Double Decker! Doug & Kirill
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Double Decker! Doug & Kirill ?
If you were hoping that Double Decker would rotate some other cast members in for focus like it did last week with Kay and Deana, you're going to be disappointed with this episode. Then again, Doug and Kirill's names are right there in the title, so perhaps we should expect for the show to default to them. Either way, this outing has all the earmarks of being another by-the-book 'Doug and Kirill unravel a mystery” plot, but ends up delivering some more surprising twists and developments in its run, while still remaining comfortably within the established cop-show framework. We're still playing by some basic storytelling guidelines, but that's not necessarily a bad thing this early in the series.
This episode isn't simply an inconsequential one-off mystery, however. Instead, it brings in several details from previous episodes, particularly the still-enigmatic overarching antagonist Bamboo Man and his Anthem-peddling organization Esperanza. Along those same lines, Doug's deeper reasons for wanting to take on that organization, which had previously been glossed over or even seemingly dismissed with jokes, are outlined as well. This all ends up tying into the episode's overall theme of detectives getting too personally invested in their cases. There's a lot in the setup of this episode, both thematically and story-wise, that make me have to reevaluate my previous position that Double Decker lacked much going on under the hood.
The most unique aspect of this episode is how much mileage it gets out of asking us to consider our opinions of cop-show media tropes. Doug, Kirill, and the rest of Seven-O inhabit a distinctly outsider type of law enforcement, only getting involved in cases with Anthem users, and only at the point that they've become a clear threat to public safety. This lets them sidestep some of the authoritarian moral ambiguity seen in other stories of this type, even acting as a clear counter to corruption as seen in the previous episode. However, this case does put them into more of a procedural grey area, as they find themselves effectively on the side of death-sentenced Esperanza boss Zabel. The episode juxtaposes Doug and Kirill's necessary acquiescence to Zabel's demands (needed to take down the whole organization) with frequent scenes of his brutal prison guard abusing him. The episode's overall idea of a detective keeping an emotional distance from their case would seem to run counter to the way the story wants us to have sympathy for this multi-murdering mob boss.
So of course the whole setup turns out to have been a multi-level sham from the beginning, the point being that the duo's blind belief in what Zabel could do for them obfuscated the true danger of accepting any bargains from career criminals. The prison guard turns out to have been in on it, presenting an interesting take on the idea of not trusting abusers, though in this case the message of not doing so because they're secretly collaborators might be a complicating distraction from the message. What's interesting is that the tropes of the story being told all point to Zabel being in on the villains' plan from the start. It's to the point that Kirill, the cop-show aficionado who knows about these things, keeps trying to prevent the accompanying officers from jinxing the situation and springing the obvious trap. So Double Decker knows how well-worn its storytelling devices are, but it still commits to them while playing on the audience's expectations of this kind of overreach of authority. At least Kirill himself is shown standing up to the abuse of the prison guard, functionally putting him on the ‘right’ side of that argument regardless of what the twist turned out to be.
Then again, perhaps for all the credit I'm willing to give Double Decker for its attempt at complexity, it's still not meant to be taken that seriously. On the surface-level, most of this episode still works as pure entertainment. The comedy elements are definitely here to stay, with Kirill and Derick's initial meeting being glossed over by the narrator because “It's really stupid” or the running gag of people losing interest in listening to Kirill's trite backstory concerning his missing sister. It's this kind of irreverence that reassures me that its flirtations with critical thought may be purely incidental.
Meanwhile, the straight-up detective show parts of the anime are still shining through. The intrigue around the game Zabel's running, regardless of how well you can see it coming, maintains interest on multiple levels because it moves quickly enough through various phases and revelations. It's just effective enough that the post-credits revelation of how fake everything was feels less like a cop-out and more like a twist that works to bring everything together, even if it's not quite as ‘shocking’ as it seems to assume. And the explosive action of the episode's third act is top-notch. Bamboo Man makes a repeat appearance showing off his incredibly stylish moves and making a good case for why he should be a fun recurring villain to watch as this series goes on. So Double Decker continues to work well within its own framework, but parts of this episode made me hope it will eventually delve deeper into the more complex ideas within its chosen subject matter.
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