The Big O: Act 12- Enemy Is Another Big!
Although there have been hints of Paradigm’s coincident identifiaction with an earlier New York City, Act 12 confirms this. The episode opens onto a large airfield, which Roger Smith refers to as JFK Mark, or John F. Kennedy International Airport. A large, bandaged Megadeus stands atop some sort of structure in the now-defunct airfield at the outer edges of Paradigm’s current boundaries,and as it begins to move, Dastun and the Military Police observe it and plot what would no doubt be a failed attempt to stop it from entering the city and attacking its targets. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as we have no clue what would have happened if this Megadeus and its pilot Schwarzwald succeeded in attacking Paradigm Corp. and revealing the truth of the world to the city), Big O arrives and prevents the Megadeus from attacking Paradigm, for now.
‘There isn’t anyone who exactly knows what did happen 40 years ago. The only thing that seems to have been left behind is the fear that whatever it was may have completely changed the world,’ Roger muses. This is a pretty just fear as a world seems to have existed well before The Event in which foreign lands and peoples existed, in which there was a world economy and Paradigm was an economic and cultural hub of part of that world. Many of the technologies of Paradigm are reminiscent of 1940s and 50s real-world tech, although there are also various modern technologies and future technologies such as compact discs, androids, and mecha.
Inside of Paradigm, the only two languages universally known are English (presumably the language spoken by everyone there, though hard to confirm as this is the veritable ‘air that its denizens breathe’ and is thereby not named) and German (as Dastun, Roger, and Angel all know the meaning of the German name Schwarzwald and seem well versed in the language). One is tempted to interpret this to mean something along the lines of WWII ending in a manner different than in the real world, such as the U.S. supporting the Nazis in WWII, The Event being coincident with some largescale nuclear and mecha based war, and the simulation of reality that is our world (at least in Big O) being eventually taken aback and traumatized by the triumph of evil over good in this run of the simulation. This would explain why the French are recognized at outsiders and political enemies of the state whose existence is hidden by the dystopian Police State of Paradigm governed by the (Tyrell or Wallace-like) Paradigm Corp. Add to this the stylish import of film noir and the hard dramatic lines of the Megadeuses, which trace their artistic lineages back to German expressionism and at least potentially an SS fashion sense, and this theory becomes more and more apparent every time you see the series.
But I digress, and Roger continues: ‘No, there is one other thing: the Megadeuses. They left us a technology that surpasses any other in the world.’ As if the greatest scientists on the planet trained under the conditions of war by the Nazis were never members of a beaten state, and were never consequently head-hunted by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in the race to technological achievement. As if they won the war, continued being funded and working together, and eventually created designs for marvelous works of destruction and of great beauty using not only funding from their mother country, but from their ally in the burgeoning economy of the U.S.
The episode flashes back to Roger taking a job for Alex Rosewater personally. In the past, the Paradigm Press reporter Michael Seebach refused to accept his severance check from Roger Smith and instead attempted to burn the man alive within his old home whilst Roger was investigating the disappeared reporter. Seebach took on the new persona of Schwarzwald and could not accept the payout as it would be a a tacit recognition of his previous identity and an affront to his new mask as the ‘Black Forest’ philosopher archetype whose goal is to bring truth to the city of Paradigm, by force if necessary. Because Roger failed to deliver the severance check, but nonetheless received payment from Paradigm for services rendered, he takes Rosewater’s new job, which is to deliver a second severance payout. This time, the job is a matter of professional respectability, of proving he can finish a job that he takes on.
The following day, Roger tracks Schwarzwald to JFK Mark, just on Paradigm’s outer limits, bordering the desert wasteland (symbolizing, like T.S. Eliot’s fable, the moral vacuum and instantiated reality of nihilism post-World War II) and finds his mark. Schwarzwald claims to have uncovered some great truth about the city, something new that all of Paradigm’s citizens should be made to hear. He attacks Big O and it is soon apparent that the bandaged Megadeus is much more than your typical modern Megadeus. Big O launches a series of missiles at the beast, which burn off its outer garments, revealing a Megadeus of the Big type below: Big Duo! After Big O launches all of its arsenal at the enemy Big, and has nothing left to throw at it, Big Duo stands still, unfazed and unscathed. It emits a cloud of smoke and suddenly disappears, not beneath the ground, but seemingly into thin air, or above the clouds (which may the source of Schwarzwald’s discovery, but more on that later).
As Roger broods at his mansion on his inability to have any effect on Big Duo, angel calls and reveals that as an assistant to Alex Rosewater, under the pseudonym of Patricia Lovejoy, she has learned the whereabouts of Schwarzwald. This puzzles Roger as he believes that Rosewater only knows about the persona of Seebach, but now realizes that Rosewater knows more than he’s letting on, which partially explains the extremely large sum of money listed on Seebach’s severance check. Roger follows the lead to a masquerade party in the city later that night. When he arrives, he is immediately admitted without the need for an invitation, and is given a mask to wear, which he foregoes donning. Those within the room are acting lasciviously, and showing themselves to be lecherous, gluttonous, and debauched people with seemingly little of redeeming quality.
And also within the party, Roger finds The Jester: a figure of deep mythic significance who is reportedly the only figure who can tell the truth to the King at all times. However, this figure is ultimately comedic and quite mad, and thereby escapes retribution through supposed insanity, and symbolically represents the link between madness and the search for truth: a Nietzschian figure who may have inadvertently gone mad through the sheer impossibility of staring into the void of meaning. This masked figure is Schwarzwald, a man who is himself masked already and appears externally as the philosophical warrior who has been burned, quite literally, through his search for the truth. Who has flown too close to the sun, far above the clouds, and thereby learned of the reality of the situation in Paradigm.
As Roger looks around, disgusted at the display of his fellow Paradigm citizens, The Jester explains that he is ‘observing the corrupt reality of the city he’s trying to protect.’ Roger feigns ignorance, always wishing to hide his own persona as the dark knight, as the Dominus of the Big O Megadeus. But no truth stays hidden from Schwarzwald. After being presented his severance pay from ‘The Negotiator’, he burns it and exclaims: ‘No! It is this corrupt city that will burn. These false skies called domes that are ineffectual and useless in this world. It cannot continue. Everyone must be made aware of the truth and experience what happened 40 years ago. And that’s what I’m going to do: Make them aware of it. With Big Duo!.’
Like veterans of an immoral war, the denizens of Paradigm are traumatized by their past to such a degree that they find it easier to forget their past entirely, lest they lash out in episodes of violence and destroy their world entirely. The evil was of such a high degree that it became metaphysical evil in nature, and the trauma translated to a cultural trauma and to an ontological state of forgetfulness in the population of Paradigm. The job of the philosophical warrior, of The Jester, is to make the world aware of this evil, to awaken them to their evil and to the truth no matter how painful. To drive them from The Cave, by force if necessary, and force a state change within them in the hopes that the truth will move them beyond their current ahistorical existence and toward progress, change, and a prophesied new world.
At the party, everyone’s heads begin to hurt as the drugged food and drink takes effect. Their masques immolate and begin to burn their faces as the club itself becomes engulfed in flame. Roger and The Jester escape the room, though all those within burn to death or jump to their deaths from the open windows of the room (pre-figuring the Event of our own time as Americans, these Paradigm citizens like our citizens merely collateral damage in the horrific plans of a terrorist group to awaken American society to its own hypocrisy and Imperialism, to strike fear in its heart and force a change to the status quo of bureaucratized, capitalist-driven subjugation of the world for the mere gain of a few robber-barons with a Middle Eastern policy founded on the lies of religion and an eschatology that dismisses the suffering of the world’s dregs at the hands of the so-called chosen nation). And like certain historical figures of our own time, Schwarzwald descends to the Earth in his machine, Big Duo, seemingly chosen by the forces of history to expose the lies of a nation-state, and like the Dominus of Big O, Schwarzwald too is deemed ‘Ye Not Guilty.’ Divinely ordained in his mission, pre-figuring the coming of a new age, and fighting to force a larger metaphysical gambit.
Roger calls upon Big O, but is informed by Norman that there has not been enough time to replace the mecha’s ammunition. As such, when the battle begins, Big O is pulverized and beaten back time and again by his overpowered bomber opponent who not only has the same capabilities, but has the ability to fly. As Big Duo launches two missiles directly at Big O, he uses a chain mechanism to pull himself into the air and hang from the support beams of the domes’ false sky. Though Big O avoids taking damage, much of the city is destroyed as a result. when Big O descends, he lands atop Big Duo and pummels it into oblivion, piston punching its skull case into nonexistence, and ripping off on of its arms.
As a final action, Big Duo stands on its own without Schwarzwald piloting it any longer. Despite being decapitated and severely wounded, Big Duo walks out of the crater and attempts to approach Paradigm HQ, reaching out to grasp it before expiring. Schwarzwald wonders aloud whether the Big Megadeuses need masters at all, or if they choose their masters. He wonder whether they are controlled by a Dominus or if it the Megadeus itself that pulls the strings, and the Dominus are mere instruments for the Megadeuses. And he departs the scene, never to be seen again. Off to the desert wastelands surrounding Paradigm to reflect on his inability to bring the truth to the world for now. Though his spectral presence will forever be a force to be reckoned with in the city of Paradigm.
Cast in the Name of God,