Mark Watches ‘Serial Experiments Lain’: Episode 12 – Landscape

In the twelfth and penultimate episode of Serial Experiments Lain, Alice helps Lain realize what she’s become. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Serial Experiments Lain.

I’ve given up on the idea that Serial Experiments Lain will ever spell things out for me, and that’s perfectly fine. This show is deliberately avant garde at times, and while it may be frustrating, I’ve got a grasp on the basic meaning of this show and Lain’s struggle. In the end, I’ll think I’ll accept the main premise: that Lain (and, by extension, the rest of the world) all truly exist within the Wired and that their bodies are not really necessary to survive, at least not in the way that Eiri insists. The rebellion, then, comes directly from Alice, WHO HAS RAPIDLY BECOME MY FAVORITE CHARACTER ON THIS SHOW. Alice, who saw the potential and still tried to be friends with Lain. Alice, who was hurt by the rumors spread by “Lain” AND STILL SOUGHT LAIN OUT TO TRY AND FIND OUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED. Alice, who comforted Lain when no one else would. ALICE, WHO IS LITERALLY THE KEY THAT UNLOCKS LAIN’S ACCEPTANCE OF HER HUMAN BODY.

I just… suddenly have more feelings about Alice than I know what to do with??? That’s such an amazing thing to experience, y’all, especially since I thought that these side characters would remain that way. BUT NOPE. And even from a storytelling perspective, that’s a lot of fun. A smaller character who only occasionally affected the plot is now the main impetus for it. BRILLIANT. EXCITING. UNEXPECTED.

Let me back up, though, because I don’t want to miss out on commenting on the Dudes in Black Suits. (I suppose I could also call them Men In Black but that reminds me of other things. Maybe that’s intentional?)  By the end of this episode, I don’t actually know who they worked for. I always assumed it was Tachibana Labs, and I guess I have no reason to question that. But what was their purpose? To merely monitor Lain and ensure that she breaks down the boundary between the Wired and the world? If that’s the case, then why did someone and let them off the case? Were they certain Lain was about to complete her transformation, so much so that they sent those two men away? And who killed them? See, I can believe that Lain did it as she prepared to open the gates on the Wired, so to speak. But Eiri could have manufactured it, too, given that he had the power to manifest an image similar to Lain.

SO WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR IT? Does that even matter? In the end, I’m not so sure. The Dudes in Black Suits are gone, killed by some sort of subconscious invasion of Lain. Or “Lain.” I DON’T KNOW. With them out of the way, Lain has no obstacles left. All she has to do is break down the barrier. By the time Alice arrives, she’s pretty much ready to do it. In terms of how this is portrayed, I did appreciate that the show made this transformation so physical. Not only did Lain’s room change, and not only is she covered in wires and cables, but there’s an exhaustion to this process that feels palpable to the viewer. You really do get the sense that she’s so tired that she’ll go through with this just so she can rest and give up her physical body.

But there’s a deeper theme to this than just the limitations of the human body. Throughout Serial Experiments Lain, there’s a persistent theme of loneliness and isolation, one that’s temporarily negated by the existence of the Wired. Sort of. The Wired was never a bad thing all by itself, and indeed, there were multiple moments where the viewer got to appreciate the connections made by others online. However, Lain found a connection and then isolated herself further afterwards. The image of her alone, drowning in cables as Alice calls after her, is horrifying, especially after Alice wanders around the decaying Iwakura household. (AND WHAT AN AMAZING IMAGE THAT IS. It’s such an amazing thing to witness! Lain’s family “died,” so her home rots around her. HELP.)

Thus, it’s significant that Alice more or less brings her back to life. In the final moments of this episode (which are an UNENDING NIGHTMARE, OH MY GOD), Eiri is enraged by what Alice has helped Lain realize. Now, there’s lots of affectionate touching before this point (WHEW LORD, THERE COME THOSE FEELINGS AGAIN), and I nearly exploded after Alice did that whole thing with the heartbeats. A+, WILL WATCH AGAIN. Yet I was not ready for Eiri’s reaction. WHAT LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR DID HE TURN INTO? Let us also appreciate that Eiri is crushed by the very technology he used to gain power. HOW IRONIC.

Is this resolved? Not even close, I’d say, and I still need to know if Eiri is dead or merely incapacitated. And what of Lain? Does she choose to remain in her body or do something else? HOW IS THERE ONLY ONE EPISODE LEFT?

The video for “Landscape” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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