I think this is the episode I have been waiting for all this time. Like Zorome, I have always wanted to visit the magma city below the surface and see how the adults live. Luckily for both of us, Darling in the FRANXX treats us to quite the buffet of information and hints at something larger under the surface, something that Zero Two also likely knows. I did seriously love this episode and just about everything about it, here’s hoping all the character-centric episodes go this route moving forward through the season bridge.
This is a Zorome-centric episode, and as such, we begin with him narrating a reoccurring dream he has. It’s a very good dream because the dream itself is emblematic of a birth memory which is the quite possibly the most “Evangelion” thing I’ve seen so far, more so than even the water droplets from Hiro’s revelation episode. It’s fascinating to know that Zorome dreams of his own birth, in an almost horror-like manner while he longs for the adult world, and at the end of the episode we learn he no longer has this dream after seeing how the adults live.
His lizard brain is trying to us something.
Considering we saw that the kids live in a remodeled version of a nursing facility, Zorome and friends may have been torn from their parents at birth and this memory is lodged in his brain as a form of primal fear and remembrance of that tragic event. We can also see this dream in a less literal sense where Zorome is waiting to be born or enlightened to knowledge, and this is not realized until after he meets an adult in the city and that sought knowledge is attained.
After that still great opening, we cut into Squad 13 fighting another Klax. Zorome and Miku are, as always, overactive. This doesn’t end terribly for once, and their FRANXX is simply covered in blood at the end of the fight. This serves a few purposes besides being a cute moment: reminding us of Zorome’s innocence, reinforcing Zorome’s impulsiveness, and showcasing that these kids are slowly learning how to work together without Zero Two’s constant attention.
The battle ends and the screen is switched over the APE (aka not-Seele) leader’s meeting room. They talk about how the squad is able to link up in ways other squads cannot, and that the imbalance between the unique FRANXXs is giving the squad special assets. APE calls this a double-edged sword because they wish to foster peace in their new world; it’s at this point where I started to get a better idea about APE’s goals. Similar to 1984, or even The Giver, APE wishes to remove all traces of uniqueness from its people to create a utopia. Differences cause dissonance. You can now see the same-ness being pushed everywhere as we look back through the show as-is, but we can also see soft contradictions in the plan- like how all APE’s leaders have different ape masks.
Moving on, the leaders discuss moving the Squad to the next stage: The Grand Crevasse. The goal is still to shuttle Zero Two there, safe and sound, but why and how is still unclear. Obviously this Grand Crevasse is important, but just what it holds is a mystery that I can’t even fathom. There’s a few different ways this can go, and I’m choosing to take a backseat on the Crevasse road to see what the creators choose to do.
In regards to delivering the kids on this adventure, Dr. FRANXX (disguised as an APE leader) suggests they reward the kids in an effort to boost morale. This is how we get Squad 13 to the city, and this is how Zorome is “re-born.”
Nana instructs the children to wear their formal uniforms and be ready at 9 AM the next day for an award ceremony in the city. This is the first (and from what we understand to this point- the only) time the kids have been allowed in the city, and Zorome couldn’t be happier. It’s such a high honor, as children, to be allowed in.
Zero Two from now until the end of the episode will look terribly sour and refuse to inform Hiro as to why. Nana pushes Zero Two’s patience by asking her to undergo “tests” while in the city, but is refused since the tests seem to have been an option- not an order. When Nana mentions that Zero Two was seeming more cooperative lately, Hiro’s interest is piqued. I believe this, along with Zero Two’s general pensiveness through the award ceremony and city is causing Hiro to become slightly uneasy with his position as a parasite.
Despite Zero Two’s almost omniscient behavior, Squad 13 is happy to be recognized by Papa and ecstatic to be honored with a visit to the city. When we finally arrive there, we see up close that it maintains that truly red glow from the magma energy. However, though the city radiates light, it’s silent except for the machinery. There is no animal life, including the sounds of a bustling city.
As the small ceremony begins, we are reminded that Squad 13 are the first children to ever be welcomed in the city. Zero Two is recognized as a key player by the officiator, and we are given confirmation that she is a former member of Squad 9 (hinted previously by the blonde guy we saw after Hiro and Zero Two’s ascension episode). Though, I’m not sure if this offers us more than the idea that Zero Two was a part of an elite squad that was likely similar to our dear Squad 13- at least right now.
Moving down the line, each child receives some basic praise. When it’s Zorome’s turn, the boy sticks his hand out for a handshake and is ignored by the officiator. There’s a pause in Zorome’s character, and we can see this refusal has affected him in some deep way to the point that Zorome didn’t even notice his own pained expression.
After the ceremony, which was at most ten minutes, the kids are able to convince Nana to walk them through the city back to their special elevator. If the silence in the city wasn’t deafening before, it is now. Not only is there no sound, but we see no one else walking around. There are no stores, no restaurants, and no common areas. These kids are walking through what seems to be an ally, though I doubt if they were in a residential section if they would see anyone. Still, everyone but Zero Two and Hiro, who are keeping with the separation symbolism, are fascinated with the “dead city.”
Zorome begins his own adventure, and jumps away from the group. However, instead of being solemn like his two dour counterparts, Zorome harnesses his excitement to get closer to a magma energy power cell. He finds himself trapped, unable to get back down from a platform he wandered up to, without a viable communication device. Lost, Zorome wanders through the city wondering where all the people are.
Eventually, Zorome sees a person who ignores him. Obviously upset at the rudeness, Zorome tries to give chase before falling in front of another person. This woman was much kinder than the person who ignored the boy, and she takes him to her apartment.
This is where we learn a lot of great information about how humanity has essentially fallen into decline.
First, after Zorome awakes, the woman tells him that his body is different than theirs and that she had to use a different mode on her health scanner to check him- she had to use “pet mode.” So. That’s weird. Either the scanners can’t work on children because they aren’t made for children, or Zorome’s physical make-up is that of a different species.
Zorome is able to beg the woman to talk with him for a while before calling his handlers after explaining how much he respects adults. The woman, looking to be in her 50’s, beings to disinfect everything in the house with a type of spray- another weird thing because she isn’t exhibiting signs of germophobia, she is using the spray everywhere Zorome has been.
The woman has a strange, heart-like object over where her heart would be after she remove her shawl-hood, and after Zoom devours some of her food, she mentions that she no longer has a sense of taste. The heart object must be something keeping her alive, and maybe her sense of taste has died out over the years due to extreme age (she could be hundreds of years old) or because of her “dead” lifestyle.
Our friendly caretaker talks about living with her partner, starting that they are following an old procreation custom. She mentions how life in the past must have been so annoying because you had to rely on other people for everything. This is terribly telling of the current situation of humanity. They have been sequestered to the point of seeing contact with others as burdensome. It’s also contradictory since these people have to rely on APE and the kids for protection and life in this world.
Humanity have become nothing more than pets, themselves, controlled and cared for by a higher power.
Zorome, curious about this woman’s partner, asks to see him. The partner is in an iron-lung-looking machine. In the machine, the man smiles as if having a nice dream, and we assume he is very ill. However, the woman clarifies that the man is getting his daily dose of happiness, and as if on cue- his smile grows wider and a little manic.
The woman begins to look unwell and collapses, she says it’s because she isn’t used to talking so much and is now exhausted. After retiring to the couch, she explains that she and her partner don’t talk, she doesn’t even remember what his voice sounds like, and instead live freely and rarely (if ever) interact with one another.
The two neither get along, nor have problems. They simply live.
Zorome takes this time to rant about Miku and his disagreements with her, but bridles when the woman stays he should get matched with a different partner. He doesn’t understand her position, why throw away someone just because you don’t get along all the time? It’s here that Zorome may have realized, in his sub-conscious of course, that he cares for Miku and her flaws. Those two are almost made for each other, after all.
Moving past this land-mine of a subject, the woman is off-put by the use of names. Even the humans below are numbered, her number is 666. However, before Zorome can continue his rambling and wonder why she has the same code number as him, the woman becomes more exhausted and leaves to call for a transport for the boy. When she returns, Zorome is crying.
Zorome says the woman feels very familar, but he doesn’t know why. There are little flashes in his memory back to his time as a child in the training facility where he is trying to remember some matronly figure. The woman becomes a little more rattles, but doesn’t seem to remember anything about Zorome. She softens the blow and attempts to give him a confidence boost about how he is protecting them. Zorome asks the woman to be his friend when he manages to grow up, but the woman just smiles and says that it’s impossible because…..
The doorbell rings at the perfect time so Zorome hears the information, but not us, and I almost threw my phone at the TV.
Some men rush Zorome out of the apartment and onto a lift back home. They are using radiation detectors on him, and one man calls him infected. Zorome is unaffected by this comment, so I’m thinking he understood on some level that the woman called him diseased in some way. The other man scanning Zorome calls the children pitiful victims in this mess.
We end the episode with Zorome pushing his experience out of his memory, and eventually forgetting the woman and the entire encounter. He no longer has his birth dream, but instead has nothing.
That’s just sad.
Though we have some fascinating answers about humanity now in these cities, I’m wondering what these kids are infected with exactly. If they are affected with anything. Another way this could go is that the kids are the true humanity, and the people in the cities are the infected ones. Though, I doubt that correct. These kids are probably cursed.
Now we know why Zero Two calls these cities dead. These “adults” are not living at all; they are being controlled and possibly forced to forget some things. Based on the experience with Zorome, this woman could have been exhausted due to her brain attempting to remember things that were sealed off- she may have been fighting her own memories of a different time. Or, maybe she was just a woman weakened by an evil organization with minimal rations, no sunlight, and a happiness straight out of 1984.