In the forty-ninth episode of Monster, I can’t wait until Johan is destroyed. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.
Trigger Warning: For child abuse, torture, manipulation, suicide, sexual assault/rape
Holy shit, y’all. I have not once doubted that Johan is fucking evil, and I don’t see him as redeemable or forgivable at all. Nor do I think the show wants me to! His value system is portrayed as deplorable and awful, and it’s clear we’re supposed to see Tenma’s appreciation for life as the counter to Johan’s murderous nihilism. And yet, this episode lives up to it’s title: this is one of the most cruel things I have ever witnessed. That’s saying a lot, considering in an earlier episode, Johan taunted a recovering alcoholic to the point that he died. There are approximately a hundred other ghastly, monstrous things he’s done, too, but what the fuck. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS EPISODE.
Aside from one brief scene with Lunge, in which Mrs. Suk DEFINITELY reveals she knows what Johan was doing, this whole episode is devoted to the children from Petrov’s orphanage. From a craft perspective, I love that this show—and particularly this episode—is written to acknowledge just how many threads there are left dangling in Monster. Even though the kids from Petrov’s orphanage were scattered around the city, we’re still shown that they matter to the story as a whole. These boys were immensely attached to Petrov, and no wonder! Petrov’s post-Kinderheim 511 experiment was one that was centered on love, so it’s very clear that these boys loved their caretaker.
But it’s not only that. They are all close to one another, too, and I love how frequently we are shown this. Here, in “The Cruelest Thing,” we discover that boys in different orphanages are still in contact with one another! And the reason for that is vital to understanding their experience: they believe they know who the murderer is (and they’re right!) and that Mr. Grimmer is innocent (he is!). So they are in a constant state of vigilance, and they communicate to try and narrow down where they’ve been seeing the tall blonde woman.
And look… I had a bad feeling about Johan being around Milos. It was a very fair reaction to have! That kid knew too much, and Johan couldn’t have anyone disrupt his plans. That being said: I did not expect the sheer terror that Johan unleashed on this kid. I should have, though, and now I’m curious if Johan was simply giving Milos the same treatment he got as a kid. That’s not a connection I made until after this episode was over and I was trying to piece together all the unnerving details of this story. I kept coming back to Grimmer’s dynamic with Tenma throughout “The Cruelest Thing”: he kept wanting to know if he was feeling or displaying the right emotion. The experience in Kinderheim 511 was so traumatic in part because these kids were stripped of emotions. Grimmer had to be literally re-taught how to smile! And in Johan, I see much of the same emotionless drifting. Johan isn’t emotional at all, except for that brief moment where we saw him with Bonaparta’s picture book.
So, if I accept this, I wonder if this was how all those kids were conditioned to accept the training and experimentation and torture that was done to their minds and bodies. Were they taught that they were unloved? That they were forgotten? That they were without purpose? Was Johan taking his trauma and enacting that violence on another kid?
It’s possible this is all just speculation, that we’ll never truly know why Johan nearly murdered this child. At the same time, I don’t need any sort of “explanation.” It doesn’t excuse this act or make it easier to understand. It’s still completely horrifying, and it still makes Johan completely unforgivable in my eyes. He nearly drove an orphan to suicide by setting them loose in a red light district, and that whole sequence was A WHOLE FUCKING LOT. We basically got to watch a kid get broken down and traumatized? (On top of that whole interaction in the alley, which felt gratuitous to me. I could not tell just how much consent there was there, but it didn’t feel like much, which made it even worse.)
It’s only because of Grimmer—who regularly struggles with not feeling emotions at all, who isn’t sure he is even human anymore, who had to ask Tenma repeatedly if he was having the right reaction—that Milos survives. Grimmer is the one who has the emotional response that Milos needed to remember that he is loved, that it matters that he is still alive. And I can’t deny that Grimmer needed that moment, too. He becomes so distraught that his emotions came flooding back to him. UGH, I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS ABOUT GRIMMER.
Y’all, this show is so fucked up. SO FUCKED UP. We still don’t even know what’s going on with Nina and Dieter!!!
The video for “The Cruelest Thing” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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