How would you rate episode 3 of
Pluto (ONA) ?
Community score: 5.0
Pluto continues its commentary on the Iraq War in episode three as it focuses on the inescapable effects of PTSD on humans and robots alike. It also attempts to tie in its B and C plot: Gesicht’s recurring nightmare about selling something is likely due to a Europol cover-up, and he now has a fascist anti-robot man named Adolf hellbent on killing him.
Like the past two episodes, there is a lot to dig into with Pluto. The plot is incredibly dense, from background details reaffirming the segregation of humans and robots to narrative parallels between war orphans’ and a robot weapon of mass destruction’s shared PTSD. There are key clues about “Bora” from the Bora Inquiry Commission, and we finally meet Pluto’s creator, the more robot-than-human Professor Abdullah.
The emotions hit hardest as the series inadvertently acknowledges how little anything changes. I am watching an anime commenting on the Iraq War in a science-fiction context. I am watching a Persian man scream in desperate agony at Gesicht, a German MP, about the “peace-keeping forces” dropping a bomb and killing his sleeping child. I’m watching CNN relay the number of dead children in Gaza. Gesicht reciprocates the distraught father with three words, stone-faced.
“I’m a robot.”
This may have been early in Gesicht’s creation, but even at that moment, it felt like an excuse. “I am unlike you, so I cannot understand what you are feeling.” One doesn’t have to be made of metal to hide behind that reasoning. It could be as simple as living elsewhere, being raised differently, or a refusal to consider empathy. Considering empathy would require reflecting on one’s actions and participation in another’s suffering. Gesicht is the result of a billion-dollar investment to be a perfect robot for Europol. He was not made to question whether all the casualties were necessary. At least 280,771 to 315,190 Iraqi civilians were killed by violence following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Were the terrorists even in Persia when Gesicht searched the ruins, or was this just a display of power? Just some more bad intel?
A child’s entire community is wiped out in an instant. A former soldier tries to create art but is haunted by how many he has killed. Everything is connected in the same horrid ugliness. The robot Episilon warns that the more human robots become, the worse things will be. He and Heracles wonder if one of them discovered love and the other hatred while at war. Gesicht might not remember what he discovered at all.
During a check-up with Professor Hoffman, Gesicht floats the idea that he had false memories implanted and others erased at some point about three years ago, after the war. He discovered the discrepancy when he decided to book a vacation with his wife to visit Japan. The travel agent already has Helena’s information on file despite not having traveled with the agency before, and the agent mentions a previous canceled trip to Japan. The pair go through their photos of a trip to Spain and become suspicious at the sheer number of pictures. Hoffman confronts Europol director Schelling, who gives him the political shorthand for “Yes, and stop asking questions about it.”
Gesicht’s lost memories could include the illegal murder of a human, something strictly outlawed.
Adolf is a family man with certain ideals. He doesn’t keep a housemaid robot, and his family lives in an enclave of traditional holmes amidst high-tech skyscrapers. He is a member of a certain secret society that seeks to eliminate or subjugate all robots by revoking their legal rights. The group has gone as far as orchestrating the murder of a judge, and they have their eyes on Gesicht next. This is in part due to Adolf’s discovery that Gesicht may have murdered his brother using a propriety Zeronium round; the fact that the government held on to his brother’s body for three years lends credence to the theory. Why Gesicht would murder what appeared to be a common criminal is a mystery, although there could be more to Adolf’s brother’s actions.
Adolf’s story is a chance for Pluto to interrogate extremism and bigotry as it delves into the unfortunate tragedies that led to their lot in life. Adolf’s story ties into the anxieties often cited by neoconservatism to appeal to the working class and rhetoric that has, time and again, used to serve in the promotion of racism, sexism, nationalism, and other forms of bigotry. It’s also not unlike general hostility to technological progress, like alternative energy sources. Someone, or something, will take your job. Will automation and computerization create a wave of unemployment in the production and manufacturing sector? What will happen if it does?
If you Google “it will take your job” right now, the search results are populated with variants of “Will A.I. Take Your Job?” or “Will a Robot Take Your Job?” from the likes of The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, BBC and more. Automation and mechanization have existed as long as humans have been able to invent, but the Luddites are a famous example of retaliating against automation at the turn of the 18th century. The Luddites were textile workers in the U.K. who enjoyed working from home and the accommodating schedule it provided. However, improved technology greatly expedited how much one worker could make, lessening the need for a larger workforce. Additional factors increased poverty among the workers. By mid-November 1811, disguised workers descended upon the factories and began destroying the tools inside.
However, it wasn’t the tools’ fault; it was the factory heads counting coins and deciding where to tighten the belt. In Adolf’s case, his father became obsolete, turned to crime, and eventually his death. His brother followed in his footsteps. Adolf’s feelings, his deep-seated anxieties have a spark of merit, but they have bloomed wholly unchecked into a persecution complex. Besides, we’re no longer talking about frames used to make stockings; we’re talking about sentient machines with families.
Uran’s burgeoning relationship with a strange man in an abandoned area again shows that these machines feel deeply. They carry perfect memories of the violence they committed and cannot absolve themselves of the guilt. The consciousness temporarily inhabiting that robot is Pluto, the so-called god of the underworld, but his powers allow him to create life. He’s a sort of Persephone + Hades incarnate who seeks to abandon his more hellish form so he can paint flowers. Professor Abdullah won’t allow this, although we don’t know why.
The robots aren’t perfect human replicas. If they were, they’d be less desperate to abandon war.
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