Space Symphony Maetel 07: Threats and Promises
Maetel’s monologue at the beginning of the episode is the same we heard in episodes 02 and 04.
Let me make the argument that Maetel’s encounter with her mother (or one of her clones) is very ambiguous. The question is simple, “Why couldn’t Maetel pierce through Promethium’s body?”, but we don’t really have enough data to answer it! Think about it like this: I press a needle against a certain substance X. The needle stops at the surface of X, and goes no further. This could mean that a) I simply chose not to exert force past that point, stopping just before I would have broken through to X. But it could also mean that b) X is rock solid and the needle simply won’t go through, no matter how much force I may exert. In this hypothetical case, an observer couldn’t tell which was the real solution to the problem, and this is just the situation we find ourselves in during this episode.
Maetel strikes through with the saber, the saber stops right on contact with Promethium’s stomach, and Maetel looks shocked. She might be shocked because Promethium’s skin is made of a substance impervious to a gravity saber (which would imply that it’s a particularly “hard clone”). Or, she might be shocked that after summoning up all her courage and witnessing LaRela’s heroic sacrifice she is still unable to kill her mother and end it all.
By the way, the eerie glow implies that this is yet another clone, but since we don’t even know what monstrous features the real Promethium has developed, it’s almost pointless to distinguish between clones and real Promethiums. For all we know the real Promethium can glow eerily. For all we know the real Promethium exists no more (not even physically as a continuation of the human Promethium; of course for Maetel and Emeraldas the real Promethium is spiritually dead and has been for some time).
Assuming that Maetel simply failed in her mission to stop her mother at this point, we can see this episode as showcasing the weaknesses and strengths of Maetel. Weakness: inability to come through and kill the villain. Strength: deep faith in the ability of humans and Mechanoids to coexist and cooperate. This faith, unbeknownst to her, is proven well-founded by the relationship between Arina, Nazca and the two LaMetalian humans. Arina’s case is interesting because it provides a good dollop of nuance to the mechanization controversy: as a human being, she was ill and would have died if not for the transformation. The purpose of medical science is to save lives. Arina’s life was saved by technological means, and it’s pretty hard for the rebels to argue against the virtue of her parents’ choice to mechanize her. There’s a slippery slide lurking here, to be sure. I guess mechanization is somewhat analogous to stem cell research in our time…
Now, Maetel follows Promethium, and even defends her against her sister Emeraldas. Maetel might be thinking along these lines: this Promethium (the same that Maetel had just faced and embraced) is evidently a dispensable clone. If the sisters are to put a stop to the madness, they must destroy the core Promethium (personality, computer, system, whatever). Rather than kill the clone and be left adrift, it’s far better to follow her meekly in the hopes that she will guide her to the core. Consider that the planet is about to collapse. Whatever drives all of these Promethium clones is surely astir and quite possibly preparing some sort of escape. Killing a single clone will accomplish nothing. Following her just might.
Two very nice lines at the end.
The Deathshadow shows up at the nick of time to save Nazca and Arina. Fearing that the pirates will be prejudiced against a Mechanoid, Arina asks: “Can I come aboard too?” Tochiro is bewildered: “What? Do you want to die?!” If you don’t know the context, the words might sound like a threat, but they’re the very opposite of a threat. That is, Tochiro’s mind is so far from the thought of Arina somehow not deserving to be rescued that her question makes him wonder whether she might be wanting to be left alone to die.
The other line I want to note is the very last one: Maetel’s answer to Promethium’s question “Why have you decided to join me after trying to kill me?” Maetel says essentially: “Because I want to end your suffering.” I love this line. It’s as counterintuitive in this context as Tochiro’s response was just before. Maetel’s words sound like a threat! And if she’s trying to pretend to follow her mother in order to kill her then the least thing we’d expect from her right now is a statement like this!!
Aha, but we have to think of the context just as Maetel has been thinking of it. The series opens with Maetel’s return to LaMetal on a summons from Promethium. The Queen wants Maetel to succeed her, there is no dissembling this fact and no cunning plot behind it. Maetel’s words sound less ominous if we take them to mean: “Because I want to succeed you and let you take a deserved rest from all of your labors.” Indeed, the various Promethium clones have bemoaned the unfaithfulness of her people and the hardships they cause their queen. Practically all of them look very tired. And if there is a shred of humanity in the Queen even now, then we can be sure it wants nothing more than extinction. In short, Maetel’s line can be read not only as a threat but as a promise, and one that could please both the good Promethium and the evil Promethium, depending of course on how the daughter acts once she has succeeded to the empire.