Double Decker! Doug & Kirill
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Double Decker! Doug & Kirill ?
Double Decker already seemed to be in a slump before it took the last weekend off. Its thematic writing was coming up short, it seemed to have issues tackling even slightly-complicated social issues, so the most it could provide was standard police procedural action spiced up with anime spectacle. It needed a truly unexpected twist to jolt us back to attention. It needed a twist that could pay off its very minimal foreshadowing, while also being absurd enough to get viewers talking again. It needed...aliens.
Yeah, we're going there this week.
So before I talk about anything else in this week's episode, I'll need to discuss that big twist. It turns out that there's actually some sort of space colony that serves as the second sun of this series' setting, with Kirill (and his brother Valery) being psuedo-alien refugees from there. This would be the reason Military Director Brian Cooper is interested in recruiting him, due to Kirill's mangled Bruce Lee catchphrase actually being a secret prayer of the society on that alien space station.
If you had to pause the episode at any point to let this sink in, I don't blame you.
Double Decker has dabbled in outrageous bait-and-switches before, so for a hot moment I assumed that's what this was. I apologize for my incredulity that in a show with meth-mutated monster-men and living robot detectives, I somehow drew the line at alien sun-people, but this really was a bridge too far for me. It's the ultimate version of Double Decker's ongoing issue with tying characters and plot points back to too-simple explanations; everything happening to Kirill now comes down to his former alien life spelling this fate out for him. This was also the whole reason for Valery's feminine disguise habits. So sure, he was just crossdressing for purely utilitarian reasons!
Even as Double Decker jumps the shark straight over its second sun this week, there's still so much else going on this episode that I'm mostly boggled by how unnecessary this twist feels. The show's myriad plot-points are piling up on each other, connecting in ways you might not have expected from its previous episodic elements. For example, the hospital Anthem-experimentation plot from last episode turns out to have been funded by Esperanza, explaining its end-point fixation on the AMS bullets. That might sand down the nuances of that episode's medicinal plotline even more than I criticized them for being at the time, but at least in terms of narrative momentum it keeps things connected. The show remaining even remotely cohesive as these absurd twists crash into each other is at least a testament to its solid structure.
On the one hand, they do leverage this extra-terrestrial twist for some strong moments. Kirill confiding in Doug about his conflict is appreciably earnest, even if Buzz-Cut doesn't fully come out with the truth. Doug still implicitly accepts Kirill's alien self, making for a straightforward heartwarming moment in their relationship (okay, as straight as anything gets between them). This gets followed up when Kirill and Doug exchange some strong rapport in providing information on a bust that turns out to be a setup. There's even elements of Kirill's growth throughout the series coming back, as he pointedly doesn't charge in without Doug's backup this time.
But seeing that growth brings me back to another major issue I take with the twist reducing Kirill's conflict this episode to alien anxiety. Prior to that reveal, the script seems to be using his choice to make a salient point. Kirill's always dreamed of becoming a detective so he could be reunited with Valery. He's accomplished that goal entirely, so should he stay here or move on to a more promising new career? It's a relatable question that ties into what we'd already been told about the character for the past ten episodes, but it ends up getting completely buried under this late-game left-field shock.
But even the show's tried-and-true talent for depicting genre staples like a bust gone bad end up overshadowed by this episode's attempts to do too much in the name of unexpected left turns. The worst casualty of all this ends up being Yuri. The script finally seemed to wake up this week to realize that Max's robo-beau needed some sort of character definition, so she gets a few scenes to play off Kirill and then she dies at the end. At least I think so? The dialogue after she blows herself up is so shallow that I can't believe it could be about a character they've just killed off for real; Kirill even goes back to the running gag about not realizing everyone knew she was a robot as they're discussing mourning her! The point is that even if the character really does turn out to be permanently dead, it undermines the pathos when everyone spends the immediate aftermath having meandering discussions about the technical implications of robot death. As it stands, it's just a case of the show killing off a queer character before she could get any proper development, solely to serve as the motivation for Kirill to leave Seven-O and accept the military job in the name of supposedly keeping his co-workers safe.
Of course, even that leads into another absurdly abrupt plot twist. I'm always down for a fun bad-guy civil war, so Bamboo Man turning on Zabel was a shock that worked for me. But Bamboo Man turning out to have been Military Director Brian Cooper the whole time? Yes, it's another case of Double Decker's plots all intersecting no matter how crazy those intersections get, but it also feels like another twist heaped on to force the illusion of complexity. It's not actually crazy or clever, it's just shocking because it's ridiculous! That sums up the flailing failings of Double Decker this week, as it throws anything and everything at the wall to get people talking again. Maybe it worked, since this has been the most I've felt compelled to discuss the series in several weeks, but it's absolutely not a sign of an upturn in quality.
Double Decker! Doug & Kirill is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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