BEATLESS
Episode 13

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 13 of
Beatless ?

With this episode, the series continues the catastrophe that began last week, complete with Arato and Ryo having to flee for their safety, escape and run over “zombies” in a car, and rescue a little boy hIE left on his own, all while the zombified hIEs attack the populace. As we gradually learn, there's more going on here than just a take on the zombie apocalypse. The “zombies” are specifically attacking the AI headpieces of the human-acting hIEs, which makes for an interesting parallel to the way that zombification in other media typically destroys a victim's individuality. We also get commentary from Watarai about how zombies can effective because they still look human even though they're monstrous. I think it's also clear that he was implying the same goes for hIEs.

This is also the point in the series where Watarai finds out the hard way that he isn't the mastermind of this situation. He does have a scheme to use the kidnapped Yuka to force Lacia into a situation where she has no choice but to allow Watarai to become her new master. However, he's done in by his own previous observation that understanding how hyper-intelligent AIs think is the key to competing with them. He proves that for all his insight, he's failed to understand how both Methode and Lacia think. In the former case, he has completely misjudged Methode's capacity for treachery to ensure her own well-being. In the latter case, he has completely misjudged that an hIE like Lacia can be fully subject to human emotional appeals too. Neither he – nor apparently Ryo – understands or appreciates that genuine emotions can develop from sufficiently complex intelligence and allow AIs (like humans) to step beyond logical programmed responses, such as Lacia destroying her ability to encode anyone else to be her master.

At first I regarded that scene as just a typical case of one character's emotional appeal breaking through to another in a pivotal moment, but I don't think it's that trite or simple. In a series about advanced AIs, this is a pivotal development rather than just a mushy “power of love” moment. When an hIE can step beyond any reasonable extrapolation of her programming and act for herself, what really separates her from being human anymore? That also allows the line to be crossed from mere analog hacking and into the realm of genuine kindness and affection. That then raises the question about whether Arato and Yuka's father allowed Lacia to stay with them because he wanted to see if exactly this kind of scenario would arise. Given the way Arato's kindness to the boy hIE led to the non-afflicted hIEs storming and destroying the server room in self-defense, I'm again left wondering how much of this scenario the elder Endo carefully orchestrated, as it seems like exactly the kind of thing he wanted to see.

This episode also opens by showing how Yuka was kidnapped, which includes the most involved action scene to date (in terms of complicated animation), as Method briefly fights Lacia hand-to-hand. Ryo winding up as Methode's master at the end is not a surprise given certain details last episode, though I still have to wonder if he's aware that Methode was mostly responsible for his sister nearly getting killed. Snowdrop, meanwhile, is more a plot device than actual character at this point.

Overall, this episode comes off much better on reflection than it did when I first viewed it, so I would encourage anyone watching it not to just accept anything that happens at face value. A lot of the series' true merits lie in what it implies rather than what it says directly.

Rating: B+

BEATLESS is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


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