The Man Who Would Kill God – Eureka 7 Episode 40
With the final preparations complete – in the form of an episode of down-time – Eureka Seven is finally ready to begin its ultimate confrontations. Renton is going beyond the Great Wall to find out some kind of truth, Stoner and Holland are preparing their expose of the Coralians and Eureka, and Dewey is planning his own operations to bring an end to the Coralian “threat.” The shift in focus is established with a new opening theme tune, probably the best of the series’ four themes. The theme tunes and credits sequences have throughout the series tonally reflected what is happening – the third, the punk-esque To the Centre of the Sun, played through the series’ impetuousness and kicking out – and now Sakura, the fourth theme, comes with its very heroic and spiritual sound for the show’s climax – established as something that must be religious.
The heroism that is being set up is a straightforward mirror-image of Dewey’s successful plan; Stoner apologises for having to “use” Renton and Eureka as figureheard of a PR campaign, and lets them have a say in the process. He says “we need an abundance of speed and the real truth,” as opposed to Dewey’s pomp and propaganda that has turned the world against the Gekkostate – and also that, once they are successful, Renton and Eureka will be famous, the celebrities of the countercultural world that perhaps once Renton dreamed of being. Stoner knows that his honourable actions put him at a disadvantage compared to Dewey’s PR machine, but that he will do the right thing anyway. Yet it is Renton’s response to this that is most interesting; he claims “it’s all right with me if we never become famous at all” – evidence, perhaps, of the modesty he has learned in his time on the Gekko. It is also telling when considered in light of the subplot about his father, Adroc – the man who is famous for what he did, and yet has posthumously caused Renton problems because of his fame. Adroc “saved the world” and now lives on as a tool used by Dewey – Renton will, in time, save the world and wants none of that toxic legacy. Eureka Seven can be said to be about management of expectations, of the compromises one makes as one learns how the world works – and Renton’s move from wanting to make a name for himself to realising that heroes do not need publicity to have been heroic – is a strong example of this. A short scene featuring Dewey provides the punctuation to this; he talks about needing “It” ready – meaning Anemone – and how he is more resolute than ever in his desire to annihilate the Corals.
His logic is, in a show that is so spiritual and mystical, the most aggressively atheist position seen. Obviously it is hard, in a setting where the divine is proved to exist in some form, to be a true atheist – Dewey does not reject the existence of the Corals, only rejects methods of belief in them in the forms he sees. He resents the Corals as unwanted judges, who come to Earth and threaten to destroy it for arbitrary reasons and force humanity to change its societies to comply with an omnipotent being. Put like that, resistance seems reasonable; Earth is under threat from what is described as a parasitic intelligence that, in his eyes, means only harm.
It is an easy and convincing message to sell, because it creates an enemy and once that dehumanising, compassion-free mindset is set up, it becomes clear how this turns into a more general utilitarianism. Dewey has dehumanised Anemone completely by now, mocking Dominic for being weak enough to consider her human. Yet the series has been about showing that – in this case – co-operation is vital. The Coralians are dangerous, but can be reasoned with; picking fights with everything that poses a threat is a bad decision when one does not even consider if peace is an option. Eureka herself proves that while the Coralians have the power to judge, they have sent an ambassador out to try and avoid conflict.
Considered like this – Eureka the emissary of a pseudo-divinity sent as a blank slate to judge, versus a fearful authority seeking to annihilate the divine because it threatens damnation – it is hard not to make Christian allusions. Indeed, for Eureka Seven, this episode’s setup is positively unsubtle. But its unsubtlety, both in Dewey’s dehumanising quasi-atheism and what follows when Renton reaches the Great Wall, feels very appropriate in its place within the plot. All along, there has been constant movement towards an ideal – the Great Wall – for both sides. It represents Dewey’s ultimate military target, something quantifiable to shoot and kill, and it represents a more abstract hope for the Gekkostate as a place to find a way of appeasing the Coralians. Whatever happens there, there will be answers and this almost mythic guarantee of a climax leaves little place for subtlety. Subtlety has failed over 39 episodes to get anywhere.
But what is found is unexpected in several ways; the Great Wall is almost under siege as a more militant, hardline faction of the Voderak have assumed control. Sect-based infighting within a religion – the doctrinal conflicts that are often used in fiction to make religion seem ridiculous and unviable – has finally reared its head and yet even the characters recognise and criticise it. Norb is the “face” of the Voderak, and has presented it (against the stereotypes of previous episodes) as a religion with good sense in its theologies (backed as they are by science, as Egan has shown) whose adherants sometimes hold unusual and untenable views. The cult that controls the Great Wall emphasises these aspects over the more pragmatic ones Norb espouses.Thus the conflict of ideals is between religion-in-practice, where it becomes social control, and religion-in-theory, where it is a philosophy to explain how the world works. This, however, is muddled by the third representation of the Voderak religion that is presented – the old lady who Renton helped way back at the start of the series. Her history with Eureka – for it was in her focus episodes that Eureka’s past was revealed – offers a more human side to religion, outside of its social aspects. Personal philosophy and ethics – the capacity for goodness and forgiveness – is something Eureka in unready for. But at the same time the series itself does not make it explicit that the woman’s kindness is because she is religious – she is kind, which is one thing, and she is religious, because she knows Norb and is clearly of some seniority in the Voderak, but the spelling out of any link is left entirely to implication. Similarly, the militancy and oppression of the oppressors at the Great Wall is described, and depicted implicitly with images of Norb being burned with downtrodden people surrounded by armed guards, but never physically shown in action or justified. They are anti-Norb, and anti-those-who-support-Norb, but why or how is left to the imagination. All this adds up to a stance on religion that suggests its practice is immaterial, or should be. The world of Eureka Seven is one where God exists, and even – Dewey posits – can be killed. Thus belief in a deity is something that should be irrefutable, and discrete from ceremony and tradition. Egan, representing the scientific sphere, shows this – as does, in a way, Dewey. Thus squabbles along doctrinal lines, as the Great Wall’s oppressors suggest, are even more pathetic not because they are squabbles about constructed mythologies (the traditional “religion is a bunch of made-up stuff that people get really mad over” line) but because they are people trying to impose superstition on something that is scientifically provable. If anything the dogma of religion matters less if the divine exists, because in this situation the divine does not care.
This is a strong episode of Eureka Seven; it lays down an interesting twist on preconceptions that have been built up so far, most notably in how it encourages assumed logic about how and why people act and how religion influences them. Often in science-fiction handling the divine, ceremony is held up as something negative because it is ascribing undue significance to arbitrary things fabricated in the name of power. That this is suddenly introduced in Eureka Seven via a sect of the Voderak – a religion which has throughout the series been proved true – if anything is more damning still. The divine exists and is being appropriated to control others. Furthermore, Norb’s response to learning of the oppression of his followers is particularly interesting – he says that it would have been better for the people to abandon their faith and have an easier life than to fight against oppression. He is always presented as apparently apathetic and cryptic, but here it is a pragmatism; personal faith and personal belief is discrete from dogma and organised religion.