And a hoppy new year.
Overview (Spoilers Below!)
In 2055, the researcher Angelica attempts to engage a DZ in conversation. The DZ does not understand emotions. In the present day, Donna is terrified that someone will try to “steal her pain.”
As Angelica’s experiment goes on, the DZ appears more human; it begins to ask about Angelica’s family, but horrifies her when it cuts up a photo of her father. At the next session, the DZ looks exactly like Angelica. The DZ is confused as to why Jacques didn’t give it a name, so it decides to call itself “Angelica,” rechristening the original Angelica “Donna.” Horrified at having her identity rewritten, Angelica attacks the DZ.
Angelica experiences confusion as to whether she’s a DZ or a human. In the lab, the DZ mimics her voice perfectly, repeating words that Angelica said alone in her room. Then the DZ pulls a knife and mutilates the panicked Angelica.
In the present, Donna easily takes out Andrei’s bodyguards—and then turns her knife on Andrei. Derrida and Videaux approach the city of Yetz, but armed guards bar their entry. Professor Marlene, Derrida’s old college instructor, recognizes him and tells him that Mage has already left the city. Meanwhile, Schmidt gloats that Yetz will soon be destroyed by a missile attack.
Marlene tells Derrida and Yuri that at Nathan’s funeral, the eight-year-old Mage tried to enlist her to perfect the Trout Theory. Ten years later, Mage apparently figured it out all on her own. Marlene reveals that she created a study to produce a DZ with a personality, but she soon abandoned it, and those who took over the study “threw caution to the wind.” She shows Derrida and Yuri the video of Angelica’s sessions with the DZ.
At the end of the study, the crazed Angelica and the DZ both left the facility, and it’s unclear whose blood was actually spilled. Derrida and Yuri realize that Angelica became Donna, hellbent on killing Derrida because of his role in her traumatic DZ research. Marlene tells Derrida that it’s their duty as scientists to see their research through. Derrida looks through his old papers, reminiscing about his university days with Nathan. Then he realizes where Mage is.
Mage remembers her father trying to time ride. She’s currently doing the same thing.
Uh. Wait. What just happened?
I mean, I could explain to you what literally went down in that lab, I think. But I don’t understand how. Where did the DZ get clothes to match Angelica’s? How did it hear the things Angelica said alone in her room? How did it grow hair and breasts? How did it know the name “Donna”? And how did the DZ get into Angelica’s head to such a dramatic extent? I believe that a rogue robot could do some messed-up psychological brainwashing, I truly do. But am I really supposed to believe that Angelica questioned her personhood just because the DZ gave her a new name? Angelica experiences some seriously raw terror—first when the DZ is cutting up the picture of her father, and then escalating with the DZ’s subsequent manipulations. But why is she so scared? Like, I get that cutting up a picture is a symbolic act of violence or whatever, but I’m with the DZ on this one—it’s really not a big deal.
Obvious continuity errors really take me out of the scene. When Angelic lunges forward, the wire that monitors her vital signs snaps. But later, her supervisor is able to tell her pulse just fine. Even later, we see the DZ cut through the same wire, even though it should be already broken? What???? Then there’s the fact that the DZ tells Angelica to show it “her panic, her anxiety, her fear,” but when Angelica freaks out, the DZ says, “Stop, calm down.” What do you want, DZ?
And of course, here’s the kicker. We’re supposed to believe that Donna has been Angelica this whole time, that she just believes she’s a DZ because of that DZ’s brainwashing. At first, we think the DZ killed Angelica, but subsequent scenes make that moment ambiguous; did the DZ kill Angelica, or did Angelica kill the DZ and survive to become Donna? And yet… we see the killer spilling the other party’s blood. DZs are robots, and last time I checked, robots don’t have blood. Plus, we saw in past episodes that Donna is affected by anti-DZ tech. So it’s canon that the DZ killed Angelica and became Donna, right? We’re all agreed on that? But… then why does the DZ hate Derrida, and why does it call itself Donna, rather than Angelica? Is Donna Angelica or is she the DZ? What the hell is going on here?
It’s really a shame that this storyline is so bogged down by confusion and poor execution because tonally, it actually works. It’s pretty eerie, watching the DZ transform more and more into Angelica each day—its hair growing longer, its voice pitching higher. Colleen Clinkenbeard is natural and dynamic as Angelica. Perhaps best of all, the vital signs wire tied around Angelica’s finger is red, symbolizing the red string of fate that binds her and the DZ together. When the DZ cuts the string, is it severing its connection to Angelica? Or is it destroying Angelica’s fate—her future—altogether?
The storyline covers some intriguing themes—what really separates humans and robots? How tenuous is each person’s grip on her own identity? In the fight between Donna and Angelica, it’s impossible to tell which of them is which, highlighting how similar they’ve become in their mutual animalism. But this episode just doesn’t have enough time to really explore these themes with any meaningful depth. Compelling ideas are brought up, but it’s completely up to viewers to decide what they mean.
Andrei’s death, too, is anticlimactic. I guess I’m glad that Donna stands up for the principle of consent—“This body is mine and no one else’s,” she tells Andrei—but I’m not sure what Andrei did to warrant that comment, or why she suddenly hates him now. Is it just because he’s been tracking her calls? This episode was meant to give us insight into her motivations, but I came away even more confused than I was before. Why is she worried about others “taking away her pain”? What does that even mean?
The scenes between Derrida and Marlene are fine. I like that the show is trying to carry through a message that began in episode one—that it’s vital, rather than selfish, to follow through with one’s dreams. But thanks to Anastasia Muñoz (Marlene) announcing that she’ll be “hoppy” to let Derrida inside Yetz, it’s impossible to take this part of episode seriously, either.