Tuesday, October 13, 2020

SF8: Empty Body


This episode felt like a monodrama about a grieving mother.

In the future, we learn at the beginning, the humanity leapt forward to the society where death is just one of the unfortunate events, completely reversible. They managed to bring dead back to life. Not entirely as it is mostly done with putting the brain into the cybernetic body of an android. That is, of course, when there is any brain activity.

The very same has happened to Hyera, whose son died in an accident. A company manufacturing the androids, made one who looked exactly like her dead son, Young-in, so the doctors implanted the restarted brain into the body. The whole story starts when the android is accused of destroying the host's consciousness.

A detective asks an unnerving question - whether Hyera took the possibility that the car accident that killed her son was, in fact, a suicide. She accuses his friends who gathered at her home later to have the much late wake for her son that they didn't know him at all, but at the same time, the blade of accusation cuts her as well - because she also did not know him. She says that the day before the accident he was happy - oblivious to the fact that people with suicidal tendencies are not mopping around, crying all day or being gloomy 24/7. She missed the signs.

This is why the talk with the android hurts her so much, because he knew exactly what was on her son's mind in the last days of his consciousness. He was in pain. He accused her that by bringing him back she nullified his choice he made. He was forced to continue living despite not wanting. So he decided to die again, this time permanently.

To lessen the mother's guilt, the android is admitting it was him who killed the consciousness. This also serves as the hint of a much larger problem, not addressed within 52 minutes - the consciousness and will of the AI. He insists it was his decision, that he was annoyed and repulsed by the pitiful remnants of the Young-in's personality. He blurts out scalding opinions about this kind of "living", he bashes the weak will of his host. This convergence of his adamant statement about his own choices and will, and Hyera's final acknowledgment that her son is really gone, make for yet another tension.

Hyera starts to move on, maybe driven by guilt towards his long gone son that she brought back against his will. She accepts the android in her proximity, like a proxy for her unfulfilled care. She wants to change his face so that he wouldn't remind her of her son (and she even asks him why he didn't pretend longer to be him after he extinguished Young-in's consciousness) and yet she's unwilling to let him go.

This episode was mostly dark, nearly monochromatic, with splashes of bright yellow forsythia in the crucial scene in the woods when Young-in's consciousness made the final decision. The spring brightness from the light flooding through the naked trees dimmed what has really happened then. But the night can't last forever and when Hyera decided to move on, the colors and unfiltered light started to appear anew. The episode ends with a car journey with Hyera and Young-in, but somehow that rang an alarm bell at the back of my head - what if the journey is Hyera's swan song? And she plans to take the android with her?
It asked us - how far are we prepared to go for our loved ones? If we had the possibility to revive someone - as a consciousness in an artificial body - would we do it? Even those who took their own lives, which is most shocking and traumatic for those left behind? Would we take that choice back from them and condemn them to the life unwanted and hard? And look at it this way - if we substitute ventilators for android - what do we get? A perfectly contemporary issue of prolonging someone's life through the life-supporting machines and ethics accumulating around this issue. The episode can be also about the choices we face in such very difficult situations as well.

It wasn't an easy watch, it wasn't flashy with technology display (that something is off was shown in the opening scene, when groups of young men were changing clothes here and there - we could see they are devoid of reproductive male organs, and that's it), it relied only on the dialogue and characters' change. And we can ask - who was that titular "empty body" - was it really the android without Young-in's consciousness? Or maybe Hyera? Or maybe even Young-in himself when he was still alive?

We had cameos from Manxin episode actors, that is Seo Hyeonwoo and Lee Donghwi, which I don't mind at all :)


And to close the short reviews of all of the 8 standalone little movies in this anthology - some I liked more than others, which is nothing but natural. However, given the scarcity of sci-fi shows that are so socially relevant, I think every episode did the best what was in its structural frame. Some were leaning more on the lighter way of presenting the issue, and some were mired in bleak execution, which somehow worked overall.