“We ain’t going home. Not me, not you. Not Ralphy. We’re all gonna die up here.”
Like many first-year series, Nightflyers has had an up-and-down start. A show featuring an ensemble cast of moderate size must spend time seeding the audience with tidbits of their protagonists (or antagonists) while making sure to keep the narrative rolling. Much of the first two episodes played out as that necessary world-building and, at times, it interfered with the show from firmly grasping the tone that sets Nightflyers apart from most sci-fi dramas. “The Abyss Stares Back” still offers that character building but we’re no longer in the honeymoon phases as, for the first time, the secret’s out. The true antagonist isn’t Thale or even Eris’s secrets…rather it’s the Nightflyer herself.
Before getting to the big question—how, if this ship is the enemy, can they even hope to survive—let’s dive into the details. Animosity, strife, and uncertainty of some sort lines the episode arc for nearly every major player. Karl’s still uncertain about Roy’s motivations and decides to pay a visit to Eris’s living quarters, Rowan realizes that Thale, despite the dangers he presents, is a vital and necessary tool for their mission to succeed and reaches out to help the L-1 focus his massive abilities. The relationship between Mel and Lommie continues but it’s clear that the emotional connection is a one-way street. Eris continues his dodgy ways even when Mel once again calls him out for it. Agatha has the least to do in the episode with Tessia the bee queen offering a bit more insight into Thale’s character that the psychiatrist has been able to give viewers.
From a character standpoint, the stars of “The Abyss Stares Back” have to be Suczek and Eris himself. For Suczek, the episode is about a man who is slowly falling apart. It started simple enough—track down and take down the L-1, but that was only the beginning for him as the horror of the murder-bot spree coupled with the horrid sounds and visions he’s seeing (thanks to the Nightflyer herself) pushes him over the edge. He goes so far as to threaten the crew, ordering them to turn it around lest they all die. The only one to die, though, is him when, in the most surprising moment of the series so far, Eris appears on the bridge in the flesh, disarming Suczek and exacting out the traditions-old punishment for mutiny: death. It’s obvious that Suczek will be far from the last person to fall into that final abyss, though the journey of how we actually get there will be where all the fun is had…
Yet while Eris’s appearance in the flesh was a surprise, even for fans of the original story, the revelation of the Nightflyer containing the consciousness of Cynthia Eris—Roy’s mother—was what we’ve been waiting for. The hints have been there all along, even for those unfamiliar with the source material, so getting the truth out this early gives writers the majority of the season to up the tension and creative mishaps that will undoubtedly take many lives though it may take more time to discover the motivations of the ship. Is there a legitimate reason for not wanting the mission to succeed or is Cynthia’s consciousness like so many ghost stories, malevolent for being taken from the world and uncaring about the pain they bring to the living?
This coupled with that Game of Thrones-type tension of “who will be the next to die?” has the potential to make the next seven episodes of Nightflyers a most memorable experience.
Into the Void
- It was only a matter of time before Roy Eris showed himself and it was not a surprise that Mel in danger was the thing that pulled Eris from his self-imposed isolation. Stopping the mentally broken Suczek and then driving his mother back as she tormented an unprepared Karl has upped the ante now. The cards are on the table so there’s not more dragging out the subterfuge of what’s really going on. Were it a longer series, this early reveal would not be an ideal solution but, with only 10 episodes, this was the perfect time for viewers to get the truth.
- People handle pain differently, of that there’s no doubt. Therapy often helps the transition to accept the grief but watching Karl’s wife Joy edit out the memories of their daughter may be more disturbing than a sentient ship turning killer. Not only does the removal of these memories take out the pain but she’s going a step further, having even good memories that may act as triggers removed. In a way, much of Nightflyers theme revolves around the distinction between the consciousness of humanity (and possibly volcryn) and that of the machine. From the start, Lommie has been that go-between, her neural interface with computers almost acting as a middle ground to the extremes presented by Joy’s “therapy” or the Nightflyer’s (and Cynthia’s) malice.