Meep! Welcome. This episode of Ergo Proxy is another one of my favorites in the series, almost up there with with episode 11 (In The White Darkness). I like it because of the elements of psychological confusion and horror, as well as the themes of identity and loneliness. The visuals are great too, with the beautiful but eerie pond in the woods in the center of Ophelia. Anyway, let’s get into the synopsis and then some discussion!
Vincent, Re-L, and Pino arrive at an abandoned dome city called Ophelia. The place is empty of both humans and Autoreivs. Unbeknownst to the travelers, the city’s Proxy is still there. It begins to haunt them and mess with their minds by shapeshifting into figures that look just like them. At one point, the Proxy disguised as Vincent managed to capture the unconscious Re-L and put her in the pond to drown her. Pino realizes there is something amiss; she says there are two Vincents and two Re-Ls. Noticing that he isn’t fooling Pino, the enemy Proxy attempts to strangle her, only to find out she is an Autoreiv who won’t be so easily killed off. The Proxy retreats and Pino saves Re-L from drowning.
Most of the rest of the episode is about Vincent facing off with the fake Vincent (the Proxy), as they are submerged in the deep pond. The Proxy puts Vincent through many illusions and mini-worlds from its memories. Everything happens within the minds of the Proxies. The enemy tells its story. Because of its loneliness as a Proxy, it felt like it couldn’t be recognized or loved by others. So it would disguise itself as humans and enjoy being loved. But after some time, the Proxy realized it was never really the one being loved by others. So the doppelganger Proxy tried to disappear, but found that it could not erase its existence, nor die. It then killed all the citizens of Ophelia, hoping it would destroy its heart. Yet it survived, and was now all alone in every sense of the word.
Now that it has met Ergo Proxy, the Doppelganger Proxy wishes to die with him. It also tempts Vincent to die with it, and leave the world behind. After all, nobody will ever love or understand a being like a Proxy. The enemy plays a trick on Vincent to make him think he killed Re-L. This does indeed tempt Vincent to disappear from the world. But the real Pino and the real Re-L are by the edge of the pond, watching the two Vincents locked in their psychological battle. Re-L calls out at Vincent not to disappear. A moment later, only one Vincent emerges from the water. Re-L is able to detect the fact that it’s the real Vincent, since his reflection was on the water. The Doppelganger Proxy never left a reflection.
The scene cuts to Vincent, Pino, and Re-L on their way to the next destination in the Centzon ship. Re-L has been cold to Vincent and Pino all episode long. However, when Vincent smiles and says thank you to Re-L for recognizing him, she smiles back. The journey continues.
Themes of Identity and Isolation
Ergo Proxy episode 14, like many past episodes, deals with themes of identity and loneliness. Vincent is preoccupied with identity since he lost his memories and doesn’t know the true purpose of Proxies. But in this episode, instead of being about uncovering one’s hidden identity, the main theme is being certain of one’s current identity just as it is. In other words, it’s about identity confusion and instability. Vincent must ultimately trust in his identity to continue his journey and avoid disappearing.
Vincent says the following at the start of the episode. “I am me, not anyone else. I clearly remember that the fact seemed very mysterious to me. Although my memory can’t be trusted, this particular memory is an old and certain one.” He seems fairly sure of his identity early on, but then the discovery that he is Ergo Proxy threw him for a loop. The Doppelganger Proxy further confuses things by masquerading as Vincent. This proxy makes Vincent and company not only doubtful of themselves, but also of each other. And the reason for this is the proxy’s own identity crisis and loneliness.
When someone goes unrecognized or unacknowledged for too long, they start to lose their sense of identity. That’s what happened to Ophelia’s Proxy. It may never have had a stable sense of identity at all. It doesn’t appear to have a name, at any rate. The loneliness was overwhelming, and the proxy lost its sense of self. This tells us something about what it’s like being a proxy; it makes sense that Ergo Proxy fell into a similar loneliness and invented the new identity of Vincent Law. The Doppelganger Proxy not only had some identity confusion, but also began to hate itself for lacking an identity. It hated itself and existence because it was so lonely.
I usually include a bit about Pino in these discussions since I think she’s an interesting and realistic character. This time I wanted to mention her sharp intuition and awareness. It’s impressive that she kept up with the fact that someone was masquerading as both Vincent and Re-L at different times. I think she kept quiet about her observations at first because she thought it was interesting to play along. Alternatively, she might have been suspicious, and decided playing along was the safest thing for her at the time.
When the fake Vincent started saying Re-L was dead and needed to be put in the water, it was Pino’s proof that something was amiss. Then she started telling the fake Vincent that she knew there were two of him. This was a test, and the fake Vincent failed. He blew his cover and tried to kill her, not realizing she wasn’t human. Pino also had the presence of mind to rescue Re-L from the water once the imposter Vincent had run away. As usual, I’m impressed with this little android girl.
Observations of Re-L
Quite frankly, Re-L acted like a little bitch in this episode. She complained to no end, was grumpy and cold to everyone, and even behaved aggressively toward Pino again. It became very clear once more how spoiled she is. All that being said, I still like Re-L and the better parts of her shrewd personality. I am not saying she isn’t annoying or ridiculously demanding sometimes. But I think of Re-L as a grumpy teenager who was given everything she ever needed as the city leader’s granddaughter. On top of that, she just lost Iggy, and isn’t sure how to function without him.
Re-L was probably rather socially isolated growing up, too. Although all her physical needs were met, and Iggy and Daedalus were always there for help and advice, she doesn’t appear to have any more friends. For someone so isolated and naturally introverted as well, it makes sense to not know how to get along with others. Again, thinking of Re-L as a younger and grumpy teenager helps, despite her more mature appearance. Anyway, that’s all I’ll say for now. I just want to encourage viewers to have sympathy for Re-L or at least not hate her.
References to Language, Etc.
Meaning of the Episode Title (Ophelia)
What is the meaning of this episode’s title and the name of the city? Ophelia is a name derived from the Greek word ὠφέλεια, meaning “benefit.” But the name is widely known because of its use in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Here, Ophelia is an important character and a potential love interest for Hamlet. I haven’t read this play, but according to my research, Ophelia goes crazy and eventually dies by drowning. The city in Ergo Proxy was probably called Ophelia because of all the watery imagery and drowning deaths. The people of Ophelia were dragged into the water and drowned by the Doppelganger Proxy in its madness. Re-L almost drowned, too. But that’s not quite the extent of the reference yet.
There is a famous painting of Ophelia made by John Everett Millais in 1852. According to the Ergo Proxy Wiki, there is a reference to this painting within episode 14. When Re-L is floating on the pond’s surface, she has a certain posture, with her hands partly raised. This looks uncannily similar to the posture of Ophelia in the painting. Leave it to Ergo Proxy to include such a neat reference to art and theater history.
That concludes the episode review, so thanks a bunch for reading!
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