The ending of MW3’s Campaign was certainly eventful, with us being greeted by a cinematic of Captain Price killing Shepherd. The cinematic certainly appeared random, with the death of Shepherd appearing random, yet, it plays an important new plot point for future Modern Warfare games. So, why did Price kill Shepherd in MW3? While we don’t know, there are a few ideas from the series so far, and the answer will likely appear in future sequels to the rebooted franchise.
Why Did Price Kill Shepherd in MW3?
The main way to answer this question is via a few key plot points.
- Plot Points in MW2 and MW1 reboots
- Foreshadowing and MW3 incidents
Urzikstan is the centerpiece of the entire series, with all three games making it a key plotline. Whether it is to do with Russian Generals, Islamic groups, or now Makarov, there is always someone stirring up some old-fashioned Russian Imperialism or occupation-based plot point. At the start of the series, Alex, Price, Farah, and Laswell are the main characters, with Price then forming the squad that becomes Taskforce 141 to start MW2.
In MW2, we got to see more of the antics with Urzikstan, and how it connected to Mexico, Russia, and the Netherlands, with it becoming more of a global threat using various terror or drug groups linked with the United States. However, with 141 assembled and with them dealing with plotlines, Shepherd entered the field with his own Shadow Company PMC. While at times the surface had them as allies. Yet, towards the end, the two came at odds, especially with the Mexican part of the storyline, with Las Almas having both Graves and his men take orders to fire at 141 and act upon them. It becomes evident from the start that Shepherd is up to his own antics and using Shadow Company to enable his ambitions. And so, begins the first notable grievance against Shepherd for both Laswell and Price. At the very end of the game, we get a cinematic of Price and Laswell drinking, toasting to the line: To cutting the heads off snakes.“ This line is mentioned directly after discussing Shadow’s and Shepherd going off the radar. Shepherd is the snake. Keep this line in mind as it’s important foreshadowing for later.
Another important plot point is Shepherd’s Ambitions. Some of it harpers back to the old series, where Shepherd wanted patriotism, recruitment, war and other delights. In the new series, Shepherd wants to be seen as the war hero, and his use of a PMC to take credit for those actions to destroy other major power’s military ambitions and other things of the sort. He wanted to be the one who saved America from the bombs in Chicago the Las Almas Cartel shipped to the USA using Hassan’s armaments.
Yet, with his attempts foiled in MW2 2022, he has another attempt in MW3. We find out that Shepherd and Makarov have connections in the Frozen Tundra mission, as we find Shepherd randomly in the depths of Siberia with Makarov’s men. From there, we get to the point of Shepherd having secrets, secrets he is controlling and keeping away from Laswell and Price in exchange for his life. He agrees to provide more info, leading to the Dam mission and the location of more bombs in Russia ready to poison the water supply, while also testifying in Congress, which he then starts lying about. It is here we get confirmation that Shepherd is playing both sides, supplying off-the-book missiles to Farah’s group, while simultaneously working with Makarov, who is responsible for several terrorist attacks in and outside of Russia. Now we can connect the dots pretty safely.
Remember those stolen missiles that we now know were originally intended for Farah? This likely explains how Makarov’s men attacked Farah’s missile base in the first place. Shepherd works with both Makarov and Farah. Due to his ambitions, he wants this conflict so he can be the savior that solves the plots, and he gets what he wants: fame, power, money, and a private army. He supplies off-the-book missiles to Farah, then lets Makarov steal them by providing location information to Makarov of the missiles, leading to the early mission in the campaign. Now we have some serious terrorist threats, all because he had connections with two parties and had the tools to arm both sides at the same time. It is not quite a smoking gun, but it is something we can work out and something Price and Laswell can also figure out too.
Now let us jump back to Frozen Tundra, where Price threatens Shepherd with his life, but ultimately spares him. This is an important moment, as it means Price, 141 and Laswell are showing restraint and still have a plan for Shepherd. Let us recall that ‘cutting the heads off the snakes’ line. Killing Shepherd at this stage was something neither wanted to do, as they likely had other plans to take him down, such as through the Congress hearings. Justice. Remember, 141 shows morals and ethics despite it being a trained covert SAS death squad.
Yet, one key moment changes this moment. When Makarov makes it to London, an area important to the storyline in MW 2019. London had terrorist attacks committed by the Islamic group featured in MW1 and 2. Makarov getting into London and trying his own attacks likely has a connection with the fingers in the pies Shepherd had going on behind the scenes in MW2. It’s another unexplained incident, yet something we can likely presume is a valid link in the narrative. And then, the final grievances, the death of Soap. If Makarov didn’t get out when they had him in the first place, then Soap would live. Simple as that. This was foreshadowed when Makarov said he would see Soap again. We didn’t know of the connection between Makarov and Shepherd then, but we do now. Shepherd clearly needed Makarov to cause his attacks in London, in Farah’s land and Russia to rile up major powers over a smaller conflict. Add on the fact Makarov knew he would escape and have an opportunity to see TaskForce 141 again later down the line, and all of this is something that Price and Laswell are likely picking up as the time rolls on.
Now, it is time to recall that Heads off Snakes line one final time. If it was not for the ambitions and treachery of Shepherd, Soap would live, many more civilians would live, and Makarov would once again be in the Gulag. So, it is now evident the justice both Laswell and Price want is different. Enter Price, the cloaked figure in the dark room, pistol, and silencer in hand, waiting for Shepherd to sit down. In the moment, Price stands tall, hand raised at his head. They argue about life being saved, with Price saying we both were, in relation to being better than this. It’s a key indicator that something has changed from the end of MW2 and the end of MW3. Soap is the catalyst. With Price’s intentions clear, he pulls the trigger, and the bullet hits the head of the snake. With the deed done, Price finally got what he foreshadowed at the end of MW2, as did Laswell, the perpetrator who managed to get Price in Shepherd’s office in the first place.
Remember, foreshadowing is an important part of the one-liners. The heads off snakes and the I’ll see you again Mac’tavish are too very powerful lines. It leads to the question of what other one-liners promising events in the future are likely to come? Perhaps Price will one day need to plead for his life, as foreshadowed by Shepherd’s final conversation. Perhaps 141 will see Valeria again in Mexico? And what is to come of Graves, Congress and Farah with that storyline, something the American people and NATO are now aware of through witness statements. There are certainly plot points to come out of this, but hopefully, that clears up our theory of why Price killed Shepherd in MW3.