Out at sea, a fishing boat suddenly runs aground on a fog-shrouded island. They're even more shocked when the island opens an eye and sprouts massive tentacles, smashing their ship before moving on.
In his mansion, José is again berated by Von Reichter, who's had enough and orders his boy to join him in the Fortress, an observatory/lab on a distant bay point overlooking the town. José's peeved, but packs all his Fixed Ideas in trucks and drives them out, never noticing that Data-7 is tagging along to see where they're going. José is greeted by Von Reichter in person, in a lab filled with tubes containing new creations he'll one day unleash. But first, using a password José is quick to sneak a glance at, Von Reichter calls up the plans for the Isle of Doom, the floating mass taking out every ship it passes as it heads into Meridiana's Bay. From there, it'll climb onto the city proper where it will explode, vaporizing the entire populace, including Cybersix, while also making a statement to the world that Von Reichter is a force to be reckoned with. José is stunned that all the hard work he spent taking over the city will be for naught, and doesn't take much comfort in Von Reichter's promise they can start again on a global scale.
As the island approaches, it's seen by lighthouse keepers, who pass it to City Hall, who pass it up the chain to the Mayor's office. As it keeps coming into view, more and more people stop to take notice, including Lucas and Adrian, with Adrian ducking away after hiding shocking arm cramps from his latest Sustenance deficiency. Returning home, Adrian is greeted by Data-7 who uses the picture of them as children to reveal this is all a Von Reichter plot. Cybersix suits up, but has one thing to do first.
In Lucas's apartment, Cybersix has so much she wants to say but can't figure out how to say it. He tries to comfort her, their moment leading to their first kiss. Welling up with tears, Cybersix rushes out of the room, quietly telling him goodbye.
As night sets in, curious people along the shoreline erupt into panic when the approaching island rises up on its tentacles and starts dragging across the city, paving entire buildings into dust in its path. Evacuations are hastily arranged, with Von Reichter gloating over his mission's success and continuing to brush off a fuming José. Amidst the chaos, Cybersix and Data-7 say additional farewells, she appearing before Lori in Adrian's glasses, quietly revealing her double identity before taking off, and Data-7 tucking a sleeping Julian into bed.
When Data-7 pretends to be an adorable kitten as a distraction, he and Cybersix get past the outer guards of the Fortress and make their way in, taking down any Fixed Idea in their path. As José sees the ensuing chaos, he decides to sabotage the entire plan, cracking into the Isle of Doom's programming and guiding it to instead come to the Fortress before exploding.
Lori and Lucas cross paths during the evacuation. When she shows him the glasses, they both race down the creature's path of destruction on his motorcycle.
Cybersix and Data-7 make it to the lab section, lamenting their fellow experiments and the needed Sustenance they're soaking in. She's attacked by a particularly large Fixed Idea with sideburns, but when the tubes all begin to glow, the energy soaks into Cybersix's arm, filling her need and leading to a punch which fells the hulking figure.
Von Reichter enters, applauding, offering to cure Cybersix of her need for Sustenance if she comes back to work with him. She's uncertain, but follows him into the lab where he reveals his plan for the Isle of Death... only to realize it's nearly on top of him with just a couple of minutes before the explosion. Typing frantically, he realizes José's betrayal and watches on a monitor as the boy drives away, only for a huge tree to seemingly fall on him.
Cybersix orders her maker to change the destination again, send the creature far enough into the woods that Meridiana will be safe, even if it means they'll still die due to the proximity. Von Reichter does so, but also sets free every creature from their tubes, ordering them to destroy Cybersix once and for all. Instead, they turn on him, smiling to Cybersix and pointing her to the exit. As the final seconds tick down, she and Data-7 run as fast as they can to make it out of there before everything goes white.
The explosion is seen by all of Meridiana, Lucas and Lori who squeal to a halt on an approaching mountain road, and Julian who was awoken by the force rocking his boat.
Later, Lucas is sitting alone in their cafe, pondering Adrian's glasses. As he walks home, he passes Cybersix's apartment and is surprised to see a light in the window.
At the mansion, a recording of Von Reichter gushing about Cybersix is playing. A hand reaches into stop it. It's José. He grins.
I figured they were going to pull out some stops when we reached the end of this series, but I didn't expect as massive of a finale as we got. Usually, the end of the first 13 is just where a series gives itself an opportunity to fine-tune its status quo a little while waiting to see if it'll get a back-end pickup to bring the season over 20 episodes. Even animated shows had moved to this model by the late 90s instead of the massive, 52-65 episode syndication blocks they'd fire out all at once. I think this again speaks to the Japanese side of Cybersix as the majority of anime series only go 13-26 episodes and frequently never make it past that length, so they cater themselves to still tell a complete story even if they never make it any further.
That's what we get here as we have curtain calls, the romance hitting the point its been building towards, revelations, massive, city-wide destruction, and the final confrontation of the title. I'll be honest, the least whelming part of the episode is Von Reichter, but that's largely because he's been such a background presence that finally seeing him, especially as he devolves into befuddlement as his big endgame explodes in his face, actually brings a bit of mundanity to this character which deflates the looming menace he's built. That said, I actually like this aspect as it's a very "Wizard behind the curtain" element where this person Cybersix has spent so much time running from and fighting turns out to be quite fallible and vulnerable, and a force which can be reckoned with. I actually love how, after the build, she does very little in the big climax, just watches on as all of Von Reichter's other creations turn on him. That's something which could have been anticlimactic, but is incredibly fitting given how much sympathy Cybersix has shown toward her fellow lab creations, especially as they now give her an opportunity to regain her freedom.
And then there's José. We've given José a lot of crap due to how prominently featured he's been in the series, and I stand by a lot of that, but this is absolutely an amazing note to end him on. He's spent the entirety of the season slowly moving in and wrestling control over the city. He is the top crimelord, he even had the Chief of Police under his thumb at one point. He put a lot of work into this operation of his, even as it cost him relationship points with his father because that mission kept getting in the way of his orders to take down Cybersix. And now, his dad just wants to blow the whole place up, this whole town José's poured everything into, and he can't stand the way Von Reichter is just brushing it off as the way things are. So the boy goes rogue, not only sabotaging the current monster, but setting it to explode right where Von Reichter is, killing his father and every other one of the babies brewing in the labs. José has finally cut ties, has dropped the whole notion of even wanting to appease daddy. Now he just wants it all for himself.
In terms of Cybersix, while, again, she doesn't do a terrible amount in the climax (again, nothing I have a problem with), I love the note of finality to her mission, that she knows this could be the last straw and that she and Data-7 are heading to what could be their deaths, so the curtain call comes in their quiet farewells. Cybersix finally sharing a kiss with Lucas. Data-7 pulling the covers over a sleeping Julian. The odd yet really clever moment of Cybersix revealing her identity of Adrian to Lori of all people and leaving the glasses behind. That one felt a little weird in the moment, but I love what it leads to, with Lori and Lucas teaming up in a wonderful scene where we don't hear their exchange, but as they both hop on a motorcycle and rush into danger, we see just how much they care, and it's heart-wrenching when all they arrive at is an explosion. Same with Julian as it's what wakes him up and he never even knew of the danger or that his friends were diving into it. It's played in a way both inspiring and sad, and when Lucas is sitting in the diner at the end, looking from the glasses to the memory of Adrian sitting across from him, I genuinely choked up.
And to their credit, the creators manage to beautifully have their ending both ways as, not only does the above make for a fantastic resolution to the story overall, a definite end point for their story to go out on, but it does still leave certain threads hanging should that backorder pickup or a second season ever come through. José made it out. Cybersix and Data-7 may have made it clear of the explosion and that light Lucas sees in their apartment window might be them figuring out where to go now. Cybersix and Lucas still have a lot left unsaid and unshared even beyond their first kiss. Hell, even Von Reichter could come back in some fashion. It's not like other villains haven't survived worse.
This is a show that's had stumbles as people used to working on other shows they weren't the guiding force of picked up the reins themselves and tried something new, but while it's had falters of inexperience, it's rarely ever been bad, and it's amazing to see them pull everything together in such a beautiful fashion. This script is again by Judy Valyi and Barry Whittaker, the story editors of the show. Previously, he did "Full Moon Fascination", she "Daylight Devil", and both "Yashimoto, Private Eye". It surprises me that both have zero credits after this show as they did do good work here, and the construction of this finale is testament to their abilities as writers. We haven't mentioned director Toshihiko Masuda before, but he was apparently the supervising director of the series as a whole, and was also one of the main directors of The New Adventures of Batman and Superman. All of the highlights of this series' direction - gorgeous animation, striking action, powerful emotion - are on full display here.
If I have one quibble, it's that the return of Sustenance as a plot thread feels both sudden and underdeveloped. Yes, we did establish in episode 1 that Cybersix needs to kill Technos so she can keep her own systems running on the fluid which also powers them, but then they shied away from that twist, never bringing it up again and never again bringing that specific act of necessity to Cybersix's actions. Even when we've seen other enemies die and go up in smoke, there's never again been a vial, never again been electric cramps in her limbs as a painful reminder. Never again until here. I do like that we get some of that up front, and the twist of Von Reichter offering to remove that need in return for her once again serving him, but then it's dropped again. We never see her drink, her questions of how she'll live if she destroys all the vats never go anywhere. There's even a bit in her fight with Sideburns Fixed Idea where her arm just magically glows and recharges just from being around the Sustenance instead of having to take any of it in. It's not a huge issue, but was one which felt like it could have been executed better.
And yet, even the Monster of the Week is really well done. There's not much to it character-wise as it's just a giant island with eyes and tentacles who follows a signal around, but I love that the creators get to go full Godzilla, with the sinking of the boat up front and all the devastation as it just slowly rolls over entire buildings, grinding them into a path of dust. I absolutely love that we get to see public officials doing their jobs as people start slowly noticing this approaching mass, word is spread, alerts are signaled, and we see most of the population packing up what they can and evacuating. An incredible amount of damage is unleashed, but they do a believable job of minimizing the fear of death as a result. And again, love the whole José twist as this monster, instead of turning against him, becomes the means through which he turns on his father.
This is an absolutely amazing episode, and on top of the excellent counterpoint that was last week, cast away any doubts or concerns I've had for this series as it sent us off with a bittersweet finale that's stunningly definite, yet still open and hopeful. I wish all season/series finales could be this good.
A few extra thoughts:
- Love how, through Sideburns, we get a Fixed Idea who's legitimately threatening and dangerous. Would have been cool to let one of our regulars have that moment, especially as a counterpoint to them being lured in by the promises of kitties, but still a good moment.
- And speaking of, that kitten bit and Data-7's scowl at being jokingly complimented on his performance. Such a great siblings moment.
- "But I'm not human." "Shhh." Swell of music. Sweep of the camera. Stunningly well executed kiss, perfectly living up to our wait for that moment.
- Thought it was just a shading thing, but upon a rewatch, is Von Reichter wearing a mask? Is that makeup/tattooing like on the Fixed Ideas?
- My only problem with the big kiss is that I wish they hadn't given that moment away with the closing credits sequence of every single episode.
(even more stills)
For me, the final episode of any Showcase brings with it a sense of melancholy, no matter how slight. Even if a particular series hasn't been my cup of tea, there's an intimacy that develops when you view and then review a series so many times within a short span. You're at close quarters with these characters and you spend a great deal of time analyzing them and their world. Watching the current week's episode had become a part of my Thursday routine with this particular Showcase, and so as I put in my Cybersix DVD for the final time, I found myself reflecting a bit on the last three plus months. It's amazing how each of these shows carve out their own unique place in your mind and in your heart, ultimately weaving their way into the tapestry of whatever has been going on in your life during that span. A year from now, if someone says "Cybersix", it'll likely serve more as a touchstone for my headspace at this moment in my life as much or more than it will evoke memories of the series itself. But, I digress. That's a conversation best left for our final thoughts. Now, on to this week's episode.
Noel and I both agree that we're coming off of the series' high point with last week's episode, "Daylight Devil". It was so good, so much better than even the previous "best" episode, that I sort of wished that it was the finale. It certainly didn't offer any closure, but there was no guarantee the actual finale would either, and I was desperate to see the show go out on a high note. Thankfully, the finale we did get offers enough highlights to be considered a high note, but it's not without its flaws. Chief among them being the absurdity of Von Reichter's plan.
The Von Reichter boys have cooked up some schemes that would have Cobra Commander rolling his eyes behind that chrome mask of his. Hostile birds. Sadistic circuses. We've seen it all. Or have we. Sending a giant eyeball bomb slowly creeping toward the city is probably the dumbest thing I've ever seen. Not just in this series, but ever. What they were going for, what they actually achieved despite the absurdity of this threat, is to create a looming sense of doom. That the end is coming, that it's inevitable, and that our characters have but a few hours to put their affairs in order. Intentional or not, it also works as a metaphor for the series itself, which only adds to the emotion. But a giant eyeball bomb. Really? Despite this, the atmosphere in this episode is fantastic. There's an end times feel to it that really helps to sell the drama. Combined once again with great animation and a mostly serious tone, it sucked me right in and kept me there despite its weaker element's efforts to pull me out.
I've made no secret of the fact that I hold José in the same regard as a festering butt pimple, but this episode puts him to good use. The Father/Son dynamic works well here, with José's desire to escape his Father's shadow serving to humanize him without betraying his evil nature. And speaking of his Father, Von Reichter finally steps out of the shadows and comes front and center. Keeping him as a disembodied head barking orders to his Son was probably the right approach to take with him, but the drawback is that he has had zero development to this point, and he comes to the fore here feeling unformed and incomplete. We're also cheated out of a more dynamic showdown between Von Reichter and Cybersix because they decided to abandon the early exploration of their relationship. What should've felt personal feels more like a 4th quarter get ta know ya. Underscoring all of this was the sudden reemergence of Cybersix's need for "sustenance", aka Von Reichter's glowing green goop. This was dropped after the first episode, and to bring it back here felt like a cheat.
Perhaps the best moment in the episode, if not the series, is Cybersix's goodbye to Lucas. The latter's balls are probably bluer than Papa Smurf at this point, and I think it's safe to say we've all been waiting for them to do it. Kiss, I mean. Let's keep this PG. It's an awesome moment, staged like the great Hollywood kisses of old, complete with wind and a spinning camera. Equally great is the way Cybersix revealed her identity to Lori. Why they chose to go with Lori instead of Julian I don't know, but it's a good example of "show don't tell" storytelling.
If I have one complaint here, besides the giant eyeball bomb plot device, it's the hedging bet of the ending. The "death" of Cybersix doesn't feel cheap or unearned. On the contrary, it really puts a dramatic exclamation point on the episode and the series. Whether or not the "Is she or isn't she?" thing was because they were uncertain if the series would continue or because they wanted to give us a happy ending, I don't know, but it does retroactively diminish the impact a bit. I love happy endings, but sometimes a character needs to die to serve the story. If you don't have the guts to see it through, keep that card in the deck.
With that, the episode and the series come to an end. "The Final Confrontation" may not scale the dizzying heights of "Daylight Devil", but it serves as a solid, if flawed, capper.
If you'd like to watch along with us, the entirety of Cybersix is available on DVD, thanks to Discotek Media.