Ergo Proxy Volume 5 : Terra Incognita - impressions and speculation

This volume finally sees Vincent, Re-l and Pino draw near to and then reach Mosk. It marks a turning point for the series as the primary plot goal has been achieved and the characters now must consider what next to do.

The first episode takes us back to Romdeau to see the machinations going on there as the Regent, Raul and Daedalus all persue their own agenda. What is heavily underlined is how alike the cave dwellers, that Re-l and company discover, and the people of Romdeau are. Both populations are trapped in a system that while it works in the short term and they have become acclimatised to it, it is going to kill them in the end. The ways in which Romdeau's state is being dealt with differ greatly. The Regent clearly believes a Proxy is required simply to return the city to the old status quo. Is he unaware that the awakening is occuring and thus the time of Proxies is drawing to a close? This doesn't seem likely as the Regent and council have been using the Cogito virus to their own ends. This strongly implies that they understand the mechanism of the virus and probably its purpose too. It also hints that the whole reason for the attack on Mosk was purely to steal their Proxy. That doesn't say wonderful things about the morals of a ruler who would consign another city to destruction to save his own.

Raul on the other hand does understand both the virus and the central role the Proxy has in sustaining the city. He just thinks that such a life isn't a life worth living any more. He is letting his hatred of Vincent colour his thinking here. He blames Vincent/Ergo Proxy for destroying his idyllic innocence and with some validity. After all it was Ergo's flight from another vicious Proxy, who was presumably Monad, which resuled in the death of Raul's wife and child. Adding insult to injury the surrogate child, Pino, is with Vincent as well - by choice no less. Combine this with the the knowledge that the city itself cannot survive without a Proxy and I think Raul has given in to despair. His only recourse is to try and destroy what he sees as a pointless struggle. Where Raul is erring particularly is that he isn't offering any solution other than simply destroying the current system. Dysfunctional as it is Romdeau works after a fashion. His efforts at destablisation are themselves a trap of purely short term goal oriented thinking.

Daedalus on the other hand is still something of a mystery at this point. Exactly what is it he is after? Clearly he has been cloning the real Real Mayer (try saying that quickly five times) and is heavily invested in whatever he is trying to accomplish with both the clones and the original Real. Is he trying to create a new Proxy of some form? Certainly we have that tantilising hint in the form that Re-l's treatment for the Pneumonia related illness was a course of Amrita derived therapy. But if we indulge in a little speculation the choice of the name, Daedalus[1], is hinting strongly that whatever the result of his experimentation and planning is it is ultimately doomed to failiure. Is he trying to create the next evolution of humanity - a more human Proxy that isn't as prone to psychosis as the examples we have seen? Hopefully the final volume of the series is going to fill us in on this. What is interesting is that resonance with the cave dwellers again - their drawings of a womb room and a proxy indicate they almost worship what they have lost (or never had). Is Daedelus doing the same thing, worshiping the ideal of a better Proxy? Interestingly the often forgotten part of the story regarding Daedalus and Icarus is that the story is actually more a caution about moderation - flying too high dooms Icarus but equally flying too low would have doomed him too. Moderation and balance is precisely what Romdeau has been trying to achieve once again once Ergo left the city...

One interesting tidbit is the whole two pendants that accessed the memory room in Mosk. The hint is that Monad has the other pendant and that it is entirely likely that it is Ergo's own memories that have driven Monad into the psychotic state we have seen. One other sly reference is the missile system, which destroys Mosk, being called Rapture. We have the obvious allusion it makes to Christian mythos in the idea of the coming end of the world with the faithful ascending into heaven before the sinners are judged. But it is more subtle in that we not only have it pressaging the end of the world but the arrival of judgement from the heavens. Remember we have the wild card of the boomerang star returning and the occupants of that craft will be passing judgement on how the people in the Domes have faired. Indeed it seems they already have in that the proxy system and by extension the domes seem designed to fail once the Boomerang Star is close to returning.

The episode that perhaps confused me the most as to its presence has to be episode nineteen 'The Girl with a Smile'. The plot is straightforward enough - Pino finds herself in a thinly veiled version of Disneyland with the domes Proxy, Will B. Good, taking the part of Walt Disney as the chief creator of the environment. It seems purely a quirky episode that pokes a lot of fun at the way Disney created and managed his entertainment company. It would be easy to dismiss it as just that - filler fluff. To be fair a large part of the episode is precisely that - a way to let Pino have an adventure with her in the center of attention. But it does tell us three important things along the way.

First is that not all Proxies go viciously psychotic - Will isn't killing people as near as we can see and while he has a maniacal obsession with making people smile it isn't to the point of killing people to make it happen. He also seems a little less self centered than the other proxies we have seen still retaining some sense of duty and obligation to the humans in his charge. But the more important second thing we learn is that the proxies are capable of influencing and communicating both with themselves but also others via some form of telepathic connection. Indeed we see this ability used the very next episode as Monad uses it to mess with Vincent. The third detail is that it lets us know that all the Proxies are well aware of the pulse of the awakening. Something that we know is the signal that the world is returning to a habitable state and their reason for being is coming to an end. Humanity will no longer need these small artificial gods to sustain itself.

The end of Smileland underlines this by showing rain, for the very first time in the entire series, in the outside world. Normally it has been so cold that only ice and snow exist out there. Thus the episode does serve two important plot goals which could be easily missed.

The last episode show us something of the character of Monad as she messes with Vincent. It seems clear that Monad loved Ergo Proxy but Ergo, for some reason, chose to lose its own memories and became Vincent Law as a result. Vincent however loves Re-l so Monad is a bit piquey about this. It also points to Daedelus being successful in his attempt to revive Monad, assuming I am right in thinking Monad was the proxy chasing Ergo through Romdeau at the start of the series. All in all this has me nicely keen to watch the final volume in the series and see just what the creators intent really is.

[1] Daedalus was, of course, from Greek Myth as the inventor of the wings made with wax and feathers that his son Icarus & he used to escape from captivity. Despite being warned Icarus became so enraptured with the experience of flying he ignored his fathers advice to not fly too high. Consequently he got too close to the sun, melted the wax and fell to his death. Also of note is that Daedalus created the Labyrinth in which the Minotaur lurked before Theseus despatched it.

Philip R. Banks
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