the character of "The Murray". Bentley is practically paralyzed and injured at this point so it stands to reason that Murray took his gang attire off for him, perhaps wanting Bentley to follow his lead as Bentley has no problem at all rejoining the gang at the beginning of Sly 3. When the reality of failure potentially at Murray’s feet, he sought to better himself and adopted a philosophy of pacifism, until when duty called and he recalled his strength to protect others from further harm due to events surrounding Sly 3. His reasons to fight there are now no longer to prove himself to Sly and Bentley, but to protect them.
This all being said, the gaping transition from which Murray adopts the persona of “The Murray” as well as how he comes across his own strength is still in the air. Then again, with the new title seeming to deal with past events and time travel, it is possible that these questions will be answered.
A final note. It has been some time since I've played Sly 3, so my interpretation of Murray's motives and characterizations regarding that game may be imperfect and possibly contradictory to the events in the game. I'd also like to note that future entries in the Character Analysis series will not feature such heavy reliance on subjective interpretations on characterization and will be much more objective.