I understand that you think I acted too emotionally. Putting aside the fact that men always say that about women they work with, I’ll get straight to the point: I am emotional. I do bring it into my work. It’s what motivates me. It’s what helps me get into the headspace of our victims, see what they’ve seen, even if I don’t want to, even if it horrifies me. And I think it makes me a better agent. If you have a problem with that, I’m sorry. You can fire me. But I hope you don’t.
– Olivia Dunham, The Cure [Fringe 1.06]
In the first season of Fringe, we are introduced to Olivia Dunham, a female FBI agent whose talent for hard work, intuition, and perseverance grabs the attention of Investigator Phillip Broyles, who then inducts her into the Fringe Division – a top secret part of the government dedicated to investigation strange phenomenons happening all over the world. The season is very much about Olivia’s dedication to the group and her strong sense of justice, her growing connections with her bizarre coworkers, and most of all, her attempts to process the trauma she must endure since episode 1. In Episode 6, “The Cure,” Olivia takes serious affront to one of the male antagonists of the episode to the point where she deliberately agitates him so she can arrest him and cause the press to force him to give himself up. Her boss accuses her of acting impulsively, to which she states that women in a male dominated field such as hers are driven by their emotions, which make them more powerful instead of more cowardly.
Olivia Dunham is not volatile. She is not clumsy, cute, or merciless. She is classified as cold and distant, rarely showing emotion as she pulls out her gun and barks arguments at her boss – a common complaint I’ve seen with the first episode of Psycho Pass 2, which returns to focusing on Akane Tsunemori, who is now the lead investigator of her division, working with newbie Shimotsuki and Enforcers Togane and Hinakawa as well as returning Enforcers Ginoza and Yayoi.
The first episode of Psycho Pass 2 removes any flashback needed to reintroduce us to our characters, because it needs no introduction. Psycho Pass 2 is about Akane Tsunemori – both the agent and regular citizen – and Akane’s team, not about newbie Akane and Shinya Kogami, the latent criminal Enforcer. If the first season dedicated itself to the latter through Kogami’s main interactions with Akane and the antagonist Makishima, Psycho Pass 2 episodes dedicates itself to the former, presenting Akane first as a detective before a humane and compassionate leader. This can be seen in the new opening, which displays Kogami in various types of the same room, while spending much of its time focusing on Akane in different environments.
The first episode emphasizes these layers to Akane’s characterization with parallels to the first episode of the first season. In Psycho Pass episode 1, Akane is also unlucky in being introduced to a tough case with little guidance from her superiors. Here, in episode 1 of the second season, Akane is the leader, and therefore her employees, while unlucky, are guided by her orders and reasoning. Akane’s interactions with the Enforcers display her authority but her respect for them; in contrast to Mika Shimotsuki and Ginoza in Season 1, who follows orders by the book and views the Enforcers as nothing but tools to be used and eventually, discarded. Akane, while reinforcing her authority through orders, has the patience to reason out her decisions to her subordinates and even trusts them to the point where she allows them to make their own decisions. This in return, creates a deep bond between her teammates to the point where they too, trust in her, even going as far as to defend her when she acts on her impulse and idealism.
This idealism is seen in the rising point of the first episode, where Akane tries to reason with the bomber Akira Kitazawa to lower his Psycho Pass number to 299 so she can paralyze him instead of killing him with the Dominator. Throughout the investigation, Akane shows little to nearly no emotion on her face as she makes her decisions and talks with Akira. This could easily be mistaken as lack of emotion or an unnatural state of calmness, but Akane disproves this with her actions and her beliefs. Akane is still very much fueled by emotions, as shown by her desire to change the Sybil System from within rather than outside (as echoed by the final episodes of Season 1). Her passion is driven rather than uncontrolled, and it is her compassion that allows her to empathize with individuals rather than just sympathize and follow orders – her strongest trait. Akane’s emotions thus not only make her a better person, treating her team dutifully, but also a better agent, in her struggle to differentiate victim from villain.
Akane’s innate goodness is also emphasized by the introduction of Kirito Kamui, the main antagonist for the season, who, like Makishima, also has a low Psycho Pass, allowing him to commit murders unnoticed by the Sybil System. Akane understands that a person’s Psycho Pass is a simplistic number that calculates biological motive (fear, hatred, and misunderstanding) but not a societal one, and thus tries to convince those who are motivated by the Sybil System’s unequal treatment of individuals to transform their deep seated loathing for constructive purposes. On the other hand, Kamui manipulates the inequalities and the blank spots of the system (as well as the people who work for it) for his own benefits. Because Kirito has no guilty conscience and thoroughly believes that he is doing a good action, his biological motive – and thus his Psycho Pass – is clear. This is in contrast to Akane, whose Psycho Pass is clear because she too, believes she is contributing to the good in society, but is motivated by her guilt and internal anger toward Sybil System’s faulty way of determining good and evil. Thus, both individuals act on emotion, but Akane is passionately motivated by her beliefs and emotions whereas Kirito is coldly motivated and lacks empathy whatsoever.
It is this conflict that Psycho Pass 2 seems to be heading in, as Akane must ask once again question her own beliefs and internally struggle as to what is right and what must be done. Whether Kogami plays a fundamental role in all of this is yet to be determined, but it can be said that impulsive or not, Akane is the center of Psycho Pass 2‘s direction, and I’m personally very excited to see her hopefully grow in a new and exciting way.