Surprise…Charlie Jade is not a force of nature. Neither is he a man with no name. He’s flesh and blood, and filled with contradictions. Like anyone, Charlie has a past that informs who and why he is and this week we get a peak into it.
Diamonds are Forever
Remember that gangster’s pinkie ring Charlie wears? The one he pawned to pay for his sweet ride? Charlie hits the shop, looking to retrieve it. Instead he finds the owner dead and the ring missing.
A flashback to five years earlier shows us Charlie as a soldier of some sort, on a sweep with his partner. Charlie lags behind as she bursts through a door and opens fire, killing a man and his wife. She scans his implant, then cuts that recognizable ring from the man’s hand, passing it over to Charlie with a smile on her face. Charlie hears steps at his back and spins, weapon at the ready. He finds a small child in his sights and recoils. Happy partner takes the kid out with one quick shot.
Over the course of several more flashbacks throughout the episode, the story gets filled out more. Charlie and his partner were acting on orders to clear out terrorists and locate an arms cache. But there was no cache, and the C-3s they executed were no terrorists.
Because of this history, we understand why Charlie goes to such lengths to recover the ring. Tracking down a low-level criminal plugged into the crime scene in the neighborhood surrounding the pawn shop, Charlie roughs him up until he gets a name: Jasel Eckman. Charlie wastes no time in finding Eckman and telling him he wants his ring back. Even if Eckman doesn’t have the ring, he’ll know where to find it, but Eckman wants to know what Charlie would be willing to pay. That evening, we find out.
Charlie, with the help of his tricorder slash sonic screwdriver slash magic wand, breaks into Eckman’s cutting works and steals a synthetic diamond from its incubating chamber. A big fat diamond, being grown with Vex-Cor tech.
Karl’s slow on the uptake. He first assumes Vex-Cor wants to replace real diamonds with counterfeits. Then Charlie shows Karl the scar on his wrist. The chips Vex-Cor uses to classify and track everyone in Alpha are diamond chips. If Vex-Cor is growing synthetics here in Beta, it must mean they intend to institute large-scale tracking. Tracking with the same type of chip Charlie cut from Andrea Bridger‘s wrist back in “And Not a Drop to Drink”.
Charlie and Eckman engage in an intricate dance. Eckman wants his diamond back. Charlie wants his ring. Eckman’s goon tells Charlie to be careful for Karl, and any other friends he might have.
Friends like Paula.
Charlie returns Eckman’s diamond and Eckman lets Charlie know he’ll get back his ring. Charlie then suggests Eckman pay more attention to whom he’s working for and tells him what the diamonds are for.
When Ren Porter brings Eckman the next set of seeds to be grown, he asks what they’re for. He’s heard Charlie’s words, but backs off quickly when Porter challenges him. A Rand is a Rand and Eckman is a businessman.
Finally, Eckman’s goon returns Charlie’s ring and as he puts it on we flashback one last time to see Charlie, disillusioned, as he walks away from his service, keeping only the ring and the clothes on his back.
Karl: So when are you going to tell me what this is really all about.
Karl: What are you talking about?
Charlie: It’s a reminder. Reminds me of what I was. So I can hold on to who I am.
In Alpha, Essa informs 01 Boxer that the new board members for Beta have been approved, though she thinks they’re unusual choices. Intimating that she knows 01 is manipulating the messages he’s transporting between the verses, she reminds him the link will be reestablished soon and “then the situation will be clear.”
Poor Julius. The guy’s the head of a multi-versal corporation bent on complete and total domination, and yet I feel bad for what 01’s putting him through. Staring longingly at a bottle of booze, Julius can’t get a drop to drink because here comes new board member #1, Cool Slide. Cool is a rap impresario in the P. Diddy mold and is happy to be getting his hands on a company with Vex-Cor’s resources. Cool will be creating a new division and running it: Vex-Rap.
Julius isn’t done with the board, unfortunately. Next up: Myeeko Stiles. This fashion maven will be running a new division called F-Vex. Just what a corporation seeking total control needs: a fashion house. Julius once again looks longingly to his one true friend in Beta, his bottle. Oh, in case you didn’t catch it, Stiles needs to see Vex-Cor’s books. Looks like 01 has some exciting accounting plans up his sleeve.
Ahhh. Alone at last. Julius pours himself a stiff one. But there’s a dead fly in his glass. Or…oops. That’s not a real fly, it’s a bug: “Eat me, 01.”
At the Glass Door, Julius and 01 have a little dance of their own, as fraught with threat of violence as Charlie’s was with Eckman. 01 still has all the power; only he can travel to Alpha. Even though Julius senses, just as Essa has, that 01 is manipulating the slates, there’s nothing he can do about it. He knows if he’s wrong and goes against home office’s wishes, he’s doomed. All he can do, like Essa, is issue toothless warnings to 01.
Reena: Locked and Loaded
Reena’s rape and reprogramming finally get a target. Her suave benefactor gives her her first – and only – mission. Julius is a bit too regular. On the same day each week, he stops on the way home and spends 15 minutes with his daughter at the playground. Reena’s mission is to strap on a bomb, walk up to Julius, and kill him.
However, it seems Reena’s programming was incomplete, or her Gamma-born sense of right and wrong is too strong. She kills the terrorist who was guarding her and runs. Jumping a fence, she lands on the windshield of a moving car. The driver helps Reena, taking her away from the scene and away from her captors.
I don’t even know where to stick this, Jasmine gets such short shrift lately. At this point in the show, she’d become an afterthought to the writers and they just didn’t seem to know what to do with her. But here she is, in her one scene in the episode, having her chip status upgraded to C-2 by a hacker. Frankly, other than the fact that it effects the diamond chip in her arm I have no idea why this scene is in the episode at all.
The writers were really starting to spin a bit by this point. Reena’s story had been careering out of control for weeks and Jasmine ended up with disconnected scenes like this. More importantly, while 01 was moving forward with his schemes and plans, Charlie was merely reacting. Fortunately for us, only one episode remains under the original writing team. After that, things pick up.
We’ll get into that in much more detail when we present our Pop Critics interview with Alex Epstein, Executive Story Editor and writer from episode #9 through the end of the series. Look for that interview coming next week.