It’s hardly a surprise that in a country where Shinto temples and belief in kami run alongside Buddhist precepts and practical atheism that the concept of god as presented in Lain is very different from that of a Christocentric view. Lain’s “God of the Wired” is omniscient, but not omnipotent; he is all-knowing, but unable to fully control outcomes on the Wired; and he is self-serving and uncaring, and in the case of the Lain god, even mischievous. It’s no wonder that a god (or gods) of this sort would create problems for people, rather than solve them, even for the real world Lain as she moves from empowered detective to victim and milquetoast.
Lain continues to aggressively pursue the mysteries of the Wired and the Knights, but finds that she is being pursued herself. Beginning with a rumor involving Alice that the Wired version of Lain has spread, the middle schooler discovers that she is not in control, perhaps because, according to the Wired’s god, she is only a hologram. Lain doesn’t want to believe it, but the god Lain’s interference in the real world, and a final meeting at the episode’s end, demonstrate that real world Lain may not be real after all.
One idea that Serial Experiments Lain does a lovely job of delving into is the idea of what happens when one becomes his or her own personal God. Lain is a little beyond that, with fearsome powers and the ability to mind wipe or even destroy others. However, the metaphor is the same, and the actions that happen resemble those that can occur when the guiding light in our lives is simply ourselves.
The God of the Wired explains that the digital realm is a world where everyone can see everything. The rumors that spread about Alice and the teacher about whom she fantasizes can become known to “everyone” on the Wired if pushed out there. In fact, that’s what occurs—Alice confronts Lain about it but acquiesces, since she knows that Lain has a kind heart. Later, Alice is confronted by a Wired version of Lain who spies on her in an intimate moment and realizes that this “Lain” did spread the rumors.
The God of Wired thinks nothing of Alice’s pain. He tells Lain that it’s okay to share secrets; in fact, they are meant to be shared on the Wired, a superhighway of information where everything is meant for public consumption. The rationality of the Wired’s god is cold. It’s painful to know that one with this power would think nothing of hurting a lovely girl like Alice, but even more troubling is to know that he has erased people from existence, like Mika. He also takes a vulnerable Lain and pushes her toward deleting what has recently occurred, to start over, a temptation that many of us would take, but which of course means “playing god.” Lain takes that opportunity, creating consequences she did not expect.
Lain has been dipping her toe in the deified realm from early on in the series, using increasingly powerful hacking and ESP abilities. But she’s done all this unwittingly. It’s not until she hits “delete” that Lain acts as a god purposely. In the hours preceding her decision, Lain’s life has spun out of control—she is becoming a pariah at school, has hurt her best friend, and is becoming increasingly fearful. By taking control, she thinks she can return things to normal, but instead, she creates a second real world Lain (or frees her—this seems to be the same Lain that spoke glowingly to Mika at the end of an earlier episode) and heads down a precarious path.
Lain, in some sense, represents the best of us—innocent, kind, inquisitive. She is very human, and is desperate to keep that humanity, to avoid becoming one with her Wired self, no matter how powerful that entity is. The God of the Wired demonstrates how cold one can be when raising himself up to a certain standard or strength, but Lain, too, shows that when we rely too much on ourselves, mistakes will be made, some of which beget others and lead to a path that few would consider godly.
Present Day. Question Time.
- I love that kind of mind game that the director plays with us when first showing the teacher, and then when he appears again in a compromising situation with Alice. It seems that he’s a perpetrator, only for us to discover that a relationship is playing out in Alice’s mind. It’s screwy and perhaps prepares us for the discomfort of the entire sequence, including the appearance Creepy Lain (lvl. 1).
- Also creepy but meaningful is the info dump guy who tells Lain about Tachibana Laboratories’ monopolizing plans. In the avatar of a sexy woman, he reminds us that not all is what it seems on the Wired.
- Alice occupies a strange place in the series. She helps Lain mature early in the series, and now she continues to help the plot progress but in a totally unexpected way—at least I didn’t think it would go this route when I first watched the show. Were you surprised?
- We got a lovely little horror scene in the middle of the episode.
- Two holograms of Lain now? Is this similar to Mika’s replacement?
Let us know your thoughts below! And join us next Thursday for the next installment.