Tuesday, July 29, 2014

30 Days of Fatale: One Very Wrong Theory and A Few Unanswered Questions.

The Fatale finale reaches stores tomorrow, doubtlessly with a few more twists and shocking revelations.

This past Friday, a truly bizarre theory crossed my mind, one that I'm happy to confirm is completely off base:  the theory is very wrong, both in being inaccurate and in being deranged.

In re-reading the series, I had noticed that Nicolas appeared to be quite important to Jo's plans, but they had briefly met only three times over the course of more than three decades:  when young Nicolas accompanied his father and Hank Raines on their 1978 road trip to LA, at Hank's funeral in 2011, and at Hank's estate that night when the Bishop's goons attacked.  Josephine whispered something to his father in '78, and apparently she drove him to madness around 2000 for reasons still unknown.

In constructing the timeline we posted yesterday, I determined that Nicolas was born about the same time Jo's son Willie committed suicide -- and I recalled never seeing a single appearance or even a mention of Nicolas' mother.

My bizarre theory was that Nicolas was Josephine's second son, fathered by Johnny Lash, and my guess is summarized below.
Perhaps, after forcing Hank out of her life, Josephine was still in contact with his friend Johnny Lash, keeping up with Johnny as a way to keep an eye on Hank.  Still in shock and grief after Willie's death, she allows herself to seduce Johnny, and she got pregnant again with another son.  To protect her son Nicolas, Jo sends him to Johnny to raise him as a single father, and perhaps she uses her curse to make Johnny forget about their love affair. 
Maybe Johnny takes Dominic to LA because there isn't a mother in the picture, and Josephine whispers to Johnny to take care of his son, because Dominic is her son, too.  And perhaps after the events in LA, her research with Otto the librarian reveals that a biological son is either ideal or outright necessary to whatever ritual would have to be performed to defeat the Bishop.
Sometime around 2000, Johnny finds out about Jo's plan for his son and tries to stop her, but she drove him to madness to keep him quiet and protect her plan.
Jo strikes up an otherwise unnecessary conversation with Nicolas at Hank's funeral, rescued Hank's manuscript from the car crash for him, and saved him from Lance because he is especially important to her plans.
The theory accounts for the chronology quite well -- and the repeated theme of fathers and sons -- but it would have meant that the love scene in issue #23 was outright incest, and I'm glad that Ed Brubaker wrote back to write to shoot down the theory, writing, "That would be sick, even for me."

(I'm glad the series doesn't go down that dark path for its own sake, but I'll also admit to a little pride in concocting an otherwise plausible theory that Brubaker thinks crossed the line.)

Though my theory was wrong, it does highlight a few lingering  mysteries.

Some mysteries I think we've been able to solve in the course of this month-long review.  Brubaker confirmed that we correctly deduced that Otto the librarian is Milkfed's grandson. We pointed to the confrontation with Jo in issue #4 as the point where Walt Booker had a change of heart against betraying her -- where he "almost forgot" the decent man he really was.  And, we constructed some reasonable explanations for the events in Nicolas' life following Hank's funeral.

Josephine and the Bishop's goons were both trying to find the Bishop's eyes, which Hank Raines had kept in a Santa Barbara bank box; after she retrieved the eyes, she gave them to the sadist Nathan for safe keeping until she needed them for her plan of attack against the Bishop.  Meanwhile, a woman robbed Nicolas completely on her own, and she subsequently crossed paths with Lance Hickok, who killed her for the stolen manuscript of Hank's first book, abridged the book to protect Josephine, and published the book probably to fund his hunt for Josephine.

There are still other questions that remain unanswered.

• It appears from the preview that we'll have some answers about the owl with the ribbon around the world, but will we learn about this creature's significance?

• Will we learn more about the Bishop's mysterious rival?

• Just what was going on between Josephine and Nicolas' father Johnny?  What did she whisper to him in 1978?  And why did she drive him to madness two decades later?

• And what is the reason that some humans can see into the shadow world and be immune to its madness-inducing influence?

That last question was raised by Nick Hill in the comments to the yesterday's post.  He astutely noticed that, in issue #11, Alfred Ravenscroft's immunity to the apparent cult leader McVicar was mentioned as Jo ran screaming from his home.

"And so Alfred Ravenscroft never got to tell her his secret.  That he'd figured out why Mr McVicar's charms hadn't worked on him... that it was the same reason he could see the fire burning deep inside Josephine.  And that's when he realized she didn't even know what she was."

The immunity was mentioned, but never explained.

Similarly, in issue #2, the Bishop taunts Walt Booker about his own immunity.

"You ever wonder why your cryptographer friend went crazy translating that page... but you were fine?"

Booker said he didn't wonder, and the subject was never raised again.  We do know from issue #4 that, even in his childhood, Booker could see the hidden realm of "ghosts and monsters and even angels of a sort," and "an unseen clockwork that made the universe tick."  That ability may have been just another symptom of a deeper root cause.

(I do wonder about those "angels of a sort."  If one were to make an appearance in the last issue, it would undercut the generally hopeless tones of noir and horror, and it would seem like a deus ex machina -- or rather, an angelus ex machina -- but even this brief mention in the first arc gives readers a sliver of hope, however small, that the universe of Fatale isn't ultimately malevolent.)

Too many answers might interrupt the momentum of the last issue and dispel the mood of dread that the series has created.  The story is ultimately a mix of horror and noir, not a systematic description of the fictional universe that Brubaker and Phillips have created, so unanswered questions may be part of the point, even if the creators have answers that they're deliberately withholding.

Still, I suspect that some of the series' most important questions will be answered, and that the answers may come as a well-earned surprise even to careful readers like ourselves.

I'm looking forward to it.

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