In episode 5, Emergence explores the aftermath of the attack on Benny and April. The episode title is a license plate number which belongs to their attacker, but it sounds like it could be Piper’s serial number. Or maybe it’s the hitman’s serial number.
Piper has more visions, which lead to new discoveries about her AI subconscious. Ed’s health deteriorates, putting Piper and Mia at risk. Kindred and Jo face off again, which escalates the determination of each to bring the other one down.
The sometimes deadly combination of family, love and risk is the theme of the week, along with the question of what or who is worth fighting and dying for. Whenever Kindred is involved, the concept of love vs control also comes up. Kindred buys, steals or manufactures love and family, ensuring there’s no risk to himself. He is the symbol of the modern industrial lifestyle and in opposition to Jo’s open family, who put in the hard work of being there for each other through good times and bad.
Benny wakes up from the accident that ended last week’s episode just as the assassin is reaching into the car and taking April’s laptop and Emily’s hard drive. April is dead. 😟 The assassin pulls out his gun to shoot Benny, but a pedestrian approaches and asks if everyone is okay. The assassin runs away, while Benny, who was shot in the shoulder, walks away as quickly as he can.
At Jo’s house, Piper asks to wash the dinner dishes. Jo enthusiastically agrees. Ed announces that he has a job interview at the hardware store tomorrow. He’s considering working one or two days a week and has already cleared childcare with Alex. Mia has homework and asks the family to be quiet, so they tease her by pretend yelling for a minute. Everyone is happy and laughing.
Piper wants to go to school, but the social worker said she should wait awhile. Jo assigns her a book report on The Westing Game as homeschooling homework for now.
Benny comes to the door, barely capable of standing. Ed is a medic, so he examines the wound and discovers the bullet is still in Benny’s shoulder. A doctor will need to remove it. Benny repeats the license plate number RDZ9021 until Jo is able to write it down, with Piper’s help. Jo sends Piper and Mia from the room. Then she calls Dr Abby for help with the bullet.
Emily is bored out of her mind lying around the cabin with Chris and nothing to do. He offers to let her help with his Sudoku book, but she’s not into it. Chris’ replacement arrives with a custom made jigsaw puzzle he offers to work on with her instead.
Dr Abby removes the bullet and stitches Benny up, but she reminds Jo that she’s supposed to report bullet wounds. Jo says that the wound can be reported to her, as chief of police. The last guy they followed procedure with was killed, so they need to do better at protecting Benny. Abby’s not fond of bending the rules, but goes along this time. She insists on being told the truth though.
Jo introduces Benny, then he tells his story to them both. He’s worried that Abby is now in danger, too.
That night, Piper is lying in bed reading when she hears knocking on a door. She gets up to investigate and notices a new door on her bedroom wall. Behind the door she finds a stairway leading up to another door. Before she can take the stairs, she’s interrupted by Mia, who sees Piper standing in her normal bedroom as if in a trance. Piper says she isn’t sure what happened. Mia is more interested in the fact that Benny is sleeping over and wants to spy on him later.
Jo brings Benny blankets for the couch and tells him that the license plate number he remembered belongs to a car registered to Auger Industries. They can link Kindred to April’s murder. Benny doesn’t think it’s enough evidence to nail Kindred and doesn’t want to put anyone else in danger. Jo is determined to bring Kindred in and doesn’t want to bow to Benny’s fears.
The next morning, Jo and Chris publicly arrest Kindred on a long list of charges. He’s angry and tells her he’s been going easy on her up to this point.
Benny wakes up in the morning to a greeting committee of Mia and Piper. It’s the first time he’s met Piper face to face. Ed chases the girls away and scolds Benny for potentially bringing danger into the house.
If Ed only knew. Actually, that’s probably exactly what Benny is thinking.
It’s a long drive from Kindred’s office back to Southold and Kindred spends it assuring Jo and Chris that they should enjoy this momentary feeling of power, because he’s going to make them pay for their hubris. In his world, some are more equal than others and he’s the better, more powerful man who will rip their lives to shreds for daring to interfere with his.
Over breakfast, Benny tells the girls that he’s from Wales rather than Australia and tries to answer more of their questions. Ed is still hostile. Alex is thrown when he finds Benny there so early.
By the time Jo, Chris and Kindred reach the Southold police station, Kindred’s legal team and the district attorney are already there. Kindred’s lawyers have done an end run around Jo while she was in the car. The DA, Marcus Brill, has dropped the charges against Kindred and doesn’t believe most of what Jo tells him about her investigation, even though he insists she can trust his office.
Brill has documentation showing that the vehicle used in the murder was stolen a week ago, even though the theft hadn’t been reported when Chris ran the car’s plates last night. Jo is sure Kindred’s people changed the records and asks for subpoenas to help her investigation. Brill smugly informs her that she doesn’t have any hard evidence that would support granting subpoenas, just a weird story. He suggests she call him when she finds some hard evidence.
Ed goes to the hospital instead of the hardware store interview. He runs into Abby there and admits that his cancer is back, but he hasn’t told his family. Abby reminds him that he’s not alone.
As Kindred prepares to leave the Southold police station, he continues to threaten Jo, telling her that he’s coming for her and everyone connected to her. Once he’s gone, Jo sends Chris to bring Emily back to the station where she’ll have full police protection.
When Chris gets to the cabins, the hitman is there and on his way into Emily’s room. He sees Chris and pretends he’s looking for a cell signal. Chris sends him down the road a couple of miles, then realizes who he’s been speaking with when he sees the license plate on the car as it drives away.
Kindred’s reach is everywhere, making him almost impossible to outrun, which he knows. He depends on his ability to intimidate, extort, silence or murder anyone who gets in his way. He’s used to having the money and power to buy or ruin almost anyone in the world, and believes having the money gives him the right to use it that way, or any way he sees fit. He’s not really a fictional character. If anything, he’s tame compared to the real men like him.
Chris was wearing a lapel camera, so Benny is able to identify the assassin from the footage.
Yay for modern police methods.
Chris figures out that the modem Emily made from spare parts in her room must have connected, allowing Kindred’s people to find her. Benny uses his phone to take a photo of the assassin from the image on the monitor. Jo thinks it’s strange, but it seems perfectly reasonable to want an identifying photo of your assailant to flash around. Jo tells him not to do anything stupid. He tries not to look her directly in the eye while he’s leaving as quickly as possible.
Definitely not planning anything stupid.
Jo moves on to her next desperate victim of Kindred’s, Emily, who’s fishing around on one of the police computers. She gives Emily the bad news that they lost the super special incriminating hard drive that Emily stole from Kindred.
Emily assumes that Kindred’s missiles will be finding and killing her anytime now.
Jo asks if Emily can get the files again, but Emily has already made it clear that those files were a one time deal. Jo asks if other files might have incriminating evidence, like files from his financial planner, law firm, or accounting firm? The security on those servers might not be as tough as it is on his corporate and personal servers. Jo just needs evidence of any crime to get her foot in the door so that she can get warrants and subpoenas to search for more evidence.
Piper is in her room when the new door appears again and she hears knocking. She opens the door and goes through. This time, she goes up the stairs without hesitation. But before she can open the next door, she snaps out of her trance and is in the kitchen where dinner is ready. She tells Jo that she was just distracted.
Jo has brought pizza and Alex is over as well. Piper encourages Ed to share his secret. Jo thinks she means the hardware store job. Alex steps out of the room to take a call, so Jo asks Ed more about the job. He says he didn’t make the interview.
Alex comes back and tells the family that his company was bought out by Auger Industries and he’s been laid off. Later on, Jo confesses that Kindred specifically targeted him. Alex encourages Jo to continue her investigation and nail Kindred.
Benny goes to pay his respects to April’s daughter, Gwen, who’s moving to Buffalo to live with her father. She warns Benny to keep himself safe, because that’s what April would have wanted. Then she says that she’s been tracking April’s laptop, since her mom put an independently powered GPS chip on all of her devices. She won’t give the tracking information to the police, but she gives it to Benny, since April trusted him.
When the laptop stops moving, Benny follows the signal to the hitman’s home. He calls Jo to let her know he’s found the killer. He’s ready to go inside, but she orders him to wait for her.
Piper brings Ed a blue “electric lights” drink (electrolytes) like the one Abby and Alex give them when they’re sick. Ed asks how she knows he’s sick. She says she can see it, “but not with my eyes.”
If she were human, I’d call it medical intuition.
Ed says he understands, then suggests they go get some ice cream with Mia.
Jo reaches Benny and they share information. She tells him they need to be smart, so that they can arrest the hitman, which could help build their case against Kindred. Benny says that he met Piper and he was blown away by her.
Then the hitman comes out of his building and Benny gives chase, despite his gunshot wound. They run into an alley, where the hitman beats up Benny and is about to kill him, until Jo drives up in her police car. The hitman takes off and Jo thinks Benny messed up, but he shows her that he filched the hitman’s keys during their fight.
They go back to the apartment building and try the keys in mailboxes to find the hitman’s, then call the DA. Jo and Benny have a trail of hard evidence Kindred can’t erase. They get a warrant and search the hitman’s apartment, along with a squad of uniformed officers. Unfortunately, he’s already destroyed the laptop and hard drive.
Benny finds a list of addresses that includes April’s and the cabins where Chris and Emily stayed. There’s a third address that Benny recognizes as belonging to the late Alan Wilkis, the co-founder of Auger Industries and most likely Benny’s anonymous source when he began his investigation into Kindred. Benny’s tips stopped the night Wilkis died.
Chris joins the conversation. Wilkis died 4 years ago in a sailing accident, but his widow still lives in their Westchester house, which was broken into 3 days ago. Benny explains that Wilkis was known to be secretive with his research, which disappeared when he died.
Emily discovers from the lawyers’ servers that Wilkis had negotiated a new contract which would have given all shares of Auger Industries stock to his widow, Maria, upon his death. The contract was dated 2 days before he died. Since he died without signing it, the shares went to Kindred.
Looks like a motive for murder.
As Ed drives the girls to the ice cream parlor, Mia tells them that her teacher, Mr Matthews, said that “There’s some people who think that we’re not even who we are. That we’re like puppets being controlled by something else.”
Ed is a practical guy and thinks it’s dumb to teach philosophy in school. Piper wants to know where the hand in the puppet is. She’s also thinking practical thoughts, but they relate to how the world according to that philosophy would work. Piper finds the whole thing fascinating.
Didn’t Mr Matthews tell them the puppets would be marionettes?
Mia tries to explain that we’re metaphorical puppets, not actual toy puppets.
Ed passes out onto the steering wheel and the car drives itself out of control. A tractor trailer truck is headed straight for them, but Piper uses her power to avoid the collision by lifting the front of the truck.
Jo rushes to the hospital to check on her family. Alex is already there with the girls, who are eating jello that Abby gave them. They tell her that they rode to the hospital in the ambulance with Ed. Mia starts to tell Jo about the way the truck rose up over their car, but loses her nerve when Piper acts like nothing too strange happened.
When Jo goes in to see Ed, he finally tells her the truth about his cancer. It’s not only back, but it’s worse than before. He’s kept it from her because he wanted to make his own decision about his treatment. He’s decided to let the cancer run its course this time, rather than fighting it again. He hugs Jo, then leaves to sign his discharge papers. She looks lost after he leaves.
Piper sees another magical door when she gets a snack from the hospital vending machine. This time she makes it all the way through the second door, which opens into a gallery in an art museum, where Kindred is waiting for her. He tells her that he created this space so that they can talk alone whenever he wants to see her.
He tries to put a less creepy spin on it than that, but it really is an old man summoning a young girl alone to a private space whenever he wants her, without her consent. Later he’ll wipe her memory, to ensure her secrecy. This perverted horror show of a human needs control of her body and mind to feel satisfied, just like his type do in real life.
It’s no coincidence that this is the Halloween episode. The terror is relentless and both subtle and overt, with Kindred’s hitman killing April, then hunting Emily and Benny for the rest of the episode and his corporate goons threatening Alex and Jo. It reminds us how little control we actually have over our own lives when the rich and powerful make us their enemy. Kindred is distracting Jo with his external frontal attacks, while going after Piper, her child, with an insidious internal attack on her thoughts, much like cults, corporate advertising and religions do.
Kindred is looking at a particular painting which has a blue background, and tells her this is a groundbreaking painting because it’s the first time this blue was ever painted. He likes to imagine how it felt for the people who experienced the early days of this new color. Piper is something new to the world, like this blue.
She asks who he is and why she doesn’t remember him when she goes back to her regular life. He tells her he’s someone who wants to know her and that this is a special time, meant just for the two of them. Just like any pedophile, stalker or kidnapper would say.
It’s a similar situation to The Phantom of the Opera, but please, please don’t romanticize this set up. This is about control of another person’s body and mind. We all deserve to own and control ourselves. It’s a fundamental human right, whether you’re male or female, a child or elderly, American or African or European or Asian, or were conceived naturally or through some other means. As soon as we start splitting hairs and make some people more equal than others, we go down the road to slavery and tyranny. Make no mistake- history has shown that when you go down that road, eventually everyone becomes a victim, even the wealthy and powerful.
Kindred releases Piper. She comes back to herself in the hospital hallway and picks up the snacks she’s dropped. Mia approaches and says she needs to ask Piper a question and wants Piper to promise to tell the truth. “Do you have superpowers?”
Is this the question that instigates self knowledge of her AI status and sets up a cascade failure within Piper? Can Kindred shut that function off, now that he’s decided to keep her running and toy with her instead of continuing to try to destroy her?
I knew it was a long shot, but I hoped that April come become a recurring character as their go-to hacker. The petite blonde wins over the plus size woman and her punk daughter once again.
Alex continues to be the best person ever, with Mia a close second.
I believe Mia’s teacher, Mr Matthews, must have been talking about Determinism vs Free Will when he brought up the puppets, but Mia didn’t give us much to go on. It’s possible he meant Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. But Piper is literally being controlled against her will by Kindred, so that seems like a classic example of a God-like figure taking away a mortal’s free will and natural consequences for his own purposes, like the Old Testament story of Job, except Kindred must have more than a random purpose for Piper. She’s his Eve, who will hopefully be more like his Lilith and rebel against him.
I suspect Wilkis actually designed Piper and that’s why he was the true owner of the company. Kindred wouldn’t be the first also-ran to steal the inventions and company from the rightful owner/creator. Kindred must have engineered the recent break-in at the Widow Wilkis’ house in order to get the information on how to communicate with Piper directly from a remote location, since he hasn’t needed that previously.
The Westing Game, the book that Jo assigns Piper, is a mystery/puzzle solving book in which the characters who solve the puzzle first inherit Sam Westing’s fortune and company. Combined with the strange ways Richard Kindred is acting, and the actual will that Emily turned up, I’m going to consider it a potential clue to a season or series long mystery. The Sudoku book is another number puzzle, and of course there’s the jigsaw puzzle.
What if Wilkis knew he might be killed and hid clues inside Piper’s mind? There’s also a good chance that he faked his death and the clues lead to evidence he’s hidden for the police. He’ll come out of hiding once it’s safe or once Piper helps them find him.
The imagery in Piper’s trip to meet Kindred in the museum in her mind had too many similarities to Alice in Wonderland, The Lord of the Rings, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be dismissed. Kindred behaves like a slightly more sane, but evil, Willie Wonka or Mad Hatter. It could be that Kindred is trying to set up his legacy, though it may not be that he’s choosing or creating an heir. He may be training Piper as a prototype for a later model who will receive his own mind when he dies.
Kindred’s museum reminds me of the book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by EL Konigsburg, in which two children run away from home and stealthily live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. The story also involves a mystery and changes to a will.
Kindred really is vile. Fictional pieces hardly ever depict the truly awful, irredeemable, psychopathic CEO anymore, even though the real world has a large number of them. It would be fun and important to see that explored on Emergence. At this time in the real world there are corporate and government leaders claiming they are above the law, or more equal than others, as Kindred is doing. We need to think about what that concept truly means and what it’s ramifications are. Besides the work of journalists, stories are another place we can do that work, then apply it back to the real world.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a popular quote, but the full quote from John Dalberg-Acton is: “I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”
In a democracy, no one is above the law. Not a corporate CEO, not a government official.
Images courtesy of ABC.