Fractale – 7

That was a really exciting and visually striking episode. Fractale has already proved itself capable of some pretty big shifts in tone, and this week provided another one – a kind of surrealistic journey that had me in mind of “The Wizard of Oz” – or at least the dark mirror Spielberg and Kubrick held up to it in “A.I.” – for most of its length.

There were lots of reminders that generally speaking, things in Fractale are usually not what they appear to be. What appears to be a tribe of nature-loving nomads living in a peaceful valley is actually a group of disguised rich folk, living vicariously through their doppels in the virtual city of Xanadu. It’s a kind of sybarite’s paradise, apparently – and one of the last places where the Fractale system is still working as it should. Clain ends up there after the balloon he’s flying of a photo-safari with his “new” digital” camera goes haywire (hacked by the temple, no doubt, at the same time Nessa was) and crashes. He and Nessa end up in the clutches of a couple of seemingly friendly artist-residents of Xanadu, Megan and Colin. They’re interesting characters, but the most interesting character here is Xanadu itself. It’s a beautiful, bizarre, psychedelic world of the ancient and classical intermixed with the post-modern.

Mrs.  Robinson – are you trying to seduce me?

Turns out Megan and Colin aren’t so nice after all – Megan has already sold the kids out to the temple of hopes of keeping up with the high network fees in Xandau. Neither are the so-called nature-loving villagers Enri and the others encounter while searching for Clain – one of whom is apparently actually Colin, and has designs on some very improper activities with Phryne before Enri and her henchman intervene. They eventually track Clain and Nessa to Xanadu, where Nessa has gone super-seiyan and apparently wiped out the network to protect Clain from Megan’s virus attack. But Colin isn’t about to let things end for Fractale. He’s pieced things together and figured out Nessa is the legendary key that can save or destroy the Fractale system – and as he’s apparently paralyzed in his real body, Fractale is all he has. His android servant shoots Clain with a very real bullet just as the goons from the temple arrive to take the kids back.

There were lots of memorable images there, beautiful and bizarre. For some reason in Xanadu Clain is not only wearing girl’s clothes (well, that can be chalked up to Megan’s strange tastes) but his hair grows and turns orange, making him almost a dead ringer for Joey from Heroman. But the images that stay with me are Colin in his mortal prison and Clain, wounded and bleeding, falling through Nessa’s body as she tries to catch him. Seeing Colin that way instantly reminded me of Tad William’s “Otherland” novels – which I highly recommend, if you haven’t read them – in it’s depiction of a person imprisoned in their own body living vicariously on a network through a doppel. And this brings is yet another shading to the complex moral palette being painted here. For people such as Colin, the end of Fractale would effectively mean the end of their lives. Is he wrong to want to keep the existence that allows him to experience all the things he otherwise couldn’t? Obviously his actions are extreme and not defensible – but I’m not sure whose are, at this point, other than Clain and Nessa.

It was great to see the incredible imagination and talent of the creative team behind this series really bring it all together this week. The show has always been interesting and thought-provoking, but somewhat inconsistent in execution. This was one of the best efforts so far and hopefully a precursor of an exciting finish.

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