At this point in my life, I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m John Snow… I know nothing. I’ve read a few reviews for Steins;Gate 0 that accuse it of being very poorly written drivel relying entirely on nostalgia. That may be true, after all, what do I know? All I can say is that a relatively uneventful, dialogue heavy episode with nary a cliffhanger in sight had me intently fixed to the tv, mouth slightly agape. Maybe I’m particularly susceptible to nostalgia…
There’s no denying the Steins;Gate is leading us down a familiar path, we’ve all been here before. However the clashes, the little inconsistencies, all those unexplained moments are what makes the second pass a novel experience. Everything old is new again. Despite it all, the series is keeping its savvy audience gently off balance by slowly subverting expectations it’s allowed us to build up for ourselves. A franchise I know like the back of my hand is keeping me guessing at every turn and I’m usually wrong. Just like old times!
Because of how relatively calm everyone is this week (barring Suzu’s momentary unraveling) you could almost be fooled into thinking not much happened. Still waters run deep, this week’s episode was one of the most densely packed and revealing so far.
The pacing in Steins;Gate has been quite good. The steady stream of exposition and revelations has been drenched in enough action to keep everything wonderfully exciting, yet we’ve already had moments of leisure, Christmas and New year’s episodes, to loosen the tension and slow things down so we haven’t gotten completely numb to it yet.
That’s why when Okabe woke up sore and confused in that hospital room, I was right there with him. Yet again that well known panic crept into us as we desperately yelled out for Mayuri, yet again uneasy relief washed over us when she answered. She as safe…for now…
It should have been a huge deal…The reveal that Fukubi also apparently experiences Reading Steiner should have been the only thing that mattered at all. But by now, the inexplicable and unexpected has become so routine, we hardly notice it at all. Of course Okabe just filed it away along with the million other problems, mysteries and catastrophes crowding his mind. Why would this one be any special. Really, it would be weirder if nothing surprising happened.
And so, Okabe and I took note of our near impossible surroundings and were reassured that life was once again completely surreal and unpredictable. We probably wouldn’t even know how to stand on solid ground anymore.
Once again I’m straining to properly establish the world line. In this reality Kurisu died before they ever got the chance to meet. This is why Mayuri only knows her as Amadeus. From her perspective, Okabe’s depression has no particular catalyst or reason. There is no time machine and Moeka has not yet proven herself a killer. In an absolutely adorable mini meta commentary, Moeka has upgraded to using line for her digital communication and peppers her conversations not only with stickers of herself but of Suzuha as well. It may be obvious product placement but somehow it was inherently charming to me and I couldn’t help but smile…and buy the stickers…
Speaking of Suzu, she is still here in this worldline not having opted to risk another jump. I’m not sure how and when she found out who Daru really is but she clearly told him everything as Daru seems to know a lot more about time travel than he should than he should in this worldline.
It has always been a little ironic that Suzu, the one character with an actual time machine at her disposal (albeit a broken one) is the one constantly up against the clock. She may be a war hardened soldier but she’s also still a child and this constant stress is clearly starting to wear on her. I wasn’t surprised to see Suzu crack. Desperate times and all that. I know Suzu well, pressure is pushing her to extremes and she may come off as scary but she’s not a bad person. Okabe knows her well too. Better than anyone else in this world. He’s seen her live through so much misery, and shared quite a bit of it.
Once more, Okabe reminded us of the heavy toll of causality. Once again, I felt his pain and regret. As always, I shared his frustration at the imperfection of the world. My breath was heavy in my lungs. My mind did that trick where you mix sadness with serenity and end up with a feeling not completely unlike happiness or torture. I know this feeling well. I’ve seen Steins;Gate before.
I know these people and their torments. But what Okabe and I never really got to know, is Daru the dad. Clearly that’s our loss. I have always loved Daru as a character. Daru the dad takes it t a whole new level. His calm and understanding handling of the situation was not only solace for Suzu who is finally getting the chance to know what having a dad feels like, but it’s a welcome haven for the viewers as well. I sat just outside that grounded time machine as Daru and Suzu idly chatted about the world and I felt better.
Sure, it was all starting again. Sure, the Russians (it’s always the Russians) were tearing the fabric of the universe to pieces and we were all hurtling to our doom. Sure, the future looked bleaker than ever. But I know these people, I can count on them.
Good thing I have them, since everything is coming to a head. America seems to be responding to the Russian advances and throwing their considerable resources into to race. DURPA and the CIA are now involved and that cannot be good. Someone clearly knows something. Between the attack on Amadeus, the attempted kidnapping of Kagari, the break in at Maho’s hotel room and the explosion at the lab, it’s getting impossible to believe that it’s all just coincidence. We’re all going to have to put our heads together to figure this one out. Okabe is even creating an imaginary Kurisu to help, as her memory is once again fresh in his mind.
Maho however didn’t get that chance. She couldn’t see her dearest friend one last time. All she has is fading memories and a locked laptop. She’s crashing at Faris’ and trying her best to help but Maho is new to all this. She hasn’t been there before like the rest of us. For her, this is a fresh hell to wade through.
For me and Okabe, it’s the familiar ache of an old war scar. The type of pain that reminds you you’re alive. We may not have found hope yet, but we finally have a purpose and things are looking up. I hope you guys are still along for the ride…
This episode was not the most visually striking but I stil got a few extra pictures: