In the twentieth episode of Monster, Dr. Tenma and Dieter hitch a ride with a kind elderly couple who are harboring a secret of their own. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.
Y’all, it’s just so astounding to me how this show finds so many ways to deepen its storytelling, and it does so with the people who cross paths with the main plot. As I think about “Journey to Freiham” more, I realize how there’s a deliberate parallel here with Dr. Tenma. Two characters—whose appearance tells one story—are on the road in Germany, motivated by someone else who committed a terrible, terrible crime. This crime challenged their notion of right and wrong and upended their whole life. The context and the details are radically different, of course, but this episode forces an uncomfortable notion upon us: How many of us struggle with good and evil on a daily basis? How frequently do we wrestle with thorny and complicated issues like this, unable to talk to the people in our lives about it all?
Because, once again, the surface is rarely the truth in Monster. This couple, who remain unnamed throughout the episode, seem so ordinary! The wife is optimistic, kind, and eager to make others happy. Her husband is grumpy and stubborn, and they are a stereotype down to the bone. The wife was exactly the kind of person who would see someone like Tenma and Dieter on the side of the road and want to pick them up. There is an overwhelming willingness on her part to want to help others here, and I don’t think the show is trying to say there’s anything wrong with that. Rather, she is approaching the moral question at the heart of “Journey to Freiham” in a manner that’s very different from her husband. She judges these people on the side of the road immediately, and then she trusts them. Without hesitation!
And isn’t that exactly the sort of journey her husband is on? In the initial scenes in the car, we find out that the husband is a retired police officer, and we watch him as he judges and analyzes and categorizes Dr. Tenma. Why is he worthy of suspicion? Well, for someone like this man, this is just what he does. (This is very reminiscent of some of what I’m reading in Snuff over on Mark Reads.) Of course, it’s a clever way to build tension. Will the man notice the oddness of these two strangers? Was he going to continue to interrogate Tenma or Dieter and try to poke holes in their story? Once the car ran out of gas, I thought this story was going in one particular direction: the retired officer would be convinced that Dr. Tenma was guilty because he didn’t return with gas. Right? Then Tenma would have more people chasing after him, complicating matters. But that was a miscalculation of Tenma’s personality. As he’s shown over the course of these episodes, he will help others at the expense of himself, risking getting captured or worse if he can do something for someone else.
This was hardly the only twist on my expectations for the story. Why was this couple in Germany anyway? Why were they heading to that police station? And the castle? What the fuck was said to them at the station that caused the wife to become so damn DIRE and sad? I’ m fascinated by how the show doesn’t delve too deeply into the specifics here. The couple’s son, Robert, is named, but they aren’t. We find out Robert murdered a man, but the details aren’t given. Was it a crime of passion? Was it premeditated? I don’t think it matters in the context of the story. Here, it’s the retired officer’s crisis that is centered. He built a career on being able to tell if a person was good or evil, but that sort of belief and behavior was immediately disproven by Robert. Because there were now two possibilities that the man was faced with: Either he couldn’t tell good from evil at all and had made mistakes before, or the entire system of categorization is bogus.
I believe that “Journey to Freiham” lands more on the latter, even though the ex-officer correctly identifies Dr. Tenma as being a good person. But he comes to another realization, too: his soon can have committed a terrible crime and still be a good person. It does not automatically make him evil. Does this complicate things? Absolutely. But a complicated life is reality. It’s what the world is, and this episode was about the acceptance of that. So what does that mean for Tenma? Because I think he’s still struggling with that, too! Is Johan evil, or is it more complicated than that? If he’s not manipulating Tenma in regards to the personality disorder, then how does that affect Tenma’s perception of Johan? Where does evil begin and end?
The video for “Journey to Freiham” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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