What makes you who you are?
Does your identity come from what you do? Where you come from? Something else? I met a girl one night, a friend of a friend of a friend, and asked her what she did. She told me she “tried to do one thing a day to bring her joy.” Now, the pragmatist in me wanted to kick her out of my car. But the guy looking to get lucky said, “that’s a beautiful answer.” Did she answer my question?
Tonight’s episode asks that question several times.
Is Jasmine a C3 or a C2? Is her identity so tightly coupled to Charlie’s that she now lives a shadow life, waiting for him to return like Penelope waiting for Ulysses? Or is she an independent agent, coping with life the best she can?
What of Gemma Gitano? Is she the little girl living on the streets with Charlie, or is she the Vexcor hydrologist with a manufactured past and a programmed future?
Finally, who is 01 Boxer? Is he the happy, loving husband and father in Gamma or the sociopath in Beta?
Things in Alpha are Sew Sew
In a callback to the pilot, Jasmine buys coffee from the same vendor as Charlie. The two of them exchange some words about Charlie and when he might be back, but it has the feeling of a formula they use to get by. Sew Sew Tukarrs comes by and starts hassling Jasmine. David Dennis has a really unusual way of reading lines that always seems menacing, and it really works in this scene. The tension remains high, because I’m never quite sure what he’s about to do.
Jasmine has clearly gone back to her comfort zone as an escort, and Sew Sew seems unhappy about that, as though it personally effects him. He scans her and sees she’s reading as a C2 which he knows is clearly illegal, but he’s not looking to arrest her, or even to blackmail her. He just wants to take care of her.
We’ve ignored Sew Sew’s story for weeks now. In fact, he didn’t have an independent story before, instead only reacting to Charlie and his disappearance. Now he’s got a mission. Two, actually. Firstly, he’s trying his best to worm his way into Jasmine’s life. Whether for unrequited love, or some more nefarious purpose, he’s slowly working that front. Secondly, he’s investigating a large concentration of disappearances, more than 85 Vexcor employees, including Elliot Krogg and Julius Galt.
More than 85 Vexcor employees and their families.
Sew Sew and Essa Rompkin (Michele Burgers) duel over those missing Vexcor employees. Essa of course claims to know nothing. With hundreds of thousands of employees in the Vexcor family, she couldn’t possibly know about this missing handful. Besides, many more people are missing in Cape City. Then Sew Sew hits her with the big gun, asking how it is their families are also missing. This is a nicely understated scene from two accomplished actors working hard at cross purposes.
Gamma is Getting Grungy
01 Boxer’s children are playing with a toy boat when they see some nasty pollution start pouring in the water. Checking it with his wife, 01 wonders if it was an old toxic site that wasn’t cleaned up, implying Gamma was not always the paradise it is today. But his wife thinks not. She does remember hearing of some toxic sites out in the desert, however. 01 realizes he needs to leave to take care of things. Especially if there is waste coming through in the desert, he knows it’s because of the link.
Sometime later, 01 is meditating, preparing himself for the pain he’s about to endure:
01: I’m a different man over there. I have no control over myself. It’s like I’ve gone insane.
Wife: It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. You’ve been trying to save our world.
01: You’d be amazed at the things I’ve done.
Wife: You have to forgive yourself, for whatever you had to do.
01 flashes back on his evil deeds, then burns his palm over a candle. He’s hardening himself back up for the journey, as much as it hurts his wife to see it.
01 finally leaves, getting up in the night so as not to disturb his wife. He goes to the bathroom and turns on the shower, but she hears and comes to see him gone. Back in Beta, we get our first indication that the trip isn’t very smooth. That, or just being in Beta again makes 01 physically ill. He reappears in the alley behind the Glass Door and finally manages to drag himself back inside.
Charlie’s identity crisis starts off early. Looking over the lease for a new place, he realizes he has no identity in Beta. More importantly, he wants no identity here. Staying off the grid means paying cash, not using his name, and staying out of sight. But some things simply require identification, so he finds a forger.
Once Charlie disparages the low-end materials and flashes his wad of cash, the forger goes for his very best stuff. A stolen ID stick from Vexcor. Humorously, its Ren Porter‘s. Charlie finds out the forger’s source and heads there himself.
At the same time Charlie’s with the very highstrung, very geeky kid who supplied the identity stick, Ren shows up at the forger’s. Similar, though slightly different intimidation techniques are applied in both cases. Charlie is always less frightening because the threat of imminent death doesn’t seem real, at least to us watching, whereas with Ren, I think he’d kill his own mother for a better seat in a movie theater. Regardless, Charlie walks off with the 24 identity sticks after being visibly shocked by one of them in front of the kid.
Seeing Gemma Gitano, Charlie flashes back 20 years, seeing himself and Gemma as orphans on the street. They fought together, ran together, stole together, and took care of each other. But when it came time, Gemma ran, abandoning Charlie. The only possession she kept was a holosphere, like the one Charlie left for Jasmine in his will.
After Charlie’s departure, highstrung kid starts packing. Fast. He knows his world’s about to crash down around his head and tries to get out in time, but the cops nab him first. Talking with Blues Paddock (we’ll see more of her in the upcoming weeks,) he explains that he didn’t hack into the credit card databases, the identity sticks did it. But he can’t prove it because they’re all gone. With his phone call, he contacts Vexcor and tells Ren that Charlie was interested in Gemma Gitano.
I admire the kid for being smart enough to recognize Vexcor was his only hope here.
In a slightly amusing scene, Ren and Julius discuss the stolen ID sticks and the Beta fever many of their employees are experiencing. Julius isn’t surprised, as no one was intended to stay away from home this long, but as soon as the link is reestablished he thinks everything will return to normal. He says this, while standing in the middle of a partially complete board room that’s costing Vexcor millions to build. In Beta. Where Julius has been trapped for months.
I don’t think he realizes he’s suffering from Beta fever too.
We get our first look at Gemma as an adult, walking around a link facility on a lake. As a Vexcor hydrologist, she’s been trying to talk with Julius for some time about water levels. All he wants to talk about is Charlie. When she lies and says she’s never seen him before, Julius hangs up and sends security agents in to get her moved.
The water, however, is far more interesting. If the levels are changing here, and there’s pollution just randomly appearing in Gamma, there is likely a correlation.
Charlie takes a closer look at Gemma’s ID stick and sees the fake background Vexcor created for her. Upset, he flashes back again to when he was very sick and Gemma was taking care of him.
Meanwhile at Gemma’s apartment, a Vexcor security detail shows up to quickly move her out. Her past has come back to haunt her. The detail is led by Ajax, the same cooly efficient agent who cleaned up Kunjani after the botched hit on Charlie last week. She’s far too good at her job to come from Beta, I think.
Charlie slips into Karl’s place right after Karl gets home. The apartment feels empty without Charlie living on the couch, but Karl feels too much guilt to appreciate Charlie’s return, even as Charlie lets him off the hook:
Like i said, everybody breaks. You didn’t betray me, Karl. You did what you had to do to survive. That’s not betrayal, that’s human nature. Somebody else did the same thing. Long time ago. Back then I didn’t know the difference.
Now Charlie does know the difference, and he needs Karl’s help finding her.
They track down Gemma’s apartment, but it’s already emptied. The only thing left, hidden in a fireplace grate, is the holosphere. Charlie knows it’s a message, but he can’t tell if it’s saying come find me, or stay away. He does know she knows he’s in Cape Town. And he does know she’s kept it all these years. So that’s something.
Water, Water, Everywhere
At the link site, Julius is dismissive of Gemma’s concerns. She’s just a hydrologist and should focus on her own job, not speculation about dark matter and the fragility of the universes. The universes are 15 billion years old; they aren’t fragile. If no one listened to Krogg, who was head of the project, it’s no wonder no one will listen to a lowly hydrologist.
Karl finds a credit card hit for a dessert shop near the Vexcor site and sends Charlie there. Charlie knows Gemma’s got a sweet tooth, so this is the place to go. He parks his car and watches Gemma through binoculars while she collects soil samples from the lake bottom. She’s waded out into waist-high water, and as Charlie watches the wind kicks up and the lake begins to disappear! Gemma’s being pulled in the undertow and Charlie rushes down to help her.
By the time he gets there, the lake is empty, but the two old friends have a heartfelt reunion.
In Alphaverse, a dry lake suddenly fills.
One final, out of the blue scene: Ren catches up to Reena, in her job as messenger, and hands her an envelope. He doesn’t recognize “the new face of terror,” and she promises to get the envelope to the right place. She mutters to herself, “you can trust me” as she walks away. That girl is going to bring down this whole company.
What did everyone else think?