The Big O: Act 13- R.D.

(Act 12: Enemy Is Another Big!)

The Nightingale Club. A figure lurks in the shadows, appearing visually identical to R. Dorothy Wayneright, though dressed in a red cape and hood. The figure kills one of the girls working at the club and writes a message in lipstick on the mirror in the girl’s dressing room, a message that seemingly only Dorothy would know the meaning of: ‘Cast In The Name Of God, Ye Not Guilty!’ The question and response written out by a Megadeus within its cockpit to only its true Megadeus (a negative answer, and the subsequent expulsion of the false Dominus would be prompted by ‘Ye Guilty.’).

Roger Smith learns of the incident from Dan Dastun and tracks down more information on the event through his informant The Big Ear at the city’s Speak Easy club. He learns that the woman who was murdered claimed to have regained memories of the past, pre-Event information from more than 40 years ago. However, the girl was barely 20 years old at the time, and thereby the recovery of such memories seems impossible.

The killer, known as R.D., takes down a Taxi Driver next and has been linked to one more previous murder through her Megadeus-tied M.O. message in each case. Dastun calls in Roger for questioning (which may suggest that Dastun knows about, or highly suspects, Roger’s identity as the pilot of the Megadeus) and finds that he knew only one of the victims: the dancer at Nightingale called Ellen Weight. She had previously contacted Roger to help her out of some predicament, but was killed before he could meet her and settle the details.

In this episode’s constantly shifting spatial logic, Roger next visits Norman in the underground where he is working on repairing Big O. He asks the old man, ‘Have you ever thought about the fact that you can keep the Megadeus in perfect condition like this?’ Instead of answering directly, Norman asks Roger if he wonders why he is able to pilot the machine so effectively, only to receive an answer in the negative. Norman responds likewise to Roger’s first question: ‘Right. Then neither do I.’ The conversation is over between the two at this point, and Roger sulks off elsewhere the ponder the question of why he is such an effective pilot of Big O despite not even being born before The Event of 40 years ago, and thereby bracketed from all knowledge before it, including information regarding the piloting of such machines. At the beginning of the series, his policy was to never go digging into the past lest he cause more trouble than need be. But now, Roger Smith is so curious about his past that he is willing to break his own rules and begin searching for the truth. This curiosity seems to have developed through his connection with Schwarzwald.

Then, the episode fasts forward to the end confrontation between R.D. and Roger in the subway beneath the city. This will occur on multiple occasions and in each instance Roger will awaken to find he has dreamt these occurrences that will later come to fruition. Memories of the future seem to corroborate the belief that Roger has lived this timestream on multiple occasions, that the world of Paradigm is a infinite time loop, and that the memories of other people in the city might be similar in nature, like deja vu, rather than being memories from before The Event, which may have never happened in the first place. As for the episode of deja vu at hand, R.D. stands opposite Roger in a  subway and calls to him in an obscure fashion: ‘That’s right. you should know too… You want to know?’ The meaning of which remains enigmatic even by the episode (and first season’s denouement). A fire fills the space and Roger’s visions transport him to a library wherein a book is burning, and then to a city where flying Big Duo Megadeuses scorch the Earth below, as Big O’s and an as yet unknown white Megadeus (Big Fau) destroy all in sight from the ground. A group of children with shaved heads are shown watching the carnage and as the vision zooms in toward one particular child, a young boy, it reveals a barcode hidden within his retina: and android. Roger awakens in bed, stands up, and peers outside his window to find Dorothy standing on the balcony looking out over the city, in the rain, and without an umbrella.

Another man, a porter at a hotel, is killed by R.D., bringing up the death toll to 4 people, all seemingly disconnected from one another. Dastun seems to suspect Roger of the murders and asks his deputy whether Roger Smith was present in the hotel during the murder. Apparently he was there for some reason or other, and at this point, the viewer begins to get the unsettling suspicion that during Roger’s blackouts, something may be happening without his conscious knowledge. Roger meanwhile visits Big Ear once again and finds that the only connection between the four victims is that all supposedly began to have memories of the past, despite none being old enough for this to make any sense. His suspicion should be, by this point, whether he himself may be one amongst their number, another person whose visions are actually memories of the past as well.

He decides to visit the apartment of Ellen Weight. There, he finds a photograph of a building that he immediately recognizes, and which triggers memories of those five bald children once again. He visits the building and realizes that he has been inside before once he enters its premises. Moreover, the library within, its shelves devoid of all texts, is the selfsame as that from his visions from the prior day. Angel appears, in a red cape and hood, and tells Roger that he shouldn’t go digging any deeper, that her warning is one from Alex Rosewater and the heads of the city who are concerned that he isn’t ‘utilizing the Megadeus appropriately.’ She references how Schwarzwald uses his own Megadeus to try to destroy Paradigm and wonders aloud what Roger’s purposes are. Then, she leaves just as suddenly as she appeared, and Roger realizes that not only has he been a pawn of Paradigm insofar as he has unquestionably used the Megadeus to protect the city and prevent memories from awakening, but that the visions he has been having may be memories of his own, that the child android may be himself.

He seems to realize all of this, though he refuses to bring the realization to the conscious level and instead registers it all through another vision of flames. He awakens beneath he city, in a subway standing across from R.D. once more in another flash-forward sequence. She speaks: ‘That’s right. You already knew…. Me? I am…’ then she cuts her sentence short and smiles. Roger awakens within the library and finds a book on a nearby shelf titled Metropolis (cementing that celluloid text as an inspirational one on The Big O). Inside of the book is a library card with the names of all four victims (Ellen Weight, Mathew Brown, Larry Flannis, Nancy Bolton) of R.D. inside, with a fifth and final name: R.D. Does this signify that R.D. has found the book before Roger (and before Angel who presumably left it behind for Roger to find)? Does it mean that R.D. is a target, and the culprit of these murders? That Roger really is the assassin?

Roger needs answers, and to this end he returns home to gather some supplies for what may turn into a lengthy trip. Whilst at the mansion, he asks Norman about the whereabouts of Dorothy, who has only seen on the one occasion in the past week. Roger hasn’t seen her around either, which piques Roger’s suspicions as the woman in his visions looks so much like Dorothy. He leaves for Aislebury, a farming district of Paradigm, to track down the author of the text Metropolis, which recounts the same events from the past as in Roger’s memories: the city being destroyed by roving machines, all of the books being burned, and child androids watching as it all happens. This is the first half of the book is complete, and the second half is blank, and Roger has tracked its author Gordon Rosewater down to find out more information about why this is.

The ruler of the Police State known as Paradigm, and the CEO of Paradigm Corp., Alex Rosewater learns from Angel, his personal assistant going by the name Patricia Lovejoy (seemingly to infiltrate the company as a spy without Rosewater’s knowledge), of Roger’s whereabouts. She thinks it may not be a good idea to let Roger visit Alex’s father, but he simply responds that it won’t make any difference as ‘the awakening is already well under way.’ It seems Alex Rosewater has set some plan into motion, which he believes to be in such an advanced stage as to be impossible to halt.

And at the farm, Roger meets Gordon Rosewater who has become an old man, a seemingly senile man who speaks often in metaphor and very rarely in a forthright manner. Roger feels an immediate affinity for the old man who he seems familiar with. He explains to Gordon that his book recounts the tale of him implanting memories into children 1 years ago, and that four of these kids have grown into adulthood now and began to ‘remember’ these memories (presumably of what occurred before The Event), which led to their deaths at the hand of an at-large assassin. The man begins to talk about the tomatoes he currently farms on his land, how they are made synthetically to taste like real, organic tomatoes, and that over multiple trial runs they might eventually become just like the original thing. This seems to lead to conclusion that Gordon Rosewater created the children too, as stated in his incomplete book, to mold human beings into authentic copies of some previous original lifeforms, and that he intends to do once more in the future.

However, Gordon also claims that everything in the book is a lie, that the events therein are absurd: ‘The world destroyed by a cataclysm, giant robots running amok over the Earth, the power of the creator wielded by the hand of man.’ The problem with his dismissal is that such giant robots do indeed exist, that much of the world surrounding Paradigm has been destroyed, and that Roger, as a man (of sorts) does indeed control the power of a God as the pilot of Big O, as the Dominus of a Megadeus. The old man’s senility is expressed here as it seems that the book really did recount events from the past and that Gordon Rosewater has either forgotten these events, or more mysteriously yet, retreated into madness to avoid having to think about the atrocities he may have had a hand in starting. Gordon tells Roger, as the latter makes way to leave the farm and continue his investigation elsewhere, that he must ‘find the answer to your question in yourself. You can do it. No, you should be able to do it.’

The next frame of the episode shows Roger heading back into Paradigm proper, a sprawling Metropolis, a dystopian world akin to the 2019 Los Angeles’ of Blade Runner. Roger follows a lead to an address where he finds R.D. far ahead, entering the mansion before he himself. He follows a subterranean passageway and eventually comes face to face with R.D. who explains that despite the fact that androids are not supposed to be able to harm people, she has never had this built-in limiter, that she awoke with a desire, with a need, and with a program that told her track down those who remembered their pasts. In this way, R.D. performs a function similar to that given to Roger Smith by Paradigm (need I say, programmed into Roger Smith): to prevent memories from surfacing and thereby, to maintain order within the city.

R.D. tells Roger that she is merely following programming orders, that she is doing as commanded and acting according to her nature. Then, to drive home the point that Roger too is some form of android, she asks Roger who commands him. Roger refuses the implication, and grasping toward his own freedom, claims that he remains uncommanded. She asks why he pilots the Megadeus then, the ‘sacred chariot of Mankind. Those who pilot them are intended to be commanded. If you admit that you are not, then you must perish.’ And it seems that Schwarzwald’s final thoughts on the Megadeuses has been confirmed. That they do indeed do the commanding. But roger is no mere slave and has somehow managed to find his own way toward freedom, a path that Big O sympathizes with, which has led the Megadeus to act according to the will of its Dominus rather than commanding the Dominus, subtly, and acting in accordance with the will of Paradigm.

At this point, Roger has seen R.D. close enough to identify her as R. Dorothy, even though she calls herself Red Destiny. The psychological impact of such a betrayal is troubling and confusing to Roger who has always known Dorothy to break her programming in the past rather than harm him. She raises her pistol and clips Roger’s arm. As the two begin the subterranean chase between cat and mouse, Roger calls Big O, but hi signal is jammed and no information can exit this subway access tunnel. And as all seems lost and Roger stands within range of the psychotic rogue android, Big O miraculously rises from beneath the ground, crushing R.D. in the process. The real Dorothy emerges from the cockpit and explains that she was helping Norman renovate the Megadeus when it began to move on its own. The psychic connection between Roger and Big O has grown strong, and neither seems to be the total master in this mutual relationship between two electronic peers.

But more pressing concerns than those existential questions burning at the back of Roger’s mind appear immediately. In the ocean beside Paradigm, three foreign Megadeuses have appeared and threaten to destroy the city. Roger, Dorothy, and Big O emerge from beneath he city to protect it, even though this may be a programmed response to the danger. Dastun mobilizes his troops and looks on fondly at Big O as it heads toward the opposing Megadeuses. Angel looks on from the sidelines, holding a red balloon as a visual signifier linking her to the mysterious foreign terrorist in Winter Night Phantom. She complains that ‘it’s too soon. If the power is released now, you’ll ruin everything. Can’t you see that?’ And it becomes obvious that these Megadeuses are being piloted by co-conspirators of Angel’s who are working to take down the city from the outside just as she does so from within as a spy.

Finally, Roger’s monologue, and what would have been the final word from our protagonist if The Big O was not popular enough in the West to spawn a 2nd season (it was barely watched at all in its home market of Japan): ‘We have choices. Some of us like to stand in the rain without an umbrella. that’s what it means to be free!.’ Dorothy at his side, the umbrella references her proclivity to stand in the rain without one, just as R.D. explained that if it rained, it would be her natural reaction to cover herself with an umbrella. Whereas R.D. was programmed and had no free will, Roger, Big O, and Dorothy are persons (albeit constructed ones) with a sufficient complexity as to be truly free. And if this episode became the ending of The Big O, their paradoxical decision to protect the city they live within despite it being a programmed response they have dismissed and then re-signed onto, would have been one of the most radical choices ever made in anime history, or in sci-fi history for that matter.

 

Cast in the Name of God,

Cody Ward

[Act 14: Roger the Wanderer]

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