Shauna Brown is having a very odd dream.
She wakes up in her bedroom, as if not a day has passed since she lived her life in Boston. Her father cooks breakfast, Tyler refuses to get up, and work at Antonio’s (which really just devolves into Katherine and Mike fighting, as usual) progresses as normal. As she’s describing her magic-and-adventure filled dream to the slightly swooning Mike, her new neighbor, Oren, comes by to pick up lunch. Before she can get it for him, however, a disturbing story about a local house fire comes on the news; Shauna runs out in a panic, knowing somehow that they’re talking about her family.
Shauna arrives at her destroyed home and, despite Mike and Katherine’s efforts to stop her, finds Tyler’s body. She uses her newfound powers to resurrect him, but her magic has unintended consequences: Shauna’s body has been warped by the spell, and Tyler is both alive and not-alive, capable of being seen by only Shauna. After being captured and questioned by the authorities, Shauna learns that the fire is really the fault of Katherine and Mike, and that they’ve told the government about her powers.
So begins the centuries of war between Shauna & her followers and the US government, aided by Mike and Katherine’s organizations and descendants. Both victory and defeat come and go, and Shauna, once a powerful and forceful leader, becomes disgusted by the fallibility of humans; eventually she descends into a sort of stasis, visited only by Tyler every century or so. She realizes, however, that Tyler is not quite Tyler, but also Oren, and that there may be a way to end this seemingly endless cycle of pain and suffering. When she finally realizes that way, however, Oren reappears, and reveals to Shauna that none of this has been real; he’s put her through a simulation of sorts, letting her live his life by making her own choices. Shauna is furious, but eventually tells Oren her solution: he’s the stopper between this world and the one of Ainorem, and things will be out of balance unless he’s removed, and dies. He agrees, but corrects her: things will be out of balance unless Shauna kills him.
- “When you give them your truth, they will betray you.” “They will not!” I love how, even after all this time (during which everyone and everything was doing their best to make Shauna doubt her past experiences and relationships), Shauna still has faith in her friends, both those from Boston and those from Laundi. This is Good Sign #1.
- I LOVE Shauna’s dad. He’s got, like, a grand total of 5 lines, but he hits them perfectly.
- 5:45 AM is LATE? Dear lord, no wonder Mike’s desperate to get Shauna to chill out a little, she’s making everyone else look bad.
- “I had the weirdest dream!” Okay, you guys don’t know how much I FLIPPED OUT when I first heard this scene before the credits. At this point, we’ve been waiting desperately to find out what happened with Shauna and Oren, and then we’re mysteriously dropped back in our world? Of course it all pieces together pretty quickly, but there’s this wonderful moment of utter confusion for the audience.
- It’s really jarring to hear Mike and Katherine be as cruel to one another as they are here. They’ve come a long way since their pre-Laundi days, but this is, honesty, probably how Shauna remembers them best – after all, she wasn’t around for that intervening year, or for their journey to find her. Hell, her clearest, most recent memory of Mike and Katherine (barring the fact that this is a dream and she can’t really remember her time in Laundi during this episode) is probably them blowing up at one another during Civil War.
- “Sweet Ainorem, you two have not changed at all!” I sort of love how Shauna’s experiences in Amarand have been so influential on her that even Oren’s manipulating this whole dream can’t keep it all out.
- “It ended just as someone I cared about was dying…” This brings up a good question: what exactly constituted Shauna’s dream? Was it all of Shauna’s personal experiences in Amarand, or was it more than that? Particularly, did she “dream” the sequence that we the audience heard at the end of Conspiracy of Silence? Because if she did, then the last thing she “saw” before waking up was the executioner coming to meet Porec…and the fact that she can’t remember that is heartbreaking.
- One of the most interesting things about this episode is trying to figure out just what Oren is influencing. Obviously the second half is entirely sculpted by his own experiences, but the first half? Now that’s what makes me wonder. We get to listen to a full conversation between Shauna, Katherine, and Mike…but while Shauna is real, Katherine and Mike aren’t actually there. So…what are they, exactly? Are they Shauna’s perceptions of her friends? Oren’s interpretation of Shauna’s perception of her friends? Or just a blatant copy/paste of Teren and Veli, just wearing different faces? I’ll come back to this later, but just for right now, trying to figure out who and what Mike and Katherine are is fascinating enough.
- Okay, after listening to everything that went down in the series finale, hearing Oren talk about picking up a pizza is possibly the most surreal thing ever.
- Ugh, Shauna and Katherine joking around and being relaxed around one another, how I’ve MISSED YOU.
- Katherine and Mike arguing about dreams accomplishes two things here, both of which are awesome: first, as the inimitable stephensmat pointed out, there really is no better way of pointing out character development than by looking back at where they started, and dang have these two come a long way. Second, it helps illustrate those intrinsic character traits that are going to come in very handy in the near future; Katherine’s ability to analyze is so sharp it can almost be used as a weapon, and even dream!Mike is so blunt that when he manages to pick up on the fact that Oren is kind of weird, he just blurts it out.
- As depressing as the fire scene is (and OH GOD, is Shauna’s voice heart wrenching here), the Foley is gorgeous. The combination of fire and sirens and the crowd is just perfect.
- Aaaaand Shauna tricking Mike into letting her go so she can run to her family completes our “Lynchpin Characteristics of our Heroes” triptych.
- I find it rather interesting that, despite the fact that he’s controlling the ultimate course of her dream, Oren still gives Shauna the choice of whether she wants to use her magic to bring back Tyler or not. I suppose that ultimately that was the key choice in this whole scenario he runs her through: if Shauna wasn’t the type of person who would do whatever she could for her family, (SPOILER) then she isn’t similar enough to Oren to approximate what he would do, rendering her ultimately useless to figuring out his dilemma.
- Dear lord, the moment when the resurrected Tyler starts screaming is TERRIFYING.
- Julia, if this whole “being awesome at acting” thing doesn’t pan out, I suspect you could have a solid future in being a reporter!
- “Her pain is our pain” Listening to how Oren couches this phrase, it makes me wonder about Oren’s teachings, and how they morphed over the years. This phrase is, at its heart, about empathy, about understanding and feeling what others do, and helping them because of it. Oren uses it to describe a community’s support of one struck by tragedy…but as the episode goes on, this phrase comes to mean that less and less. We don’t know too much about Oren’s actual teachings; all we’ve heard are the Parable of Kenel and certain tidbits espoused by Porec. So what were they originally, and how exactly did they morph into the Legion as it is now (i.e. an organization that’s not really all that into empathy)?
- “Look: for all we know your freaky powers did this” … “You look…well…really bad, honestly.” This is the point at which I honestly start wondering how much Oren is influencing what dream!Katherine and Mike are saying. I look at it this way: during Season 1, the Boston Trio is more on the outs with one another than they’ve ever been before…and yet, when everything goes wrong, Mike and Katherine do not, will not, cannot give up on Shauna. Here, though…they’re willing to give up Shauna to free themselves. They’re cruel, even…and I can’t believe that from these two, not even from their pre-Laundi days. Whatever else these three are, they aren’t “just coworkers”. Shauna is the one person who Mike can be his nerdy-but-true self around. She’s Katherine’s one true friend. Could they make the mistakes that led to this catastrophe? Yes. Would they deny their involvement in this tragedy, snap at being implicated? Very possibly. But would they throw Shauna under the bus like they’re doing here? I don’t think they could.
- I’ll just say it once, but I want to note how pitch-perfect all of these little intervening news segments are. It’s fascinating to essentially see how the past near-millennium of Amarand’s history plays out in our very different, very American culture.
- Of course Katherine would take something amazing and new and magical and find some way to study it, while Mike sets up a business around it!
- Hmmm…there can’t really be a 1-to-1 comparison between the Legion & University and O.D.I. and the US government, can there? It comes very, very close, and by the end it’s probably an apt comparison, but at the beginning it’s a little different, if only because, unlike University, the US was a pre-established system into which the O.D.I. intruded.
- I find what Shauna has to say about Mike/Katherine/the US government’s use of magic very interesting, especially if what she’s saying mirrors Oren’s views. From her perspective, O.D.I.’s opposition abuses Aether by allowing only the rich, elite, and politically powerful to access it (I can’t stop thinking about that repeated line from the Father Fox story: “You have not been deemed worthy…”). But as we learned from Targonane, University has a similar stance from the opposite perspective: that power given to those without sacrifice or training results in despots and dictators, which is what they view Oren as. And are either of them really wrong? I can’t say that they are.
- “We will hold to our ways, no matter the price!” Hmm, now this sounds familiar. Let this be a note to all: when two forces in opposition to one another both refuse to change their ways or compromise, NOTHING GETS FIXED.
- “You have become the visionary your people need! Do not dull yourself with sedatives…” This made kind of a weird question pop into my mind: how “human” does Oren consider himself? We see here that the 40-year-old Shauna wants to sleep, and possibly do other “normal” things…but how concerned was Oren? Does he even consider himself a human being anymore, or something else? And if he does consider himself different, does Shauna, particularly when she gets further down the line?
- Okay, the Digital Newscast is such a delightful send-up of Keith Olbermann, I kind of adore it.
- It takes Shauna under 200 years to figure out that “Tyler” is actually a strange amalgamation of her brother and Oren – and not only that, but she remembers that Oren was a figure from the world she “dreamed” of. This means that, on some level, (SPOILER) she’s aware of how a figure from another world is influencing her own life: one more way in which she is massively different from Oren.
- Hmmm… “Robert Geist”, huh? Wonder if that has ANYTHING to do with Katherine…
- Have I talked about how great Becki is in this episode? Because I should. The scene where she starts screaming at her terrified little follower is really quite dissettling, particularly considering how hesitant the real world Shauna is to incite conflict on her own behalf.
- (SPOILER) Oren really, really should have paid attention to the fact that Shauna refused to take the life energy of others. Protip: If she’s willing to stand up to you and refuse to take the lives of a few volunteers, she might just take issue with you trying to force her to kill you.
- Is the reopening of a war-torn New York a parallel to the Highlands the party passes through in the next episode? That’s the closest comparison I could think of, though “pastoral beauty” is not really something I associate with Manhattan.
- Sign #2 that maybe Oren shouldn’t be putting all his eggs in this particular basket: Shauna freely admits that, while she may have briefly pondered it, she’s not willing to choose a course of action that will condemn the human race to destruction. When she referred to returning to Eden, I get the distinct sense that “resetting the world” does not mean eliminating everything in it - something that may happen if Oren gets his way.
- “Many fear that the annihilation of the human race is eminent.” I think it’s hard for me to understand sometimes why the Legion and University despise each other so. I mean, I live in a place where the worst fighting between people in power occurs politically, not physically; violence occurs in my everyday life, yes, but on a small scale, not between armies. That’s not the case in Amarand. For nearly the past 1000 years, all Baelans either experienced or knew someone who experienced wholesale war and bloodshed, without end. This is, literally, all they’ve ever known. It takes a TV news anchor, though, to help clarify this point for me.
- Of all the things revealed when Oren decides to let Shauna in on his simulation, I think the thing that hit me the hardest was the fact that the Herald was his mother. Even without knowing what she really is, the dynamic between the two of them (particularly her urging him to take the life energy of his followers) is very, very creepy.
- “She is a thing of the mind, the purest essence of Odi and my love for poor, dear Sonsa.” 900 years, and Oren still hasn’t realized something very important: if he could descend into the mind of a person from another world and influence her choices, (SPOILER) who’s to say that that couldn’t happen to him?
- “…No! The hell I’m telling you!” SHAUNA, I LOVE YOU SO VERY, VERY MUCH. Seriously, Oren’s constant referring to Shauna as his tool skeeves me out so bad (on purpose, I imagine), so the fact that she is having none of this makes my day.
- “Your solution is the same as mine for we are the same!” Well, not exactly the same, Oren…and that’s going to prove to be your downfall.