As I’ve watched the show so far, there has been this little imp on my shoulder nudging me here and there asking me a question. Doesn’t it seem like the main conflict of the series has very little to do with Makishima himself?
I’m not going to bother loafing on the subject of just what an amazing roller coaster ride the past three episodes have been. That would be kind of silly and besides the point. I’m not going to try to analyze what the episode ending that I will not spoil and it’s many possible implications. I probably don’t have very much to say on the manner. And I certainly am not going to wax poetically about the loss of the brave main character, whats-his-name, because I really can’t find my two shits on the subject anywhere (the cast must be the weakest aspect of the show, by far). What I’m going to talk about instead is something that anyone who has watched this episode surely noticed.
Specifically, didn’t you notice that this isn’t the last episode?
Obvious statement considering that this episode quite possibly asked more questions then it answered, but the past few episodes have shown all the signs of a conclusive battle. At the end of the episode, the “final battle” with Makeshima and Shinya that was partially shown at the beginning of the first episode finally took place. This was all kinds of strange, and I can’t necessarily say in a bad way. Writers and creators generally use scenes like that as book ends, by placing them at some point during the work’s climax. Take the diner scene from Pulp Fiction as an example. It makes sense as a writing trick on a number of levels.
1. It adds significance to the event by building anticipation to it.
2. It teases the audience by adding enough information to increase suspense without spoiling anything.
3. It works as an effective method of setting the story’s beginning in the middle of the action.
4. It allows you to start the work on a more interesting moment, thus better hooking in the audience.
5. It lets you tease the audience with how the show is going to eventually end up, especially if the first act of a story is slow or calm.
6. It lets you bookend the story by having the beginning and the ending mirror each other.
For an example of this used pretty much to a perfect extent, look at Madoka Magika’s amazing opening scene. The show would have been invariably worse had that scene not been in there, especially because the way the show went so far as to tie that scene back into the plot without directly repeating it. Not every usage has to exactly be quite so ambitious though. Robotics; Notes began with a flash forward too, though it has so far seemed a pretty straightforward version (maybe a it was a case of misdirection considering the way the robot plot line seems to have taken backseat, but I doubt the two plot lines will remain separate forever).
But here, the moment ended up at what I can only assume is the equivalent of the Joker’s first capture in The Dark Knight (We’ll be getting back to that), where the villain has been captured but the plot-line hasn’t been resolved. When you watched the first scene of Psycho Pass, did you really think that what you were seeing was anything besides the lead-up to the final fight? Of course not, because that is the way it was framed, the Hero’s quest leading him right into the den of the beast. The end result was that when I actually watched the scene here, it did indeed feel more significant, but in a way that makes it seem like Psycho Pass blew it’s load early.
Which leads me back to the question I asked at the beginning. The villain has been captured, the promised bookend has been seen, and the show still has plenty of mysteries and episodes, making it hard to think that this was the ending. The way I see it, there are seemingly two moves that the show can pull at this point, the first being a rather obvious if not entertaining move, and the second being much less likely and a complete wild card. Obviously it can swing in an entirely different direction, but part of me is seeing these two as extraordinarily likely, especially considering the current direction of the show.
A moment ago I brought up Heath Ledger’s famous “hit me” scene from The Dark Knight, where despite the film only being a little more then halfway through, a confrontation between Batman and the Joker was forced, leading to the Joker’s arrest. But, the movie didn’t end there. Instead it was revealed that getting captured had been well within the expected parameters of the plan, and he used the opportunity to just mess with Batman’s head, before eventually escaping. Suffice to say it made up one of the very best parts of the movie. I’ve seen this trick used again by other movies and shows that realized what a cool idea it was, most recently Skyfall which seemed to have just copy pasted much of that segment of the movie.
The appeal of this trick is threefold. It’s a great way of building up the menace of your villain. Purposefully walking into the lion’s den, or having a strong back up plan for after it has happened shows them as fearless, cunning, and a master strategist. The second reason is that it solves a core problem of writing stories with clear antagonist. Mainly that often times they don’t get to interact with the protagonist very much, resulting in the relationship between the two being stale. It’s too important an inter-character relationship, so often times shows go out of their way to keep the antagonist and protagonist in contact. It’s the moments where you get to really show off what a fun character you made, especially when you get to show them cool and collected in the midst of captivity. See just how great the bits in Se7en or Avengers after they’d captured the villains were. The third reason is that it’s a great way of moving the plot along, especially in situations where the villain is a criminal. Keeping the status quo is bad for story progression, and the villain becoming a prisoner is a great way of shaking things up, if only because now the investigators have a source of information regarding the plan they are trying to work against.
I’m not quite sure how that will work here though. Robolady made it clear that as soon as they caught this asshole that he was going to be turned into philosopher flambe. As part of this whole segment they could easily include him either staying a prisoner, or even being killed. Selling a master plan hinged on the death of a planner is at times a stretch, but has been done effectively plenty of times.
The other option is a bit more wide open in terms of potential. As I’ve watched the show so far, there has been this little imp on my shoulder nudging me here and there asking me a question. Doesn’t it seem like the min conflict of the series has very little to do with Makeshima himself? Obviously, Akane’s growing mistrust of the Sybil System has been a running plot thread and conflict the entire series. But, one has to wonder if the Central Conflict of the story is “Can Akane stop Makeshima from bringing down the Sybil System?” Or if it’s “Will Akane Defend Sybil from Makeshima?” Or even “Will Akane bring down the Sybil System?”
It may seem slightly trivial, but the implications on the way the story will end is enumerable. If the central conflict is whether Akane can stop him, that forces him to remain the antagonist until the very end of the story. That a scenario like the one I mentioned above where Makeshima planned for his capture at the end of this mission is the most likely. But, that doesn’t have to be the case. Gen Urobochi is no stranger to such twists in the expected central conflict. Madoka Magika, the work that propelled him to super stardom among anime writers, featured a surprise change of central conflict and even main antagonist right around the two thirds mark of the series. The story continuing along the expected path is certainly possible, but far from a complete certainty.
If one of the other options are taken, expect the conflict to shift from Akane versus Maekshima to Akane versus Sybil (and by extension, the police chief). How exactly this conflict will play out would be anyone’s guess. But, where as the possible outcomes of Makeshima continuing to be the bad guy is limited greatly by the set of conventions that have been finely forged for police procedural series such as this, the alternative is wide open. Regardless, I really do greatly enjoy Psycho Pass and fully expect it to not disappoint as we begin the steady march towards the ending.
As for where the show will go for the next episode or two? Well that one is easier to answer. I will not predict any of the events of the next little while, but we can expect a slower pace for about an episode or two. We’re in the falling action from that last big moment, and the audience needs a breather before the show can even bother beginning it’s end game. Considering the expert way the show has handled it’s pacing so far, I seriously doubt it would try to shell shock us by getting too tense so soon.