Blade Runner: Black Lotus Still Asks the Major Question About Humanity

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Episode 2 of Blade Runner: Black Lotus, "All We Are Not," airing on Adult Swim and now streaming on Crunchyroll.

Blade Runner: Black Lotus made its one-hour premiere on Saturday by airing both Episodes 1 and 2 on Adult Swim and Crunchyroll. While Episode 1 introduced the main character Elle and the premise for the entire series, Episode 2 introduces the actual thesis of the series, which is the overarching theme of the Blade Runner franchise: what does it actually mean to be human? The difference is that this question is now being explored through the perspective of a character that is explicitly confirmed to be a replicant, in this case, Elle.

In Episode 1, Elle wakes up in the back of a truck with no recollection of her identity or where she comes from. She spends the majority of the episode trying to unlock the information in a device she finds, which brings her to a black market dealer named Doc Badger. Elle makes a deal with Doc to remove the gang harassing him as a threat in exchange for unlocking the device. Both Elle and Doc deliver on their words, which is where Episode 2 picks up.

In Episode 2, Elle is introduced to a mysterious man named Joseph who is skilled at decoding various devices. While he decodes her device, Elle catches a glimpse of Senator Bannister and Niander Wallace Sr., the founder and CEO of the Wallace Corporation. She recognizes Bannister as one of the men who threatened her life and goes to find him before Joseph finishes decrypting her device.

Elle tracks Bannister to an illegal fighting ring and takes down his security in order to confront him about his role in endangering her. At first, Bannister doesn't recognize her, but recognizes the circumstances she's describing from her vague memory. Bannister confirms to Elle that she is actually a replicant, which is why she has to die. Elle corrects Bannister, stating that she's actually human and proceeds to kill him. With Elle now knowing she's a replicant, she adds yet another perspective to the Blade Runner franchise's debates regarding humanity and how that should be defined.

From what's known about Elle, she appears to be a Nexus-8 replicant, which is the latest known model of replicants in her respective timeline. In contrast with their predecessors, the lifespans of Nexus-8 replicants are longer, mirroring that of ordinary humans. They also likely have other new features, like emotions. As explored in Blade Runner: Black Out 2022, humanity viewed these upgrades as threatening to their own existence, which led to a violent backlash against them. Elle was likely targeted for "retirement" for this very reason.

Between Episodes 1 and 2, Elle shows that she has characteristics of both replicants and humans. Like a replicant, she has superior strength, speed and agility. She also has combat skills that far exceed those of a normal human and tends to feel no remorse for killing people she finds threatening. On the other hand, she's not entirely emotionless either. Despite having amnesia, Elle still has a strong sense of self and wants to have an identity of her own. She refuses to see herself as something less than human and is offended when people like Senator Bannister call her an artificial human or a "skinjob."

With Elle seemingly possessing the best of both worlds, it appears as though Blade Runner: Black Lotus wants to expand the franchise's questioning of humanity to ask whether there is such a thing as the perfect human. If so, then this would easily explain why the ordinary humans of the Blade Runner universe find the Nexus-8 replicants to be existential threats. If Nexus-8 replicants can do every job better than ordinary humans can and still lead the same high quality of life, then what's the point of ordinary humans existing?

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