“You know how once in awhile you’re stuck in traffic and all of a sudden you remember a dream you’d forgotten, but for a moment you aren’t quite sure if it was a dream at all?” – Blues Paddock
In this slower moving, contemplative episode, it might not seem much really happened. After the fireworks of the last three weeks, this week is something of a pause, an interstitial between what we know and what’s coming. With a smooth, jazz-inflected soundtrack and many quiet moments between Charlie and Blues and between Sew Sew and Jasmine, this is the perfect chance to catch your breath and catch up.
Of course you might have to watch twice to pick out the chronology of each of tonight’s stories. In the hands of the talented Erik Canuel, the screenplay by Sean Carley jumps about quite a lot and cleverly utilizes scenes from prior episodes for all three stories.
First things first: I’ve got a crush on Rolanda Marais. She imbues so much intelligence and soul into Blues Paddock it would be hard not to have a little crush; combine that with the red hair and impish grin and I’m done for. Charlie’s got a little crush too.
Blues loves a mystery and there’s no mystery greater in Cape Town than Vexcor and Charlie Jade. So she continues on her quest to figure out who the man with no record is and what the company with no scruples is doing.
Although the surveillance cameras inside the police station were blanked out during 01’s escape, at least one camera outside was working. Carl’s maroon Volvo wagon was captured leaving the scene, and with a little digging, Blues and Inspector Archer found Carl’s history of investigating Vexcor and various conspiracy theories. They go to Carl’s to have a chat where we learn Carl left his wife and two-year-old daughter back in the States 16 years prior.
Poking around Carl’s desk, Blues spots the Krogg memo and asks if she can make a copy. Carl tells her he doesn’t “mind if you make copies for the whole damn world.” Nothing would make Carl happier than exposing Vexcor finally.
Charlie lays breadcrumbs for Blues. He can’t tell her anything she can’t see for herself, so he helps her investigate Julius Galt. Julius is said to have graduated from Pinewood College in 1968. Blues has a copy of the yearbook and shows Charlie that Julius was even on the debating team. Charlie challenges her to talk to anyone else from the team.
It’s difficult at first as most of the team members are dead or long gone. But she is able to track down one: Mr. Jensen. He has no recollection of going to school with Julius, though he knows who he is.
Of course the conversation was recorded by Vexcor – presumably by a world-wide tap of all phone conversations with complex heuristics to pull out probable matches. An Alphaverse version of Echelon without legal restriction. In her first appearance, we meet Shikari, another hyper-competent, hyper-deadly Vexcor agent. She brings a recording of the phone call to Julius and tells him it’s been handled. Another agent visited Jensen and injected him with *something* in the arm.
Something which, when Blues and Charlie show up the next day, causes Jensen to hallucinate spiders and have a psychotic break. He suddenly remembered one – and only one – story about Julius, a camping trip with spiders. Vexcor didn’t spend much time programming him, just enough to make him fairly useless.
However, Jensen’s wife remembers where his yearbook is, the real one without Julius’s picture.
Sometime later, Blues finds Charlie eating in a restaurant and tells him Julius’s family is dead. Conveniently, all dead. She wants more answers, but one of Charlie’s headache/visions hits him. Blues helps Charlie back to her place and he collapses on her couch.
When the spell has passed, Charlie and Blues come to each other. Attraction, confusion, and fear all pull them close to each other while in Alpha, Jasmine is drawn to Sew Sew in gratitude, compassion, and sorrow. A thunderstorm rages in Beta, the humidity and rain contributing to Charlie’s visions. And in Alpha, Sew Sew sees a vision of Charlie in the mirror as he and Jasmine, Charlie and Blues, lie in post-coital embrace.
Blues makes breakfast and Charlie… tries to tell her their one night together was just that. She’s been hurt before: “you said I had no reason to trust you. That I’d… that I’d have to believe my own eyes. Well, this part Charlie, this I’ve seen before.”
Blues watches Charlie leave, which is fortunate for him as she spots Shikari – leather-clad and all business – coming around a corner in pursuit of Charlie. Just as Shikari gets a bead on Charlie, Blues whips her car in front of Charlie to save him. And now it’s time for Blues to get answers.
In visuals with no dialogue, Charlie tells Blues everything. The universes. The accident. Vexcor.
Working for the man
Sew Sew did a little shopping for Jasmine. His longing shows in the lines of his face, the slight crack of his voice, and the slump of his shoulders. So there should be little doubt when Essa Rompkin issues a barely veiled threat against Jasmine that Sew Sew will accept her offer to come work in Vexcor Security.
Essa needs Sew Sew contained and Sew Sew needs to provide for Jasmine. Both get what they want; Sew Sew can afford to buy Charlie’s apartment and take care of Jasmine and Essa can keep Sew Sew under her control. Time will tell if either got what they truly need, however.
But for now, Sew Sew has Jasmine. She’s grateful to the gentle man who wants only to take care of her and demands nothing in return and shows it to him the only way she knows how. She may not ever love Sew Sew the way she loves Charlie, but she does have feelings for him.
A House of Mirrors
Reena knows she’s had blackouts and knows there is a voice she can’t trust in her head. Carl tells her about her programming and this time the implanted personality doesn’t kick in completely. The real Reena is able to process what she hears, even if she doesn’t want to hear it.
Back at her camper, she thinks back on her time in captivity as she searches. Finding a weapons cache, the memories flood back. The wall between the personalities – much higher and thicker than the temporary structure Jensen received – has developed cracks. Reena’s true self is apparently in control and fully aware.
A woman on a mission, Reena goes to Malachi’s hideout. She’s armed and anxious and has visions of her time there with Malachi’s voice in her head. Canuel’s direction here is appropriately stomach-churning.
Finally inside, Reena tracks down Malachi. He sees her and says, “I didn’t tell you to come here. Oh! It’s Reena. Impressive. You managed to unlock the programming.”
Malachi tells her he gave her purpose and tells her she called him after killing Rosalie. Reena unloads her clip into Malachi and leaves. But something in her knows better. Outside, she smells her gun. She takes out the clip. It’s full.
Malachi’s colleagues come tell him, “the programming’s failsafe worked. She believes you are dead.” But she doesn’t. Reena knows better, but can’t make complete sense of it.
On first viewing, this might not seem like much of an episode, but to me it’s one of the better ones. What it lacks in big plot revelations it more than makes up for with more nuanced character exploration and some directorial fireworks. Canuel kicks the crap out of this episode, avoiding the craziness of the dream sequence he inserted on his last foray into the Charlie Jade universes but still managing to get inside characters’ heads, especially Reena’s.
And for those of you looking for big plot developments, you’ve only to wait till next week.
And a bit off-topic, if you want a real treat, get your hands on a copy of Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Canuel’s bilingual buddy picture written by friend-of-the-blog and CJ head writer Alex Epstein.
What did everyone else think?