Note: This article is also available at Super Fanicom here.
Readers will notice I have not written specifically about episode 5; this is because I feel that skipping it at this time and looking instead at the contrast between episodes 3-4 and 6 is more interesting. In the first few episodes of the series, the protagonist Renton is established as having a very inflated opinion of himself, and his attempts at establishing himself as a peer to the disinterested Holland are met with consistent reminders of his place within the Gekko’s crew – as a new, junior member. Episode 5 introduces in some more detail the character of Talho, the most prominent female character after the central figure of Eureka, and presents a new way in which the adult characters have superiority over Renton; sexual knowledge and maturity. Not only is he clearly not the intellectual equal of his superiors and seniors, he is not their physical equal either.
However, his pretensions of maturity have, as episode 6 shows, also alienated him from the younger members of the crew. Again, the self-important inner monologue returns as the episode focuses on the hostility between Renton and Eureka’s three adopted children – except the hostility is purely a perceived one. Renton, in his attempts to appear mature, distances himself from the children in an immature way – he sees their pranks, much like Talho’s mockery of his not even having reached puberty, as personal slights and a mark of inferiority on the part of those doing it. He sees being mature as a right to be above this mockery and teasing, rather than having the courage to accept it, and by viewing the children as an unassailable enemy (since their closeness to Eureka means he cannot wholely reject them) who he must remain aloof from, his childishness becomes all the clearer.
Again, the returning idea is that Renton’s naivete and self-importance is preventing him from fitting in in its immature demonstrations. A flashback to his time as an orphan shows him expecting maternal affection from his sister but then a subsequent scene shows him rejecting her authority in this maternal role. The shift in tone between these flashbacks mirrors the building up of an idealised image and then knocking it down with realism that has defined the entire first arc of the series. The audience once again sees both sides of Renton – how he sees himself and his treatment, and how the others see it.
The attitudes of the children are particularly interesting; at first they see Renton as a rival for Eureka’s affection, and an unworthy one – they see her as a maternal figure and distrust the idea of her taking a male partner at some time in the future. This is intertwined with a fear of rejection and losing affection; they reject Renton as a paternal figure (mirroring the flashback of him rejecting his sister’s surrogate mother role) and fear him as an outsider who has not even attempted to fit into the society they inhabit.
The episode’s climax, in which Renton realises finally that in order to make peace (as he sees it) with the children he needs to present himself as something other than a surrogate father who has simply entered their lives and demanded acceptance. He plays along with their desire to have fun and play tricks on others and by saving the Gekko from the effects of their own mistakes earns both their respect and Eureka’s. The final scene, in which they all join Renton in the brig to share the punishment for insubordination that Holland metes out, and there is finally harmony within the surrogate family unit, is paralleled with another scene showing a sense of unity. Holland, Talho and the other senior crew of the Gekko decide that it is necessary to punish Renton harshly every time he errs in order to force him to mature and make up for his lack of strong parental figures.
While the first arc of Renton’s development is now complete – he recognises that he is still a child and is beholden to the same rules as the other children (which should include Eureka) – this cementing of his position within the hierachy and making peace with his former enemies now also cements a new enmity – one instigated by Holland and based around a need for discipline and control. Holland is now clearly shown as no peer to Renton, and no friend. Instead he is the captain of a ship, and a father figure to an errant child who has shown no desire to be controlled or disciplined.
In the end, this final scene provides a stark contrast with the final scene of episode 5, when Renton still sees Holland as a potential peer; while his illusion is beginning to fail as he realises he needs to be older to truly be friends with the adults, he still has hope that the relationship can be a peer – not a parental one.