Leila is further drawn into Adrian’s machination’s in episode 3 of Kiss Me First, as she tries to save Tess from herself and Denier from Adrian. She learns more about Adrian’s methods and begins to work with an important ally. Adrian and Leila’s interactions begin to turn into a very intense chess game when he starts to figure out that she isn’t as predictable as he thought.
March 2005- Azana Planet Launch
Ruth Palmer: Welcome to Azana Planet. Friends, colleagues, gamers, the wait is finally over. My name is Ruth Palmer, and today I’m going to change your world. You’ll decide what it becomes.
Newsreader: The wait is finally over for gamers around the world with the release of the widely anticipated Azana Planet.
Ruth: We’ve created it with a morphable engine. It’s scaleable, immersive. A whole planet of experience with no boundaries. It can become literally anything.
Newsreader: With preorders in the millions worldwide, video gamers are hailing it as a quantum step forward.
Ruth: Every platform, every game-play opportunity, every thrill, every experience, worldwide, all the time. This is Azana Planet…and YOU ARE FREE.
Okay. So the streets are so empty because everyone’s inside on their computers experiencing every thrill, worldwide, all the time. I think Adrian is showing us the results of a planet with no boundaries. It starts looking like The Purge.
Tess goes back to her therapist, Beam, to ask for a new lithium prescription, since she’s making a new start with new friends and wants to do better. Beam tells her that she can’t be trusted with too many drugs, he has all the answers and needs all the control, and the only acceptable solution is that she go to an inpatient facility. Tess flirts, begs, yells, offers sex, and storms out, but Beam is bought and paid for by her mother. He’s not terribly interested in helping her, or, say, giving her a new prescription and monitoring her more frequently from home, if he’s worried she’ll take too much.
He’s probably been burned by Tess before, but he also doesn’t actually listen to her much. Mental health professionals like him, who’ve replaced compassion with ego, are infuriating.
Leila enters Red Pill and finds Tippi, Force and Jocasta playing around on the rock outcropping. Tippi is complaining that her twin sister makes her feel invisible, and is her parents’ favorite. Force and Jocasta aren’t being particularly supportive. Force suggests that being invisible is awesome, turns himself invisible, then he and Jocasta fly off to flirt.
Tippi says that no one ever listens to her. She also says the moonlight makes her horny, which she doesn’t think Adrian would have coded, but then again, he could have. Leila asks for Adrian, but Tippi assumes he’s with Denier, since they’re together a lot these days. Denier lives in some sort of group home. Tippi mentions that Adrian talks about Leila a lot, since he thinks she’s saving Tess from another suicide attempt. Leila is surprised to find out that Tess tried to kill herself.
Leila tells Tippi that Calumny is gone, because he jumped off the cliff, but Tippi doesn’t believe her. She floats off the edge to prove that it’s not lethal, then shows Leila a new bird avatar that Adrian gave her, saying that they have everything they want in Red Pill. She flies away as her bird.
Leila hears beach sounds and her mother calling to her, so she flies down to the beach that Adrian gave her. He’s waiting when she gets there. He says that he thinks her beach is some of his best work. He also tells her that Calumny won’t be coming back after all. Leila decides to accept the reasoning that Calumny wouldn’t have fallen within Red Pill unless it was what he wanted, and just says that it’s too bad he won’t be back. Adrian tells her that she’s unexpectedly made everything more invigorating.
Next Adrian says that he hopes she doesn’t mind that he brought Denier with him to see her. Denier is having a tough time and loves the beach. His home on the Isle of Sheppey isn’t as nice.
Continuing with his very pointed conversation, Adrian tells Leila to say hi to Mania. He explains that he knows something’s wrong when she doesn’t visit him for a while, but he’s sure Leila will take care of it. Then he sends Leila off to find her mother, telling her to take the motorcycle he’s left there. He insists it’s very exciting, a whole new level.
Except it explodes when she starts it, kicking her out of Azana again. Since she’s wearing her sense band, the explosion hurts.
Leila finds Tess getting ready to go out with Connor, since she’s getting jumpy and bored hanging around the house. Leila asks Tess to stop seeing Connor, because he’s not good for her, but Tess refuses. Then Leila asks if Tess really tried to kill herself. Tess admits she did, but it was a while ago, before Red Pill and Adrian. Leila is skeptical about Adrian, and Tess asks why she’s so negative. She asks if Adrian talks to Leila and makes her feel special and like he’s the only one who understands her, the way he does with everyone else.
Giant red flag there. We’ve seen that the members of Red Pill aren’t terribly supportive of each other. That’s up to Adrian, the guru who has all the answers, makes everyone feel important, and like he truly sees them. He becomes their lifeline.
Adrian is handling Leila a little differently from the others. It’s brilliant, really. Leila was unintentionally smothered by a loving mother who made all of the choices, so Adrian has put Leila in charge of someone else who needs her. She doesn’t need to be seen as special, she needs to be challenged and seen as capable and independent. Adrian is giving her that, while also retaining overall control of the situation.
But Leila was finding ways to get what she needed on her own, before Adrian. She doesn’t need him the way the others do. She’s not emotionally broken. She is hooked on Tess, his bait, though. But Leila knows that Tess is a real person, whereas she’s a means to an end for Adrian, a pawn in his game.
Leila tries to get through to Tess that she wants to understand her the way Tess thinks Adrian does, but Tess is currently mad at her for answering the phone when Connor called. She tells Leila not to do it again and says she’ll sleep with who she wants.
Leila finally can’t hold it in any longer and tells Tess that Calumny killed himself. Tess tries to tell her that it might not be true, but Leila knows it’s the truth. Then Tess tells Leila not to mess with things she doesn’t understand, which is hysterical since she and Adrian were so hot to pull Leila deep into Red Pill. Now she doesn’t want Leila to be herself. Tess says that Adrian and Connor are all she’s got, Leila shouldn’t try to take them from her. Leila points out that Tess has her, just like she and Adrian planned.
Tess: You’re not supposed to be cruel.
Leila: I’m not. I’m your friend and I’m here. And I want to tell you something.
Tess: I have to go.
This is how Tess’ friends end up tired. By the time Tess’ drama is dealt with, there’s nothing left for the other person’s needs. And like many women, Tess has been socialized to always put her relationships with men before her relationships with other women. No best friends sisterhood for her. It’s divide and conquer all the way.
After Tess leaves, Leila tearfully goes to the computer. The screen shows the Azana Planet homescreen, but it’s crackling. Was Adrian watching? Leila pulls up Denier’s profile and sends him a message, asking if they can talk.
Denier, whose real name is Ben, is at the group home where he lives, in the middle of the other kids’ having a violent altercation. The place is a chaotic zoo, and the house parent, Ted, barely bothers to maintain discipline. Ben sits off the side quietly, trying to be invisible.
Later, up in his room, Ben solders electronic parts together. Ted finds him there and asks if those are the radio parts that he got for Ben. Then he gets to the real reason for his visit.
Ted: God, you’re clever, Ben. Really clever. Hey. Some things are private. We understand that, don’t we? (He crouches down at Ben’s eye level, very close to him, and looks him directly in the eye as he says this.) You can’t tell anyone I got you that stuff, okay? I’m here for you, and you’re here for me. Say it.
Ben: I’m here for you and you’re here for me.
Ted’s not just talking about radio parts.
A bird flies overhead, followed by other birds. We all get the bird symbolism here, right? Adrian is the bird of prey, followed by the innocent little birds.
Jonty jerks off to televised male/female professional wrestling, which I guess might say he’s bi and likes strong women. Or really flashy, overly dramatic women. Who knows. At least it’s not porn.
Oops, the phone rings right in the middle of Jonty’s good times. It’s Adrian, who I’m going to bet was somehow watching Jonty and specifically chose that moment. The connection is crackly and very bad. Adrian says that he and Leila don’t get along, then implies that he’s Leila’s father. He wants Jonty to help him with Leila.
Meanwhile, Ben hides the electronics he’s working on in his air vent.
While Tess is having more anal sex with Connor (great guy), she imagines swimming in the lagoon and staying underwater until her collar turns red, and the monster comes out to get her. Connor is probably gagging her with his fingers again in the real world (really, such a prize, that guy). Later, she stands looking into the river, considering jumping.
Leila visits her old math teacher, Mr Adams, to ask for help hacking Azana Planet, so that she can figure out what Adrian’s up to. She tries out a complicated math problem on Mr Adams’ white board and he says she almost got it. She says that sometimes she thinks she understands things, but then she doesn’t. He says that after understanding something, you need to hold on to the understanding.
Leila takes out the sense band and asks if Mr Adams understands what it is, that it can give you things you shouldn’t want. Then they start in on trying to crack the Azana code, but can’t get in, even though the sense band is supposed to take Leila straight to Red Pill. Instead it’s giving her jolts of pain. She thinks it’s because Adrian’s messing with her.
Mr Adams wonders if she’s just misunderstood the Azana/Red Pill situation. She reminds him that she told Calumny to jump, and now he’s dead. Adams suggests the police, but she has nothing to show them. He doesn’t really understand what’s going on, but he can see that the code is impregnable. She needs someone to give her the source algorithms, and no one is likely to do that. Barring that, he thinks she should stay out of Red Pill.
Leila gets ready to leave. Adams invites her to come back another time so that they can do deeper analysis. His days are empty, so he’d welcome the company. After she leaves, he continues to work on the code.
Next we’re shown a news report about Ruth Palmer, the billionaire entrepreneur and creator of Azana Planet, who’s just been released from prison after 3 years. She won her appeal in the case of her manslaughter conviction in the death of her husband and business partner, Seb Palmer. Ruth makes a statement to the press, thanking all of the supporters who never stopped believing in her, including the gamers all over the world. Now she’s decided that it’s time to make some changes in her life and she hopes that everyone will respect her wish for isolation and peace.
Zehra rudely tells Leila to get off the computer and get to work. Leila tells Zehra that she knows what Zehra does (stealing the tabs that are paid in cash) and Zehra had better watch out.
Ben finds Ted in his room waiting for him. Ted tells Ben that he’ll be picking him up from school on Tuesday to go meet some of Ted’s friends. When Ben says he has schoolwork, Ted gets in his face. First he runs his hand through Ben’s hair like a caress, then he yanks on it, hard, as he threatens Ben. He tells Ben that they have a bond, and if Ben ever stops honoring their bond, he has friends that will find Ben. Then he leaves to settle another fight.
The show is being a little coy with this again, but it’s clear that Ted’s sexually abused Ben, and he intends to prostitute Ben out to his friends when he picks Ben up after school. This must not be the first time Ben’s complained or Ted’s sold Ben’s services, since Ted went straight to violent threats to get him under control.
Leila sits in her bedroom, deciding what to do next. Her screen crackles and the computer eye camera glows red. She goes to the computer and says, “Okay, you’re good.” Then she turns it off. Before she does, we can hear Adrian chuckling.
Tess joins Leila in bed later that night and says that she can’t help getting flaky sometimes. Leila says they can talk about it tomorrow. Tess says he’s right, that Leila can save Tess by loving her.
The next morning, Leila goes to Connor’s house and watches him say goodbye to his wife and daughter. She approaches him at his car and tells him to stay away from Tess, or she’ll send the sex video of him and Tess to his wife. She’ll also send it if he tells Tess about this conversation. Leila says that Tess doesn’t need sex with him any more.
Guess the loving went well the night before. 😉 I have a feeling Tess isn’t going to like Leila’s interference any more this time than she did last time. It is OTT, even if it’s what would be best for Tess in the long run.
Tess goes to Adrian for support. He tells her she won’t mess up. Then she asks if he put a monster in the lagoon to scare her. He insists that whatever is down there is hers, created by her mind. She should go deeper and face it. Tess goes back to worrying that her relationship with Leila won’t be enough to save her, but Adrian says that she’s underestimating Leila. He thinks Leila’s changed everything.
Expecting Leila to save Tess from herself is a bit much, but that’s the way Adrian works. He sets up expectations, then lets the failures speak for themselves.
Tess asks about Calumny, and Adrian confirms that he’s dead.
Adrian: I tried hard to save him.
Tess: That’s sad. That’s so sad.
Adrian: He wasn’t strong enough. It’s a shame, but he did what he had to do.
[After Adrian created the perfect conditions and enlisted Leila to unknowingly help talk him into it.]
Adrian: We can respect that. Change is coming. Another level. New challenges.
We have to respect that Calumny did what was right for him, and not question it, according to Adrian. He simply wasn’t strong enough to handle life, despite all of the effort Adrian put into him. But Tess is strong enough, so let’s move on. He has exciting, shiny new things in store for her. Why would she want to dwell on a dead boy she barely knew?
Tess: What do you mean?
Adrian: There’s a destination, Mania. We’ll get there, soon. You’ll find your place.
Tess: You wouldn’t lie to me?
Adrian (taking her hand and smiling): Come, let’s look for your monster.
They walk onto the surface of the lagoon. Yup, Adrian can walk on water. So can Tess, when she’s with him.
Leila goes to work, where Zehra decides that today is another good day to antagonize Leila. When Zehra says that Leila’s coat is ugly, Leila shoves Zehra up against a wall, tells Zehra not to f**k with her, takes the cash from her hip that’s she’s stolen from the restaurant that day, and puts it in the till.
Azul hears the scuffle and pops his head out to see what’s happening. Leila says it’s fine now and apologizes for the plates she and Zehra broke. Azul looks around, shrugs, and goes back to what he was doing. Pretty sure he actually knew exactly what happened. I don’t think Azul misses much.
Ben is putting the pieces of his “radio” into the vent when he gets Leila’s latest attempt to message him. She asks if they can talk and he responds, “Why?” She says that she’s pretty sure something bad is happening, then asks if they can meet. Ben tells her to go away before she ruins it. Leila tries to call him using voice, but he doesn’t answer. His screen crackles and a message from Adrian appears: Don’t Get Distracted. Adrian is watching him.
Never one to give up easily, Leila googles the children’s home and takes the bus to the Isle of Sheppey to meet Ben anyway.
Tess lounges in the living room without any pants on, which is the usual state of undress for the women in this show, annoyingly. Connor calls to break up with her, but she throws the phone and smashes it before he gets the whole break up speech out.
Alibi by Empara Mi plays over this sequence. It has perfect lyrics and tone.
Leila finds Ben outside of the Children’s Home and introduces herself. He’s scared and nervous about talking to her, telling her she shouldn’t have come. She wonders why he’d feel that way. She tells him she wants to meet everyone in Red Pill, and doesn’t think Adrian will mind. Does Ben think that Adrian would mind? Why? She reminds Ben that Adrian told them to get to know each other.
Ben starts to walk away, but Leila stops him and tells him that her mother died recently, and when she’s ready to talk about it eventually, she’ll feel like she owes the person who’s willing to listen, implying that Ben is stuck in a bad situation because he feels like he owes someone something. He moves to leave again, and she asks him straight out if something bad is happening to him.
He asks her to go away, but she keeps talking, telling Ben that, “You don’t have to listen to him. Whatever he’s doing, you can stop it. It’s okay to stop it.” She means Adrian, but Ben thinks Adrian is his good friend who’s helping him. Ted calls Ben inside then. Before he goes, Ben tells Leila not to worry, that everything’s going to be okay.
When she gets home, Leila can hear the music coming from her house from all over the neighborhood, and the neighbors are outside complaining. Tess has locked Jonty out, trashed the living room, and taken pills.
If only Beam could see her now, he’d be so vindicated.
Leila proves she’s a true friend and sticks her fingers down Tess’ throat to make her vomit up the pills. While she puts Tess to bed, Jonty cleans up the house. When Leila goes back downstairs, Jonty says, “She’s like a game you can’t win.”
Leila grabs him and makes out with him for a minute, then pretends she didn’t mean to. He liked it, but they’re both left confused and she runs back upstairs. It’s adorable.
Back in the bedroom, Adrian is watching. Leila tells him that he can’t have Tess.
Tuesday afternoon has come, and Ted drives Ben to a deserted parking lot, in the middle of nowhere, with two cars waiting. One flashes its lights as a signal to them. Once they’re parked, Ted turns to Ben and tells him to go and be “nice” to them. Ben refuses, and begs Ted to take him away. Ted refuses to leave, and orders Ben to make Ted’s “friends” “happy” and stop complaining.
He starts stroking Ben on his head, down his neck and to his chest, while trying to coerce Ben into prostituting himself. When Ted reaches Ben’s chest, he encounters something he didn’t expect- a bomb strapped to Ben’s torso. Ben says that he told Ted they should leave, then triggers the bomb.
What was Adrian’s play here? Did Adrian convince Ben he was being strong in taking out Ted before he could molest anyone else, and Adrian made him think that the only way to do it was to take himself out too? Did Adrian convince Ben that he was so dirty he could never come back from his molestation and he might as well take himself out too? Will Adrian say Ben was bringing justice or weak?
Adrian calls Jonty again and pumps him for information, telling Jonty that Leila is behaving badly and needs help. Jonty is reluctant to keep talking to Adrian, as he should be, but he tells Adrian about Mr Adams.
Azul finds Leila staring into space in the restaurant kitchen and wonders what’s wrong, if she has boy troubles. He promises that he and his brothers will take care of it, if she wants. Intrigued, Leila asks how they’d do it. Azul pulls out a baseball bat and says, “With the weight of righteous anger, lady. What else is there?” Then he and Leila both laugh.
I love that guy.
Having cheered Leila up, he leaves for his card game and asks Leila to lock up. She cleans tables with the TV news on. The story about Ben and Ted’s death comes on. Leila trembles in shock.
She goes home, where Tess is waiting to apologize for the night before. Leila’s not interested. She turns on the news to show Tess that Ben is dead, and Adrian made him do it. Tess won’t believe that Adrian had anything to do with it. She says that everything was fine until Leila came along.
Leila is so upset that she says that Red Pill is made up of a bunch of mental cripples. She smashes Tess’ computer and tells Tess to choose between her and Adrian. Tess doesn’t want to give up Adrian, but says that she’s Leila’s friend. Leila says she doesn’t care. “Friends get tired.”
When Tess won’t choose, Leila says to, “Tell him I’m coming for him. Watch out.” She goes upstairs.
Tess cries and then remembers Adrian talking about a destination. She gathers some of her things and goes outside. One of the street lamps flickers to point her in the right direction, and an Azana Planet double moonscape appears, replacing the real sky. One of Tess’ underwater monsters swims right up to the camera. She’s headed into the belly of the beast.
Tippi is the most devoted to Adrian, and understands him and his motives better than the rest. She knows there is competition in Red Pill, but she’s determined to be necessary to Adrian in the end. She likes listening to him talk about himself, and having information to share that will help him.
Adrian doesn’t like sex, especially sexual abuse, and he doesn’t like abuse as he perceives it. His reasoning is twisted and complicated, and he often blames both sides of a relationship. He had Ben kill himself to take down his abuser, probably because Ben was now also a sinner after having been abused. He drove Calumny to suicide to end the abuse of Maja, probably because he did blame Calumny for letting it continue. He’s trying to drive both Tess and Leila toward something, a double suicide or a murder-suicide, probably, because he thinks Tess is tainted in some way and he thinks Leila murdered her mother after her mother abused or neglected her.
Adrian tells Tess to go deeper and face her monster, but we’ve watched her stay under water until she almost drowns, every time. It’s very similar to the way he trained Calumny to jump, and to think it was the only option. Now we see Tess with water in Red Pill and in real life. If Adrian tells her that she’s not strong enough, in whatever roundabout way, she’ll believe him. She has very little self-determination at this point. She’s bouncing between having Adrian, Connor and Leila make her decisions for her, and the only one who cares about her becoming mentally healthy is Leila.
When Adrian told Tess about Calumny’s death and her destination, she had her back to him. He had a strange look on his face that definitely wasn’t sad. He slowly walked toward her, and it looked for a moment like he might push her into the water.
We usually hear shorebirds in the background when Ben is in the group home.
After only a few weeks, Azul already trusts Leila with the keys to the restaurant.
Leila is harsh to Tess at the end, but she’s distraught that Adrian has played her twice now. He’s tricked her into saying something that encouraged both Calumny and Ben to kill themselves, and Ben was a child. She’s watched Tess come close to self-destruction multiple times now, even saving her from a suicide attempt, and feels like Adrian is setting them up for failure.
We don’t know much about Jocasta yet, but otherwise every member of Red Pill has/had a troubled home life with distant, abusive, neglectful or terminally ill parents. None of them have had anyone in their real lives that they felt close to and could turn to for support when they got into trouble, except for Leila. Adrian misread her relationship with her mother. As far as we’ve been shown, it looks like it was as healthy as possible, given the circumstances. Having a decent parent who loved her gave Leila a core of inner strength and stability that the others don’t have, that’s helping carry her through this ordeal.
The others all have mental health issues, varying degrees of suicidal ideation and no trustworthy support system. They’re an easy target for someone like Adrian, who seems to be confident and intelligent, seems to have all of the answers, appears to really listen to and care about them, and makes them feel special and important. It’s an addictive combination for someone who’s been starving for love and affection their entire life. Once they believe in him, he can talk them into anything, because keeping his good opinion is so important to them.
Images courtesy of Netflix.