The following contains spoilers through Blade Runner: Black Lotus S1E9, “Free Will,” on Adult Swim, and also references the Blade Runner movies.
Welcome back, dear reader, as we continue to review the Adult Swim series Blade Runner: Black Lotus with Episode 9, “Free Will.” After last week’s disappointing recap episode, things are back on track and moving briskly along once again. Maybe too briskly even. Now Elle really has eliminated every last person involved in or responsible for the Doll Hunt, including the theoretically untouchable Wallace Sr. What is left for the remaining four episodes?
Perpetrator of Patricide
Joseph seems genuinely surprised when Elle tells him that she is going to kill Niander Wallace. Interestingly though, the first thing he wants to clarify is that she is targeting Niander Wallace Sr., not Niander Wallace Jr. Why would that be important to him? Well, perhaps it is because Junior is the mystery source he has been talking to on the phone in this and previous episodes. Joseph tells the person on the other end, “This plan is suicide, there’s no way. When this is done, she’ll be free?”
What this tells me is that Elle’s mission for revenge is as programmed into her as any of her memories, real or otherwise. Her eliminating Wallace Sr. is the next step in Junior’s plan. One by one, she is predictably eliminating all of the threats to his takeover of the company, people who would have been loyal to his father and his father’s limited vision for replicants. Elle thinks she is acting on her own free will, but she is not. This is why her revenge has been feeling unsatisfactory.
In Episode 3, Junior told his father, “Everything intended will happen. A god makes it so.” In this episode, he calls his father “a minor, short-sighted deity,” likening him to Saturn eating his own children. Wallace Sr. betrayed the power he held over these replicants, “the next phase of human evolution.” Wallace Jr. needs to eliminate the old malevolent god, so that he can rise to become the new benevolent god. His final “goodbye, Father” is all the more admission of guilt we need.
Path to the Penthouse
Joseph is awfully cavalier about killing humans, as he takes out a handful of guards to clear Elle’s path. He hesitates though when it comes to delivering the kill shot to Marlowe. Maybe these guys were friends at some point after all. Marlowe seems to have an idea who shot him, as he smirks into the darkness at Black Lotus’ unknown accomplice. More and more, it seems that the inevitable “end” Joseph referred to in Episode 7 was his own.
So it is that Elle gets by with a little help from her friends—seen and unseen—and makes her way into the penthouse to confront Wallace Sr. However, like Senator Bannister, he puts up one of the better fights of the series against her. Especially for an old guy who was just warned not to strain his heart. Getting the drop on her, he has a moment to do a little monologuing while he reloads for his own kill shot.
Death of a God
Here, at last, Wallace Sr. takes on the role of the elder god. He pines that he had such high hopes that his creation would be obedient. Elle is the lone defect of the batch. The one that tried to exert free will. But to Wallace—probably both Wallaces—free will is an illusion. Neither the humans in the street below nor those toiling away in the heavens above have free will. She has no more free will than a bug.
Of course, in this metaphor, Wallace is creating angels, rather than humans. Beings who were supposed to be an extension of his will, with none of their own. He alone, sitting at the top, is allowed free will. Elle rebelled against this heavenly order, and as such she must be punished. A prospect made all the more pleasing by the knowledge that she feels pain.
But of course, Wallace Sr. is not a god. He is merely a man playing God. Unlike God, he can be killed. Just as he predicted in his final confrontation with his son, these things always end up killing their creator. Not only is he killed by his own creation, he is killed by his own weapon. The deed done, Elle once again ejects herself from Heaven, reenacting the Fall of the original rebel angel.
A couple of quick takes on the rest of the episode and other tangentially related things:
- Again there was another notable difference between the English subtitles to the Japanese version and the dialogue from the English version. In the subtitles, Senior accuses Junior once again of being responsible for Black Lotus, saying “One of your defective models killed Dr. M, and now she has my name!” In the English version, he says “Everyone from the Hunt is dead, including Dr. M, and now she has my name!”
- The concept of “Saturn Devouring His Son” is most famously depicted in the disturbing painting of that name by Spanish artist Francisco De Goya. It depicts the Roman god Saturn (aka the Greek Titan Cronus) who ate his children as they were born, fearing a prophecy that he was to be overthrown by his own son. Which, of course, is exactly what came to pass. Definitely gives us some insight into what is going on in Wallace Jr.’s mind.
- We spent last week focused on Officer Davis, dropping all other characters and ending with her also seemingly pointed in the direction of Wallace Corporation headquarters. And yet, she’s the only one of the main characters still living who doesn’t show up there in this episode.
- Of course, the clincher to Wallace Jr.’s guilt is that Elle’s biometrics match his, enabling her to open the locked down penthouse.
- Joseph has a spinner motorcycle, which is pretty dang cool. Not sure if we’ve ever seen one of those in the Blade Runner universe before or not.
- Along that same thought, I can’t believe Marlowe just smashed his beautiful spinner into the aviary, crashing it to a skidding halt. That was a little painful to watch.
- It’s pretty unclear to me how Wallace Sr. actually got shot. I’ve watched it several times and it sure appears to me that it’s his finger on the trigger and Elle’s hands are nowhere near it. As if he pulled the trigger himself once the gun was positioned under his chin. I guess we chalk that up to a slight oversight in the animation.
As Joseph and Elle ride off into the lack of sunset, the revenge storyline is really, really done this time. Will Elle finally feel fulfilled? We’ll see. Now that Joseph too is on the run, the only place they can turn to is his mystery phone caller, who is undoubtedly Wallace Jr. The mysteries of Elle’s past will be revealed…and then we’ll have three more episodes to go. Gotta love the pacing on this show.
That’s all for this week. Please let us know your thoughts and feelings about this week’s episode, and any theories you have on what’s to come, in the comments below.
All images courtesy of Adult Swim