We probably should’ve expected a packed episode like this, after last week took a more focused approach to certain key storylines. Impressively though, the show handled the sheer volume of significant scenes remarkably well, and, if this wasn’t the best episode so far, it was at least fairly close to it.
It’s all the more impressive because there were very few moments that didn’t have a big impact this week. Of all, Odie’s scenes were probably the least important narratively, taking him from hopeful naivety to realistic fear and sadness, yet the manner in which his scenes unfolded was integral to that development, and his encounter in the confession booth was one of the most thematically relevant (and, as an atheist, somewhat amusing) moments of the show to date, as he explored his newfound morality, while taking the idea of a ‘better place’ and other sentiments rather too literally.
Max’s scenes felt less important to this episode than as a check-in for the situation we last saw him in, and as a set-up to an inevitable confrontation with Leo over their increasingly conflicted methods of Synth emancipation. Still, in adding a further layer, they were hardly irrelevant.
And, with the Hawkins’, other than the initial resurrection of Mia (more on that in a second), it was more or less a continuation of existing plots. Sophie is still acting Synth-y, even after the brief reprieve of that most bourgeois form of chaos, the food fight; Toby is still woefully ignorant of Renie; and Laura still doesn’t realise that the Crown Prosecutor might not have Niska’s best interests at heart.Away from that though, it was full steam ahead. Picking up straight after last week, the cold open took the form of a particularly creepy Qualia add for their new child Synths. I’m not entirely sure where Milo appeared from, given that, to my knowledge, he was nowhere to be seen (maybe he’s working on teleportation tech as a side project), but it’s a good thing he did spontaneously materialise, because his and Athena’s conversation brought them towards an intriguing ethical conflict. Athena’s opposition to his plans for quasi-aging family Synths (the consciousness building from activation while the body is annually upgrading to affect growth) were slightly odd, given her entire goal is basically to resurrect her daughter by planting V into a body through consciousness transference. Regardless, having those two openly against each other would provide another strand to Qualia’s role in the narrative going into the last two episodes.
Elsewhere, Niska has truly come full circle, ending up back with Astrid, albeit in London not Berlin this time. Again, the particulars of how Astrid now lives in London are unclear – if she was given priority housing as someone relevant to Niska’s case, then surely that means she’d be marked down as the most obvious place for Niska to go in the event of an emergency; if not, how the hell did Astrid just get a flat in a new country so soon. But, it does present the opportunity of picking up where Mia and Ed frustratingly left off (I’ll stop mentioning them one day, but today isn’t that day): Astrid now knows everything about Niska, and thus the question arises again of whether the conscious Synths can find conventional, ‘human’ happiness. Or maybe the government will break the door down at the start of next episode and once again my hopes for pure thematic exploration will be dashed. Probably that.Mia herself went from bad to good this episode. Having her spontaneously turn up at the Hawkins’ new house after how she was left last week felt like a cop-out, but by getting her back to being Mia again quickly, there was time to explore the changes to her personality. That she has changed drastically is certainly positive; that she seems fully Leo-ifed in approach meant that I had the same look on my face as Mattie had on hers, a sort of ‘really though’ expression at such a change in dynamic. But as with the other developments, her positioning in the plot now throws up yet more intrigue, especially as Leo is now surrounded by three characters who invariably have some sort of affection for him.
One of whom is of course Hester, and it was pleasant to see her back to her bluntly, objectively semi-villainous ways again this episode. What’s more, I can’t see Mattie having too good a time, given Hester openly perceives her as a rival, and isn’t exactly cordial to those she sees as threats.
Overall, a very strong episode, and really the only question now is – assuming a third series should follow and the show doesn’t succumb to the ‘Utopia curse’ (given it’s got AMC backing and not just Channel 4, one would hope it survives) – how much can we expect to be resolved in the next two episodes. After exposing most of the central mysteries of series one in series one, series two has spent time building up a further mythos, and as aforementioned, there’s a sizeable cast of players at the moment. Barring a finale like last year that brings everyone together in one place and resolves everything at once, you’d imagine some areas will mull over for another year. Hopefully, then, the final two episodes make the time count.