Journeying as passengers on a boat, characters find themselves at rest and quietly contemplative, though a state of tension underlies this entire act. Shannon worries for Conway, who seems resigned to his indebtedness to the Consolidated Power Company; Johnny waxes poetic about the uncertain road ahead, imagining what his future looks like with Junebug; Ezra runs around the boat, directionless but content. Act IV adopts a certain melancholic affect I think is characteristic of those suffering the woes of late capitalist decay. Submerged in the sightless dark of the Echo River, our itinerant protagonists encounter many other characters so deep in debt that their situation is hopeless, lacking any way out to the light aboveground. Only via a short scene at a payphone does the act gesture to an opened world beyond the immediate borders of the game, transplanting such intimate, human concerns on a wider—possibly global—scale of melancholy. The complacency and passivity that washes over Conway proves dangerous, as he forgets his purpose and slips into an unproductive stupor. I briefly touched upon this idea in my examination of the first act, in which a state of forgetfulness and purposelessness makes one more vulnerable to the exploitation of predatory corporatism, and powerless to destabilize such capitalist structures for want of passion and organization. Conway’s absence in the driver’s seat means he’s no longer in control, and the haphazard discovery of locations in lieu of purposeful direction suggests a drunken, adrift odyssey as he slides back into alcoholism.
Read the full column at Haywire Magazine.