In case anyone’s forgotten, Charlie works for Karl. He gets a couch and a hundred Rand a day to investigate Vex-Cor. But there’s a price to pay for being in Karl’s employ. This week, the price is getting his butt kicked by some white supremacists while following the trail of missing organizer and activist Themba Makandi.
Charlie Jade doesn’t take place in a vacuum. The geography of Cape Town – the ocean, Table Mountain, Robben Island – frequently come into play. The history of the city and South Africa also inform much of the show’s writing. The disappearance of Makandi is certainly more resonant in the South Africa of Beta than it would be in the North America of co-creators Chris Roland and Robert Wertheimer. The wounds of Apartheid are fresh and a source of much current pain.
So when the white guy, one step removed from a Lethal Weapon villain, says they must protect the Volkstadt and then has Charlie busted up, he seems the most likely culprit. But things are never so simple in a world with Vex-Cor.
Dumped on an empty street, Charlie gets a vision of Alpha. A truck bears down on him and barrels right through him to no effect. Because we now know water matters, I’ll point out that it’s raining in Alpha, but not in Beta. I love the way Jeffrey Pierce plays this whole scene. He’s not suicidal, but defiant in demanding the universe try its best to kill him. It seems as though he wants the truck to kill him in order to prove he’s actually alive.
Is this Vex-Cor, or Enron?
Vex-Cor’s been siphoning off power; we saw the first evidence of that back in the opening when the light flickered during Charlie’s interrogation. Charlie’s been trying to hack and track, but he can’t figure out where the power’s going.
01 Boxer knows why the power’s going, but not yet where. He shows up at a power facility in a sweet old Bentley to deliver a slate to Julius. Of course 01’s motives are never as unsubtle as they at first appear. He’s not just trying to vex the Vex-Cor chair by showing up with a couple of bimbos in tow; neither is he merely challenging Julius to act. Palming a small camera, he hands it off to a Vex-Cor employee mere feet from Julius. 01 plans rationally, but acts with the bravado and rashness of an adolescent.
Back in Alpha, Essa watches the report from Beta on the progress of the link and the overall state of that branch’s business. Bryon Boxer calls and she makes a veiled threat regarding 01, but the old man needs to see him soon. At death’s door, he needs to see his son. Essa demonstrates the power of Vex-Cor in Alpha by having her secretary send the President on his way after waiting for two hours so she can go see Bryon.
The Making of a Hero
Charlie’s been a reluctant hero at best, but it’s not hard to understand why. Coming from a world where everyone has given up and given over to Vex-Cor and the other four companies that rule, he’s inured to caring. If nothing you do matters in the grand scheme, eventually you don’t do. It falls to Karl and the humanity Tyrone Benskin brings to his portrayal to teach Charlie how to care. It falls to Karl to teach Charlie to be a man.
Charlie speaks to Makandi’s wife who convinces Charlie with her strength and love for her husband to continue the search.
But Charlie makes a little detour to follow 01 first. Riding a skateboard – yet another sign of 01’s maturity level – he heads for a playground to meet with Trevor Sykes, the stooge with the camera. Charlie trails and listens in with his phone slash tricorder slash dessert topping. Sykes hands 01 a photo of the temporary link and learns it’s, “an insane, crazy ride that’s gonna blow your mind, that’s gonna set you free, that’s gonna set everybody free. And I’m gonna blow it up.”
Karl calls Charlie, interrupting his quiet stalking time, and 01 disappears.
Charlie returns to the Makandi investigation, where the trail grows cold at Regrow Industries. The trail is truly cold – chilled down to 77K by the tanks of liquid nitrogen in use at Regrow.
To combat his recurring and worsening headaches, Charlie will try almost anything. So he seeks out some muti medicine. Except, of course, he doesn’t. He’s following another lead in the Matandi case, trying to see if Matandi was targeted for outing a charlatan.
Brought before a sangoma, the old man asks for something from Charlie’s pocket to determine the type of headache he has. Charlie hands over a blue stone which seems to excite the old witchdoctor. Through his translator, the sangoma tells Charlie he has “the most difficult type of headache to control.” Charlie then becomes belligerent, first asking for the “rubber hand”, then asking if the sangoma had anything to do with Matandi’s disappearance.
Looking around the morgue, an attendant asks what he’s hoping to find. Several bodies have been cut open, and organs removed, so Charlie tells him missing body parts. He asks if it could be muti healers, but the attendant points out the witch doctors are no surgeons.
Charlie’s given up. He stares out Karl’s window and argues with him about Makandi.
Makandi’s dead. You get it? People who disappear, they don’t just come back, Karl.
Maybe where you come from. Maybe in your world it doesn’t matter how or why, but in this world it’s important to know what happened. It’s important to know the truth. I want to know the truth!
It’s your world Karl, it’s not mine. I just want to get back to mine.
Then Charlie spots a Regrow truck driving by outside. A truck filled with LN2. It all comes together: the chop shop from the pilot, the tanks, the missing body parts in the morgue. He rushes to Regrow and finds it abandoned, a bloody scene of dismemberment and organ harvesting. The only evidence left, Makandi’s distinctive glasses.
The Making of a Killer
In direct contrast to Charlie’s development as man and hero, Reena is being turned into something far uglier. Her captors show not the humanity of Karl Lubinsky but monstrosity. Reena’s been beaten and bloodied, and now wears bandages on her eyes. Whether from her injuries or something more heinous, she’s temporarily blind. As she sits in dark solitude, she relives the horror of being raped by one of her captors. In the flashback but unseen by her, we watch as the suave, smooth leader coolly follows the proceedings. Finally, he “jumps” to action and pulls the attacker off her before showing false compassion.
Just another mind game in the endless series to break Reena down and rebuild her as a weapon.
When her mentor later cuts off her bandages, he speaks gently to Reena, telling her “I saved you. Now you’re one of us.”
He gives her the opportunity to prove her fealty a short time later. She hears her rapist speak and reacts. Her captor hands her a pistol and encourages her to kill the bastard, watching on proudly. Whether the gun was actually loaded I leave for the rest of you to guess.
Honestly, even I’m not as interested in Jasmine this week as usual. She’s on the street, suffering and alone, but other than the shock and disgust of encountering her mother, there isn’t much going on with her. Then again, as Reena’s journey is counterpoint to Charlie’s, Jasmine’s is counterpoint to Paula’s.
Jasmine has lost the love of her life, her sun and moon. Paula is finding hers in Charlie.
This week sees the return of Paula’s father, last seen wielding a cricket bat back in “Sand”. He warns Charlie not to hurt Paula, but seems warmer to the notion of the two of them together. At least he’s not grabbing any sporting equipment at the moment.
Question: what should we make of the fact that Jasmine’s mother lives (and we’ve no sign of her father) and that Paula’s father lives but her mother does not? Anything?
Walking to dinner, Paula wonders when Charlie’s going to open up to her and say something real. He’s not ready yet. But a siren startles them as an ambulance rushes by and Charlie takes the opportunity to end that line of questioning and continue on to dinner.
Meanwhile, the ambulance continues to the scene of a hit and run. Trevor Sykes wasn’t very good on a skateboard, I guess.
The Link to Charlie’s Headaches
On each brownout, Charlie’s headaches are worsening. He realizes there’s a connection between the links, the power drains, and his headaches. He also knows 01 wants to blow up the link.
While Charlie investigates Regrow, Karl calls a contact. He gets the address of a dry cleaner where his contact assures him the power has been diverted. Grabbing his camera, Karl stakes it out.
01 modifies a bug, turning it into a bomb.
Julius grows impatient, sure his nemesis is going to attack the link before it’s ready, but his security chief, Ren Porter, tells him all will be fine. The link will be up in 20 minutes. We’ll be seeing more of Ren, played by Langley Kirkwood, in the weeks ahead. Interesting story how he got his job as head of security… the last guy got killed in a bathroom.
Ren leaves, 01 drives up, and Karl calls Charlie. But it’s too late. 01 released his bug on its suicide mission. The link is destroyed and Charlie’s way home is gone.
With the link destroyed, 01 remains in his position of power. Essa can’t remove him and she certainly can’t kill him. Until another link can be constructed he can continue his machinations. To what end remains to be seen.
Charlie and Karl go to Thembi Makandi’s funeral and we see that Charlie is beginning to understand the importance of truth. He’s still a product of Alphaverse, but thanks to Karl’s efforts is learning to appreciate the value of human life and human struggling. Who knows. He may become a hero yet.
Sadly, Reena’s learned a different set of lessons. What ugliness her future holds is unclear, but what is clear is that her path has been dictated by others.