In the twenty-fourth and final episode of Steins;Gate, Okabe chose hope in the end. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to finish Steins;Gate.Â
Trigger Warning: For brief discussion of depression
We live in dark times. Some days, itâ€™s harder to admit that. I want so badly to cling to hope and optimism becauseâ€”simply putâ€”I am tired. I might open my Twitter app in the morning, scan the news, and feel like I have slipped into another world line. I remember talking to a lot of people in the days after the 2016 election here in the States and getting a sense for how many other folks also experienced this, as if weâ€™d all woken up in a parallel universe with all the rules changed and morphed and twisted. Of course, thatâ€™s not the case, and it is possible to track exactly how we got here. But that also means that, in large part, the world is a depressing, grim place, and there are certainly days when I wish to go back to sleep because Iâ€™m so sad, so lethargic, and so unwilling to find a desire to keep doing.
But I have. Over and over again, and so I come to â€œAchievement Pointâ€ from a very strange place. If this show had been dropped into my life at another point, I am not so sure that I would have liked it. But the last few minutes of this finale gave me something I desperately needed: the belief that it is okay to have hope. Itâ€™s a theme that I didnâ€™t truly grasp until the closing moments, but itâ€™s been seeded throughout the show. Certainly, you can see it in the end of â€œOpen the Steins Gate.â€ Okabeâ€™s elation exists in part because there is the possibility of success before him. He has been given a means to see through to the end, and that end would save everyone. It would preserve the three weeks he experienced, it would stop Dr. Nakabachi from publicizing the existence of time travel research, it would stop the inevitable world decline towards World War III, and it would stop the tragic death of Kurisu. And if thatâ€™s not something to believe in, what is?
Whatâ€™s so striking about this finale is how little cynicism there is. As Okabe sets out into the radio building to thwart Dr. Nakabachi and fake Kurisuâ€™s death, the pieces start falling into place. He makes sure to take the metal Upa so that it cannot save the research; he tells Kurisu he will save her before he goes to hide to do just that. And even before this happens, look at his conversation with Suzuha! He takes her cynicism over possible failure, and he finds the silver lining: she can still live out the rest of her life with the rest of the lab. He believes so fully in the theory that the others can eventually remember the other world lines, too, and itâ€™s so pure. (Perhaps you could argue that his optimism is influenced by the eternal optimism of Mayuri. I particularly like the idea that he becomes more like her as the series progresses: open to new possibilities, optimistic, and willing to view othersâ€™ happiness and joy over his own.) So by the time heâ€™s in that supply closet, heâ€™s ready to believe that heâ€™s going to succeed.Â
I believe thatâ€™s the main reason why he does not freeze up in panic once he discovers a flaw in his plan. The Okabe of the opening of this series is not as confident as this version of himself, and I admire that growth being displayed. He has accepted his mad scientist persona not as a means to help Mayuri deal with grief, but to just be himself. Itâ€™s the most fun weâ€™ve ever seen him have as this character, and it should have been my clue as to what he was going to do about the issue with the lightsaber. See, this persona is built on chaos; everything we saw at the start of this show was meant to convey that Okabe wanted chaos, but he was never able to achieve it. There were too many roadblocks: his own sadness. His loneliness. His massive insecurities. But now, at the end of this journey, he knows who he is. Who he loves. Who he cares about. So when Dr. Nakabachi arrives, Okabe gives up himself to save Kurisuâ€™s life. Itâ€™s an act of selflessness in a very literal sense. He baits Kurisuâ€™s father on purpose, then, after getting stabbed, transforms into Houhouin (I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve spelled that correctly) in order to frighten the professor away. Itâ€™s a BRILLIANT tactic, yâ€™all, and through it, Okabe achieves both of the things he needs to accomplish. Dr. Nakabachi flees with the research, which eventually gets it destroyed, and Okabe now has the means to provide blood to trick his past self. And I was glad that this was portrayed so viscerally, too, since it allowed us to understand just how much pain Okabe put himself in so he could guarantee the right future. I even loved that little moment where he made Suzuha hide the two of them just so they could guarantee that his past self bought the display.Â
And then it all comes together. Yâ€™all, I loved that scene in the time machine as Suzuha and Okabe justâ€¦ I donâ€™t know. Telepathically communicated??? Who cares, they traveled through time, I LOVED IT, LET THEM SPEAK. Itâ€™s such a tender moment, one where Suzuha gets to express her gratitude for Okabe and his sacrifice, and then admits that she wonâ€™t see him againâ€¦ for another seven years. BECAUSE THATâ€™S WHEN SHEâ€™LL BE BORN. And in that timeline, sheâ€™ll not have experienced any of this, right?Â
Well, I have a complicated answer to that. One thing that remains impressive about this finale is its resolution of the conflict and the ramification it has for all these characters. I was so happy Okabe survived because I didnâ€™t expect that. Again, it speaks to the joyous nature of this finale and how readily it rejects cynicism. Okabe got to live, and what does he do with this chance at a relatively normal life? He goes out and he gives every person whose life touched his ownâ€”Feyris, Ruka, Moekaâ€”a badge to make them a member of the laboratory. It is such an immense gesture, one that shows just how much he appreciated these people and how much he wants to keep them in his life.
But I have another theory as to why he did this, part of which is speculation, part of which is supported by the show itself. We see how quickly Okabe leaves the hospital and sets about the city to hand out the badges. But heâ€™s also looking for someone, a person who happens to be looking for him. All Kurisu knew was that a strange man in a lab coat told her that he was going to save her, then tasered her unconscious, and because of that, derailed her fatherâ€™s attempts to steal her research. When the two do finally meet, I expected that they might exchange a few wordsâ€”perhaps she would thank him for saving herâ€”and then theyâ€™d be on their way. Why would their lives need to intersect anymore?
However, Okabe does something very specific: he calls Kurisu â€œChristina.â€ In doing so, it looked very much like he â€œunlockedâ€ the memories she had of the other world lines. She jumped right back into their old bantering, and she remembered. What if that is the purpose of the badges? At the end of â€œAchievement Point,â€ Okabe thinks about how vast and infinite the universe is, and the sheer amount of possibility that inspires is what makes it great. So he vows to do good in the world, andâ€¦ well, what if thatâ€™s what the badges are for? What if he wants these people to remember what they sacrificed? They could see how their choices allowed the world to be repaired, and thatâ€™s a good thing, isnâ€™t it? To know how your actions changed the actual world?
The universe is infinite, which means anything can happen. In the end, I feel like Steins;Gate argues that since this is the case, we should always choose to shift our world toward the better one. Thatâ€™s the beauty of the Steins Gate: we get to choose.
The video for â€œAchievement Pointâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99. Next week, we start our next Mark Watches project: Slings & Arrows!
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