The theorizing and postulating and guessing and spoiling is going to be gangbusters after this episode – it’ll happen in blog comments and forums and everywhere Steins:Gate is sold. I’m not going to ignore it by any means, but the main point I want to get across here is this – that was an absolutely fantastic and emotionally powerful episode.
I liked Suzuha right from the first moment we met her, but she steadily grew on me all through her time in the series until by the end (for me) she was one of my favorite characters. It was hard saying goodbye, and the scenes leading up to her departure were some of the best in any series I’ve seen this year, never mind just this one. It’s only fitting that it was Mayushi who put it all together – like I said last week what she lacks in book smarts she makes up in perception. Ironic that the badge that proved the first big clue, even though Daru thought he was only doing it as a kind deception. It was the name of the time machine that gave it away, which was a pretty clever bit of deduction by our Maysuhi.
The fact that this seemed like a strong possibility didn’t take away from the emotional power of the reveal. It’s a testament to how much we’ve come to care about these characters that the hug between Daru and his daughter-to-be was such an emotional crescendo. But from that heart-warming moment, the series took a dark turn. Rather than coming to meet the lab members in 2010 as a 54 year-old, she sent a heartbreaking letter – posthumously, through her old friend Mr. Braun. And not only had she died, she’d died a suicide – condemning herself for failing in her mission to change the past. This physical time travel is tricky, as it turns out – it’s a one-way ticket, for starters, and when Suzuha awoke in 1975 she lost all her memories for the next 24 years.
What happens after that is the subject of much uncertainty. Okarin apparently sends a D-mail to warn Suzuha to go straight to the past after the time travel forum rather than let Okarin delay her, thus getting her to the machine before it’s damaged by rain. This clearly has an impact, as Mayushi is no longer killed at the lab and Suzuha – while still deceased – died of an illness rather than suicide. But just what changed, and by how much? The fact that Suzuha was still dead implies she – like Mayushi – was “fated” to die in that time stream, and things didn’t change enough to from an “A” to a “B” line. Indeed, the divergence meter has increased, but is still less than 1. Apparently, she didn’t leave a letter for Okarin either. Does that mean she never regained her memories at all? If so, how did things change enough so that Mayushi survived? And most ominously, Makise was conspicuously absent when Okarin raced back to the lab.
My theory on that is this – I think somehow, by sending that D-mail, Okarin reverted things back to the original Alpha timeline – the one where Makise died in episode one, but Mayushi isn’t fated to die. And Suzuha, in that line, is destined to die in 2001. But honestly, that’s just a guess, and there are better guessers than me out there.
What’s more interesting to discuss, for me, is just how great this show is at developing these characters. Their reactions to the news of Suzuha’s death were heartbreaking – and a reminder that all of them are still basically kids, no matter how smart they are. Okarin looked like an 18 year-old for the first time in the series to me. And what must it be like for him to be the only one who carries all these memories with him – the only one who will even recall the time they spent with Suzuha and, potentially, Makise? That’s the sort of thing that could eventually drive a good man mad – not many could cope with that kind of loneliness.