Main cast: Jimmy Jean-Louis (Norman), Dominique Pinon (Stanley Summers), Lygie Duvivier (Lana), Guy Amram (Bauman), and Grégory Basso (Fred)
Director: Guillaume Lubrano
Back to Reality, the last episode of the second season of Métal Hurlant Chronicles goes really meta on everyone, perhaps appropriately enough. We begin the episode with a researcher, Norman, fixing up Stanley Summers (Three on a Match, Second Son) to a virtual reality device which allows the man to experience both episodes as part of his heroic and sexy escapades respectively. Another client, Lena, wants dreams of romantic getaways. However, when Stanley goes on a virtual reality trip to murder his hated boss, he realizes once the deed is done that he’s still grounded in reality. Lana imagines herself jumping off a skyscraper… oops.
Well, it’s obvious that nothing about Norman is what it seems to be. So what is really going on here? As a third client, Fred, (Pledge of Anya) is persuaded to go a “bank robbery” adventure, will he realize in time that Norman is up to no good? Or will he meet a bad end like the other poor sods?
The twist is pretty clever – Norman is actually the person strapped to the virtual reality device; he’s a prison inmate, and they are actually testing how he’d behave if he is given freedom, and it turns out that Norman’s subconscious reveals that he’d love to manipulate people into committing crime sprees – oops. The prison run by the folks that we meet in the second episode of the Red Light/Cold Hard Facts duology in season one, and so poor Norman is denied parole and will no doubt to put to some other “use”. The whole thing is so very meta, but I have to admit, it is a clever way to tie up some of the episodes of the series as some kind of acid trip in a virtual reality device thing, and then connect them to certain other episodes.
Anyway, the whole episode is quite pointless to people who have never watched any of the previous episodes before, and it’s a bit of a self-indulgent wankery on the director and scriptwriter Guillaume Lubrano’s part. I like it, though, it’s a pretty ingenious way to wrap up a series, and it also embodies the series perfectly: there are really good ideas here, but the execution is often flawed.
Well, that’s it for Métal Hurlant Chronicles. I can’t say that it had been an awesome ride from start to finish, but I do like the ideas and the potential, despite the episodes often missing the bullseye one way or another. If someone gives this a reboot, I’d love to see what will come out of it. There are still some good stories to be told in this setting, surely.