NOTE: This article is also available at Ideas Without End HERE
If Episode 21 marked the release of tension that Eureka Seven so badly needed, episode 22 should be a fresh start. The manner in which the plot continues is going to be defined by what has gone before in that both sides have reacted rashly to a conflict and now must face the consequences, but now there are two distinct stories that may come to intersect again in the future and until they do the focus can be more tightly kept on each in turn. From the ending of the previous episode, the focal story is going to continue to be the Gekko and Eureka’s story; it ends with the recurring antagonist and foil to Holland, Dewey meeting with the mysterious Ray and Charles; two ex-soldiers who have a history with the two men and are tempted back into action with the chance for some payback.
All this, though, is forgotten; Episode 22 begins with Eureka’s recovery and the crew of the Gekko’s response. Renton’s disappearence is downplayed and written off simply as an act of cowardice from a confused and rebellious child. Yet the conversation in which this is revealed goes on to reveal how shipboard morale is not simply strong and united against Renton; there is a dissatisfaction with Holland, too, for being himself immature and shirking his own duties of care. In this way, the episode’s introduction can be seen as the moment at which the characters’ estimations of each other finally catch up with the viewers’. Previously, the most telling scenes have been private ones; miscommunication and secrecy have defined the inevitable conflict. Yet now, the effects of this immaturity are plainly visible and it is time to begin apportioning blame. This continues into the depiction of Holland’s own response; the other crewmembers are not letting go of his own failings and finally saying the things that the viewer has come to realises needed to be said.
While the Gekko is divided in wondering what the correct response is, Renton’s side of the story is then shown. The visuals in this short sequence of him travelling through a strange landscape are quite different to the more stock use of camera angles and perspectives in the scenes on the Gekko; first-person shots and a much less constrained perspective make it clear how isolated he is. When eventually he reaches a city, that too is almost deserted, with the first human contact being another homeless man who steals his possessions. Thus, within one montage of the isolated and strange world that Renton has entered, all ties between him and the Gekko are gone – albeit far faster than he could have hoped. It is at this point that the internal narrative that defined the series so far – the picture of Renton’s personality that it gives that has to a greater or lesser degree shaped their perception of him as a character – returns in the way it has been used before. It explains his motivations as he sees them. Now stranded in a city full of the homeless and dispossessed, he realises that he may have finally gone wrong.
It is at that point he returns to some kind of civilisation and the two stories intersect. Ray and Charles, the two enemies who the viewer knows to be associated with Dewey, appear as civilians at a street party Renton ends up at. The party, depicted as full of eccentrics and counterculture, is precisely what Renton was once looking for – the carefree, antiestablishment life of music and leisure that he had been led to believe the Gekko’s crew enjoyed. Immediately, a new tension is established; the Ray and Charles that are ace LFO pilots and in league with Dewey are also everything that Holland is not – and their conflict is a personal one with Holland. It is inevitable that when the stories do reunite, Renton and Holland will now be on opposite sides – yet whether or not this is a bad thing is now debatable. Charles is presented as an ideal middle ground between the two sides that previously have featured; he is paternal without the predatory, unsettling mannerisms of Dewey yet also a strong leader and hero for Renton to look up to. That he is prepared to both accept Renton is still immature yet also not talk down to him does present him as the most reasonable and human figure yet. The conversation that he has with Renton is the closest to a natural interaction between adults that the viewer has seen for some time simply because Renton is now surrounded by the things he has always wanted – music and lifting. Holland, on the other hand, has become so compromised as a character in the viewer’s estimation – and the focus of the Gekko’s plot so tied in with the Nirvash and its rivalry with The End, that it is quite easy for the viewer to, if not completely be happy with them now being enemies, understand why it is not as bad a thing.
While Renton has finally found what apparently is a normal, happy life (albeit one which is almost guaranteed to end in tragedy for someone), life on the Gekko seems as strained and unusual as ever. The conversations that have been shown in this episode – from the opening sequence with Hilda talking to the ship’s doctor to a scene where Eureka receives visitors in the sick bay – are more stilted and awkward. In this second sequence, it becomes clear that nothing has changed; momentary happiness and levity at Eureka’s recovery immediately dies with a tactless series of accusations as Eureka’s flaws are laid out in front of her. The Gekko’s crew as a whole are being shown up as immature, inconsistent and predisposed to conflict with outsiders – completely the opposite of the romanticised Gekkostate that drew Renton aboard in the first place. Even the attempts at reconciliation appear selfish, as friendships are demanded rather than built; despite the intention for it to be a kind of self-depreciating exchange, the whole affair feels like a new cycle of miscommunication and conflict is inevitable.
When the subject of Renton arises, again the conversation inevitably draws back round to a selfish kind of topic; the crew of the Gekko, represented here by its most impulsive and ignorant member, is presented as having perceived Renton as useful – someone who could bring Eureka out of her shell. What this conversation is showing is really a confirmation of the viewer’s past suspicious about the characters they have been introduced to – that there are very few natural relationships and those that do emerge end up being appropriated. Eureka, the outsider, is the only one who can speak her mind – yet this is met with again a threat from the supposedly ignorant and airheaded voice of the crew. Her innocence, something that Holland apparently has sought to preserve, is rapidly becoming a source of resentment from others because she is free to express her emotions as she likes. And, while the Gekko’s crew see Eureka’s childhood and childishness as a threat to their status quo, it is the fact that Ray and Charles are happy to let Renton have a childhood – the childhood he has always been looking for – that draws him closer in.
Yet, while life with Ray and Charles is depicted as idyllic – and even their inevitable conflict with Holland is almost justifiable to the viewer based on the internal conflicts on the Gekko – there is still a sense of the uncanny and unease around them. What Charles keeps focusing on is living to fulfil desires and disregard the advice of others; this, combined with what the viewer knows about his real intentions, neatly sets up the second major conflict that will define the next arc. While the Gekko’s crew continues to stew on its flaws and ends up dividing itself over Eureka, Renton is being drawn into what is evidently some kind of grand scheme he does not understand and which the viewer is not party to. If Episode 21’s climax was the point where the characters finally caught up with the viewer’s knowledge of them, everyone is in the dark from this point on.