Ergo Proxy Episode 23: Proxy (Deus Ex Machina)
Welcome to the final episode analysis of Ergo Proxy! I've been working on this for a few months, and although it was fun, I'm also excited to be done. Before I ramble on too much, let's get to the episode synopsis. At the end, I might have a few other notes to add.
Detailed Episode Synopsis
Proxy One seems confident that he will prevail. He also reveals that he's manipulating Daedalus into destroying Romdeau. Re-L leaves Ergo Proxy and Proxy One to face off, promising to be back no matter what. She hurries off to try check on the city, which is rumbling and beginning to literally fall apart.
Rather than fight right away in classic anime style, Ergo Proxy and Proxy One talk for a while. First, Proxy One accuses Ergo of knowing nothing and having no concrete sense of any truth. Ergo replies that he knows his journey with Re-L was necessary for his growth. He wouldn't have returned to Romdeau, seeking his memories, if not for the truths he learned along the way to Mosk. Ergo then demands to know what a proxy truly is, to which One says "Just interpret the name literally. We are the Creators' proxies."
Without explaining what or who the Creators are (yet), Proxy One tells Ergo his story. As the first Proxy, and the most powerful one, he fulfilled his role and revived humanity as the planet began to heal. But once a Proxy fulfills its mission, they became unnecessary and are forgotten by the recovering humanity. Plus, Proxies are really only monsters-- perhaps more like demons. These realizations leads many Proxies into a state of intense loneliness and despair. Ergo bemoans the fact that Proxies were given souls and could suffer, but he seems to understand why they were made with souls. It's because the Creators wanted to be loved by the Proxies, and beings without souls could not be capable of love.
Due to his despair and anger, Proxy One believes the Creators should be punished. The best way to "punish" them is to stop loving them and to rebel against their plans. That's why One has been manipulating everything to undo what he had done. He wanted to destroy humanity, along with other Proxies who would keep them alive. He controlled Raul's desires to make him set off the Rapture Missile. He controlled Daedalus to make him bring down Romdeau's supports. He controlled and manipulated events so that Vincent would feel compelled to kill other Proxies he encountered on his journey.
Then Proxy One says Vincent Law is a fake, an afterimage of himself, who fled everything. Just like Proxy One, Ergo Proxy also despaired. They are the same. But Ergo rejects the notion of being exactly the same as his manipulator. So Ergo and One begin combat. The final fight has begun at last. Meanwhile, Daedalus approaches Re-L and tells her there is no way to save Romdeau. They have been abandoned, and their roles are over. They need only be silent as the battle between gods rages above. Re-L objects, still wanting to do something.
As the two of them talk, Re-L reveals for her whole life, all she really wanted was to be loved by her grandfather. But he didn't love her, and only cared about one day meeting the creator of the city. Daedalus points out that this is a parallel to what happened to Donov. He wanted to be loved by Ergo, but the proxy abandoned Romdeau due to his own despair. And bigger than that, Ergo wanted to be loved by humanity, but they were ultimately going to reject him. The cycle of rejection and abandonment continues on every level: even with Re-L herself. In a certain sense, she abandoned Daedalus, leading him to madness and hatred.
The conversation ends suddenly when the clone of Re-L appears. But she is dressed all in white and is flying with a marvelous pair of wings. Daedalus says that she is called Real now, and that she's finally complete. He celebrates having created a God. Unfortunately, Real flies away, toward Ergo Proxy and the blue skies that are finally opening up. Knowing that blue skies are deadly to Proxies, Daedalus calls out to Real to stop her, but she doesn't listen. As Daedalus quietly wonders why "Re-L" always leaves him, he absent-mindedly steps in a dangerous place. Re-L tries to warn him, but its too late. The boy scientist gets crushed by collapsing rubble from above.
Real/Monad finds Ergo and One fighting above the city. She tries to tell them to stop. Ergo and One both attack, each running the other through with their clawed hands. Proxy One is clearly more hurt than Ergo. He says it was part of his plan to die here, and that the world will now pass to Ergo, who can choose the path he wants to take. As Proxy One dies, Real embraces Ergo, telling him he doesn't have to save a world like this. Proxy One begs Real to stop encouraging Ergo to abandon the world again. But Ergo disappears with Real.
Elsewhere, Pino and Kristeva escape the crumbling dome together. Daedalus is dying in a pile of rubble, but Re-L is with him and holding his hand. While dying, Daedalus explains something about autoreivs. The Cogito virus was part of the Proxy Project. Autoreivs were supposed to start developing souls the way they have. It was supposed to speed up the end of the Proxies once their role was over. I'm not sure how autoreivs developing souls would help get rid of Proxies, but I guess there's parts of this anime I still don't understand. Anyway, Daedalus tells Re-L to run away and gives her the escape route for the city. Before she leaves, Daedaus tells Re-L that she was his favorite.
In the skies together, Ergo and Real consider dying together and leaving the world behind. However, Ergo remembers Re-L and decides not to go through with it. He bids goodbye to Real, who sadly accepts this and flies into the high sky, only to disintegrate. Then Ego goes back inside the crumbling city and sees the dying Proxy One again. Proxy One tells Vincent to keep living, and that his existence will punish the Creators.
Meanwhile, Pino and Kristeva manage to save Re-L from the collapsing city. They detect Vincent's presence not too far away and head toward it. As for Vincent/Ergo, he watches the skies as a bunch of ships appear and descend into the planet. It's the return of the old humanity who fled. Presumably, the ones who created Proxies are on board. Ergo says the real battle begins now, and vows to face this bleak reality with Re-L and the other survivors. He has also embraced his identity now.
"I am Ergo Proxy," he says. "The Proxy of Death."
1) Monad/Real and Daedalus
The clone of Re-L, whom we shall call Real, revealed that she has the consciousness of Monad. Presumably, this was what Monad was like before being driven mad by Ergo's memories. She remembered that she loved Ergo, and wanted to greet the end of the world with him. How is possible that Monad's consciousness is alive? Frankly, we don't know. It's some kind of Proxy magic. But we do know that Real was made from a combination of material from Re-L and Monad's corpse. So while she started out much like a human child, she was bound to grow up to have Proxy powers.
Although Real seemed somewhat attached to Daedalus earlier, she had no issues with leaving him behind once she could fly. This must have hurt the boy scientist very deeply. Speaking of Daedalus, it should now be clear why he was given that name. In Greek Mythology, Daedalus was the father of Icarus. He made wings for himself and his son, but Icarus flew too high and was scorched by the sun. Similarly, Daedalus is like a possessive parent to Real. He literally created her, and he gave her the ability to fly. But Proxies cannot survive in the sunlight, so Real disintegrated. I think Real/Monad knew what she was doing, and intended to die, but this is just speculation.
2) Themes of Abandonment/Loneliness
I sort of went over this in the synopsis, but let me review the cycle of abandonment once more. The old humanity destroyed the Earth with an ecological disaster. This race included "The Creators," the ones who made Proxies and the spaceships. When the Creators left, they abandoned the planet for over a thousand years, leaving the Proxies behind to revive humanity on Earth. Proxy One despaired at his loneliness, which stemmed from feeling abandoned by the Creators. Similarly, Ergo felt terribly alone and disconnected, because now, humanity was leaving the Proxies behind and calling them monsters.
When Ergo left Romdeau and wiped his memories of being a Proxy, the Administrator (Donov Meyer) felt abandoned. The city of Romdeau began to die. Then there was Re-L who always felt lonely, because her grandfather (Donov Mayer) did not love her. She too abandoned Romdeau. In so doing, she abandoned Daedalus, and robbed him of his reason to live. If I had to describe Ergo Proxy in a concise and humorous way, I would call it, "God's Abandonment Issues: The Anime." All throughout the series, abandonment and loneliness have been key themes. It's not just "God" (Ergo Proxy) who acts out of a sense of abandonment, but almost every character's behavior is driven by their loneliness. They have all had a lack of fulfilling love in their lives. Let's see a few examples.
Re-L and Donov have been mentioned already. There's also Iggy, who felt unloved by Re-L because she took him for granted and cared more about Vincent. That's emotional abandonment. Re-L in turn dealt with grief and loneliness after Iggy's death. Even the other Proxies we met on the journey had these issues. Kazkis felt desperate and alone after his lover, Senex, was killed. The Proxy from episode 14 ("Ophelia") was existentially alone because he could only interact with his creations by shapeshifting and acting like one of them. He could never be recognized as his true self. The examples go on and on.
What is the point of these depressive, pervasive themes? Ergo Proxy is ultimately a story about coping with distress-- and in particular, loneliness and abandonment. It's a psychological exploration of those ideas. These melancholy themes of Ergo Proxy have parallels in the real world, too. Many of us humans deal with existential loneliness and the realization that on some level, we will always be alone. Nobody else can ever completely understand, and nothing lasts forever. Abandonment is inevitable as relationships form, break, and reform elsewhere in an endless cycle. Ergo Proxy is heavy on psychology and philosophy, and the point is to make you think. The other point of these sad themes is to lay the groundwork for one of the other most important ideas in the anime: facing reality.
3) Theme of Facing Reality
Besides abandonment and loneliness, the other most critical theme in Ergo Proxy is seeking the truth. This has been explored in many discussions over the course of my episode analyses. As the series progresses, the theme of seeking the truth becomes intertwined with the idea of facing reality. Just finding out the truth isn't enough. You also have to face the implications, and not run away from the truth. Reality is dark and bleak-- in both Ergo Proxy's world and ours-- but we won't solve anything by running away. Ergo had to learn this firsthand. He tried escaping, but finally, he allowed himself to start accepting the world.
There is a brief exchange I like in this final episode. It's when Ergo tells Monad that he isn't going to throw away reality anymore. I'll quote it.
Ergo: "I must no longer forget. It's not about duties or fate. Facing each other, fighting each other, supporting each other, holding each other. We live on."
Monad: "What good is there in that reality? A reality so dark and cold, with such an uncertain future?"
Ergo: "But that is our reality. Even in a world like this, someone is waiting for me."
The last part of the dialogue is key. "Even in a world like this, someone is waiting for me." What is the only thing that makes this bleak reality worth living in? How do we cope with loneliness? At the risk of being incredibly sappy, the answer is clear: human companionship. Humans are social creatures, and that is what saves us. We need each other. Ergo is able to face reality for the first time because he has a strong attachment to Re-L and Pino. They are his found family. There's no single, simple fix to dealing with the depressing world. Still, we can carry on knowing that "someone is waiting."
4) Character Notes
I have just a couple of quick notes to make before closing this section. First of all, Pino had an interesting moment where she realized she was different from the other autoreivs who were awakening. Kristeva assured her she was not so different fundamentally; she simply had other goals and feelings than the others. Speaking of Kristeva, I'm pretty sure she now has Cogito too. Her actions seem too conscious for her to be an un-awakened entourage. She made the decision herself to follow Raul even though he was dying and there was nothing she could do. Then she decided to take care of Pino because it's what Raul would have wanted. It's pretty clear that Kristeva has awakened.
All of surviving characters have come a long way from how they used to be. Ergo/Vincent is now embracing his identity and his memories. Re-L seems happier now that she has companions that care for her. She trusts them completely. Remember how terrible and bitchy she used to be? I'm sure she still has those moments, but now, she's improved her attitude and outlook so much. I love these characters!
References to Language and Theater
The Meaning of Deus ex Machina
Why is this episode called Deus Ex Machina and what does that even mean? Well, the phrase started out in Greek and was carried over into Latin. It roughly translates to "God from the machine." In literature and theater, Deus Ex Machina is a plot mechanism where a significant problem is suddenly and conveniently solved by an unexpected event. Sometimes, people think Deus Ex Machina is always a negative thing, but it can be used intentionally and in good books and plays to bring about the best possible ending.
Now we know what this term is, but why is it the title for Ergo Proxy episode 23? I'm not completely sure. As far as I can tell, there was no Deus Ex Machina that solved the problems for Ergo or the collapsing city of Romdeau. The world is in chaos; in other words, the problems still exist. The only thing I can come up with is the idea that Proxy One's existence was a Deus Ex Machina. If Proxy One wasn't suddeny exposed, the loose ends and mysteries in the plot could not have been answered. While it doesn't solve the whole story, the exposure of Proxy One was the sudden and convenient event needed for the conclusion of Ergo's character arc. It led him to understanding and accepting his identity.
With that, we've come to the end of my episode analyses for Ergo Proxy. This was a great experience for me. I learned so much about the series that I never noticed before. You can expect me to post a general series review for Ergo Proxy soon, as well as maybe an Ergo Proxy MBTI page. Thank you so much to everyone who read these posts. Take care until next time.