[Duke] "There will be a next time."

[Kai] "There always is."

       How can so much happen in an episode in which so little happens...?

Drifting dreamlike above the Red Hot Sea heading towards an uncertain future in a balloon with seriously depleted reserves of fuel, debating the rights and wrongs of killing while a dead assassin walks tirelessly across the molten rock, far below...

Ye gods.

I loved this episode. Not only do we discover a great deal more about how things are ordered on the twin worlds, but we are also allowed to see more of Fire than previously, and for me, the sheer, stark, physical beauty of Fire - and Water, an ever-present temptation in the sky, a far promise of fulfilment, an enchanting cool kiss shimmering in the heat - are images never to be forgotten. I think I know this place...

It would be very easy to drift with the balloon here, the slight coolness of the breeze easing the gnawing heat from below... But let me try to get down to specifics instead...
       Death, and testing, are again the main features of the episode. The conversation between Duke and Fifi, crashed on Fire and soon (barring a miracle) to die, is extremely enlightening.
       "Death's not such a bad thing - for me, anyway." This seems to imply that elders on Fire (and presumably on Water) are aware of the nature of life and death in this system, and also (possibly? probably?) have a lot of control over their state and status of being in their next incarnation.
       "Death is not the end, merely a transition to another life." Both Duke and Prince are very aware of 'how things are', and Prince at least can control what he looks like...

Imagine knowing that you will come back, over and over and over again... It doesn't matter how long you have lived, or how you die, you will return. No wonder the elders are 'good with pain' - they'd have to be... And all you have to come back to are the exigencies of existence on Fire, or the trivialities of waking on Water. (Or a lifelong feeling of unease and angry frustration if, like Fifi, you manage to be incarnated on the wrong planet. Which idea itself raises questions about predestination and destiny...) Perhaps the war is kept going as a way of preventing the inhabitants from going entirely insane. Or maybe distracting them from the utter meaninglessness of their lives. At the very least it gives them some sort of focus, something apparently important to do, in a system from which there is no escape - not even in death. "You're going to suffer for your sins... The real pain will come after death..." It's a profoundly private purgatory. If you think about it for too long, the idea is absolutely terrifying...

And tests? The first is whether to descend and rescue Duke and Fifi, thereby jeopardising their own survival - or not. The second - who should be sacrificed so that the rest can live. Stan fails both. Xev passes both - sort of. What's next? And why...?

Wondering Allowed

Personal systems of belief on earth encompass everything anyone can think of. Not everyone has the same perceptions of right and wrong or good and evil (personally I've never found things to be anything like that clear cut, or rigid, anyway - and emphases shift depending on the subject... But then, I'm not bound by any recognised religious precepts.) So what does "We will die together and you will be mine forever." [Duke to Fifi] mean? It sounds fascinating - and tempting. Of course, I know that the simplest explanation, as far as many readers/viewers are concerned, is probably that in accepting Duke as his boss, Fifi has, in effect, sold his 'soul' (well, whatever it is that constitutes his 'self', anyway) - which equates Duke with the devil. But that's an easy option. I really hope it's more complex - and less based on earthly religion - than that. But as ever I'm prepared to be disappointed...

The complexity of Xev's nature is becoming more and more apparent as she takes control at the end of the episode. From big-eyed fawn to decisive, pragmatic leader, Xev is truly coming into her own. It's good to see.

Bunny is sweet, adorable, and gloriously innocent. Hopelessly honest, affectionate, self sacrificing ("Right instinct - wrong man" Stan - though I question whether his comment is strictly true), swamped by the swirling emotions around her - Bunny doesn't belong here. She's a child (she even rides piggy-back on Kai's back, like an infant), unable to cope with the grown-up's problems. She believes in nice things for nice people after death. It's tragic that she's almost bound to be disappointed...

Very Messianic, that... Back

I've grown to like Duke. I have absolutely no idea why - this is the being who will quite happily set others alight and watch them burn with perfect calm and equanimity. Who rules without mercy. Who would, I think, make an even more fearsome ruler of Fire than Prince. And I like him. Gods alone know what that says about me!! Back

Coming back as Kai was quite clever - and a good way to ensnare Xev. But just why is he trying to ensnare her? Are they, despite appearances, truly soul-mates? Back

And just where do they get their names from? And do they keep the same ones from life to life - or is that only an elder prerogative? Back

And Kai lets her. Does this refer back to my proposal (in Gigashadow) that Kai had children of his own? Back

Let's let Stan have the last word.

"There's something really weird about you two and these whole two planets..."

© 2000 Joules Taylor (Flare)

Episode 6

© 2000 WordWrights.