Big O II Episode Four

Guess who’s back?

I have to admit that Schwartzwald is actually one of my favorite characters in this show. He is the only character  who is searching for and trying to reveal the truth throughout his entire presence in the show. As such, he acts as a sort of prophet – in the ancient sense (from Wikipedia: “In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης (profétés) meaning “advocate”, is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people… Traditionally, prophets are regarded as having a role in society that promotes change due to their messages and actions.”) – for Paradigm City, something that this episode only promotes even further, as flyers covered in his words and with a slightly altered copy of a William Blake painting depicting Behemoth and Leviathan on the back:

rain down upon the city from above. If anything, Schwartzwald reminds me of the Prophets of the Tanakh/Old Testament, particularly the ones who were more or less telling everyone, “Hey, assholes, stop being crappy people, or bad shit’s gonna happen.” See Jeremiah, Micah, and Malachi, among others… y’know, the ones who wrote stuff that modern American Christians like to pretend don’t exist. But I digress.

A quick reminder from my previous Big O II post before I go any further: Leviathan is a biblical creature, appearing in the Christian Old Testament (all version, i.e. Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, etc.) and the Jewish Tanakh in several of the books comprising the two. It is a sea-serpent creature which is evil and destructive. Behemoth function similarly, although it is a giant land creature.

You can see that there is a slight difference between the Blake picture and the one Schwarzwald utilizes – in Schwartzwald’s, there is what appears to be a town over which Behemoth stands. I think we can take this town to be Paradigm City, although its difficult to say what Behemoth is in the episode. Leviathan is a pretty clear one – the mechanical serpent which comes out of the desert and lacks a soul is Leviathan. Behemoth could be the Big O itself, given the way Behemoth is depicted standing over a town, seeming in a way to protect it. On the other hand, Behemoth may also be the Leviathan, as in Jewish apocrypha Behemoth existed in a vast desert east of Eden – Angel refers to there being a desert east of Paradigm in this episode. Leviathan here is lurking in a sea of sand, not the ocean, hence the sense that it could be a combination of the two in this circumstance.

Ok, running through the episode again, pretty sure Behemoth is the mechanical creature Roger and R. Dorothy encountered underground in season one, although I do think that the addition of a town to the picture does hint that Big O could possibly be seen as Behemoth as well, albeit benevolent.

Schwartzwald… says a lot in this episode, and I think that even in trying to cover it all, I will inevitably leave something out. Because Schwartzwald hardly limits himself to the biblical Leviathan in his writings; he also makes references to Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan, a treatise which argued for the necessity of an absolute ruler to control society and prevent it from destroying itself. When Scwartzwald states that, “Imagination and memory are but one thing, which for divers considerations hath divers names.”, for example, he is quoting directly from Leviathan. Hobbes explicates a bit further, explaining that ‘imagination’ is what we use when we are pointing to a particular idea or image, whereas ‘memory’ is what we use when trying to point to something specific we have encountered, although I am unsure as to whether we are supposed to utilize his explanation here, or if we are to interpret what Schwartzwald actually says in a way that does not line up with the rest of what Hobbes has to say.

If we want to get into spoiler territory, and, if so, look away for the remainder of this paragraph, I would argue in favor of an alternative meaning here. We find out later that none of this is ‘real’, that its some sort of reality TV show/social experiment, which would indicate that ‘imagination’ and ‘memory’ are the same here in that the memories (little m, not big) in people are ones that have been falsely constructed. The people think they’ve been farting around for forty years post-apocalypse of sorts, but its far likelier that this simply is not so, they’ve been there a much shorter span of time and have had their memories manipulated to fit with the narrative of Paradigm.

Outside of spoiler territory, it is worth recalling that both Rosewater and Mcgowan in episode three insisted that their interpretation of the falling satellite was the correct, since they had Memories of it, even though Roger angrily insisted that such a notion is ludicrous as Memories are of things that have already occurred, not things yet to do so. Imagination, or memory? A mingling of the two? The two are the same, so…? Going down this road gets complicated very fast, but I wished to recall it nevertheless. Are they prophecying, or remembering? Remebering their prophecies?

Returning to this episode, Schwarzwald also does make explicit references to the biblical Leviathan as well. He states that the people have no fear, which comes from Job 41:33 and refers to the Leviathan. His words say that the people are the serpent, completing the reference.

Little wonder that Schwarzwald isn’t well-liked by the ruling elite of Paradigm City. He is the only figure who publicly excoriates the people for their lack of curiosity, urging them to question their circumstances and the circumstances of their world. Rosewater and his lackies want him taken care of because he is trying to wake the people from their post-Event stupor, their willingness to go along with what they are being told because it is comfortable, because it brings them no fear.

Schwartzwald also argues that fear is necessity for people to continue living, that if they no longer fear, they will only face inevitable extinction. On the face of it, it is a curious claim; isn’t being afraid a bad thing? But fear is an instinct that has been born into humans because it helps us to survive – certainly it can immobilize, but it can also spur people to take action to counter that which makes them afraid. If we do not fear something which will cause harm, then we do not take that step to prevent the harm, hence the imagery of fearless people as waiting passively for the end of humanity. Such a thing doesn’t frighten them, so it will come to pass.

Its important to take note of that matter of immobilization, since Schwarzwald also admonishes that people must overcome their fear in order to reach the truth, which seemingly goes against what he says about fear’s necessity. Fear motivates, but it also must be comparmentalized in order for survival as well. People fear the darkness, so says Schwarzwald, which could also be taken as the old line about people fearing that which they do not know – they fear a lack of knowledge. If people do not fear the state of not knowing, then they will do nothing to reduce this state, and so will not find the truth.

Schwarzwald warns that if the people of Paradigm continue to “live together in shared illusion”, then a mechanical serpent will appear in the city. Which, of course, is exactly what happens in the episode, but we’ve got a twist at the end: Schwarzwald was not the pilot, nor could he have been the distributor of the flyers – he has been dead for a while, and was probably killed by the Leviathan itself. Angel is the bearer of the news of discovery of his body, informing R. Dorothy and Roger of the fact. By now, no one bothers to question how it is that she got such information, as she claims that he was found distant from the city, across the desert to a shore on the other side.

So, our bandaged prophet is dead, which feel fitting, somehow. He never had a chance, really, with the people of Paradigm. People had been flocking to the churches in droves to sing, but once the serpent is destroyed, only a handful bother any longer. The people have temporary fears, it would seem, and do not bother to take Schwarzwald’s words to heart.

Alex Rosewater appears for the second episode in a row as a direct adversary to Roger. He’s been collecting up the damaged and broken megadeus defeated by Roger underground to rehabilitate them, and mixes his cold assessments in with religion, albeit this time with much more weight granted to ‘realism’ than to the spiritual. When Roger demands to know why it is that Alex has been gathering these machines, Alex tells him that it is since they give the appearance of one being an agent of god, although he retracts what he says, saying that this may be going too far. Yet he never offers up an alternate explanation, although he does cryptically mention that he was born with the proper qualifications to be a master of a megadeus, and Roger was not. Alex also makes a vague remark about his megadeus still lacking something that will make him their Dominus Megadeus, but changes the topic when Roger demands to know more.

But, hey, duty calls, although R. Dorothy is the one who pilots Big O initially until Roger arrives on scene. He asks if the Leviathan called her there, or if she called to it; it would seem to be the second, as R. Dorothy had, in the run-up to its approach, told it that she could not be its soul.

For the second episode in a row, Roger is essentially rejecting both options placed on the table: the one of Alex Rosewater, wherein the people must continue to be lead astray, and the one also seemingly of Schwarzwald, wherein the people must find the truth. He’s on pretty unsteady ground by now, because while he may not agree with the power structure, he is still acting in a manner which benefits them, even if it benefits many others as well (stopping the satellite from falling and killing the people, stopping the serpent from turning everything into sand and killing the people). He likewise, though, is not siding with those who would prefer to overturn the ‘traditional’ structure of the city – is, in fact, doing things which undermine their authority. While Schwarzwald’s piloting effort in season one may’ve been destructive and harmful to people, stopping it also directed people away from the truth or the effort to find it.

We actually could position Schwarzwald as a terrorist here; the comparison is apt, given that he wreaks havoc in the name of a greater end, specifically, the truth. Those who come to foul by his methods are simply collateral, and their deaths and injury are worth it for the betterment of the whole. Of course, it is also possible to see Alex and his affiliates this way as well, as acting in a manner that hurts a lot of people but which is viewed as being necessary to hold everything together for the greater mass of people. I think we can say this is the case for the older elite of Paradigm, based on earlier interactions with people like Roscoe (the android whose memory disc tells Alex that a satellite is falling) and scenes in last season involving some of the elder military police. It remains to be seen if this is the case with Alex, though – right now he just seems power-hungry and egotistical.

Roger is beginning to dig for the truth a little bit, but his actions remain fairly limited, only spurred onward when outside circumstances nudge him. The revelation regarding Schwarzwald’s death at the end of the episode has a visible effect on him, though, so hopefully we’ll see a bit more action from him next episode. He felt very much the bystander in this episode; it really was about Schwarzwald, ultimately.

So, Schwarzwald is dead, Paradigm is saved, and Alex is sinister. Where do we go from here? Can Paradigm really keep getting partially destroyed like this and manage to survive? Seriously, though, this is something like the fifteenth time we’ve seen significant chunks of Paradigm get reduced to rubble – its a wonder there’s anything at all left. And whatever happened to that dome where the giant plant grew up and cracked the glass? Did they chop the thing down and fix everything, or what?

But, as a hint, I’ll note that even these seeming lapses of thoughtfulness in the show might be a matter of foreshadowing. And I will leave it at that.

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