There’s a new ringleader in Tokyo, and it’s Nine and Twelve’s long-lost friend Five. She calls the shots in the sixth episode of Terror in Resonance, stringing along the police and the terrorists into her game. Yet despite her outward appearance as a maniacal mastermind, she is painted by the subtext as full of complexities and contradictions that inform a more nuanced portrait of who she is and what she’s doing. More so than the other main characters, Five embodies the paradox of adolescence: the simultaneity of being both child and adult while being neither. She’s called a woman by Kurahashi, when Nine and Twelve, who are the same age, are considered teenagers by the police. Five, however, also sits in the back of the car and sings nursery rhymes to herself. Like Shibazaki, she’s on the cusp between worlds, between the powerful and the outcast.
Nine’s guilt over what happened to Five is apparent from the first episode, when we first see a glimpse of the nightmare that torments him. We are led to believe that Nine and Twelve, in their flight from the Terror Broiler, left Five behind and condemned her to metaphorical and/or literal destruction by the institution. Episode six, however, reveals that Nine’s failing was much more acute. She could have left with him and Twelve, but she chose not to. He couldn’t save her from the idea of the institution, that they were simply abandoned children stripped of their names and forced to operate strictly within the parameters of the society that abandoned them in the first place. She stayed behind to continue playing their zero-sum games, where her win must be paired with another’s loss. In the absence of love she found solace in ruthlessness, but despite Nine’s phrasing, this was not her choice any more than it was her choice to be taken in by the Terror Broiler. She doesn’t embrace its light; she’s consumed by it. There was never any sanity for her because none was ever provided, for her or for Nine and Twelve. Even outside the institution, Nine and Twelve can’t help wearing masks and playing games with the police.
Concerned with the concept of resonance, Terror in Resonance plays Five off other characters to give the audience a better idea of her personality and status. Kurahashi is used for one of the most enlightening scenes. Drawn into the meeting with higher-ups, he learns that the FBI will be taking over the terrorist investigation. He has no say in this, which again highlights the top-down verticality of the government hierarchy and also portrays the international tension between the US and Japan. The two countries are allies, but the balance of power is tipped unequivocally towards the US, whose complicated history with Japan has already been brought into the show via Shibazaki’s memory of Hiroshima’s summers. Yet all Kurahashi can do in this situation is resort to drily veiled sarcasm. Despite his position in the Tokyo MPD, he’s powerless here. Five, on the other hand, laughs and insults him and the higher-ups with no hesitation. It’s the privilege she has from her association with the US. However, knowing what we know about the Terror Broiler and the people who likely played a part in its founding, we can assume that she is insulting exactly the kind of people who sponsored her development. So perhaps it’s submissiveness that silences them during her outburst, or perhaps they tolerate her the way one might tolerate a misbehaving dog, with the knowledge that the leash can be tightened at any time.
Nine and Twelve spend most of the episode recovering in their apartment, which has taken on a warmer and more homely feel since the arrival of Lisa. Thus, it is Five’s turn to enter the shadows. Her dimly-lit warehouse base evokes the image of Nine and Twelve’s own warehouse, but it dwarfs theirs in terms of scope and technology. The blue glow of the surveillance station’s monitors further links her voyeuristic tendencies to the image of Nine perched over his laptop, watching his plans take form from afar. And while they have yet to be in the same room, Nine and Five nonetheless stare each other down via the care framing of eyes and gaze.
In the car, the reflection of Five’s eye looks directly into the camera, which is followed immediately by the image of a battered Nine responding with his own half-lidded stare.
Similarly, Nine’s reaction to “seeing” Five for the first time in years is reflected by Five’s own reaction to seeing Nine, down to the reflection of the monitor in their gazes. Despite their common ancestry, they are opposing forces, and one won’t win without the other losing.
Five’s most obvious foil is Lisa Mishima. Both are young women who have been outcast by society, and both have been acquaintances of Nine and Twelve. Their paths and personalities, however, couldn’t be more different. The villainous and brash Five works from the darkness in her pursuit of her old friends. The quiet and sad Lisa, meanwhile, works outside in the light, wanting to help her new friends but also not wanting to get in the way. Lisa finally found solace in people whom she could understand, and who could understand her, while Five became an instrument of the callous, uncaring Terror Broiler. Both are still locked in the cage society built for them, but at least Lisa is looking through to the outside. On the other hand, though, even Five’s ambition to crush Nine and Twelve might be eclipsed by Lisa’s own wish to see the world destroyed.
Five opens the sixth episode of Terror in Resonance with a quiet recitation of the nursery rhyme “London Bridge.” It’s an eerie choice for a series that has already shown a building collapse and a subway car explode. While the rhyme is not explicitly about terrorism, it’s not a difficult leap to make, and maybe Five is simply portending the trap she sets for Nine and Twelve later in the episode. But “London Bridge” isn’t merely about a bridge falling down. There are many versions with many different lyrics, yet most deal with the subsequent efforts to rebuild London Bridge. An example pair of stanzas would be:
Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair lady.
Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair lady.
Every time an attempt is made to rebuild London Bridge, it is wrecked by some act of man or nature. It is trapped in an unending cycle of destruction and repair, but the cycle spirals more deeply towards destruction. London Bridge isn’t being built; London Bridge is falling down. The infrastructure is fundamentally flawed, and no amount of mortar or manpower will stop its decay. In Terror in Resonance, the fundamental flaw lies in society itself–a society which is aging, which is top-heavy, which abandons children, which outcasts good people. Nine and Twelve have, ironically, been trying to repair society by means of destruction, using violence to direct people’s attention to the men in power who meet behind closed doors to decide the fates of others. Five figures this out, and thus “London Bridge” isn’t just a childish affectation but a cruel taunt. It’s a declaration that even Nine and Twelve’s unorthodox methods will fail. And Five should know. She’s society’s new arbiter, delivering its twisted sense of justice. She’s its fair lady, molded and groomed into a weapon by the powerful so that she can hear the dirge of the oppressed and do nothing but hurry along their descent.