Operation Mindcrime

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A Rock Opera by progressive metal band Queensrÿche, released in 1988, focusing on a drug-addicted street kid who, brainwashed by a charismatic demagogue, becomes the assassin for an underground revolutionary movement. The sequel, released in 2006, continues to follow this kid as he attempts to deal with the demons that have been haunting him.

The story explores such topics as governmental and religious hypocrisy, love and sex (and the differences between them), and personal responsibility for one's own actions and one's lot in life. All of this is placed in a believable, Next Sunday A.D.-esque world which is very overtly modeled on the socio-political climate of each album's time.

WARNING! There are unmarked Spoilers ahead. Beware.


Operation: mindcrime

Nikki, just an urchin living under the streets, is fed up with what he sees as corruption and hypocrisy in every level of society. Fortunately for him (or so it seems), he comes across charismatic revolutionary leader Doctor X, who recruits Nikki to his cause. Nikki becomes a political assassin, murdering anyone who stands in Dr. X's way; but soon his conscience begins to torture him and he starts to doubt the cause he's fighting for. Then things get complicated.

Nikki is in love with Sister Mary, a prostitute-turned-nun, and decides to leave the revolution and clean up his life. But then it gets worse: Dr. X, for reasons all his own, orders Nikki to kill Mary. Nikki tries to comply, but his love for Mary prevails and he decides instead to confront Dr. X. However, Dr. X holds Nikki's heroin addiction over his head; Nikki is trapped.

And then it gets worse again: Nikki finds Mary dead. Police on the scene quickly arrest Nikki for the murder, but he insists he didn't do the deed... but if not, then who did?

The loss of Mary sends Nikki into a catatonic state, and he is committed to a mental institution.

A detailed synopsis and song-by-song analysis can be found here.

Note: Operation: mindcrime is deliberately sparse on details of Mary's death, especially pertaining to the identity of her killer. The video compilation Video: mindcrime included several possible interpretations; and a Queensrÿche concert show from the late 90s provided further extrapolation; however, for purposes of this page, only the original album is being considered canon.


Operation: Mindcrime II
(Again, although efforts have been made to keep this summary spoiler-free, some factoids will inevitably slip through, so tread carefully.)

Nearly twenty years after being incarcerated at the end of OM1, Nikki is summarily released, with little or no attempt to help him integrate into civilian life. Naturally he finds himself on the wrong side of the law again, which only serves to fuel his still-extant hatred for the governmental authorities.

Ultimately, Nikki decides to confront and kill Dr. X, whom he continues to blame for all the problems that have plagued him his entire life. But will killing his nemesis really solve his problems, or bring Nikki any comfort over the loss of Mary?

Tropes used in Operation Mindcrime include:
  • Big No: Used at the end of "Breaking The Silence" in OM1. Nikki is accused of her death by the voices in his head, causing him to scream this.
  • Book Ends: "I remember now" and "Eyes of a Stranger" both end with the phrase "I remember now".
  • Death by Sex: Shortly after consummating with Nikki (in OM1), Sister Mary dies.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: There are differing opinions on whether Nikki and Sister Mary had sex regularly or only once, both sides holding up equally well under scrutiny.
  • Downer Ending: At the end of OM1, Nikki pretty much loses his mind and has to live in the horrible memories of his past day after day. The end of OM2 could be considered bittersweet since Nikki and Mary meet in the afterlife.
  • Dress Rehearsal Video: "Breaking The Silence".
  • Driven to Suicide: Nikki in OM2.
  • The Eighties provided the necessary socio-political backdrop for OM1.
    • And the 2000s provide an appropriate setting for OM2.
  • Expanded Universe: Many of the live performance of the albums use videos to expand upon the story.
  • (Former) Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Mary
  • Government Conspiracy: Nikki blames this for society's woes, also roping in the media, religion and the upper class while he's at it.
  • Heroic BSOD: Mary's death causes Nikki to almost completely shut down.
  • How We Got Here: OM1 is told in flashback form; we first meet Nikki in hospital as a background news broadcast fills us in on backstory; then, after Nikki's little monologue ("I remember now... I remember how it started..."), the instrumental "Anarchy-X" marks the transition into the flashback proper. (Similarly, the later instrumental "Waiting For 22" marks the transition out of the flashback.)
  • It Got Worse: In OM1, after some time as an assassin, Nikki's conscience begins to catch up with him. And then--

Dr. X: Kill her [Mary]; that's all you have to do.