Have you seen ERGO PROXY? If so, can you tell me what it’s about? Having watched twelve of twenty-three episodes, I’m halfway through the show and still a little hazy about that.
But let me tell you, I’m not mad. You see, this is one of those shows that manages to be obtuse without being obnoxious. And I know I’m not alone in thinking so; rather, I’m right on track. I’ve come to the conclusion that the mystery is actually the entire point of the program, my confidence buoyed by the fact that the team at Manglobe saw fit to stage the eleventh episode entirely within the mind of show’s co-lead, Vincent Law. Turns out he doesn’t quite get it either.
As far as being along for the ride goes, there are worse rides out there to get strapped into. Here is what I do know about ERGO PROXY...
In this future, a global disaster has caused the death of the majority of mankind. The bulk of what’s left of the human race resides within high-tech domed cities run by know-it-all authoritarian regimes. Citizens are aided by AutoReivs, high-tech androids who do double-duty, providing both military might and domestic companionship.
Our first lead is Re-L Mayer, granddaughter of the city of Romdeau’s uppermost political leader, the Regent. Re-L, aided by her robot butler Iggy, acts as one of the few cynics in a realm of believers. She's been tasked with solving a recent rash of AutoReiv-related crimes resulting from a spreading android infection known as the Cogito virus (which causes AutoReivs to awaken and act like full-fledged humans.) Our other lead Vincent is a would-be citizen who has travelled to Romdeau from the far-away city of Mosk and been assigned the same detail as Re-L.
But, wouldn’t you know... things are not what they seem!
Early on, Re-L is visited by a superhuman being known as a Proxy who appears to be connected (in some way) to Vincent. Together, they all fall under the close scrutiny of the bureaucratic leadership of Romdeau. Not only is Vincent the key to the AutoReiv murders, he might also be connected to something bigger.
What is a Proxy, and what is its purpose? And while we’re at it - - what are any of our purposes? Nothing makes you consider the meaning of it all like peering over the edge of your walled city into the vast, garbage-filled abyss that was once life on Earth.
While the most interesting questions don’t always have answers, that doesn’t stop the characters and creators of ERGO PROXY from trying to fill in the blanks (which are abundant). Exploration of the outer world surrounding Romdeau, as well as the inner world of Vincent’s complicated psyche, provides plenty of discoveries to keep the series moving. And the plot, while deserving of terms like “plodding” and “methodical,” has abundant room for characters to wonder aloud about big ideas and occasionally even act on them.
Yes, monstrous beings occasionally clash, and shots are sporadically fired from futuristic sidearms, but ERGO PROXY is not the noirish detective series it plays itself as in the first few episodes. Action and adventuring takes a fast and definitive backseat to philosophical discussion; the likes of which even includes a talkative four-headed statue named after the philosophers Berkeley, Derrida, Husserl, and Lacan.
As a vehicle for heady postmodern philosophy, ERGO PROXY’s visuals are appropriately muted and austere, providing ample opportunity for the type of well-orchestrated rebellion we can really root for. Romdeau is a bleak place - - heavy on metallic tones and creeping shadows - - and the people who live there dress simply and emote with subtlety.
Meanwhile, Re-L’s bright blue eye-makeup screams for her sense of individuality, and Vincent’s red, high-collared coat (not to mention amnesia) calls to mind a descendent of Vash the Stampede. As the show progresses, sepia tones give way to a brighter palette - - but only slightly - - and the fights are straightforward and short.
Though I don’t know the solutions to the mysteries of ERGO PROXY, I’d like to - - regardless of my doubts that they’ll ever arrive. That’s not a negative judgement of this show, by the way. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There is value in the process of seeking answers and, in this case, the journey is gratifying no matter what destination awaits.
Specto ergo sum. I watch, therefore I am.
Alexei Bochenek is a lifelong tech nerd and film buff based in Los Angeles. He writes for various online publications and edits the Los Angeles events website LALookout.com. Follow his Twitter: @alexeigb.