NOTE: This article is also available at Ideas Without End HERE
The plot arc which leads up to this two-episode story in Eureka Seven is all about the breakdown of communication between Holland, Renton and Talho surrounding Eureka’s strange affliction, and the action comes to a climax at this point. It is ultimately, however, one which offers no catharsis, no expected release of tension and leaves no character coming out of it looking mature or justified. The story plays out in a tense spiral of misunderstanding which leads to the most permanent separation yet; Renton leaves the Gekko completely, taking his chances alone after spending so long trying to fit in.
The peaks and troughs of the series have so far been based on the thorny relationship between Renton and Holland, and the importance of maturity and co-operation in the military outfit that the Gekko is. By episode 20, the conflict has reached the highest point yet; Eureka is out of action and comatose and Renton is the only person who has any idea what happened. Holland makes the leap of logic that Renton is in some way responsible for this, and it is this which begins the downward spiral into chaos. The assumption is not an unreasonable one from the viewer’s perspective, but Holland’s characteristic lack of tact and recourse to violence presents Renton as the sympathetic character. Even the rest of the crew support him – without solid proof that he is responsible, a harsh beating seems inappropriate and so the initial exchange in what will become the conclusive conflict between them ends with Renton in the right to an extent.
Yet ultimately, he is saved by virtue of his immaturity; his insubordination is unquestionable but his defenders claim he knows no better; any semblance of improvement or development has been thrown away by the shock of what he has been through and he only becomes sympathetic because he is once again considered a child. It is because of this he no longer has any true friends, only defenders; he tries to win the Gekko’s other young passengers back on his side by challenging Holland’s lies to them about Eureka’s health yet this behaviour, despite being based on telling the truth, just seems even more petulant and immature; he does not understand that sometimes lying to children is necessary and his actions are shown to be motivated more by trying to undermine Holland than genuine care for Eureka. It is this continued immaturity and simple disrespect that ultimately destroys the viewer’s sympathy; when Renton confronts Holland about his not wanting to send Eureka to hospital but instead carry out a dangerous mission to raise funds, he has gone past youthful idealism and ignorance straight into an utter failure as a character. He will not listen to reason and cannot see why his proposal has to be rejected, and it is the bad blood that results from this that leads into the next development of the conflict.
While this sequence has left Renton as appearing selfish and ignorant, it is at this point that Holland realises he has gone wrong; he has tried to reason with a child as if he were an adult, and now sees how this has driven them apart. Had it not been for the prior scene, this confession would have been a much-needed moment of catharsis; Holland finally accepting he has gone wrong and vowing to do something about it. However, the viewer’s perspective has been soured by Renton’s behaviour and so the confession seems unnecessary; while Holland’s conduct is out of line, his motivation is finally justified. Yet the damage has by now been done and no attempts at communication are made; Holland feels guilt but no motivation to reconcile as he goes off on his mission. When he runs into difficulties, Renton is initially pleased in the sadistic way a chastened child may be; he claims it was Holland’s arrogance that got him into trouble and so the “punishment” of being cornered and potentially killed is fitting revenge. If the viewer had any sympathy remaining for him this scene would end that; he has gone beyond simple childishness into unpleasantness and so when he is punished by the usually-sympathetic and reasonable Talho, there is the catharsis that has been anticipated. Punishment that has been needed from someone who understands why and how, not Holland’s immature brutality.
It is this moment of release, when Talho tells Renton that Holland is off trying to help Eureka in his own way by rescuing a shaman who may be able to help her, and that the hospital he has been asking they send Eureka to cannot help, that brings about a change in Renton. He realises his error and the episode ends with him going to save Holland – yet during the battle the extent of his trauma finally becomes clear. As was hinted at in an earlier episode, he goes beyond fighting to survive and takes pleasure in relieving his stress on the enemies. Combat becomes a way of releasing his frustrations and the results are unsympathetically displayed, shocking even Holland. The episode’s final sequence shows the bloodthirsty, out-of-control Renton being brought back down to earth by the sight of the mangled corpse of an enemy pilot in the wreckage of a machine he has systematically and sadistically wrecked.
This in turn provides yet another setback in the act of reconciliation; the action, usually used in military-SF as a kind of catharsis, has simply led to things going still further wrong. Renton is now shell-shocked and horrified by the violence he has been responsible for not just in episode 20 but throughout the entire series, in all the times he has enjoyed fighting in the Nirvash, and nobody is sympathetic any more. His horror is seen as naivete, and while a defining part of the first arc of the series was Renton’s delusions being shattered, the assumption was by this point he was aware of the consequences of his actions. As he claims he was not, even his friends cannot sympathise; his immaturity has been shown to be too great to forgive.
Meanwhile, Holland is also reaching new depths; the shaman he has enlisted to help Eureka saves her, but claims that she needs to be kept away from whatever did it to her. He now sees this as a useful way of punishing Renton, deciding against the judgement of the crew that it is he who is the cause of the illness and keeping her locked away. With the two characters now in such deep conflict, and Renton having lost all of his friends aboard the ship and reduced simply to despondently eating to try and block out the memories, Renton turns to Eureka; he goes to visit her despite Holland’s forbidding this and again the viewer’s hopes are raised that there might be the needed moment of epiphany and reconciliation. That the meeting does not provide this – Eureka, as before, is horrified by Renton’s capacity for violence and post-facto remorse which seems naïve and insincere, and she drives him off before realising too late that she was the only one who could provide the support he needs.
As a result of this scene, the entire arc resolves itself; Holland has driven Renton to various extremes, and presented himself as simultaneously the agent of his misfortune and a man unable to cope with the responsibilities he has taken on. His crew – and his partner Talho – have lost their faith in him after seeing his beating of Renton and rash behaviour. Meanwhile, Renton has shown himself to be no better than when he began his time on the Gekko, and indeed almost more ignorant, selfish and naïve. Eureka has been healed, but her own sheltered upbringing and sensitive nature act as a barrier to reconciliation, and so by this point Renton is completely alone. He responds in a childish fashion by leaving the Gekko entirely when no-one is looking, abandoning the responsibilities he has so long hoped to gain and trying for a fresh start. Thus, episode 21 marks the real end of the initial arc of Eureka Seven; all the past conflicts, epiphanies and crises have proven ultimately pointless for no-one has learned from them and the status quo of episode 1 has been restored.