In the thirteenth and final episode of Serial Experiments Lain, Lain makes a decision in order to fix what she has wrought. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Serial Experiments Lain.
What a journey! Look, I think it’s pretty clear that I’ve not watched a stranger, more challenging show for Mark Watches than this one. The avant garde nature of Serial Experiments Lain left it impenetrable at some points, but I found the ending perhaps the clearest (and most fulfilling) part of the story. The question of which world was “real” seems almost silly now because that’s not even really the point. In the end, Lain had to make a choice: which world would she make real? What world would the others get? That decision is at the center of “Ego,” which features Lain arguing with herself about what role she should play in the Wired and in the outside world. In that sense, I’d say this is probably the most literal episode of the bunch. What would be an internal monologue in most shows is an actuality here.
Why? Because it has to be. That’s the case for the closure that Alice needs as a character, as well as the natural direction that Lain’s story must take. After witnessing the horrifying transformation of Masami Eiri, Alice is traumatized. RIGHTLY SO. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS SHOW. But it goes beyond that scene: Alice breaks down because of the whole experience. Even if she doesn’t quite understand what’s occurred, she was still gravely affected by Lain and her actions within the Wired. From her perspective, Lain has harmed her over and over again. So Lain has a very strong response to that, one that acknowledged that despite that she had the best of intentions, SHE STILL MESSED UP. I really do think Lain was shown to be caring and loving towards Alice in her own way, but that doesn’t negate the awfulness of Alice’s experience, you know?
Thus, Lain makes a chilling decision: to erase herself from existence and live solely in the Wired. Now, it’s obvious that at first, Lain doesn’t even know if that counts as living. Who is she if she is not remembered? Who is she if human memory does not contain a record of her except maybe in the subconscious minds of those she interacted with? There are brief moments where Alice and Yasuo each seem to experience a flash of Lain, but they’re gone as quickly as they came. Lain is then an outsider, which is a heartbreaking conclusion for her. She started out the series as being lonely, and she’s now ended it in an even more isolated place. (There’s that unnerving shot of her in an abandoned city, and I STILL GET FUCKED UP ABOUT THAT.)
I’d call “Ego” more bittersweet than anything else, though. Sure, it is sad to see Lain interacting with the world in a limited capacity. But I love that she argues with her other self in order to NOT become a god again. I love that she has a slight presence in the world, but not in a way that is invasive or upsetting. That scene where she appears to Alice is kind, and Lain resists the chance to do anything more to identify who she is, despite that Alice has a lingering sensation that she knows her. Thus, the ending to Serial Experiments Lain is fascinating because of how it plays with the concept of deus ex machina. As the literal God in the machine, Lain swoops in and deletes herself in order to save the story. In doing so, however, she also decides to never be that same god ever again. For a show that’s played with a ton of tropes, which turned storytelling on its head to explore identity and existence, it feels like a fitting conclusion. I can’t say that I understand everything that I watched over the course of these thirteen episodes, but I enjoyed the overarching story and message. This feels complete, as strange as that might seem to say.
WHAT DID Y’ALL GET ME TO WATCH.
The video for “Ego” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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