REVIEW: The Fourth Child/The Choice of Life (Evangelion)
We are standing on the edge of a cliff. From now on, everything before the break is just gonna be spoiler-free dummy text. This is because, starting with the end of the second arc–well, everything is spoiler text. Where we stand is the last vestige of happiness and light in this fictional universe and before us lies the desert of misery, depair and unrequited love. If you don’t want to be spoiled about the actual plot and events of this series, you’ve already read your last recap. I’ll see you on the other side. But hey, thank you for reading!
The Fourth Child:
Have you ever had your friends accidentally keep a secret from you? Where everyone unintentionally keeps something from you for days and days on end, and then when you find out, all they have to say is “I thought you knew”? Doesn’t that blow?
The jigsaw puzzle plot of Evangelion is in full-effect, boyee, and that means that now, the narrative is bumming around the entire ensemble, trying to find new combinations of characters to avoid animating mouthwags for. This episode opens with Misato testifying before Seele about Shinji’s mental state after the last Angel battle. We hear he’s doing fine, but it’s not like we’d ever really know if he was hurting. Toji still regularly visits his sister. Remember, his sister? She was hurt in the first battle. Remember Toji? He’s one of Shinji’s friends.
The NERV facility, branch #2, is destroyed along with Eva Unit-04 and thousands of people for unknown reasons, that include sabotage. Unit-03 is still a possibility, being shipped to Tokyo-3 presently, but that would require a fourth pilot. Ritsuko and Gendo talk about how they could use the Dummy Plug System to pilot the Eva. It’s a system that has Rei’s consciousness in it. So that’s why she’s been all naked with Gendo in the basement in that test tube. What, I didn’t mention that? Ritsuko mentions that there is a child who could pilot it.
This episode takes a very good approach to depicting something that can’t really be recapped. Instead of trying to get into the heads and psyches of these people, it shows their shallow interactions as they are, relying on context to carry it. Misato and Ritsuko talk about who the fourth pilot is gonna be. Shinji isn’t gonna take the news well at all, apparently. Shinji and Toji drop off the class bulletin at Rei’s place, finding it a dank, decrepit pit. Toji and Shinji get some quality time together. Toji even sincerely shows some affection to him.
Kensuke asks Shinji all these questions about who the fourth pilot is gonna be. Shinji doesn’t even know about Unit-03. Gendo and Fuyutsuki wax philosophic about what Tokyo-3 really is. Kaji is hitting on Maya, who is flattered, but not exactly interested. I wonder who she could be holding a torch for. Misato catches them. Kaji tells her that the Marduk Reports, responsible for selecting the pilots of Evangelion, are entirely faked by Gendo Ikari himself. Ritsuko mentioned a while ago that all the pilots had to be held close together. Misato asks for more information; Kaji gives her the number of Shinji’s school. Kaji hits on Shinji and shows him his watermelons.
Toji and the class rep Hikari awkwardly set up a system by which she makes his lunch every day. She has a soft spot for him, you see. Asuka throws herself on Kaji while he’s trying to work. By accident, she sees who the fourth child is, exclaiming “Who made him the fourth child?!” Toji lands a two-pointer.
Shinji doesn’t know. Technically, neither do you.
The Choice of Life:
And the admittedly heavy-handed way in which that’s portrayed, where Shinji is literally clueless all the way up to the end of this episode, is much more effective than trying to play it subtle or cool. No one ever says who the pilot is. They all dodge the question, right until the tension that’s been mounting steadily snaps and all hell breaks loose. These episodes work as a two-parter, carrying one plot line using similar techniques, so I’m pretty much keeping this review up where the last left off.
Shinji even asks Misato as the episode opens, “who’s the pilot?” She stalls out of nervousness until the doorbell rings. Hell, even in private conversation, nobody uses his first name. They mention the fact that he bartered for his little sister to be transfered to a better hospital. All the pilots are in one place. The pilot has an injured little sister. Toji runs out of lunch before he even gets his lunch from Hikari. He talks to Rei about how Shinji doesn’t know yet and how Rei really cares about Shinji. She admits that she just might.
Asuka’s taken the entire episode to cover up her feelings for Shinji by pretending to hate him. Is it pointing out the obvious to say that she really can’t face him because she knows who the pilot is and is worried about how he’s taking it? She’s miserable, but won’t tell anyone why.
Again, even this episode, it’s tiny, shallow moments between people being used to represent the whole intense drama playing out behind the scenes. It’s the mark of good storytelling when events can be portrayed without bias like these, trusting the audience to put two and two together. The fourth child arrives at NERV headquarters. Hikari is holding Toji’s lunch, asking Asuka where he is. Kensuke doesn’t know who it is, and says to Shinji that maybe it’s Toji. “Like that’d happen,” Shinji says.
There’s a problem–there always is. Unit-03’s going berserk. That’s what it looks like, anyway. Except, it’s really been co-opted by the thirteenth Angel. Gendo orders the target destroyed.
Nobody’s told Shinji yet.
Nobody’s told him.
And after the Angel has disposed of Unit-02 and Unit-00, it rounds on Shinji. Shinji does the noble thing and refuses to attack, knowing that there’s a kid in there who can feel all of what he would do.
Gendo orders Shinji shut out of control and the Dummy Plug System activated. What follows is the most brutal, gory and disgusting mech fight I’ve ever seen. Unit-01 punches through the skull of Unit-03, spreading teeth, brain tissue and blood over the landscape. All while Shinji is screaming at his dad to stop the dummy plug from killing the other pilot–when it crushes the entry plug of the other unit in its hand. Hikari wonders what she’s gonna make Toji for lunch tomorrow.
And after all that, they find that the pilot is still alive. Misato’s on the phone to Shinji, apologizing profusely for not telling him that the pilot was–
… But even then. Shinji sees Toji being pulled from the plug with his own eyes. No one ever told him. “I thought you knew.”