Thanks to zerkaras for the inspiration!
Ultimecia really is a fairly interesting villain, even if she doesn’t have much character development. She’s quite a character, much like Zell and Selphie are “characters”. But how much time did we really spend with Ultimecia? Do we really know her motivations, or who she really was as a person?
Maybe that’s the whole point. Maybe Ultimecia isn’t the real villain. Maybe the real villain is time. But then again, maybe it’s also the hero?
Don’t get me wrong, Ultimecia is a villain – but to mostly herself. She was her own worst enemy. Her hatred of SeeD and the world kept her stuck in a loop.
But time is the real villain here. Time caused all of our characters to face their mortality in unpleasant ways (i.e. Squall hearing Seifer’s “execution”, Selphie’s failed mission, Irvine’s hesitation at Edea parade, etc).
The loophole here is that time gives the players a chance to grow beyond their vices. All of the characters struggle with themselves: Selphie struggles with a flighty and impulsive nature; Zell struggles with anger issues and touchiness; Quistis struggles with indecisiveness and lack of confidence, Rinoa struggles with idealism and over-confidence; Irvine struggles with a fake facade; Seifer deals with bullying; Squall struggles with closing himself off to others and general coldness.
Yet they were all lucky enough to have had enough time…for the script to not kill them off. In a meta way, time is the savior of our characters’ lives. But time doesn’t help their characters grow. The script doesn’t give our other characters enough time to resolve their arcs properly like it did for Squall. The rest don’t have enough time to develop their personalities, so they stand still in time…
But Ultimecia doesn’t get as lucky. She stays the same, generally as she was throughout Final Fantasy VIII. But does she learn the error of her ways? Probably not. Her monologue here:
Ultimecia: Reflect on your…childhood…your sensation…your words…your emotions…….Time…it will not wait…no matter…how hard you hold on…it escapes you…and…….
…is probably not what we think. We think of this as Ultimecia’s last mournful reflection on her life. But no. Ultimecia was probably stalling for time, in the same manner of how enemies usually gloat and bluff when they’re losing. Later, Ultimecia travels to Edea’s orphanage to kill child Squall:
Ultimecia: I…can’t…disappear yet.
She can’t disappear yet without taking revenge. She disappears when she dies.
Her whole plan was to freeze time so that nothing would change. She doesn’t grow as a character, as Squall did. Ultimecia closes off. She’s completely alone. She has no friends and no connection to the world. We know nothing about her past. She doesn’t even get to become a memory.
“All that she was, all that she thought and felt, is lost to time forever, leaving only outsiders to try and piece her motivation together — just like Squall’s friends have been doing with him for the entire game.” (TVTropes)
So then, like all bosses, Ultimecia died by the thing she tried to control. Pretty poetic, huh?