As Taylor Swift continues to retool her “reputation” to her advantage by becoming more of a bad girl, it seems the video for “End Game” is attempting to channel the ultimate in such terms, user name-wise: @badgalriri. Re-teaming with director Joseph Kahn (who was responsible for the heavy in ripoff aesthetic “Look What You Made Me Do“) for the semi-globetrotting (if you count a paltry three cities as such) video, we begin with Swift opening the curtain to her window in each place before finding her on a yacht doing her best imitation of the “Rock the Boat” choreography. The presence of Future on the track and in the video adds to Swift’s constant attempt at invigorating her “cred” with a non-white supremacist audience, the same way she did with Kendrick Lamar for “Bad Blood.” This so-called boon to her “rep” (the word emblazoned across the yacht) is negated with Ed Sheeran’s portion during the London jaunt–which was probably only included just to accommodate Ed Sheeran.
But before the white boy pinnacle appears, Future drives her through the streets of Miami, with the suggestion of a romantic tinge as she looks over at him fondly. It’s not really a believable onscreen romance, but fine. Future likely shut down any sexual encounter with her in favor of some of the more voluptuous women on the boat (because it’s true that fucking a stick is scary)–which could be why she chooses to flee to Tokyo for someone she knows will be more into her than she’s into him: Sheeran. Enjoying all the cliches like a game of DanceDance Revolution, eating with chopsticks, taking shots and riding around on a motorcycle like Ghost in the Shell protagonist Motoko Kusanagi, Swift continues to attempt to show us her “free-spirited,” “fun-loving” side.
In London on what appears to be New Year’s Eve, it seems Sheeran has persisted in holding a place in Swift’s life thanks to his amenability to her whims and more attentive interest than Future’s. Dressed in a sparkly rainbow-colored, horizontal striped bodycon and top hat, Swift drinks some more. And this seems to be the primary purpose of the video’s visuals–to assure her hopefully expanding audience that she’s all too down. Or at least she is as long as the amenities are rich (none of these hotels exude “dive,” to be sure). She’s even certain to get an alcohol reference in the lyrics with, “And I can’t let you go, your hand print’s on my soul/It’s like your eyes are liquor, it’s like your body is gold.” Okay, Swift, okay. We know you don’t like drinking that much, otherwise you wouldn’t have a fucking six-pack in stomach form.
As the night wages on in London and Swift migrates to a bar with a crew that has zero affinity with her, we have to wonder: Is London the “End Game” because Sheeran was a willing soul in the jeu de Swift? Maybe at first, but eventually she’s out in a bus, among other locations. And though the song is technically supposed to be about wanting to be someone’s soul mate (or something), there are a lot of vainglorious lyrics once again pertaining to her lust for vengeance after her reputation was sullied by Kim K and Kanye, such as, “And I bury hatchets but I came back to where I put ’em/Reputation precedes me, they told you I’m crazy/I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me.” So, more than anything, “End Game” is a song and video that suggests maybe Swift’s only true end game is herself.
Walking the bridge alone in the final frame, it seems as though Swift is content enough flying solo regardless of the city, a message that speaks volumes regarding the lack of fulfillment of having a relationship in the twenty-first century.