It is episodes like this that have me completely conflicted about Blade Runner: Black Lotus. I’m not sure where to begin, except to lead with the conclusion: I walked away feeling mixed, both in the micro and macro sense.
Many of Black Lotus’ strengths and weaknesses were on full display here. There’s nothing necessarily bad about the production. The locations and backdrops look gorgeous, and the technology presented looks appropriate for the setting. The human characters are fine in stills but suffer during slower interaction scenes due to being a bit stiffer than they ought to be, which is then contrasted with the incredible fluidity of the action sequences. All the technological aspects of the universe are rendered with fidelity and care, while the human core is lacking.
The direction and writing are perfectly fine. Occasional glimpses of brilliance and fine otherwise. Even the core conceit of the episode – Elle goes to the villain’s skyscraper to get her vengeance and does so – is fine and fitting with the plot progression.
But the nature of her vengeance feels like an entirely predictable action-movie setup. If you’ve seen any version of the “skyscraper full of bad guys” action flick set-piece (of which there are many), you can probably predict most of the scenes you will get and be correct. All of them are… fine, without much risk to the formula that works. The issue is that the incompetence of the guards is more in line with standard Hollywood action faire: mobs of goons stand around not shooting when Elle is standing still, missing dozens of easy shots while Elle runs through open ground, or simply run at her not shooting their weapons at all so that Joseph can snipe them from a mile away.
The battle with Marlowe on the bridge is the highlight. Like their prior encounter, it’s a meticulously choreographed sequence that presents Elle with a legitimate threat. There’s a real sense that she could lose the fight and be killed, which is sadly undercut by Marlowe spending a good chunk of his pursuit just walking casually behind her for… pacing reasons I guess. Also, Joseph refrains from killing him for similarly undisclosed reasons.
But even the excellent combat undercuts the show. What are we doing here? Black Lotus wants us to believe that Elle is a desperate runaway trying to scrape by, but she easily takes on and defeats trained opponents in brutal hand to hand combat. She barely knew how to shoot a gun a few episodes back, but she’ll clear a room in a gunfight now. The second Elle decides to go after anyone in the setting, she personally kills them before the episode is done – and the villain here is no exception. No one is safe from her wrath.
This creates a situation where all the time spent trying to establish Elle as a desperate or vulnerable character is essentially wasted by her ruthless killing efficiency. Elle has more in common with Golgo 13 than a desperate runaway, and the constant battling feels really at odds with my perspective on Blade Runner as a franchise. Elle is literally doing cartwheels between bullet sprays while being splashed across the face with blood splatters from incoming sniper fire.
Is that Cool and Sick? Of course!
Is it thematically appropriate either with the text of Black Lotus specifically or Blade Runner more generally? Honestly… it doesn’t feel like it.
Well-executed but tonally dissonant, and derivative too. I honestly don’t know what to feel at this point.
Grant is the cohost on the Blade Licking Thieves podcast and Super Senpai Podcast.
Blade Runner: Black Lotus is currently streaming on
Crunchyroll and Adult Swim.