Episode 9: Save Me the Waltz | ワルツは私と
Well, goddamn. The cards are in Dino Golzine’s hands now, and his favorite card game is torture-dungeon-murder. (Guess how you play.) This episode was so brutal, it transcends snarky commentary. Luckily, two can play at the game of being an asshole, so I’ll try my best.
The Chinese syndicate hands Shorter, Eiji, and Yut-Lung over to Dino. Shorter’s still clinging on to the unconscious Eiji, but Dino’s dudes decide there’s four of them and one of Shorter, so pistol-whip him in the head and pry Eiji away, whom Yut-Lung revives from the kidnap poison. Of all the times you’ve woken up to sudden and overwhelming feelings of oh-shit-what-the-fuck-did-I-miss, you still had a better time than Eiji, who comes back to life in a room kidnapped by touchy-feely mobsters and two friends who betrayed his scrawny ass.
The baddies bring Shorter and Eiji to Dino’s evil laboratory room and strap Shorter to a chair. Shorter sasses them until Abraham Dawson pumps him full of Banana Fish. (Welp, he’s fucked.) As the effects take hold, Abraham shoves a very distraught Eiji in front of him so that his image will be impressed into Shorter’s chemically-induced psychosis. Shorter, still strapped down, descends into Nightmare Mode. Eiji cries. It sucks. This sucks.
Meanwhile, Ash, Max, and Shunichi are shipped via airplane back to New York City. Some of Ash’s own low-level street gangsters notice him being transferred to Dino. Another Chinese street gang led by some kid confronts them, and declares they are loyal to Shorter Wong even though the larger Chinese syndicate disowned him. The two street gangs, comprised of ragtag leftovers from the proper mafias, don’t like that their bosses are about to be tortured to death, so there’s that.
Very gross “Papa” Dino has Eiji tied to his bed is about to rape him and Yut-Lung both, but gets called away for torture preparations. Yut-Lung, still sour about his brothers delegating him the role of honey-trap when he was supposed to be the prince of darkness, takes the opportunity to hurt Eiji’s feelings. He tells him he finds him annoying, and that it’s fine to prostitute himself to Dino because Ash Lynx himself was one of Dino’s whores. At least Yut-Lung is taking this all in stride, and he tops off a season of mediocre-badassery by sneaking out of the locked room using his high intelligence stats and lurks around for a bit.
Phase 1 of Dino’s torture-execution game is inviting the newest batch of prisoners – that is, Ash, Shunichi, and Max, along with Yut-Lung and that fucking asswipe Arthur – to a formal dinner party in which they may exchange insults like gentlemen. Ash sure looks very sophisticated, especially since Dino pierces his ear with a very expensive jade earring. Dino makes some gross comments about how Ash was his finest merchandise and how he taught him everything he knows. Ash gripes, but nicely, while Shunichi and Max wonder why the fuck they’re wearing tuxedos. They drink wine and banter with relative civility. By the way, Ash is also a trained sommelier. (Because of course.)
Things go from uncomfortable to horrifying, as Phase 2 of torture-execution is a live snuffing. They head to Dino’s murder-dungeon and Ash is chained up. Ash holds a snide poker face at the prospect of his gory death at the hands of an outrageously annoying Arthur, who seems to be hosting the show while Dino watches from above with two VIP guests: a senator and a colonel, both of whom are very interested in learning more about Banana Fish.
Enter the infected Shorter. He stumbles in sweating and confused, but seems somewhat lucid until they drag in Eiji, at which point Shorter flips his shit. He goes mental, attacking Eiji with a knife as Eiji begs him to snap out of it and remember him. Eiji flails around in front of everyone, narrowly managing to not instantly die but getting sliced to ribbons in the process.
Arthur, enjoying the psychological torture Ash is enduring by having to watch his rabid best friend tear into his dear Eiji, sets a gun loaded with one bullet at Ash’s feet and slackens the chains holding Ash up. Desperate, Ash leaps for the gun and shoots Shorter in the heart, killing him. The Dawson scientists swoop in to grab the corpse in order to dissect Shorter’s brain, and Ash breaks down.
It sucks. This sucks.
RIP: SHORTER WONG
Shorter, you and I have been through so much, man. I am sorry I was such a dick to you in earlier episode reviews. I should also apologize for jinxing your chance at survival by so uncharitably predicting your death last episode. Mea maxima culpa. You were a true bro, except for the being a traitor thing and also failing to save Eiji like you promised after you kidnapped him (but I’m not mad).
The snuff scene was already so ruthless, but the harshest part was knowing that Shorter was a dead man early on in the episode when he was shot up with Banana Fish. It’s worse that he isn’t completely mindless: there’s a moment when Ash’s helpless voice seems to get through to him, and a heart-wrenching second when he freezes mid-frenzy upon seeing an image of an angel engraved on the wall, perhaps igniting his overwhelming guilt and desire for forgiveness. The haunting but steady piano waltz playing in the background infused a sadistic melancholy into the gruesome affair, leaving little doubt about how things were going to end.
AND A FEW WORDS OF CONDOLENCES FOR EIJI’S VERY BAD DAY
Eiji has a bad habit of being absolutely precious. This is a huge accomplishment, since his contrast-to-badass role this far in the story is a vacancy so often filled by whiny and useless do-gooders who are out of their element and only talented at fucking things up for everyone else while touting their naive purity. Eiji should fit the bill, but he’s so gentle and earnest that I’m not sure I mind how many side characters drop dead on his account.
I am certain Eiji’s story will continue along the path of growing up and his inevitable loss of innocence. What happened in this episode is permanently scarring, and for all we know, Dino’s not even finished yet. You have got to wonder what kind of person Eiji will be by the end of this series. He doesn’t deserve this, but it was much easier to stick to Ash’s side when road-tripping across America. Now Eiji knows exactly what it means to be collateral damage in a drug war.
FATHERS: “PAPA” DINO EDITION
We have talked a few times in previous reviews about how Banana Fish is interested in fatherhood, especially those who take paternal to Ash. We met Ash’s actual shitstain father. We saw Max try to take the role. And now, of course, we have to talk about Dino, the most depraved father, who, by no coincidence, is addressed as “Papa.”
More grim details about Ash’s past are uncovered. “Papa” Dino, a serial rapist and pedophile, bought a young Ash as a sex slave and enslaved him in one of his brothels. Ash used his natural intelligence and keen abilities to work his way into Dino’s personal interest, and Dino molded and groomed him into being his pet, soldier, and ultimately, heir. Dino rages that he created Ash, and now has to destroy him. Even so, he is perversely possessive of Ash, and if anything, is in more delighted than ever at the beautiful weapon of mass destruction he crafted. He frequently refers to Ash as an untamed lynx, and tolerated his antics until Ash tried to assassinate him. It remains to be seen if he will go through with his threat to kill Ash, but if he does, there’s no way it’ll be quick.
An already cruel episode topped things off by abandoning us at a major cliffhanger in the murder-dungeon. Shorter’s gone, and it’s probably fair to guess that Dino intends to have Shunichi, Max, and Eiji killed in front of Ash as well, at which point Ash may or may not be free to die. But with Ash and Shorter’s street gangs positioning themselves for a heroic rescue, as well as Yut-Lung sleuthing about, the game might be pulled a little early. Here’s hoping Shorter’s sacrifice means the rest of the main cast gains temporary immunity for at least a few more episodes.
WHERE TO WATCH IT (LEGALLY): Amazon Prime