Hello everyone, and welcome back to Wrong Every Time. Today I am eager to return to the streets of Paradigm, where Roger and Dorothy have recently been making incredible strides in illuminating their shadowed histories. After a first season largely defined by external, episodic mysteries, The Big O’s second half opened with dual investigations of our heroes’ own stories. Roger confronted his fabricated identity directly, casting away any doubts about his personhood by reasserting his current self. And Dorothy returned to the place of her birth, confronting her “siblings” and finding validation in Rosco’s unambiguously human existence.
The two have each cleared some key psychological hurdles, but for all that, the forces surrounding them are still shrouded in mystery. We know Roger was indoctrinated as a child, but not why, or what happened to the other children. We know that our Dorothy is one of many siblings, but almost nothing about her father’s ultimate intentions. Both Roger and Dorothy feel like the castaway orphans of a grand conspiracy, each tethered by their nature to Rosewater’s plan, but without a clue as to its nature or objective. Each of them fiercely value their independence, but exist within a world so artificial and tightly managed that true agency feels like a fantasy, forcing them to suffer continuous reminders that they are guided by forces outside their control. Can our fledglings crack the shell that is Paradigm, and reveal the truth of the world? Let’s find out!
It is interesting to see Big O taking such a direct turn after the scattered adventures of the first season. The pacing feels quite different now, and even the themes feel like they’ve taken a bit of a shift. While the first season predominantly reflected on memory, identity, and information control in a general sense, Roger and Dorothy now seem to be grappling with questions of selfhood in a more personal, familial sense. Now that we know more about each of their fathers, it’s becoming clear that those fathers are the standard and expectations they are defining themselves against
I love this show, but my word this OP doesn’t fit one teeny tiny bit. I’ve talked before about how the right OP can effectively set the tone and style of the episode to come; The Big O’s garage punk OP evokes nothing of the show’s actual tone, and is accompanied by a series of random show cuts whose arrangement possesses none of the show’s actual grace
We begin with an odd, context-free cold open of a child chasing a ball down a decaying corridor. An oddly disquieting sequence, given its silence and the stilted movement of the camera
“Day of the Advent”
Given Rosewater sets himself as this city’s god, that title might imply we’re getting a closer look at him
A girl looks up at a falling star as snow falls on the city. We might also just be employing the Christian use of the term, especially given that season one already demonstrated Paradigm incorporating the traditions of Christmas into its new celebrations. New religious orders frequently consume the rituals of the old, avoiding any disruption to culture along with the switching of gods. This is also another way The Big O implies that Paradigm is actually New York City, given Christianity was apparently the dominant pre-amnesia religion
Some nice city shots as the bright light passes overhead, though they’re undeniably weakened by the transition to digital painting. Digital painting just cannot recreate the texture of painted cels, and this show is from the frontier of digital animation
The effect is also noticeable on the human characters. The Big O’s largely flat-color aesthetic, with no gradations of shading, was still given a slight sense of textural dynamics through the uneven distribution of cel paints. In digital painting, where colors are uniformly applied by fill effects, that slight but valuable sense of uneven imperfection is lost
The star lands in an intersection, leaving a crater behind
“What is going to happen? What came into the city of amnesia, shrouded in light? Is some change about to transpire?” Roger carries on the episode’s framing conceit, addressing this light as if it were the arrival of a new prophet
Fun watching Roger just completely disregard the local cops, ignoring their demands until Datsun shows up
“A Paradigm investigation team showed up almost as if they were waiting for it. They carried it off to the south.” It’s been interesting watching the veneer of a detective procedural slowly get worn down, as Roger and Datsun’s interests align, and each of them accept that Paradigm itself is a hostile entity. It’s an interesting reflection of Big O’s perpetual negotiation of genres. “The City” or society are generally framed as implacable facts of life in noir, the membrane through which characters scurry, rather than a condition you can meaningfully address. But Big O’s mecha and scifi roots are leading it towards a “grand conspiracy” structure with a heroic protagonist to challenge it, which is quite distant from the usual detective drama resolution. As a result, the framing of the city shifts over time as Roger’s relationship to it changes
“Everyone in town is saying it was an angel that came down from the sky”
Roger heads off to meet a client at an apartment building, and we at last return to that bouncing red ball
The kid in the hall turns out to be the girl in the window, unsurprisingly. Through our gradual introduction to this character, the show evokes a slight tinge of this being a fated meeting
The client is Jim McGowan, a gloomy middle-aged man relying on a cane
McGowan has “always known” that an angel would come from the heavens. Another person who seems to possess fragments of pre-amnesiac memory, seemingly related to the beliefs they held most closely before the fall
“A child’s entire life – forced to stay in the darkness, and play alone.” Tammy’s situation maps well enough to Paradigm at large
He makes the point himself – “for the past forty years, we’ve been living a life with no future.” Season one presented a city brimming with dark secrets, but season two is ready to admit that this is a dying city, decaying every day
Roger heads south in search of the angel, and runs into Angel herself. He grumbles at her presence, but still shares his binoculars
Angel occupies a strange position in the narrative at this point. She and Roger possess an uneasy mutual respect, yet she also works directly with Rosewater, knowing his true nature more than even the city’s top officials do. And yet, for all that, she has to sneak around and discover everything about his plan for herself? Something doesn’t add up
Inside the facility, they come across the destroyed Megadeus from the season premiere. Angel slips enough info for Roger to finally be certain she’s not from Paradigm
Perhaps that explains the rest of it: Angel is one of Rosewater’s outside collaborators, but doesn’t trust him, and is determined to find out his true plans
With the officials on winter vacation, Roger and Dorothy find the Paradigm headquarters empty. Pretty discordant jump there, from investigating the southern facility to wandering through this building
The poor folks living in McGowan’s hotel make for a distinct visual contrast with the prosperous dome dwellers
Adam Gabriel appears in the Paradigm corp lobby, taunting Roger into following him. Again, not much connective tissue in this episode – more just a series of moments than a procedural narrative. Then again, The Big O tends to use its procedural structure more as window dressing than a strict narrative guide
Gabriel leads Roger to Rosewater himself, who refers to him as “Dominus of Megadeus”
The angel is some giant mechanical object, only a fragment of which fell this time. Rosewater claims he learned of it from Roger’s data disc, which contains “memories of Paradigm’s future.” Roger earlier claimed that memories of the future are impossible, but in Paradigm’s case, that’s obviously not true – if something was set in motion before the wave of amnesia, then learning of that event’s future consequences counts as a “memory of the future.”
“It seems the men of the past were able to construct stars and make them orbit around our world.” So this really does seem like our own future, and that our heroes are attempting to make sense of a satellite’s decaying orbit
“Considering you were fired, you’re quite well-informed.” Alright, that clears up my questions about Angel. We sure are covering a lot of material!
“Why aren’t you warning the people outside the domes?” “Because it is their destiny.” This episode is tugging at some neat ideas regarding the nature of fate. We’re used to the people of Paradigm essentially going through the motions of living, repeating cycles because they have no past or future. In contrast, McGowan and his people still possess hope, represented by their belief that an angel will come and change things. But as Rosewater reveals, even their hope is just a lingering afterimage of the amnesia’s effect, a half-remembered prayer now leading them towards a doomed conclusion. Their angel of salvation is the herald of oblivion
Roger declares his opposition to Rosewater, and then rushes off to stop the satellite himself. He’s becoming a genuine goddamn superhero
Norman buzzes in to inform Roger of the pickle situation just before battle begins
And Roger shatters the satellite with a massive fist, bringing light to the darkness for one night
Woof, that episode was packed with information! It was so stuffed with exposition that it didn’t feel like there was quite enough room for the narrative; Roger’s journey across the city felt more disjointed than usual, and the contrasting narrative of Dorothy and the little girl really didn’t get any time to breathe. That said, I very much enjoyed this episode’s ambiguous meditation on faith, and with so much of the underlying relational dynamics clarified by this week’s Rosewater and Angel material, I’m looking forward to Roger focusing his anger on Paradigm’s true oppressors. With Rosewater actively abetting the genocide of his own citizens, it seems like the time for negotiation might be drawing to a close.
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