I have my quibbles about how this out-of-nowhere twist bucks the trajectory Astra Lost in Space was previously on. Of course it's surprising, and it had me shouting “What?” my fair share of times both last week and today, but I'm still waiting to see how it ties thematically back into the emotional journey these kids have been through. Their trip back has been full of both discovery and despair, but the crux is that they've survived by loving each other and rejecting their so-called families back home. I could see Polina having a found family narrative of her own, as her displacement from her home planet leads her to bond with the Astra crew both out of survival and affection. The history of planet Astra might also tie into the wider thematic concern of how adults with power will try to manipulate and dictate the lives of children. As of yet, however, I don't believe the show has established enough of a connection between these ideas, although I'm eager to see how and if it tries to draw them together.
And that's not to say the Astra reveal isn't fun! The expository nature of the scene is made much more entertaining by virtue of its uncanniness, which suggests an even weirder and more complicated picture than the one I posited last week. It no longer seems like Astra restarted its calendar from year zero, but a lot of things don't add up. Aries and the rest of the crew talk about World War III, the outlawing of guns, and the abolishment of national borders as things that happened within the past 100 years—none of which matches Polina's (and our) account of those years. Polina reveals that a giant asteroid is what forced humans to abandon the earth, sending out scouting missions like hers and then, when Astra was found, using man-made wormholes to emigrate the entire population. The wormhole part is especially important, because it confirms that a person can control one, and moreover, that the crew didn't come out at the wormhole's exit, but its entrance. Ironically, they were sent “home” when they found themselves drifting over a lifeless ice planet.
There's definitely something poetic about the fact they've been traveling from Earth to an “alien” planet this entire time, all while we've been presuming the opposite. It's odd, however, that none of these kids know anything about this planet-wide exodus. Aries also casually mentions that they're not taught much history, and that there weren't many books on the subject she could find, so it definitely sounds like there was some kind of cover-up in the past. Or rather, it seems like they took Earth's history and plastered it onto Astra, dragging some countries here and there to make them fit Astra's topology, while adding in some falsehoods as connective tissue. I'd bet that World War III never actually happened. Instead, they were taught that as a way of explaining the current state of their world—we can imagine that terraforming a new planet and rebuilding after a nuclear doomsday would be similar processes.
I'm not going to go into the logistics of how an event so big could be covered up, because I don't even know if I'm right, but the more interesting question is why they would do this. My best guess is shame. Their WWIII story mentions that half the planet's population was killed, but maybe this actually means that the migration to Astra was only half-successful. They couldn't evacuate the entire earth, and the collective survivor's guilt of mankind led them to hide their failure for the sake of their new utopian society. These kids don't even know about the concept of religion. I don't know how long people have been on Astra, but they seemed hell-bent on removing the major causes of war from subsequent generations. It's possible that there really was a World War III, but its cause was the impending asteroid strike instead of the Cuban Missile Crisis. I'm just spit-balling at this point, but the theory-crafting is definitely part of what makes Astra Lost in Space so fun to follow.
With so many questions still up in the air, the second half takes the crew to the final pit stop planet of Galem (an anagram of Legma, of course) and a long-overdue confrontation with the wolf in their midst. I don't want to say I told you so, but I totally called it. Not that there was much doubt at this point that Charce was this episode's titular culprit—the only other suspect was Aries, and I think her doing a heel turn would have been too much of a strain even for the twist-happy Astra. I didn't doubt it for a second, even when Kanata played him (and the audience) by pinning the blame on Ulgar in an attempt to isolate him from the ship. Once more, Kanata and Aries turn out to be quite the power couple, with Kanata correctly surmising that the traitor would have entered the wormhole last, and Aries' photographic memory providing the smoking gun. Kanata's unintentionally innuendo-heavy late night visit was also a sorely needed bit of comedic respite in an otherwise heavy episode. And Charce's unmasking doesn't make things any easier for anyone. His motivations are still a mystery, and most troubling of all is the casual way he admits he was planning on dying alongside the rest of them. Clone of a king or not, he has to have a good (and probably tragic) reason for going along with the plan.
The pretense of a school field trip disappeared quickly once everyone got sucked through a wormhole, but the Astra crew must now face their biggest test yet: what to do with Charce. They'll surely hear out his reasons, if he decides to provide them, but do they decide to trust him? Do they lock him up? Do they leave him behind? Do they welcome him back into the fold with the raw power of friendship? Astra's been pretty consistent about these kids using their own bonds to overpower parental neglect and trauma, so I definitely wouldn't consider redemption for Charce out of the question, but he has a lot to answer for.
Astra Lost in Space lays on the exposition thick as it jumps into its final act, but it keeps things interesting with weird answers to questions we weren't even expecting to have to ask. Personally, I'm much more excited to see its character drama come to a head next week. I just hope all of these kids manage to keep their heads in the process.
Steve is lost in space, but he can still stream anime so it's okay. A communications relay has been established on his Twitter.