After a three-week, Covid-induced hiatus, NieR: Automata returns, opening with the Machine Lifeforms doing weird-ass Machine Lifeform shit. To whit: they’re putting on a play. MLs play the roles of characters and act out the parts, MLs sit in the seats and watch and applaud…and a captive audience of flayed but still alive androids are strung up around the theater.
2B and 9S return to the resistance base and give their report (Jackass also made it back and provides much needed comic relief). With talk of MLs evolving to a state they feel something like emotions, Lily and Jackass wonder if there’s an opportunity to at least negotiate a ceasefire. But here’s where 9S’s programmed orthodoxy is laid bare: there will be no ceasefire or quarter given: the mission of all androids is to wipe out every last ML and reclaim Earth for mankind.
Perhaps due to the fact her memory file is longer than his or possibly because she’s been doing a little evolving of her own, 2B doesn’t fall into lockstep with this hardline view. Their next recon mission from Commander White (who tried and failed to get them YoRHa backup) takes them to an active and bustling amusement park full of non-hostile MLs.
They find the black box signals of the androids in the theater, and are ambushed by a giant mutated Machine Lifeform that has taken on a prima donna personality…and wears the still-living android bodies like jewelry. A vicious boss fight ensues, with 2B and 9S just barely able to keep up with its myriad attacks. They’re also enclosed within an energy field, so retreat is not an option.
2B covers 9S as he tries to hack the ML, but he ends up overwhelmed and controlled by the imagery within the boss ML’s brain, as if it’s hacking him. There, he finds that personality that constantly needs affirmation that they’re beautiful, which nearly leads to him being swallowed up by a giant mouth and into the spinning meat grinder within. He’s saved at the last second by 2B, who breaks protocol and uses her hacking ability, deemed a risky action for B models due to the possibility of corruption.
2B didn’t have any other options, and seemingly comes out of the situation none the worse for wear. She exposes the boss’ core and the Pod blasts it to smithereens. Not long thereafter, an ML “mother” with a bouquet of roses and her “daughter” arrive; the mom pleads with the androids not to harm them, as they only came to watch the play.
9S’ chilling reaction underscores his inflexibility when it comes to any kind of negotiation of compromise with the Machine Lifeforms: he walks up to the two MLs, crushing the roses under his boot, and destroys them both, then turns to 2B and tells her they can’t hesitate.
But something in the way 2B reacts tells me 9S may ultimately be on the wrong side of this issue. Eve was born from the rib of the destroyed Adam and is still out there, evolving. At what point does mimicry of human emotions and behavior simply become…human emotions and behavior? I think we’re approaching that point in real time.