Today’s Planetes episode was about how rich people are terrible and should probably be killed.
Well, there was a little more to it than that, but not much. This was one more classic office storyline, the episode where the head office’s son visits the branch and everyone has to kowtow and dance for him because nepotism is awesome. It’s a standard plot shell that was executed in a pretty routine manner – we learned that Hachi and the Control employee Claire were once an item, and Tanabe’s ultimate defense of the debris unit earned her some clearly plotted respect from Hachi, but in the end, this is the kind of episode you could see in basically any episodic drama or sitcom.
The rich kid in question this time was Colin Clifford, the second son of the chairman of INTO. As we learn at the beginning of the episode, the debris division is actually in the red, but it’s not really their fault. Debris is assigned a monetary value through a central point system, and so a debris division’s success or failure generally rides on the type of debris it’s being assigned. Our heroes haven’t been getting great debris, and so in order to balance the books, Seven’s higher-ups decide to do a favor for INTO’s head. It’s the classic off-the-table wheeling and dealing you expect in a creaking corporate infrastructure.
Colin is a deeply obnoxious presence here, an intentional caricature that still feels pretty much on-point for an extremely rich second son. It’s easy to assume that Colin’s older brother is likely considered the actual heir of the family, and thus Colin himself is allowed to dick around with his endless wealth as long as he doesn’t make too much of a mess of things. Colin sneers his way around, making fools of Planetes’ heroes and generally acting like the piece of class trash that he is, while Hachi moves from “I’ve lost my temper” to “I will kill this pasty toad.” His conversations with Claire are as on-the-nose as everything else about this episode – she may hate this spittlekid just as much as Hachi, but she’s willing to suffer this task to move to a career position where her actions are valued appropriately. Claire fits nicely alongside Hachi’s pilot friend in the ranks of people who’ve actually gained some stability and pride in their careers, and thus seemingly left him behind.
In the end, we learn that Colin’s reason for going on this trip was that he needed to recover a camera left drifting by a recent space joyride. Helping him cover up this blunder is of course anathema to the debris team – Colin has, through his negligence, contributed to the immediate threat the debris crew are employed to fight. Fee rationalizes their complicity by framing it as one more job – regardless of how the debris got there, it is their duty to recover it. But when lubetube Colin starts outright bragging about causing a dangerous felony and getting away with it, both Hachi and Tanabe have finally had enough.
There’s frankly not that much to dig into in an episode like this. It’s an easy template executed without much panache – Colin is a one-note villain (as these kids often are, to be fair), the only real plot movement here is “Tanabe gains a bit more of Hachi’s respect,” and everything resolves without changing the show’s fundamental variables in any way. Wholly episodic conflicts like this ride on the grace of the telling and the small, distinctive details, and this episode had little of either – the beats are obvious, thematic reflections just echoes of prior episodes, and execution pretty standard. Planetes is a show with generally strong worldbuilding and character animation, and that was all true here, but those strengths didn’t have all that much to do with themselves.
One element of this show that is beginning to bug me a little is what clowns both of the bosses are. Like, actual clowns – their only roles in this show seem to be to make silly faces and have meaningless B-plot stories that resolve in anticlimax. They’re not real people, and their farcical narratives only seem to detract from the show’s generally grounded tone, so it always kinda feels like a deflation of the show’s tension when the camera jumps to them. Perhaps the show will find a better use for them eventually, but right now they’re mainly just a source of mild annoyance.
So yeah, not a great episode. Can’t win ’em all! At least I got to see a rich jerk get punched in the face.
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