by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 7 of
After several episodes of setting it up, we've finally reached the storied city of Londinium. For half a season our heroes have been following an indirect path to the mean streets of Dystopian Not-London, and this week they've finally…not arrived. Instead, the episode throws us for a loop by following Nir as she arrives at the outskirts of the city in search of repairs for her Equipment. It's then that she meets Lyde and Richie, a pair of scrappy punk engineers who definitely don't have anything to do with coitus or handguns. No rotten Johnnies or vicious Sids here, nosiree.
Honestly it's probably a good idea that Listeners continues to distance its cast from their obvious inspirations. While the legacy and iconic nature of the Sex Pistols has been incredibly influential on punk rock and music at large, it's kind of difficult to create an easily digestible and likable character out of one of the few bands in history with a body count. And thankfully Lyde and Richie make for some lovable street urchins, just full of that directionless teenage rebellion so entwined with 70's punk's memory. They're not deep, but there's something inherently endearing about the struggle of youth to escape the choke hold of the crushing, failing city they feel trapped in. It also helps that they immediately take in Nir as their “Big Bro” and pretty much adopt her into their found family of war orphans with total sincerity.
Nir, meanwhile, finally gets the time to breathe her character desperately needed in her initial appearance. Liberated from the distractions of an episodic mystery or having to involve our co-leads, the episode finally gets to spend its time having the cast talk and bond in a way that feels organic. Nir not only finds common ground with Lyde over their shared reverence of Jimi Stonefree, but also his resentment towards the cold and isolating authority of Londinium's upper class. Both parties know how it feels to be hedged in by the powers that be, and Nir recognizes her same urge to escape in the boys' daydreams of rebellion, which makes it all the more sad when her own encouragement partly leads them into danger, with the pair charging off in an appropriated Equipment to fight off an enormous Earless attack and the faceless leaders of Londinium. Leaders who seem totally cool with destroying the poorest parts of their own city for the sake of testing out new technology.
And boy does that technology make for a heck of a cliffhanger. Seems our heroes DID make it to Londinium after all – or at least Mu has, as she appears in the final minutes decked out like her mysterious brother Jimi, and annihilates Lyde and Richie right alongside the Earless “Queen” attack. I'm decidedly not a fan of mind control stories, which is almost certainly what's happening with Mu, but I can't deny the cliffhanger worked well for me. Partially thanks to how effectively the show misdirected, making it seem like Nir had arrived at the city some time during the last two episodes, but it's also a credit to how well the episode was able to place us in her shoes. When Mu shows up it feels like as much as a baffling surprise for the viewer as it does for Nir. It helps that it'll likely lead to further conflict down the line, since Nir has no reason to try and talk Mu, now her enemy, down from whatever brain prison she's doubtlessly trapped in. Presumably next episode will catch us up on how our heroine became a villain (boy I can't imagine Who is responsible), but more importantly it seems like we'll be spending a good while here in Londinium, and if this initial outing is anything to go on, it'll be for the better.
Freed from having to juggle our duo leads while establishing a new setting and side characters, “problems” actually manages to improve upon a lot of the problems that have plagued Listeners last several episodes in several ways. It's the first time since episode 3 with a strong sense of where it's going, while still taking the time to let its dialogue and storytelling breath, and hopefully that can stay true moving forward.
Listeners is currently streaming on Funimation.
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