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The Citadel Council

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Ah yes, "Reapers". We have dismissed that claim
~ Councilor Sparatus providing a now-memetic dismissal of the Reaper threat
Citcouncill
The Citadel Council are the ruling body governing the Citadel and by extension all Citadel Space and arguably tertiary antagonists throughout the Mass Effect. Each of the "core" Council Races is represented here: the Asari, the Turians, and the Salarians. Their names are Tevos (Asari), Valern (Salarian), and Sparatus (Turian). However, humans will join the Council following the events of the first game, either resolving to govern the galaxy with an all-human Council or simply taking their own seat among the Council Races.

Though they make Commander Shepard a Spectre and are fair enough to them in the first game (with the notable exception of Councilor Sparatus) the Council becomes increasingly antagonistic in the sequels, not only refusing to help Commander Shepard but also stonewalling their efforts to prepare the galaxy - even turning them into a scapegoat. This opposition has become the subject of considerable frustration on the part of both Shepard and the players, not to mention an internet meme concerning Sparatus' use of finger quotes.

Mass Effect 1: Caution

On their first encounter with Commander Shepard, the Citadel Council dismiss all accusations that Saren Arterius is a traitor due to lack of sufficient evidence. However, after Shepard presents proof that Saren has not only gone rogue but is in league with Matriarch Benezia, the Council agrees to promote Shepard to the role of Spectre granting him/her the authority to bring Saren to justice.  

Though the Council as a whole remains fairly reasonable throughout the game, Councilor Sparatus goes out of his way to criticize and condemn Shepard at every turn, regardless of what decisions Shepard makes. This unpleasant attitude only worsens during the buildup to the game's finale, during which the Council's natural caution leads them into a major strategic error: not wanting to risk a war with the Terminus Systems by sending their forces to Ilos, they instead decide to establish a blockade around the Citadel and leave it at that. With the aid of Ambassador Udina, they also ground the Normandy to prevent any unauthorized intervention, forcing Shepard to steal it back. 

In the climax of the first game, the Council's escape ship The Destiny Ascension comes under attack from the Reaper Sovereign and Commander Shepard must choose either to save them or order the human fleets to focus all attention on Sovereign. The Paragon choice involves saving the Council, sacrificing human lives in order to preserve the council. Recognizing this sacrifice and vowing never to forget it, the Citadel Council immediately bestows upon humanity a Council Seat and Shepard can recommend either Captain Anderson or Udina for the post. Conversely, the Renegade option of leaving the Council to die results in Udina replacing them with an all-human council, championing the pro-human/anti-alien sentiment common to Renegade Shepard. 

Mass Effect 2: Stagnation

Unfortunately, the Council quickly become fixated on maintaining the status quo, ultimately leading them to dismiss the Reaper threat entirely in the aftermath of Shepard's death. Instead, Sovereign is passed off as a Geth ship, and Saren painted as the mastermind behind the events of the first game, even "tricking" the crew of the Normandy into believing in Reapers. When Shepard is resurrected and returns to Citadel space, s/he receives a particularly frosty reception from the Council: though this is somewhat justified by his/her perceived alliance with Cerberus, the Council's fixation on maintaining the peace regardless of the consequences leads them to continue dismissing any evidence of the incoming Reaper invasion, and with the recent string of human kidnappings occurring in the Terminus Systems, the Council are once again unwilling to intervene regardless of urgency.

The Council's ultimate response depends entirely on the status of the Council itself: if the paragon option was chosen and the original council spared, they agree to reinstate Shepard's Spectre status, if only as lip service to their earlier debt of gratitude. They also give Shepard reluctant permission to operate within the Terminus Systems and advise him/her to end their alliance with Cerberus - though it's clear that they just want Shepard as far away from Citadel space as possible.

However, if the original council was left to die, the human council is somehow even more ungrateful: they decline to meet or even speak with Shepard, even though they owe their positions and their power entirely to his/her intervention. As with their alien counterparts, they dismiss the Reaper threat out of hand, and only deign to reinstate Shepard's Spectre status if Anderson serves as their representative; Udina refuses to grant anything to Shepard, no matter how minor - another sign that the human councilors have become just as stagnant as their predecessors.

Mass Effect 3: Division

When the Reapers finally invade, the Council reach new lows of unhelpfulness. Despite Shepard having been proved correct, the Council declines to send military aid to Earth, instead focusing on the invasion attempts being made on their own planets - a disastrous move in an already divided galaxy dependent on a united defense force. Ironically, Paragon players find themselves with an unexpected supporter in the form of Councillor Sparatus: having recognized his error in opposing Shepard's preparations, he offers important advice on how to secure the Council's aid - namely by going over their heads and appealing directly to their home planets, ultimately leading to the rescue of Primarch Victus and the first step in gaining the trust of the Council.

Renegade players also have an uphill journey: possibly due to political upheaval resulting from the invasion of Earth, the human council has been replaced by a group similar to the original council, though humanity retains a seat this time around. This new council is reluctant to place any trust in Shepard after the murder-by-inaction of their predecessors, though the ever-ambitious Salarian councilor admits she can't be too indignant, given that this sacrifice allowed her the opportunity to seize power in the first place.

In any event, the remaining councilors are finally convinced to provide military aid to Earth in the aftermath of the attempted coup launched by Cerberus. Though their exact fates after this are not known, they likely died later when the Reapers seized control of the Citadel.

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