Forget it, Jade. It’s Cape City.
Remember what Charlie does for a living? In case it’s been so long that it’s slipped your mind, this week’s episode should refresh your memory.
Back in his own bed and his own universe, lying beside Jasmine, Charlie finds himself unable to sleep. He’s anxious and confused and guilty, wondering what to do to save Beta. The water doesn’t even taste right to him, but spirits do the trick. Both in his glass, and haunting his memory. Blues comes to him in the night and tells Charlie he can go back to being the man he was, but Charlie’s not so sure. So he tells her a story.
A Widow’s Lament
Charlie’s story takes place four years earlier. A harder, tougher Charlie Jade who lives alone is hired by Tara Threnody to find her missing husband. Fans of noir will recognize right off that something’s not right with this dame. She’s a cool customer and easily wraps Charlie around her finger. But the gumshoe doesn’t see it. He just sees the easy money.
A quick trip to Mona’s for intel points him to The River Bar where the ectoskin coverage is weak and the men are tough. A little foreplay with the bartender gets the dirt out of the bartender and Charlie heads up to room 221B where he sees Angus Threnody’s corpse. He grabs his ID and his smokes before taking off, but not before an ectoskin in the room gets a shot of his mug. And it turns out Threnody’s not dead yet. He was still alive when Charlie came into the room as Sew Sew finds out later when he investigates the scene.
Charlie gives Mrs. Threnody the bad news, but the broad’s not giving up that easily. She says she wants to know the truth. She pays Charlie to dig deeper to figure out who offed her husband. Meanwhile, Charlie gets busted up by a couple goons from Vexcor who have a personal interest in the Threnody case.
Using the ID badge, Charlie slips into Threnody’s office and takes a look around. He finds his computer cleared of all files, other than some emails. A call to Mona tells him the lawyer contacting Threnody was from Elgin & Stewart, high-priced divorce attorneys. Another search through Threnody’s desk finds a slate with the paperwork.
Charlie starts to play catchup. He figures Mrs. Threnody had something to do with killing her husband and realizes he’s being setup as a patsy. He contacts her and tells her he found some hidden files on the computer to buy time. Then he roots around her office and finds a key to his apartment.
Mrs. Threnody kills the bartender from The River Bar and leaves his body in Charlie’s apartment. She’s playing Charlie at the same time he’s playing her.
One of the Vexcor goons meets up with Charlie again. He’s as cool as Charlie and tells him he just wants to make a deal for Threnody’s invention. He gives Charlie 24 hours to find the it.
When Charlie gets back to his apartment, he finds the door open and the dead bartender waiting. He’s got to get the body wrapped and dumped before the cops show up, but Sew Sew comes through the door before Charlie can finish. This is the first time they’ve met and Sew Sew figures a guy like Charlie, flying below the radar with his modified implant, did the crime. But Charlie’s convincing and Sew Sew loves a mystery so he goes along for a little ride.
They head back to Threnody’s office, but the slate’s gone. All the evidence that Mrs. Threnody’s been playing him is gone. Except Threnody’s cigarettes. Mrs. Threnody, she’d told Charlie her husband didn’t smoke. Never did. But Charlie took a pack of smokes off the almost-corpse. Finally it hits him, and he dumps the contents out and opens the pack up. On the inside is a holographic microfiche. The details of some new, unregistered technology Threnody’s cooked up and Mrs. Threnody wanted to claim for her own. Wanted to claim so badly she killed her husband for it.
Sew Sew wraps up the case pretty quick from there. No one’s going to get charged with Threnody’s murder, because the company wants the technology to stay nice and secret. A trial would put it into the public domain and there’s no profit in that. Mrs. Threnody gets a promotion and Charlie gets out with his skin intact.
The Blue Girl
Blues is a vision, right? She’s just a manifestation of Charlie’s subconscious and not a visitor from Betaverse. Right? Then why are there two glasses? And why does the light change from green-brown to blue when she appears? And back to sickly Alpha green-brown when she disappears? Charlie’s got a vivid subconscious. The key here is that Charlie can’t go back to being the man he was because he’s no longer that man.
He told the story – one of dozens just like it – because it didn’t bother him.
What bothers me, what bothers me is that it never bothered me before. Tara Threnody got away with murder. And I was just glad they weren’t going to carve me up into spare parts. I forgot what I was like back here.
Charlie’s changed since he’s been in Beta and can’t imagine being the man he used to be anymore. Neither, I suspect, can he really imagine how to be any other way as long as he’s in Alpha.
While Charlie’s telling bedtime stories to ghosts, 01 Boxer is meeting with one of Vexcor’s competitors. In all his planning and machinations, he dealt with another company and now he’s discussing the possibility of merging Vexcor with them. This idea has presumably been bubbling beneath the surface the whole time 01’s been plotting against his father, but he’s also been maneuvering against his partners in crime. 01 will use anyone to achieve his goal of permanently destroying the link and keeping it that way.
The Long Goodbye
This week’s episode, like last week’s, is very moody. Especially tonight, very few plot developments occurred. The entire A-story existed to tell us Charlie Jade is no longer the man he was, and can’t go back to being that man. Even the B-story, with the corporate machinations in the wake of Bryon’s demise, is more about 01 trying to determine the kind of man he’s going to be now that his family and father are all dead.
This week was also the first true detective story in 18 episodes of a show about a private investigator. As an homage to great Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett stories, the episode works well. It’s also clearly influenced by Chinatown, which in turn was strongly influenced by those great masters. More stylized than most episodes of Charlie Jade, this one had a few nice touches. Agnus Threnody’s body was found in room 221B – the start of the most famous address in all of mystery fiction – and his name itself is linked thematically to the story: Charlie is singing a funeral dirge for the old Charlie Jade. That man is long gone.
Only two episodes remain and the action picks up quickly next week. The final two hours are less about mood than grabbing you by the shorthairs and taking you on a thrill ride. So catch your breath, let the flavor of tonight wash over your palette, and brace yourself.
What did everyone else think?