In the nineteenth episode of Steins;Gate, Okabe tracks down Moeka in order to undo the effects of the next D-mail message, but OH LORD, this does not go as planned. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Steins;Gate.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of sexual assault, abuse/manipulation, depression, bullying, and suicide
There’s a clear tonal shift between the previous episode and this one, and it’s a jarring thing to experience. It was only in collecting my thoughts for “Endless Apoptosis” that I realized the last episode kind of felt like one of the early ones. It contained a lot more of that slice-of-life style storytelling we saw as the show built up its characters and the world, even if the context of how it happened was different. Here, though, we return to the more intense science fiction thriller of the most recent batch of episodes, and GOOD GOD, this was a lot???
Moeka’s backstory provides the audience with an explanation for how she became a part of the Rounders and why she is so dedicated to the mysterious FB, whose identity is still not revealed by the end of the episode.
What is revealed, though, is that whomever FB is, they knew that Moeka was in pain, that she was contemplating suicide, and that they could take advantage of her in order to make her a compliant member of the Rounders. That’s some straight-up villainous, abusive shit, y’all, and I think it’ll be hard to see FB as anything but an antagonist. How could they exploit someone so vulnerable? How could they manipulate them into a position where they hung on to their every word? How could they just abandon Moeka after everything they had done to them? So, in that sense, I agree with Okabe: Moeka was a means to an end. She was a tool to be used for SERN (still operating under the assumption that SERN plotted all this to go after Okabe and his time machine), and once she was no longer needed, she was cut off.
So, by the time Okabe tracks down Moeka, this was already a volatile situation. Something happened by changing other world lines that left Moeka isolated and ignored. Apparently, FB stopped messaging her? Was the raid on the Lab even going to happen anymore? That’s left ambiguous here. Instead, Okabe finds Moeka in her own apartment, tucked into a corner, frantically texting FB over and over and over again, desperate for any sort of reply. It’s an upsetting image, one I unfortunately recognized: I did something similar when my first boyfriend, who was abusive, finally cut off contact with me. It sucks to realize you’ve developed a dependent relationship, one where you gave more of yourself to the other person than in reverse. But I remember texting and emailing this person way too many times after they broke up with me over MySpace (which both dates me and makes me furious because REALLY), so desperate for contact, for closure, for any explanation of their sudden desire to not have me around.
It took time and distance for me to get away from that, and that’s not something Moeka has at all. It also doesn’t help that Okabe escalates the situation horribly by assaulting Moeka multiple times. He tries to wrestle the phone out of her grip, then punches her and kicks her across the room. I get that he’s furious because he knows she is a spy and he knows that she is the one who has murdered his best friend countless times. And for what? Believe me, I understand his rage, and I also think that this sequence still made me uncomfortable. The forced kissing part was absolutely the worst, and I actually worried while it was happening that I’d be triggered. The way it looked reminded me of my own sexual assault at the hands of a man. Yes, he’s just trying to pass himself off as a sexual partner so he can continue interrogating Moeka, but it doesn’t negate the fact that he still forced himself on her, forced a kiss, and restrained her the entire time. I only kinda felt like the show wanted us to feel like this was deeply fucked up? Sometimes, it’s hard to gauge intent in terms of what a creator was going for, and I don’t know if I perceived this as intense because the show wanted me to recognize this for how fucked up it was, or it’s because I came to the show with my own trauma that I saw reflected in the scene.
I mean, I can’t deny how incredibly suspenseful this episode is. To watch Okabe send so many D-mails, only to have EVERY SINGLE ONE fail to trigger a change in the world line was STRESSFUL. We’d never seen that happen before on this scale! WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING. Then, Okabe realizes that Moeka sent more messages after the one he assumed was the sole D-mail, and the impossibility of this situation looms in front of him. None of the D-mails will be believable to Moeka unless FB sends them. Thus, we’ve got what I assume the next episode will be about. Okabe has to find FB in order to undo Moeka’s email. Or does he? Moeka gives up the location of the IBN 5100, so does he even need to do anything else at this point if he succeeds in getting it back? I DON’T KNOW, Y’ALL. This is a tad confusing, but I’m guessing it’s supposed to be. I still don’t have a theory as to who FB is, either. There’s no one by those initials on the whole show. AHHHH I FEEL LIKE IT IS OBVIOUS AND YOU’RE ALL LAUGHING AT ME.
The video for “Endless Apoptosis” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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