A Life Sentence – ‘Steins;Gate 0’ Episode 17 Review

What’s the show? Steins;Gate 0, Episode 17.

So how was this week’s episode of the show you love to endlessly rave about? Well I had to watch it twice.

Oh? That good huh? Actually—the opposite in fact. After the episode had ended I felt so completely and utterly apathetic toward it that I wondered whether this was even the same Steins;Gate 0 I had been watching all this time. Then I had to think, was it something wrong with me? Did my mood affect my opinion on the episode? No, I was in a great mood going in. Was I distracted by something? No, I was as focused as ever. So what was it, what had changed so much that I couldn’t even muster a single positive word about the episode?

Just let him be.

And did watching the episode again give you a clearer answer? It’s the fear. The fear of the unknown—for the first time this whole season I don’t know what’s going to happen, I feel like the show is taking steps in unexpected directions, being unpredictable and illogical. While the idea that Okabe isn’t the protagonist and isn’t playing centre-stage to the central narrative has been brought up by several reviewers in recent episodes this is the fruition of that very concept—the rug is being pulled out from Okabe, the other characters are calling the shots and Okabe is just left to watch it unfold helplessly. And that helplessness translates to the viewer—and to me, harder than I expected.

I mean I still feel sorry for her, I’m not a complete monster…

But isn’t “unpredictability” a good thing? Especially to make a compelling narrative? The previous 16 episodes, or maybe less than the previous 16 but the first half for sure felt like this was Okabe’s story of grief and loss and trying to find solace in a world he doesn’t understand anymore. It was dark and contemplative and mature and most importantly it wasn’t a carbon-copy of the original Steins;Gate. But now with Okabe no longer in control of his own story, the story he worked so hard to attain for himself it feels almost like a betrayal to the original protagonist and in a way a betrayal to the audience since he is our analogue. I mean, he’s the smartest guy in the room, why shouldn’t everyone listen and do what he says… even if what he wants to do is just move-on with his life and let all the time-travel shenanigans float away into the wind.

He’s in a dark place… heh, see what I did there?

Again, not sure that’d make for the most compelling narrative experience… just sayin’… And you know what, you’re absolutely right. The high-stakes drama, all of it is coerced out of the people around Okabe—without them there would be no forward plot development and that’s something I’m going to have to reconcile, lest I find myself expecting this show to be something it’s not. I need to trust in the narrative process of a series I love and respect and not get hung up on notions of what I ~think~ this show should be, like so many others were early on in the series when it wasn’t the ‘Hououin Kyouma Show 2.0’.

I don’t.

So has your second viewing of the episode made you appreciate it any more? Not really if I’m being honest. The best compliment I can give it is that it was dramatic—even if that drama came from a place I didn’t personally like. Spoilers, obviously, but how many times are we going to go back to drink from the ‘Mayuri dies pointlessly well’?

How many times is that now?

So where does that leave you and your opinions on the show going forward? I just hope it’s all worth it—in my opinion the worst thing this show can do would be to erase the previous 16 episodes worth of material by travelling back to a point where it never happened. But then again, these are the risks when you watch a show that’s pretty explicitly going to be about some form of time-altering shenanigans sooner or later… I’m just hoping at the end of all this we get a “realistic” ending and not some forced happy ending. We had a happy ending already it was called the end of Steins;Gate and it was hard fought and well-earned now we need an ending that reflects this series not the previous one.

Not sure if good news or bad news…

Previous Steins;Gate 0 Reviews:

Episode 1 Review
Episode 2 Review
Episode 3 Review
Episode 4 Review
Episode 5 Review
Episode 6 Review
Episode 7 Review
Episode 8 Review
Episode 9 Review
Episode 10 Review
Episode 11 Review
Episode 12 Review
Episode 13 Review
Defying the Protagonist – Episode 14 Review
When Daru Met Yuki – Episode 15 Review
Truth Is A Mirror – Episode 16 Review


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