In the seventy-third and penultimate episode of Monster, I can’t. I just can’t. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Monster.
I was right, and then I was… very wrong.
I know there’s another episode left, so I expect that there will be a few lingering answers to remain. But lord, there was so much I anticipated from Johan, Nina, Klaus, and Dr. Tenma all being in the same place. Some of it did happen, like Johan’s rejection of Tenma’s philosophy. So I’m going to start there, before I get to how this was all subverted. I still think that Johan was imitating Klaus over the course of this show, in the sense that he was “erasing” those who knew him. Even if that’s not ever spelled out, I think the canon evidence supports that, especially since Johan has mimicked so much of what he went through when he was younger. One thing in particular leads me to this, too: the memory Nina finally recalls here in “Scenery for a Doomsday.” Klaus found Nina at the Red Rose Mansion, and he compelled her to run away so that she would not become a monster.
Guess who most likely did not get the same parting message?
That dichotomy is part of the show. Two twins, raised in similar conditions, exposed to many of the same horrors, grow up to become utterly unlike one another. One believes they are a monster—or have a monster inside of them—while the other is constantly grasping for goodness. Nina may not have consciously remembered what Klaus told her, but I think it’s likely that she subconsciously remembered it, that it helped guide her in her uncertain and confusing life. Hell, maybe that’s how she viewed this act: as one of forgiveness. In her own way, Nina wanted to forgive Johan for everything he had ever done prior to the death of the Lieberts. He was just a kid, after all, a kid who had been horribly, horribly mistreated.
Still, I don’t believe any of this is actually Nina’s fault. I was more interested in it as a means of resolving the confrontation. Johan rejects Tenma’s point of view about the inherent worth of human life, as I thought he might, and I was allowed perhaps a few minutes of victory, because LORD, this confrontation did not go as I expected. I don’t intend that to be a negative commentary; the more I think about it, the more fucked up and brilliant it feels.
Because I really thought that Johan and Klaus were going to have their big moment. Here was the man deeply responsible for how Johan turned out! And they were in the city Klaus escaped to, thereby escaping accountability for what he had done. It was so darkly poetic, so perfect. But repeatedly, Monster has told us that vengeance does not grant justice; it does not allow for peace. And here, we watch as Johan’s carefully calculated vengeance falls apart. Why? Because humans are complicated. Because you can’t calculate free will, you can’t calculate agency, you can’t calculate the sheer complexity of every life you touched. Because if Lunge had not intervened and shot Roberto, then attacked him, Roberto would not have been in that spot to shoot down Klaus Poppe. And isn’t that fucked up anyway? One of the nameless children who was tormented by the program Klaus Poppe’s work had created guns him down, ending his sole effort to do something to make up for what he did to the world. Klaus’s life is over unceremoniously, without apology, without excuses, without almost any care in the world.
Which makes what happens next so fucking wild to me. I still can’t stop thinking about that message that Johan scrawled on that roof. Was there ever truly a part of Johan that wanted this “monster” out of him? Did he ever want to change? To be forgiven? To be seen as human? If that’s the case, his actions long ago prevented that from being the case, particularly in how Johan was perceived. Maybe people like Nina, Dr. Guillen, Tenma, and Grimmer understood why Johan was the way he was. Nina even states toward the end of “Scenery for a Doomsday” that she still wants to forgive Johan.
But Johan is not granted that here. Because Herbert, Wim’s father, sees Johan as a literal monster: one with seven heads, a devil who came to Ruhenheim to cause death and devastation. That is who shoots Johan, though I absolutely fell for the red herring and thought Tenma had done it. Herbert sees Johan for what he is, and in doing so, he gives Tenma a way out, though he certainly doesn’t shoot Johan because of that. That’s just coincidental.
It’s an important twist because of how it relates to Tenma’s arc in Monster. Roberto once told Tenma that his hands were for healing, not death, and in the most shocking, unseen, and dramatic twist in the whole goddamn show, that’s exactly what Tenma is called to do. Of course, there’s the immediate aftermath to deal with as the survivors must face the authorities, who finally descend upon Ruhenheim to discover the massacre that has taken place. I actually really love that this is part of the story, as it allows the shock of the whole thing to settle in. This was real, this happened, and here we are, on the other side of it. There are confused members of law enforcement; there are countless bodies strewn about the streets; there is a moment of reconciliation and grace between the couple who had won the lottery. And there is a LOT of exhaustion. Because holy shit, this nightmare is over??? Everyone is dead, and it’s done.
But it isn’t done, is it? Wim’s father is still ripped away from him, and I have no idea what his fate will be. Who will take care of Wim? Prior to this, it was Klaus, who’s now dead. So what happens to Wim? What about everyone else who lost someone in this massacre? How do any of these people go back to living “normal” lives after something like this?
However, I’ve clearly been saving one thing for last. I still can barely believe it, y’all. Tenma arrived on this path by saving the life of a young boy who had been shot in the head. And now, over a decade later, after his own life was ripped apart by that same boy, Inspector Lunge (who SURVIVED, oh my god!!!) has asked one last thing of Tenma.
To save Johan’s life again.
And it certainly appears like he’s going to do it! Y’all, I AM SO SHOCKED BY THIS. Of course, it’s the poetic end to this, especially since it makes it a circle. Tenma is right back at the beginning again, though this time, he knows. He knows who and what Johan is. He knows that saving this man’s life might endanger others. But Tenma has a code: every life is inherently valuable. No exceptions.
Well, here we are: one last episode to go, and it looks like Tenma is going to stick to his code until the very, very end.
The video for “Scenery for a Doomsday” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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