'Babylon' Episode 2
We may have something special on our hands.
This episode of Babylon had a different structure to the previous episode, where the sequence of events were taken out of order, while simultaneously playing with different aspect ratios to denote various points in the timeline. The first thing that I thought of when I saw this storytelling method was the framing of the narrative within Persona 5, where the present is comprised of a police interrogation, while the flashbacks are what took place leading up to the interrogation.
This episode starts following the death of one of the two leads from the previous episode, and so true lead Seizaki is on the hunt so that they would be able to bring those that are responsible to justice. As such, using his connections in the police and in the newspapers, he is able to collect clues so that he is able to finally find a witness. It is this witness that he has in the interrogation room, hoping to break her down so that he would be able to obtain a signed confession.
What is fascinating in this episode is the way the power dynamic switches between the characters. The start has Seizaki leading things, and by the end of the interrogation, it is Magase that is leading the interrogation. The way she was able to manipulate the situation using only her mind and words was fascinating to see. The way her points and counterpoints led to the continued contradiction of Seizaki’s convictions till he is acting on an emotional level as opposed to a logical level, giving her the upper hand. It is a really well done interrogation scene because of the way the power dynamics are handled.
This episode goes further into developing Seizaki as a character, showing that he has an emotionally vulnerable side that is prone to anger, as opposed to the calm and composed public prosecutor that was presented to us in the first episode. Showing him to be impulsive with his actions now that his close friend and colleague was killed in the previous episode. This hastiness, leads him to rush the investigation, despite the fact that during the episode his friend tried to hold him back. This rushed-ness leads him to be in an even greater predicament than he already found himself in. Which brings with it a fantastic end to the episode that leaves you with the feeling that you have to know what happens next in the story.
The way the aspect ratio of the episode was utilized was fascinating; and in addition, there was some fascinating edits used to transition time through the episode that was incredibly engaging to look at. There was a fluidity to the edits where a combination of graphic cuts are combined with swipes to make each segment in the investigation feel as if it is being told through a montage, without it feeling as if you are watching an actual montage with rapid cuts. This was an incredibly creative way of approaching the montage that made it seem fresh.
Lastly, the aspect ratios. I found these very interesting. The areas of the episode where Seizaki is in control are presented in a cinematic ratio, where it feels as if he is zoning in on the target. The flashback scenes had the full 16:9 ratio when everything is present from Seizaki’s perspective so that it has the feeling that he is on the lookout for all possibilities. This contrasted heavily by the way Magase’s flashbacks are handled. They are comprised of the 4:3 ratio, meaning that the view is incredibly narrow at this point as a result of Seizaki pushing the issue, something that even Magase brings up.
In addition, there is an old VHS and degraded texture to the flashbacks from Magase’s perspective, and this is a contrast to the clear and bright flashbacks from Seizaki, meaning that Magase is clearly hiding something in the past about the events that transpired. In fact, because it is in the quality it is in, it is as if it is the version of things that Seizaki wants to happen, hence the VHS film-like feel. As if it is the sequence of events he wants to happen in his head, projected into Magase’s story so that he can get the narrative he wants to solve the case. Finally, the moment when Magase takes control of the situation, the aspect ratio is at 16:9, which shows that Seizaki has lost all authority in the situation.
This is a show I find myself interested in more and more, and I cannot wait to watch Episode Three.