The seventh episode of Terror in Resonance sees Watanabe indulge without apology in the excess and absurdity of the climactic Hollywood action scene. Child geniuses engage in the most ridiculous game of chess since Code Geass, Twelve dances between cameras to manipulate security footage, police help terrorists prevent an explosion, and Lisa receives a one-way ticket to a destination of Five’s choosing (spoiler: the destination is death). It’s a fun episode (arguably uncharacteristically so), but it’s also the lowest point yet for our characters.
The goofy conceit of the episode–that Five commandeers an entire airport to play a game of chess with Nine so that she can capture him and Twelve while at the same time using a bomb on a plane to blow up said airport–is bolstered by how the characters actually enjoy themselves in this life-and-death situation. Shibazaki gives a wry and satisfied grin when he confirms that he’s finally tracked down Sphinx. Five smiles throughout her game with Nine, as she monitors him the way a scientist might observe a rat crawling through a maze, or the way a cat might play with a mouse. Twelve is carefree as ever, carefully choreographing his path from blind spot to blind spot, utilizing his knowledge of the airport’s layout to mock the supposed omniscience of his pursuers. Even the stone-faced Nine finds himself enjoying this game with an old friend, complimenting her moves as she compliments his. Considering the high stakes of this game, it’s not exactly normal behavior, but these are not exactly normal people. Five, Nine, and Twelve have all been tainted by the Terror Broiler; if normal society is sane, then those who are not allowed to be part of it must not be sane. This othering extends to Shibazaki, whose ostracization and affinity with Sphinx have already been pointed out by the people around him.
The conspicuous outlier is Lisa. Lisa doesn’t smile at all during this ordeal. She’s fraught with nerves, she musters up courage, she stumbles into people, and she’s thrown into the line of fire, to which she reacts like most people would: by panicking. Lisa is our healthy dose of realism amongst this theatrical spectacle of mad geniuses and savvy cops. She’s an outcast like the rest of the main characters, but she’s also normal. Nine doesn’t bat an eye when throwing a smoke grenade; Lisa needs to steel herself to light a flare in a bathroom. More than anyone else, she treats this life-and-death situation as if it really were life-and-death, shrinking appropriately in response to the gravity of their actions. Note that this too is the attitude our protagonists eventually accept. The mood of the episode transitions with the time of day, moving from sunlight (when everyone’s having a great time with Terrorism Chess), to twilight (when Lisa is called into the fray), to night (when Lisa and hundreds of people must be saved from the time bomb). Even in the series’ most ridiculous episode, Lisa keeps everything grounded. More so than any speech from Five or Shibazaki, it’s Lisa’s failure that dampens the idealism of Nine and Twelve.
Episode 7, “Deuce,” is an echo of the fourth episode, “Break Through,” but rather than resonate, these two interfere with each other destructively. There are some superficial similarities–both episodes follow roughly the same blue-pink-black palette progression defined by the time of day, both concern characters tracking one another, and both end with Lisa being rescued–but the differences are more striking. “Break Through” was concerned with, well, breaking through. Characters weren’t hunting so much as they were wandering. Shibazaki travels to Aomori in search of any clue regarding Sphinx, Lisa roams the streets of Tokyo, Nine reaches out to Shibazaki via cyberspace, and Twelve keeps his distance from Lisa. The climax of the episode sees these connections being reciprocated in a triumphant moment of catharsis–Twelve unites with Lisa, and Shibazaki solves Nine’s riddle. “Deuce” is more concerned with the idea of stalemate. While episode 4 largely unfolded in outdoor areas, episode 7 begins with all of our characters together in the same building, in pursuit of one another. As such, it’s not surprising that Nine corners Five, or when Shibazaki and Nine pass each other in the hallway. These are important moments, but there’s no sense of triumph in this episode. Everyone is locked in, playing an unwinnable game from which they cannot escape.
This too is most evident with Lisa. After the recap, we don’t see her until Twelve calls her. Unlike the other characters, she’s been waiting outside, but the ever present fence still pens her in. When she does spring into action, her destination is the bathroom, echoing her place of retreat from the first episode. Whether or not this is an intentional design by Twelve (after all, he was the one to notice her at school), she is forced to violently break out of her safe haven, to escape from those narrow walls that kept her safe but also trapped her. We hope that this might spark a sea change in her character, that her courage and conviction might help her blossom, but things are not so easy and the show not so kind. Rather, she is cornered once again and thrown into another dark, cramped space. She’s punished for trying to be something other than a misfit doomed to isolation.
Even when Lisa is trapped, however, she always does what is necessary to escape. Despite everything, she wants to live. Contrast her with Five, who seems content to be kept on a leash. While she may not recognize it in herself, she is quick to project it onto other people. Pacing below in the surveillance truck, or perched high in the control tower, she’s like a bird not allowed to fly. The crows flew over the fence of the Terror Broiler on that day when Nine and Twelve escaped, but Five stayed behind, retreating into her corner. Perhaps this is where her obsession with Lisa lies.