In this episode, there is a battle, and an ending of sorts.
We begin where Chapter 8 left off, with Keisha narrating. Sylvia is still shaking on the floor of Alice and Keisha’s hotel room. She remarks, “Guess that was my life.”Keisha, on the other hand, responds that “it’s not like that.” Sylvia brushes this off, saying that it is, and that it “wasn’t too long of a life, but at least I get to live it forever now.”
So, remember the little prediction I made at the end of the last post? About how people could become oracles like they can become Thistle Men? Well, I was right. Because it turns out that’s exactly what’s happening to Sylvia.
Her trembling increased. It wasn’t like shivering, or a spasm of the muscles. It was like her atoms were vibrating with more and more intensity. She became blurry.” Then Sylvia’s transformation is complete, as her face disappears into the hoodie. Keisha then muses for a moment on the oracles, and Thistle:
It was always people. Thistle were people, and the oracles were people, and we were all just people, struggling for an idea of what being a person should be like. If people could do all this, then we could undo it. It was time.
The credits roll, and then we switch over to Alice, describing a field that was once meant to be a housing development that was abandoned when that particular bubble burst. She notes that it’s quite a ways away from the nearest town, but the people working on building it up had started out by building a road, so at least it’s easy to get to.
She compliments Lucy on picking a spot for them to meet as she, Keisha, and their bunch find her waiting for them…along with a metric fuckton of Thistle Men.
She then comes to the realization that, while they have an oracle on their side, they are still ridiculously outnumbered. However, they approach.
I looked at Lucy, this woman I had once trusted completely, who had plucked me from a once tedious but happy life into a great conflict for the good of humanity. A conflict that was a lie.
“Hi Alice,” she said. “Thanks for coming.” I didn’t say anything. There was nothing left to say.
We switch back to Keisha’s POV, in the morning just before the confrontation. She notes that there was a general sense that some of the people that were going to the abandoned field in Indiana were going to die: “We tried to make it OK. But it wasn’t OK.”
Sharon, the sheriff’s office clerk from Poughkeepsie, sits down beside Keisha, who greets her. She responds by saying that Keisha “really got us into it with this one.” Keisha agrees, and Sharon responds that she had a pretty good life, and that she thought that “would mean something,” before admitting that she’s now simply scared.
Keisha tells her, “It all means something…even your fear.” The two just sit together for a while, before Sharon tells Keisha that, even if she had to do everything all over again, she’d still give Keisha and Sylvia the security footage of Sylvia’s mother’s death.
Alice takes over again, and the battle begins:
There was a moment when we weren’t moving. And then there was a moment when we were. I don’t remember who moved first. Probably the oracle that had once been Sylvia. They had such speed now. There was a power to them. A crackle. All the oracles had power, but this transformation was so new it still bled energy like an open wound in space and time. I could feel it as they passed me, a waver in the air. A vibration in my stomach.
As the oracle and Praxis’s far-too-small army engage the Thistle Men, Keisha and Alice turn their attention towards Lucy. They charge right at her: “If we died this day, we would die fighting for what we stood for, and there are worse ways to end a life.”
We then cut back to Keisha, talking to another one of their group. In this case, Tanya, the trucker who had passed on the message from Sylvia earlier this season. She talks about how he made everyone around him laugh, and how “there was an energy to him, the kind that makes everyone relax, even when he seemed kind of keyed up.”
He talks about how he hates waiting, and how his impatience frequently annoyed the softball team he played for: “Good athlete, but a little too aggressive to be a good teammate? Story of my life.”
Keisha tells him that’s not the whole story, and Tanya responds that that’s true, before adding his doubts that any of them are going to survive to hear the whole story. He adds that that’s fine with him. “I like moving. I hate talking.”
Keisha, laughing, responds, “You hate talking?” Tanya laughs too, and says that “you got me there.” He adds that he’s just “marking out time until I can get my hands on them.”
Back to Alice, narrating the fight she and Keisha have with Lucy.
I went for Lucy first, and she was prepared for that. She judged our relative anger, had realized I would feel the betrayal most keenly. Keisha only knew her as a mysterious Bay & Creek commander, as a quarry. But I knew Lucy as a friend.
Alice’s initial attack doesn’t end super well, since Lucy is able to take her down pretty quickly with a kick to Alice’s knee. Lucy is about to stomp down on Alice’s throat when Keisha, who doesn’t take too kindly to this, gets her in a chokehold from behind.
Lucy manages to shake her off in short order with an elbow to the kidney, but this manages to give Alice a chance to get back up and go on the offensive. Unfortunately, this turns out to not matter too much, because Lucy turns out to be a better fighter than both of them combined.
Back to Keisha, this time talking to Daniel, the convenience store clerk from Swansea. She notes that he seems to be shivering uncontrollably, so she goes over to him and put an arm around him.
“I’m not scared,” he said.
“Why the hell not?” I said. “The rest of us are.”
“I’m not trying to be tough,” he said. “I’ve never been tough. But I don’t feel anything. I think it’s all become motion for me. Everything that I’m supposed to feel, it’s instead evaporating out of me as a tremble.”
Keisha jokingly tells him that he’ll have to teach her how he does that, to which he responds by looking at his phone and telling her that they’ve got three hours for him to show her.
She doesn’t respond verbally, but rather by holding on to him: “We shook together, and he was right. It didn’t feel like fear. It felt like movement.”
We go back to the fight, and Alice notes with no small amount of dismay that they’re losing it, though she supposes that this is pretty much what they were expecting to happen.
She also notes that they didn’t seem to do much damage to Lucy, though she’s certainly done a number on them. Unfortunately, it looks like Sylvia/the oracle appears to be buckling under the strain of fighting so many Thistle Men.
Then she notices something else:
But then, at the edge of the field, I saw another oracle. And then a third next to them. And behind the oracles, blurry in my sweat-and-blood-smeared vision, I saw hundreds of people, maybe thousands. Even in the swoon of my pain, I felt redeeming joy. It was Praxis.
Keisha cuts in again, to recount a conversation with Laurel. She smiles at Keisha, and she sits next to her, asking what she plans to do when this is all over.
Laurel asks Keisha if she has any plans, and Keisha responds that she does. Laurel says, “Hmmmmm,” and Keisha tells her to not start with her “kinder world” talk: “I’ve had some experience recently with wising for a better world, and I don’t think one exists. We play the world we’re dealt.”
Laurel then says that she’ll probably go back home when this is over, and back to her job. Keisha asks her if the black barge her brother and nephew went missing on ever showed up again, and Laurel tells her that it hasn’t.
She then squeezes Keisha’s arm, before telling her, “It’s been a pleasure, and a heartbreak, knowing you.”
Back to the fight, where things seem to be looking up:
There were those we organized, and those organized by those we organized, and so on. A sprawling network, all over the country, thousands of hands. And what if they all reached as one? What if they all grasped? We were held together by a vision of the world.
Alice explains that they had told Sylvia the plan, which then spread to the other oracles after her transformation, which in turn spread to the rest of Praxis. Which, of course, prompted them to join the battle.
She notes that they seem to pause for a moment, unsure of exactly what it was they came to do, as well as in horror at the scene before them. Then, to their credit, this other Praxis group shakes off their paralysis and charges.
Back to Keisha before the battle, and she recognizes a couple of people that she didn’t expect to see: Ramon and Donna, from the traveling burger restaurant.
“Always nice to see your face,” said Donna, and Ramon nodded a gruff hello.
“Surprised to see you,” I said. “I don’t know if this was the kind of Praxis you were talking about, but it’s the kind we made.”
“Ah, Praxis was never a centralized kind of organization,” said Donna. “This is as much Praxis as anything else.”
Ramon adds, in his brief fashion, that the two will be joining them for the upcoming fight. Keisha tells them that what they’re doing isn’t the smartest thing in the world. Donna laughs, and tells her that they’ve never been smart, and being smart is overrated anyway.
Alice picks up again, and notes that the Thistle Men seem to be taken aback by the sudden turning of the tables. Lucy notices this too, and can really only respond with “Fuck.”
Keisha goes after Lucy again, and she tries to regain some bravado:
“Just because you have the crowds doesn’t change who you are,” said Lucy. “I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you. You fight me, you’ll die.”
Keisha barked a laugh. “Who I am?” she said. “I’m afraid, but I”m going to do this anyway. And that’s who I am.”
Alice tries to get up ad go to her, but Keisha beats her to Lucy. She’s unable to tell in the commotion who’s winning the fight, but eventually comes to realize that it’s Lucy, as she’s now straddling Keisha and is about to plunge a knife into her. She notes, despairingly, that she’s about to watch Lucy kill her wife.
However, it turns out that Lucy had overestimated Keisha’s fear, and underestimated her anger.
Then Keisha tensed her body and flipped Lucy to the ground, and before Lucy or I or anyone else could have reacted, Keisha smashed Lucy’s head into the concrete foundation of a house that would never be built. Lucy’s eyes immediately went vacant, and her hands slipped loose the knife.
But Keisha didn’t stop. Again and again. Thump. Thump.
She rose, blood all over her. “I killed her,” she said. “You saved me,” I said. She did.
We switch again to Keisha, who recounts a conversation that she had with Sylvia before her transformation. Sylvia says that she wants to feel useful, and Keisha responds that she is useful. Sylvia tells her that she thinks there’s a difference between felling useful and being useful.
Keisha says that she doesn’t know how she would have been able to do what she’d done without Sylvia’s help, and she responds, “That’s a sweet lie, and don’t ever tell me the truth.”
The two of them then just sit in silence for a while, and Keisha says that she wishes she could have done more to protect Sylvia, but “I guess I’ll just have to accept that she protected me.”
Alice details the end of the battle that they just endured. She notes that a number of people didn’t make it:
I looked at the dead on the ground, and I didn’t recognize any of them. So many strangers who had come to die here, at our feet. But not for us. For each other. I recognized that although we had been the catalyst, we were not the cause. It’s important to never get that confused.
Then she says that she was lying when she said she didn’t recognize any of the faces of those who had died, and she says that she’s sorry.
Keisha closes out the episode by talking to the oracle that used to be Sylvia, asking them if it’s over. The oracle responds, “For you, yes…I am still fighting them. And I am meeting you for the first time.”
They add that they can’t change anything that they’re saying to her right now, which causes Keisha to jokingly ask what would happen if she tickled them. They laugh, and say that she doesn’t. Then, they say they have two things to tell her. The first this is that they “feel of good use,” and the second is that Keisha can go home.
First off: I know I’ve said this before, but holy shit can Keisha throw down if she really needs to. Also, one thing that I noticed is that the episode is missing the radio transmission sound effects that previous episodes used to note a scene change or switching narrators. I’m not entirely sure why, I’m guessing because after this they aren’t on the road anymore so don’t need to use the radio. But I could be wrong.
This Tuesday is the final episode, of both this season and the series as a whole. I’m thinking it will most likely be an epilogue of some sort.