So lucky are we, that words like “Parenthood,” and “Transparent,” have the root word of ‘parent,’ because otherwise our lives would be that much more wanting for puns. In this case, ‘transparent’ refers to invisibility, and the fact of being there, to use an earlier title.
We begin in Berlin, where according to Batou, life and decay are juxtaposed. The city was the target of bombings in both recent wars, but it’s slowly getting back on its feet as the capitol of the country. It’s snowy and cold for now however, just tired and depressed — but not without its beauty.
A dog is barking at a storefront, but is actually noticing a camouflaged Batou. Hm. No matter how advanced, the dog’s still got that primal sense of smell. Another juxtaposition. The Major radios in to yell at him: keep screwing around and you’ll regret it. She’s all business this episode, on a long-term surveillance op in Germany, but Batou doesn’t feel the same way.
A flashback to the conference reveals that international police officers have been summoned to hunt down a terrorist called “Angel’s Feathers,” who goes around blowing up summit buildings, which rains shards of glass down on the people below. The Major sits next to Batou to explain that she had a direct flight after stopping off in Hong Kong. It’s very nonchalant, and so I must assume that any time a Section 9 member mentions in passing that they’ve gone someplace, a great adventure has taken place.
This guy Angelica (a girl’s name, for sure) has the highest death toll in a single bombing, and we look at an attack from the vantage of a home video, something most recently experienced in the Boston Marathon bombing — that cell phone video looped continuously on the news for days. Very eerie. They’ve probably gathered officers from different countries so they could each get credit for this international criminal. The Major was recommended by name, and she suspects by the CIS. Maybe they’re thinking she’ll be killed.
Angelica’s whole thing is that he swaps into new bodies, but a prosthetic body doctor once saw the external memories of his terrorist acts, and contacted the police after deciding between professional and moral conflict. So they have him now, but only for a short time: he stops by in Berlin for a few days before an attack, as he had before hitting Moscow and Paris. Once he’s gone though, he’s gone for another year. This is it.
Batou in the cold winter once again spots a little girl dressed in red, in a wheelchair. There she is again. What’s she doing here? She looks up at the great angel status he’s sitting atop. Can she see me? HQ checks in, and each officer reports no sign of target. One way or another, this op will end in two days.
The next day Batou is reading a paper, is amused by a cartoon: ‘invisible monsters spotted all around Berlin.’ Looks like he’s not the only one bored around here. He’s less amused by another story, the one about Dejima declaring itself an autonomous region. Things are brewing back at home. He dips the paper and notices the girl again, staring at him. Jeez. Does she recognize me from last night?
He follows her to a church, where she prays and asks the Angel why her papa won’t come back. It’s been two weeks since his last email. Batou jumps down into the church — silently. Bull – shit. I don’t buy that for a second. He would’ve landed with a crater. And appropriately, the little girl is suddenly alert. I can feel him near me. Who’s there? Batou’s still wondering: Are her senses really that sharp?
She returns to her residence in a nursing home. The wheelchair slowly climbs the cold wooden stairs. Her blank, unfeeling eyes reflecting the bleakness of the situation. She looks out at the angel statue, and thinks that papa will come home with a new prosthetic body. Batou looks at her computer, sees that her emails are audio files. He then goes through her diary. Sorry kid. Whoa — bad handwriting. The dates of when she visited Papa match the Berlin visits of Angel’s Feathers. They have a secret password for when she doesn’t recognize the new prosthetic body: she’ll ask, ‘what’s the angel planning to do today?’ and he’ll answer about raining down feathers. Talk about mixing home life and work.
Batou forgoes phoning the Major. HQ checks in again, and asks why Batou has changed locations. He makes up an excuse about the dogs. The Major, elsewhere, is suspicious, as she has been from the start. Sometimes you just have to wrangle a Batou. And that’s really what makes a great protagonist — she always knows at least as much as we do. So if this story is from another character’s perspective, she’ll also keep appraised of it.
Angelica comes into the church, with a present. Batou, invisible, steps in behind him. “You trying to repent for the innocent lives you’ve taken?” I’d say it’s cheap he’s using invisibility while wrestling the guy to the ground, but this is more about securing a highly dangerous suspect, rather than having a fair fight. Angelica tries to deny it, but Batou tells him we’ve got the intel to prove it. That’s really what the future of law enforcement will look like: proving identities before proving guilt.
“You think you can be a terrorist, and a regular old dad? Those places you blew up had mothers and daughters too.” He criticizes him further, citing his selfish ideology. “You’ll never see your daughter again, in this life or the next.” Angelica asks for a favor — give this package to her. Batou goes for it, as we suspect he will, and the terrorist strikes with an arm-shotgun. Batou ducks, and he blows out a stain-glass window.
The Major comes in and disables him for real, puts the cyber-cuffs on him — that weird plug thing that goes in the neck ports, which the first Stand Alone Complex book refers to as a ‘cyberbrain lock.’ She yells at Batou once more — you got sloppy. Batou’s sullen resignation to the truth. I know. How did you find me?
She says that she couldn’t use a ghost infiltration key like she had on that dum-dum Togusa, so she hacked his opticals. But… when? Well, if you’d been on the ball from the start you would’ve spotted the infiltration. As soon as they collect this guy the op is over. We’re going back to Japan, she declares, like a stern parent.
Just then, the girl comes in. Batou finally understands that she couldn’t have seen him all those instances, because she’s blind. “Papa, you’re there, aren’t you?” How awkward. Angelica is twisted and broken at the Major’s feet. “What’s the Angel planning to do today?” The music swells. She reaches out to Batou, begins to smile. “The angel…” he says, “isn’t planning to go anywhere.”
We rack focus from a stoic Batou to the angel painting behind him.
There’s the element of invisibility, and blindness. There’s a certain truth in the matrix of our cyborgs’ reality, that people are really there, that they are their true selves, and a child can tell. It’s innocence.
In a sense, we now have a repeat of “Red Data,” which was a story about mother and child, for all its sexual confusedness. Here we have another story about parenthood, but it’s Batou and a young girl. Despite his humanity (he never surprises himself with his emotional response), he doesn’t end up becoming a surrogate parent, even for a moment.
But he is emotionally involved, which is why his having to pull back at a critical moment is so unfortunate. This is his job, it’s how it works, as established prior in several episodes like this. Only, the key here is the theme running throughout the season — a more intimate look at terrorism. Although this has nothing to do with Batou shooting the face off of a little girl earlier, it does have something to do with the ripple effects of a terrorist’s lifestyle.
This little girl, blind for maximum audience sympathy, is without a father, and we get an extended glimpse of the hole left in her life. Only a monster would leave this person behind, and that inhumanity is briefly transferred onto Batou, when he has to momentarily play the part. Between terrorists and counterterrorists, morality is precious commodity.
So even though this episode, plot-wise, might feel like a non-sequitor, thematically it’s the perfect setup for where we’re headed: choppy waters. Kuze is a terrorist, right? In America, terrorist is one of the few things we all agree on. So let’s see how it plays out.