I’ve reached a dilemma about The Big O. Is Beck the worst character in the show, or is he a victim of its truncated 13-episode run?
I realize with this post I’m going to be writing about another thing wrong with this show. To be honest though, there is so much good about all of these episodes, but the strongest thing about this show is just how consistent it is. Normally, a show will slip up, or have an off-episode, but every episode has been well structured, had a brilliant use of music and tells a compelling story.
I even shed a tear or two for a couple of these stories, which is downright amazing for a show that is episodic and only has 22 minutes to tell a story.
All of this is a lead in to say that episode 9, Beck Comes Back, and Beck, in particular really bug me.
A short description of Beck Comes Back
For the people who don’t remember, Beck was a character from the first two episodes. He was the goofy criminal whose men were responsible for killing the elder Waynewright.
Roger Smith fought them twice as they piloted a giant robot. At the time, I figured they skated by Paradigm’s City’s commandment because they weren’t directly trying to plumb the city’s past. They were using someone else’s research.
(Note: For the random person who hasn’t been following along, the city’s one rule is: Don’t pursue the past unless you are given it to make a better future.)
Maybe I should have thought about it Beck in those early episodes. It seemed really easy to say that prison was his punishment. But this episode opens up with Beck being saved from his jail cell by a large robot. I want to note that all giant robots in this show are something that comes from before Paradigm City’s residents lost their memories. Either it’s born from a “memory” or it was from the before times.
Like I said, this show has been remarkably consistent.
Now that Beck is free, he then comes up with a kidnapping scheme. He grabs a rich guy’s son and collects the ransom. When Roger is called in to negotiate, Beck learns about it and comes up with a plan to set up the negotiator.
He arrives at a home where he is framed for the kidnapping. Roger escapes the police and hunts down Beck at his secret lair.
Here is where we get to the second issue. During their fight, Beck uses what seems to be a second piece of lost technology — a control circuit designed specifically by Beck. The last time we saw one of these, there was some ambiguity about who made the circuit, so it could have easily been Waynewright (who already paid for his sin by this time.)
To zoom through the rest of the episode, Roger beats Beck and dumps him off. At this point Beck’s sins have gone past just dumping off level. We’ve literally seen people gunned down for funding research into lost technology in the last episode. This goes way beyond that.
So what’s going on here? Why does Beck get a break the rules? What am I not seeing?
A fool or a blond-haired foreigner?
When I first started thinking about this, I was angry. Here was a show that did a lot of things right, and it was undermining everything it set up. Why?
I could only think it had to be for a laugh. Beck, for as sinister as he can be, is by nature a silly character. His robot is a goofy rip off of a Go Nagai design. He seemed to a cheeseball villian that we aren’t supposed to take seriously.
So what did that leave? Was there some sort of weird St. Christopher effect. Are the gods of Paradigm City so unjust that an old man, who only wanted his daughter back, can be gunned down in cold blood, but fools and children were safe. I didn’t want to believe that, and it felt cheap.
I’m still not entirely convinced that is wrong. It’s not a particularly strong episode, and I was ready to set it aside as just a mistake made in the rush to produce a weekly show in the late 90s.
There is another explanation though.
We do see one other type of person that isn’t punished for indulging or chasing the past — people who aren’t from Paradigm City.
Angel, in previous episodes, and the mysterious woman in episode 11 share one feature. They both of blonde hair. Outside of Beck, they’re the only characters in the show with blonde hair.
The Big O could have easily been the 26-episode series, but I don’t think it is. Sure there is a second season, but it’s mainly like someone took LSD and then wrote a fanfic of The Big O. I haven’t seen it in a long time, but what I remember of it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Otherwise known as written by Chiaki Konaka.)
So we have what is effectively a 13-episode series, that could have been a 26-episode series. This episode could have been setting up a bigger revelation. Beck is some sort of criminal element who sneaked into the city. He, like Angel, is a foreigner with a pass on Paradigm City’s rules. This would have been a brilliant way to do it.
Now we get back to my dilemma. Is Beck Comes Back the result of a hectic work schedule, a lazy writer or even corporate interference? Or is it the result of a show that ended too soon?
I don’t know. What do you think?
Thank you for reading.