Luke (Kevin Bigley) now a full-time lunch paler rocking the Eddie Bauer business casual is a strong start to the episode. Not that I want A.I. Guy to be turned in, but I’m excited to see more of Luke’s journey. This would be the time to galvanize what relationships are already on shaky ground. Instead? We divide them. Aleesha (Zainab Johnson), beaming from the retreat, hits up her “friend-o” in the Grey Zone. I am taking note that all interactions in the Grey Zone are fitting. Luke being as opaque to Aleesha as Nora (even with her safety in mind) seems like the more digestible way to further her growth, but that also kind of entails the possibility of her mistrusting her crew in the 11th hour. If that is a possibility, I’m very much on board.
The betrayal of trust kicks off the next plot when Nora’s pissed at him for lacking transparency. Luke’s in a bit of a bind, leading us to the inevitable lie of omission on the part of Nora (Andy Allo) to Nathan (Robbie Amell). For the moment, Luke just wants help while Nathan 2.0 wants answers. Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) balks and dips. At the moment, there are still a few embers of hope that her arc may win me over.
Her story diverting to Nathan 2.0 makes sense and I’m a massive fan of Andy’s acting and her honesty in portraying uncertainty. This makes total sense with long-distance relationships. It’s the gap that continues the longing that nourishes the fantasy. Reality distorts that, so I’m curious where this will be headed. Ingrid does catch them, but her genuine emotion in Lakeview and her actual reaction in the bathtub seem incongruous. At least we get to see her do something outside of finding a sliver of agency and pissing it away, right? Her friend Mersaydeez (Veronica Long) ain’t giving me hope, though.
When Aleesha is brought in to pilot a clone of A.I. Guy (Owen Daniels) in the real world, I’m for it. It’s another trial by fire, so you don’t need to tell me twice to get pumped. Her verbally guiding ebullient A.I. Guy through ten blocks of NYC streets was satisfying because it knocked Lucy down a peg while impressing Karina (Jeanine Mason). Don’t get me wrong, I like that Lucy (Andrea Rosen) is Lucy to the bone, a holdover from a more toxic era. I feel at this juncture, any saving grace to Lucy’s soul would be plucked from the drawer containing Hand of God moments since the only sympathetic bone they’ve thrown at her was during the last episode when she revealed her shitty sleep was due to a divorce. It was a genuine shared moment immediately overshadowed by everything she’s said or done after that. Gee, it’s as if this series doesn’t respect some of its biggest diamonds in the rough sometimes.
With Nora telling Nathan 2.0 he’s the ‘knockoff’ (ouch, but his words), we have an almost a-Ha “Take On Me” moment. Two halves of a whole, two different worlds converging. Now, you’d expect this to have an air of dramatism to it, but it’s played for laughs as a pivot to them now having to work together without Nora. The interesting thing is it puts on display the uniquely human trait of delusion, injecting a banana peel joke either for the fuck of it or as a character trait. He was in the Marines. I’m sure it’s not too far off the mark to know that Luke knows how to mark his trail. At the end of the day, love it or hate it, is still a classic setup for physical comedy.
As both Nathans head to the black market, the tension builds. A rap about relationships past/present is to me about as close to what I believe is spelling out to the audience as they’ve been yet: technology can create a human pumping heart, but it cannot replicate what makes a heart “human”. We’re fucked up, complex creatures that live in the grey area, sometimes our whole lives. Placing both Nathans on an escalator to their destination kind of beats over the head what’s been the story that I’d wish they’d break out of: Nora still remains the object of both their affections, which basically leaves Ingrid out in the cold. It’s like bro, lay off Ingrid. She’s getting some much-needed depth, but it feels like they’re trying to get us to rally around her by dint of her having nobody. As if being alone for the time being wasn’t a noble fucking thing.
Gotta say I’m not a fan of the season dangling independence in front of her face like a fucking carrot before tearing it right out of her head. She may have started as the epitome of avarice, materialism, and possessiveness (all stunning qualities in a would-be villain), but I believe she’s earned the right to stand on her own. There’s no reason why she couldn’t have had this since the beginning of the season. Make it a throughline. Make that your challenge. Have the audience rally around someone we initially were meant not to like through finding oneself. I never said it had to be boring, just don’t make it so that she looks to still be co-dependent.
At VR equine aerobics, although meant to be silly while serving the plot, we’re served naught more than a queef joke served alongside the cold fact that Ingrid isn’t giving herself time to process any hurt and grief. Her plot in this episode could have been so much more. Is having a day to yourself such a bad thing? Sure, writing-wise, it has the potential to be static and go nowhere, but introducing a friend just to show the audience how far she’s come wasn’t really convincing me of any progress.
Her white-hot flashes of independence this season are only tamped down by her blind devotion to Nathan who she only knows exists as an idea. Yes, she cannot cast the first stone, but she’s not undeserving of the companionship of any kind, even in Lakeview. Shit, LA’s got a gargantuan homeless pandemic. I’m not saying throw her in the damn soup kitchen but at least put her in a situation where she’s given a choice, her old life or a new experience. Put her in a slightly uncomfortable reality and let the path of empathy take hold. The writers’ room must know Ingrid’s not a one-note monster, but ya’ll play too damn much. Instead of keeping her the repository of half-baked ideas for character development, why not just do the work and nudge her story more to the front? Keeping a person starved for connection in what is essentially now a bizarre love triangle is playing on the edge of a knife. Let’s hope Ingrid still has hope in her future… without a present Nathan. Wishful thinking, eh?
Luke Leiai’d up to Russian gangster Zalan (Yasen Peyankov) is a sight gag worthy of the setup to break him out. My only reservation is why Luke would want to give up A.I. Guy in the first place. They’d been ‘boyz’ in the past, so it really doesn’t seem like a move that’s totally in line with Luke as we know and love him. I’m not buying that the Grey Zone changed him because we were introduced to this deployment of employment just last episode. One could argue that Luke allowed A.I. Guy to escape, hell, even turning A.I. Guy could be a positive character trait that backfires… but Luke being a standup man would’ve meant he would’ve tried an alternate way before even thinking about the ramifications of giving up what amounts at this moment to his only readily available friend in Lakeview. Fuck bro, he could’ve still landed in the same position if he just tried to go straight to Zalan himself. Luke’s a good person and the banana peel joke I took as an elegant, predictable (by design) visual gag that would portend to him acting without a second thought (which is both great and horrible in a war), but also being a commentary on where the scene is taking place itself. Everything that goes on in the Grey Zone is morally grey, from the conversations to the actions made. It honestly makes me love this series that much more as a whole.
Nora’s plot ends the most abruptly because it’s treated like less of a plot and more of a thread, but a thread that is immediately tugged with great force and vigor. A thread that is part of a virtual sweater that will kick off the antepenultimate episode. We’re in the final stretch. The effective fashion these days in streaming is to truly earmark the last three episodes as truly blowing us away. Fingers crossed.
Addendum: “Rescue Mission” marks a top cameo of the year in television for me (beating out both Jamie Lee Curtis in The Bear in addition to Patton Oswalt in What We Do in the Shadows) with William Gibson as the holographic herald of the Terms and Conditions to the Public Library. If you don’t know who that is, maybe invest (your time) into obtaining a library card. They are the only free pass into the world’s most dangerous place.