Posted 12 August 2015 - 07:35 AM
I didn't see this until Monday night, because I was at the Shore Leave convention over the weekend. It was weird to watch Roger Cross on TV when I was actually talking to him face-to-face just the day before. (He doesn't seem quite as tall and imposing in person. But he's much closer to Six in personality than to some of his other roles.) Anyway, this episode made it clear that he's the best actor in the cast.
The stuff on the ship worked pretty well for me, but the flashbacks totally didn't. The way the scenes were directed and edited, it looked like Four was having those memories (particularly in the second, where the camera was on him just before and after the flashback), but he can't. Are we supposed to believe that Akita -- who apparently didn't know about Four's memory loss -- was just sitting there doing an extended "As you know, Bob" riff and narrating these memories to Four? Or were we just being given a glimpse into a supporting character's memories that the main character remained unaware of, which would've just been narratively awkward as hell? The flashback format just made no sense in the context of this particular show. Maybe we're supposed to think that Five sat down with him and told him all these memories in great detail? But doesn't that sort of squander the whole premise of the show?
Heck, it would've made the subplot more interesting if Four's loss of memory had actually been used -- say, he doesn't remember what Akita's talking about, but he has to pretend he does and avoid getting caught in a mistake. Or something about Akita's behavior puzzles him because he doesn't remember, and he doesn't know for sure what side Akita's really on. Instead, we got a plot that just ignored the whole memory-loss angle and didn't feel like it belonged in this series at all.
I still don't like this whole feudal-Japanese-empire-in-space thing. Without some kind of backstory to justify why this empire exists and is so committed to historical playacting and low technology (seriously, needle and thread for a suture, when they have nanotech and hyperspace engines?), it just seems silly and forced, a non sequitur tacked onto a futuristic universe. I can't care about Four's plight or his family conflicts when the whole scenario feels like nothing more than a lazy stereotype -- worse, a racist stereotype that Japanese people in the future are violent, sword-swinging throwbacks making one-note speeches about honor. I mean, for pity's sake, the Japanese weren't even like that in the real samurai era. That whole mythology of honorable swordsmen was invented retroactively in an era when the samurai class had become mostly bureaucrats who felt a need to romanticize their past. In reality, samurai fought more with bows and arrows than swords, because you don't have to risk your own life to shoot at someone from a distance.
Sure, of course, given that the Ishidas are a royal family, you could claim that they're doing the same thing, clinging to a romanticized myth of a past that never existed. But as long as we're not getting any evidence that the larger culture is not like this idiotic stereotype, as long as this is the only side of that culture we get to see, it's just a very, very bad idea, the worst, most cliched, most gratuitous part of this show's generally weak worldbuilding -- in contrast to Killjoys, whose intricately thought-out setting is one of its strongest features.
And apparently the Space Samurai aren't the only ones lacking in futuristic technology. Those random bandits in the woods had a very 20th-century shotgun. Indeed, everyone seemed to be still using gunpowder-based projectile weapons. Which is a conceit that seems to be used in a lot of sci-fi these days, I guess because ray guns are seen as dated. It did seem they were animating blips of light onto the gun barrels, not quite your normal muzzle flashes, but the gunshot sound effects were just standard "bang" sounds. Still, I tend to think that futuristic projectile weapons would use something like miniature linear accelerators to fire bullets. That's just a matter of the user's health, since guns are very, very loud and can cause hearing damage in enclosed spaces, like spaceships or station corridors. Developing quieter firearms would be pretty much a necessity.
(Didn't Firefly actually have something like this? They used bullets, but the gun sound effect was more muffled and future-ish than a plain old "bang"?)
I'm just frustrated that we have so little context for any of this. We don't even know how far in the future the show is set. The contrast of high and low technologies is something that could make sense in any number of possible futures -- say, an Asimovian far future where civilizations have fallen and risen up again at varying times and paces so that the archaic coexists with the modern (although this show doesn't seem nearly that far ahead). But the show has revealed virtually nothing about the larger galaxy or its history, offered no context or explanation for the world we're being shown, so it all feels random and arbitrary, just a hodgepodge of tropes without anything to unify them or make them feel like they belong together in the same universe.
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"The first man to raise a fist is the man who's run out of ideas." -- "H. G. Wells," Time After Time
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