Playing Battleship amidst rocky seas.
To conclude this three episode pivotal stint we have been on, we pick up from last week with Destroyer crying about being left to die.
The existential reckoning of imagining her backups being used as clueless and endless dummies for Dreamer’s plans.
Dreamer makes a smooth transition about how she was just joking about the whole thing. Agent equipped Destroyer with special software and emergency protocols as an insurance policy to prevent Dreamer from getting any funny ideas. The consideration Agent even thought this was necessary should tell you quite a bit. To not only equip Destroyer in such a fashion ahead of time, but to also make sure Dreamer knew this information. Dreamer might have some known habits and tendencies which needed to be kept in check, for one thing. How much was she “joking,” and how far she might go if these security measures were not in place. The show has done well delivering on Dreamer’s sadistic streak.
For another though, there is also what we can infer from Agent wanting to protect Destroyer in particular. After all, Destroyer is surprised because this is seen as special treatment. Other Ringleader’s do not have such blanket protection. They instead are operating on standard android backup procedures we have become familiar with. Destroyer assumed this was the same for her. She had every reason to cry. Outside of the opening episode and a bit of intercepted Sangvis Ferri communications about Plan Parapluie several episodes ago, Agent has not appeared much in the story. This tracks with the source material version of events, so this is nothing unusual.
Agent might loom large as a presence, but the story makes a point to not cut back to her too often. So the little bits of characterization regarding Agent which do leak out in moments like this become something to hold on to. She wanted to ensure Destroyer would be safe, while also not letting Destroyer know about this treatment. Unless it came to be necessary, of course.
This is more than one layer of personal indulgence from the unseen hand of the “Team Mom” of Sangvis Ferri.
Our primary combat encounter for the episode revolves around showcasing the artillery used by Sangvis forces during their Griffin base assault: Jupiter Cannons.
In the mobile game, these are the first major strategic hard-point hiccup a Commander has to really wrap their head around when advancing on the map. They may have encountered plenty of strong enemy squads which tested them. A player has until then won by raising Echelons with superior levels, equipment, as well as being mindful of their formations and gun types. But a Jupiter Cannon has such a high combat strength it will chew through most anything attacking it head-on. For these, the player has to claim each map node surrounding the cannon. Doing so powers it down, allowing a direct attack with minimal resistance.
This week, the AR Team has no such luxury.
Destroyer’s retreat, the evolving situation regarding the rogue ST AR-15, and Dreamer’s strategic management of the entire situation have led them into a firing alley.
Cue a perfect cannon fodder situation for folks who love to yell and comment under videos before what they are watching has finished.
Kryuger, the first to realize what is going on, steps into the command channel himself to have the AR Team fall back. The new highest mission priority, above all else, is to evacuate them. To facilitate this, everyone else on the battlefield moves forward and clusters closer together. Which from a “normal” military strategic point of view, may seem a little silly. M4A1 even mentions out loud her surprise regarding the other androids moving forward towards their position. Would it not be more “realistic” to have all of the androids spread out, to give an even draw to the odds of any one in particular being hit?
Ah, but then one has jumped the metaphorical gun.
The first clue of something being more than a little off about the actual state of the field should be Kryuger taking such a personal charge. Remember, not so long ago he left the entire survival of Griffin’s underground base during an active siege in the hands of Gentiane and her plan. Him stepping in now to make a personal mission override should feel more than a bit unusual. In particular one of the “at any cost” variety.
The other Griffin squads cluster up because in doing so they become ever juicer targets for Dreamer and the Jupiter Cannons. Which is to say: they skew the odds even further away from the AR Team getting smacked with an artillery blast. Dreamer would have a hard time turning down such an offering, even if she understands the indulgence might cost her the pursuit of the AR Team. Every shot lobbed at the other Echelons is one nowhere near the one and only team which needs to make it out alive.
Spreading the Griffin forces out to equalize the odds would be the wrong strategic choice.
Because not all of the androids have an equivalent value.
The losses are significant.
The plan works, but Gentiane is distraught. As she overlooks the repair and refit bay at her base, she gets to recall a conversation she had with Helian after the mission. Which is where a viewer receives another piece of information I have needed to keep to myself this whole time.
The members of the AR Team have experimental and bleeding edge neural clouds in their complexity. Which was known to the Commander. To the point where they can not be backed up like other IOP produced androids. Which was not known to the Commander, until now.
If an AR Team member dies, they die for real.
Gentiane cares for all of her androids. She treats them with respect and consideration of their talents and feelings. This has made her (or the player) a stand out Commander thus far. She was treating her entire armory as if any singular death was inexcusable. A betrayal of the trust her forces should have in her to bring them back safe and sound. Android or not. Gentiane never needed to be informed about the special circumstances regarding the AR Team until this point. If she was not considered capable of keeping them alive, she never would have been allowed to command them for as long as she has.
Or was, as it happens. They have been reassigned for the time being.
The AR Team follows the naming conventions of the rest of Griffin & Kryuger: weapon models, in lieu of normal humanized names. So they fit in all the same. However, the weight of knowing the AR Team members have only one life to live would change the tactical considerations and how one reads the field. How one looks at one unit compared to another.
But Gentiane can not be kept in the dark about it anymore.
Just about everything which goes down this episode is beyond Gentiane’s control.
Which the show handles rather well. The overall direction and screenplay of this episode is also reaching further in several places, such as the helicopter departure sequence with Gentiane and Helian. This all suits the importance this entire chapter has for transitioning us away from Monster of the Week romps to later events. I am glad it was able to receive three episodes to make sure we had time for things to breathe.
Destroyer and Dreamer both live on as continuing threats. ST AR-15 is striking out for a personal mission and her own goals. Numerous Griffin androids have been blown apart. The remaining members of the AR Team are being used by Griffin elsewhere. Kryuger gets multiple scenes as he tries to work out larger Sangvis Ferri developments and what to do about ST AR-15.
SOPMOD II continues to kick rocks and complain about how much this whole “emotions” conundrum feels funny and frustrating. She wants to go back to Gentiane’s base.
With more feelings in flux than before, it seems appropriate for this episode to end in a way which mirrors the previous one.
Last time, we cut to credits as Destroyer began to cry in existential despair. Here our eyeball level closeups are on ST AR-15. She contemplates her resolve and walks alone towards the skyline.
Whether it is a sunrise or a sunset is left unclear.