“Something’s Amiss…?! Our Elegant Revenge” suffers from nothing so much as it does from following the 463 two-parter. Anything coming in the wake of that story is somewhat doomed to pale in the inevitable comparison, which is a shame because this one is actually really good. Dirty Pair breaks its frustrating ping-ponging quality curse…just in time to see it through its final two episodes. Which is unfortunate (though an argument could be made the pattern was broken, for the worse, with “Come Out, Come Out, Assassin”). But while this episode may not quite stand up to its immediate predecessors and it might have been nice to see it seven or eight weeks earlier in place of a couple of those others, the fact remains this is still an excellent outing and one to enthusiastically recommend.
Judging from the title alone, you’d be forgiven for figuring this might be a sequel to “The Chase Smells Like Cheesecake and Death”, with the Lovely Angels perhaps returning to exact justice on Lan and Jerry for betraying their trust. But no, as is typically the case on this show, this story has nothing to do with the older one. Barring that, the obvious comparisons seem to be to The Godfather: Mahogany is immediately reminiscent of Don Vito Corleone, not only in appearance but in characterization as he runs a sprawling criminal syndicate based on the drug trade that seems to have much of United Galactica in its grasp. Mahogany is even an actual “father”, as in a religious leader, which certainly adds to the series’ tally of anti-authoritarian points. Mahogany’s empire is so vast and threatening it actually raises the stakes of the entire Dirty Pair franchise: Shockingly, Mahogany is powerful enough to sway influence over the 3WA, and gets Gooley himself to call off Kei and Yuri’s siege on his stronghold right when they were perfectly poised to take him down once and for all.
This is a game changer. I’ve been of the mind Gooley and the 3WA have been irredeemable since “Gotta Do It! Love is What Makes a Woman Explode”, and this does nothing but reinforce my opinion. Like all organisations based around capitalistic authority, the so-called World Welfare Works Association is nothing but a corrupt sham designed around no other purpose then lining its own pockets and protecting its cronies (though I wonder what Haruka Takachiho made of this reconceptualization). Which is maybe telling, because while this episode didn’t turn out to be a sequel to “The Chase Smells Like Cheesecake and Death”, it is very easy to read it as a spiritual successor to “Gotta Do It! Love is What Makes a Woman Explode”. It’s once again about Kei and Yuri’s relationship and, following last week, it’s about how nothing can truly come between them. Furthermore, it’s about what happens when you underestimate their capabilities, their dedication to material social progress through revolutionary change…or to each other.
What happens is the Lovely Angels dirty bomb the entire narrative, including the audience. The girls deliberately lead us along about who and what exactly they’re getting their revenge on: In the episode’s opening salvos, it seems like it’s Mahogany, as we open in medias rens again as they storm his compound. But, after Gooley betrays them, it would be entirely understandable for them to exact vengeance against the 3WA itself. Especially Kei, who gets some of her best moments in the series when she quite rightly explodes at the evasive chief over the videophone in her apartment after Yuri is seemingly killed in the retreat. From Yuri’s perspective, it at first seems like she’s going to punish Daniel Sezar for what looks a whole lot like him taking advantage of her, before both Angels regroup and the attention is shifted back to Mahogany.
From this point, the majority of the episode is spent setting up the elabourate con job on Mahogany, which basically turns into a deconstructive humiliation conga for the Puzo/Coppola Mafia Godfather archetype as Mahogany falls for every single half-assed stunt the girls and Daniel pull, no matter how transparently fake it is. It’s a laugh riot to see: My favourite bits are him not batting an eyelash when he finds out the branch headquarters of the business he’s meeting with is in a parking garage behind a door with fresh paint all over it and how he doesn’t even notice Mughi and Kei buried beneath the obviously fake gold behind the obviously fake bank vault door that even gets shut on Mughi’s tail. That’s not even touching the obvious one-The whole idea of selling this wealthy, influential and well-connected crime lord a deserted old mining planet that absolutely everyone in the galaxy knows is worthless. And Mahogany falls for it hook, line and sinker: He’s no elegant and refined man of honour, he’s a self-absorbed, greedy putz who’ll buy into anything if it he thinks it will give him more money and power.
But then this story promptly gets shot out an airlock when Daniel turns on the girls, revealing he set both them and Mahogany up and tries to abscond with the money…at which point Kei and Yuri cheerfully point out they knew this was Daniel’s plan from the very beginning and literally hoist him with his own petard, as Kei snatches him up with a crane and dangles him over a giant smelter. Then comes a scene of unparalleled genius as Mahogany scrambles up the crane to retrieve the briefcase of money and Yuri whips out a sniper rifle, seemingly poised to headshot him…except then she moves the sites to Daniel…and then moves the sites to the briefcase, shooting it open and sending all thirty million credits plummeting into the smelter to be incinerated. It is one of the single greatest moments in the entire series.
At this point we recoil dumbfounded, because Kei and Yuri are sending a message loud and clear to us as much as they are their two shortsighted acquaintances. Never, ever underestimate the Lovely Angels. Suddenly, all those little micro-performances Kei and Yuri put on throughout the episode make even more sense (and I got an absolute kick out of Kei in particular here: Note how Yuri slips entirely into her heiress role, but Kei constantly jumps in and out of different characters. She seriously gives Bugs Bunny a run for his carrots): They’re using their marginal performativity to hide in plain sight and let us focus on the big revenge story, the charismatic con man and the melodramatic Godfather such that we forget about them just long enough that they can deliver a knockout sucker punch in the final moments, leaving us all feeling a little sheepish. Its the exact same thing they’ve done to all the *diegetic* stories they’ve visited over the course of this show, only now they’re doing it to Dirty Pair *itself* and the target is *us*.
Oh ye of little faith: Unlike absolutely everyone else in this story, Kei and Yuri will never betray you or let you down. How could we ever have forgotten that?
But all this rampant recursive performativity hints at perhaps one more truth. Yuri gets the defiant speech where she reveals the big con to Daniel and Mahogany at the climax, which is fitting, and yet we never really get a feeling for how she and Kei could have logistically planned all of this. There are numerous points where either one or both of the girls seems completely in the dark about some of the larger machinations in play here, and Yuri is decidedly ambivalent about her true feelings for Daniel. And, just as Yuri had done for her in “Go Ahead, Fall in Love! Love is Russian Roulette”, Kei teases her partner about her crush as they drive off at the end. This is where the comparisons to “Gotta Do It! Love is What Makes a Woman Explode” come back as well: Recall she’s the one who spends the most amount of time in one particular role, and, though she declares she’ll never let a guy break up her partnership with Kei, she did come very close to doing that at the other end of the season. This, combined with her being the person with the most obvious stake in the revenge plotline at numerous levels, it’s quite possible to read Yuri as once again fading in and out of the narrative ether.
So, is Text!Yuri letting fantasy get the better of her again, or has she truly pulled the con of the ages on us? Does it really matter if she did or not? Perhaps we shouldn’t be looking to her, but to her even more marginal partner. Always the narrator and the storyteller, Kei spends the whole episode almost seeming to embody the feeling of a wink and nod at the audience (she even gets a lot of shots where she glances sideways at the camera grinning). Perhaps Kei forgives, just as she always does. Or perhaps she’s once again pulling the narrative strings so Yuri comes across in the most positive light possible. Or maybe, just maybe, the story here is of Kei and Yuri finally outgrowing their narrative boundaries and turning their energy inward. With all this episode’s twists and turns, it almost seems as if the girls are flipping through television channels, or editing the story on the fly with the remote control. An epic condensed into a jam session conveyed through the magick of video technology. The Lovely Angels remind us once again how they’re not of this show, but that the show is of them.
So in a sense maybe this is a successor to “The Chase Smells Like Cheesecake and Death” after all: Finally sublimating their narrative existence Kei and Yuri’s diegetic representations have taken the next step in Tantric meditation, mantling their Iṣṭa-devatā, their favourite deities. And in the process, as Kei so aptly puts it, they have become Elegant themselves. But as the rest of this episode shows, unlike Lan and Jerry, these new divines will never and can never turn against the greater good. How fitting a summation for everything Dirty Pair has done.