Welcome all, to the almost half-way point of The Big O! This week we kick off the Christmas season with a shockingly seasonal episode and begin the finale of Big O’s first season. We have a lot to talk about, so lets dive right in.
First up we have episode 11, “Daemonseed”. Overall, as a complete package, I quite liked this episode. It’s probably the stronger of the two we will be talking about this week. Centered on Christmas, I mean “Heaven’s Day”, it’s all about Dorothy, Roger, their relationship, religion, all the regular things that come up in normal Christmas episodes. But because of Big O’s setting, where no one has any memories from 40 years ago, it manages to do away with a lot of the usual “baggage” that comes with it. Suddenly Christmas songs passed down through holiday cards have a special meaning, presents become based in Paradigm City’s history pf charity and control, and Roger gets to be surly about it all. Add on Dorothy’s android existence, her struggle to understand not only what it means to be human but specific emotions like love, and you have something solid here.
My only real issue with the episode is the weird seed/tree thing. The setup with the old man giving Oliver of all people the seed, how it stops at a certain size, what his plan was etc etc. It’s awkward at times. Yet even with that it’s not a big deal because it makes for a great set piece with some fantastic animation, becomes a giant beautiful Christmas tree fitting for the episodes climax and further pushes Rosewater as our “big bad” since all the evil stuff is originating from him. Could it have been handled a bit better, maybe explained some more or made better use of Oliver the sax player? Yeah, probably. But even as one of the more out there obligatory weekly monster fights, it fits well enough and fighting a tree that isn’t even aware you’re there is pretty novel. So it gets a pass.
Getting back to the good stuff, it should come as no surprise that Dorothy was my favorite part of the episode. As usual, watching her navigate the human condition is just so… Engaging. She’s not a subtle character, in fact she’s rather blunt. Yet she’s so naïve and obtuse about things that you’re never sure if they come from a place of inquisitiveness or legitimate emotion. Take her question to Roger a few episodes ago, asking if they would have fallen in love. Initially, that seems like an odd but ultimately curious question. Yet here we get her asking, privately I might add, about how someone falls in love. Why they fall in love. She starts to desire a gift from Roger, to get one for him of her own volition. All the while she clearly doesn’t understand her own emotions on the subject!
This is something I think Big O is managing to handle surprisingly well. There was a period of time early on where she didn’t appear/do much. Dorothy was mostly a sidekick. But recently it feels like every episode she’s growing a bit more. Taking what happened that week, internalizing it, and growing from it. It’s a slow growth sure. One that would be a lot less obvious if we weren’t watching at the pace we were, two episodes a week. Could you imagine looking back to 3 months ago and trying to remember what she was like? It would be a lot fuzzier. It’s because of our pacing that I think we can really appreciate the subtle shifts in her character. Not denying she and Roger are a couple when asked, prodding about what presents mean/if Roger will get one, even enjoying the coat he buys her. I love it.
The other half of the episode is dedicated to Oliver, a poor saxophone player. While in broad strokes he and Laura mostly exist so that Dorothy can learn about love, he and Rosewater also gives us an interesting insight into the state of religion in this world. How the Bible and churches are gone, even their hymns and songs only existing in Christmas cards with no one really understanding them anymore. Yet even gone, people like Rosewater are aware of them, talking about “Gods son” for the holiday and a “Book of revelation”, indicating that maybe they got destroyed with the other “seditious” media shortly after Paradigm City was founded. It makes you wonder a bit about the words in the Big O as well, and what meaning they may have, religious or otherwise.
Moving on we have episode 12, “Enemy is Another Big”. This was effectively one giant fight, or well… one fight with two rounds I suppose. It’s all about Schwarzewald return, love him, and now he has an even bigger, better robot. As a spectacle, this episode was fun! Probably the best fight in the entire show so far. The production was great, some fun gimmicks like flight, it really felt like Big O was on the back foot for most of it. On top of that, I’m hopeful we might see some actual fallout from this one. After all, you can’t tell me thousands of people didn’t die to those missiles right? They leveled like half the dome! People definitely died! I mean, they probably died in the previous fights to, but Big O never mentioned them. Considering it gunned down a couple right in front of us, it should be willing to tackle this.
Getting back to Schwarzewald, he was the most interesting part of the episode. His insistence on bringing the truth to light, on returning everyone’s memories of 40 years ago, is simultaneously empathetic and chaotic. In a way, humanity lost a lot 40 years. We can see it in the crumbling city, in how impressive the old technology was. Yet at the same time, every instance of those memories returning has only brought destruction to those involved. And that’s not even getting into people like Rosewater, one of the few who seem aware of what life was like before the amnesia. Could he and his family have been involved in it? Possibly caused it? Is that why he’s trying to pay Schwarzewald off? Or is it just a coincidence that it all seems to tie back to him? Also, quick side note, rather obvious homage to the Joker with that Jester outfit.
Finally I want to talk about the robots, specifically the Bigs. Big O has hinted at this for a while now, we’ve seen pieces of it even back in episode 1 when Dorothy communicated with bigger Dorothy. However this episode confirms that these robots seem to have a sentience of their own. That they are not found but rather choose their masters themselves. Much like the prototype found beneath the city with Schwarzewald’s first appearance, Big Duo was able to walk even without a pilot. And it did so with a purpose, in the direction of Rosewater. Is this because Rosewater is controlling it? Or it has a vendetta against him? I don’t know yet. But one things for certain, these robots are not just tools, and that goes for the Big O as well I would wager. Who knows, maybe one day Roger will be judged Guilty by it.
So yeah, all in all these were a pair of good episodes. Both were aiming for something different, and both succeeded at their aim. I think 11 was stronger emotionally, mostly because Dorothy is the best character in the show and any episode centered on her is bound to be good. 12 meanwhile was clearly stronger on the action front, giving us the best fight sequences we’ve gotten so far. Big O is in a good spot for a Season 1 finale, which is what we’re going to get next week. Looking forward, while I’m not expecting it to wrap anything up, I would like Big O to use this finale to start hinting at its endgame. We’ve had a good time with monster-of-the-week shenanigans. Now lets take that and try to focus it a bit. Big O has done a good job so far, lets keep it up.
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