After some scene-setting in London, given all the requisite iconography, we learn that the Chief is visiting for the International Counterterrorism Conference, so buckle in kids, because this one’s gonna be rough.
No, I’m just playin’. Instead, the Major drops him off at an old friend’s, who oddly enough is never named. Let’s call her Susan. Susan’s a former politician, and spends her time now managing wine funds. Wine is a sound investment, because it comes back however many years later at higher price than when it went in. And this ‘went in and back’ refers to a bank, where the wine is stored… or hidden.
Susan’s got a growing concern, that the bank manager is involved with the Mafia. Not sure that British gangsters are called the Mafia, I’m gonna guess that these guys are Russian? Because of Eastern Promises, but you know what? They’re probably Yakuza.
She wants to find who the middle man is, but Aramaki explains that he can’t act out of personal feeling in his use of enormous police power, which would be wrongheaded anyway, because it’s out of his jurisdiction. Susan understands, and before you can say ‘Let’s instead focus on the good ol’ days,’ two thugs break into the bank, take hostages, and start digging up the wine.
It’s a heist story, and there’s something about the structure and electricity to this template, such that we can reframe it as an element and apply it to an existing story. This makes for an unusually, but not unwelcomed, light-hearted tale, despite the issues of organized crime and police corruption.
No coincidence then, that Aramaki is the chief character. We get no word from Batou, off of last week, which is preferred, because sometimes that return to normalcy is just too jarring. Let’s think that he’s taking some time to himself, even if he doesn’t tell Togusa just what’s getting him. The Major is Aramaki’s muscle, assuming that she attended the conference, otherwise playing bodyguard seems a little below her rank (as we’ll see early 2nd Gig).
But if you’re missing the Major by this point, she spends most of the episode in absentia, picking up a gift for the Chief, and later, seducing the world’s dumbest SWAT officer. Why do the police have to be seduced? Well, we learn that these two thugs are trying to break out of the mob, and what better way to do that then ripping them off? In typical fashion, the police are in the mob’s pocket, at which point perhaps Section 9 would step in…
The police are sent to retrieve the ledger, which ties them to the mob, and the captain is told that any collateral damage can be attributed to the raid. It’s a good thing this police captain is a murderous psychopath, and you begin to wonder what came first — his bloodlust, or his connection to organized crime? So Aramaki puts it together and learns that the police are the go-between Susan’s been looking for. Good thing she didn’t figure it out.
The Major buys a corkscrew as a gift, and being in that incredibly still and delicate environment only reinforces the hidden power of this super-cyborg, which apparently is easy to underestimate as we see. She arrives on the scene and is shooed away by the police captain, and the Major misses the Chief’s ability to pull strings. So she has to do things her own way. This aspect of the episode, where both characters have to work independently — we see how resourceful they are without muscle for one and without authority for the other — is the highlight.
The Major calls the BBC, and the press arrive at the bank, effectively keeping the police from using excessive force. This is less the pot calling the kettle black and more an understanding of how those in her field operate. In our year 2014, the police and cameras are an important issue, because there’s a kernel of truth here: this kind of accountability is crucial, though tragically, sometimes there’s nothing keeping racism from its fated end.
Ghost in the Shell is very police-positive, but seems to be more objective outside of Section 9. It’s also mildly xenophobic, so doesn’t hesitate portraying foreign police as corrupt. Or inept — this officer falls for the eldest trick, as the Major bears her cleavage and knocks him out. One wonders why she didn’t just skip to the last step there, but regardless, she gets the uniform and the gas mask — just in time for the raid.
Meanwhile, Aramaki has set various decoys to allow enough time for everyone to escape. He does so in a way that the Major can piece together their hiding spot, which is indeed a place previously established in the story as an area of geography, and of plot point. She says that she should’ve waited a little longer — we notice that Susan’s arms were around Aramaki when the Major lifted the floorboard.
The big bad guy is shown up and arrested, after he’s exhausted his various Scooby-Doo gotcha phrases, and then the Major and Aramaki decide to have a glass of wine back at the hotel, which is perfect because look I bought this corkscrew! Haha! So it’s a very light episode. Nobody died, the good guys win, and everything comes together nicely. Perfect for Christmas Day.
Between those two moments however is the proper denouement to the story, Aramaki and Susan saying good-bye. He’s a bit distant because he noticed the ring on her finger. But Susan hasn’t been married in a while. Still, Aramaki says good-bye. He tells the Major that some relationships are like wine, and need time.
Not the sharing of a near-death experience, no. Well, the Chief didn’t break a sweat in this one, so maybe if this episode was less light-hearted, if it had higher stakes, he’d feel more connected to our poor Susan. But sometimes this is the shape Stand Alone Complex has to take in order to keep going as it is.
And yet, the Tachikomatic Days, which have yet to be mentioned, the episode for this week involves a Tachikoma who gets drunk on natural oil and dies. The ghost flies away going “help meeee!” I don’t know.