(From MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck. Click for full-sized party at English’s place.)
I had been holding off on writing a Homestuck post because I was waiting for all the twists and turns to finish building up to the end-of-act flash… so naturally Hussie announces there’s going to be a flash before the end-of-act flash. (I still decided to wait for that first flash – which actually turned out to be two connected flashes – to come out before writing this.)
Another reason I held off on writing anything? Despite Hussie making a habit of ending the different acts in Act 6 with hints that the post-Scratch group of kids are nothing but red herrings (great way to get people invested in the characters you’re devoting most of the act to, Hussie), I adamantly refused to believe that Hussie would kill off Jane and Roxy so cavalierly. I was confident it would prove to be a doomed timeline or something. For one thing, on top of contradicting something in the opening flash I’ll get to later, it also contradicted what Calliope repeatedly said about Roxy blacking out the session, or indeed numerous references suggesting Roxy had to enter the session, even if she died later.
So, if Calliope’s revelation isn’t big enough to end the act, and the deaths of two of the act’s protagonists isn’t big enough to end the act, what could possibly be big enough to end the act? I don’t think it’s a good place for the reveal of Calliope’s brother…
As it turned out, I was half right. Hussie wasn’t willing to kill everyone off permanently. Instead, after waking up in the same dream bubble our normal protagonists have been hanging out with Aranea and Meenah in, Dirk chucks Roxy out of the bubble towards his session (and provokes an absolutely hilarious reaction from Dave), then, after getting a wake-up from Aranea, starts setting things up for his entry into the session. He then plugs in the fenstrated wall GCat left him earlier, pops into Roxy’s house, and kiss-revives her… just in time for her dreamself to witness the knocked-out dream!Dirk and dead Jane. Yeah, that’s totally not contrived or anything.
Oh, and then he sendificates his head to the knocked-out Jake in the past.
After a tense back-and-forth where Dirk’s auto-responder messes with Jake’s head (no pun intended) by referring to himself as “Lil Hal” and twisting the knife on Jake’s uncomfortableness with kissing Dirk’s severed head, Jake eventually pulls it off and Dirk, now as his dreamself, sees Roxy’s own uncomfortableness with kissing Jane, does it himself, then loads Roxy onto his rocketboard and hops inside the temple meteor’s flower, popping out just in time to meet with Jane (who just transportalized from the Prospitian palace to the temple) and help arrange Jake’s kissing of Dirk’s head.
Although Hussie considered these two flashes to be one single flash for the purposes of his workload and the breaks he’s taking in July, from a storyline perspective I’d also join them up with the end-of-act flash (and so I could conceivably have delayed this post even more), because I don’t see what Dirk’s plan is here. Why did he have to kill himself and have Jake revive him? It helped get Jane revived, but how does he have any way of knowing that Roxy won’t be able to kiss her? (Then again, how would he know that Roxy would be in position to kiss her in the first place?) Why is he taking Roxy to the past with him? It actually seems counterproductive; don’t he and Roxy have to go back to the future in order to enter the session properly? Depending on how much he knows and where exactly she can go on the island on her own power, can’t Jane wake up Jake? I can see bits and pieces come together, but I can’t quite see the whole, which is why I don’t think the story these flashes tell will be entirely complete until the end-of-act flash comes out.
But I said I was only half-right about Hussie’s unwillingness to kill off Jane and Roxy. That’s because of the flash that opened Act 6-3, introducing Jane’s land, and the circle of lanterns therein, color-coordinated with the four post-Scratch kids, with the green one burnt out, corresponding to the earlier death of Jake’s dreamself. Near the lanterns are some tablets inscribed with this accompanying flavor text:
One by one the Nobles will arrive, and just as surely, one by one their lights will be snuffed out. In the beginning, the light of our Hope was lost. We must make do without it, and so must they. Then a mighty gust came and took the light of our Life as well, and our people knew despair like never before. But the light renewed its flicker quite spontaneously, and has been shining strong since. All in the land rejoiced.
Our lights of Heart and Void will each follow in time, long after our extinction. One will be extinguished, and then another, leaving only Life as the guiding light. But they should remain long enough to illuminate the Maid’s path, and assist her with the housekeeping we have left behind.
Well, it hasn’t exactly played out that way. Instead, Life and Void have been extinguished with Heart dimming out, then lighting up again, then being extinguished, then lighting up again so bright it exploded – all on-panel, by the way. (What was up with that, and the “Care Bear Stare” effect to start the latter flash? It’s not like Dirk’s situation is really any different from that of Roxy or Jane…) That was why I thought he would relegate this to a doomed timeline: to restore the sequence of events these tablets seemed to be foreshadowing. It wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility: Dirk could have travelled back in time (using some other means than what he did, of course) and not only restored the status quo ante but also mirrored the pre-Scratch Davesprite in the process.
This might seem kind of nitpicky, and a lot of people may have forgotten about those tablets (though people reading the comic all at once later won’t have), or never were that diligent about exploring every nook and cranny of the exploration flashes for flavor text. But as much as I’ve complained about Hussie pulling shocking twists on us seemingly for the sake of having a twist, this to me hints at a far deeper problem: the possibility that Hussie is setting up foreshadowing, but then making things up as he goes along anyway. Of course, it’s not exactly new that pretty much all of MSPA was made up as it went along, but Homestuck and later Problem Sleuth, by his own admission, have been increasingly preplanned with more intent to tell an actual story, and if he can ignore past foreshadowing at will just because it doesn’t fit what he wants to do now, or worse just to make his twists that much more twisty, it robs all that foreshadowing of credibility. A big part of the comic’s fandom is looking for all those little clues in every nook and cranny to make sense of Hussie’s infinitely-complex yet cohesive world, and Hussie has just raised the possibility that that may all be for naught.
Perhaps Hussie just forgot about those tablets, or perhaps he still has some plans to make them true, at least from a certain point of view. But it’s not just the tablets; remember Act 6 Intermission 2, where the scenes on-board the meteor and Jade’s battleship were preceded by “YEAR 1” graphics? That to me implied there would be another graphic for at least “YEAR 2”, which meant we would presumably get another intermission with the kids and trolls before their arrival in the session, and maybe most of Act 6-4 would pass before they’d actually arrive… then the meteor appeared inside the dream bubble with Aranea and Meenah, and the subsequent appearances of Jake, Roxy, and Dirk inside the bubble, and especially how quickly Roxy flew to the bubble and back to Derse under her own power, suggested that in fact this dream bubble is so close to the session (both temporally and spatially) that if the meteor’s arrival isn’t imminent, then Rose and Dave especially could easily cut the trip short under their own power (which could also help explain the apparent absence of the trolls in all the foreshadowing about the session), making that journey’s continuation something of an idiot plot. Time is already substantially twister in this new session than it normally is in Homestuck, but this is ridiculous.
Of course, Act 6-3 is just about over and no one has shown up yet, so it’s entirely possible if not likely we’re going to get at least that “YEAR 2” graphic during the third intermission to appear shortly… but it also feels like it’s entirely possible that the arrival of the kids and trolls is what Hussie is going to end Act 6-3 with, and it certainly feels like Hussie would have to find a way to kill a lot of time in Act 6-4 before the kids and trolls show up, which seems to be something you end an act within Act 6 with, not start one, or end an intermission that started with events a year beforehand. Perhaps he could delay the entry of Roxy and Dirk somehow or focus Act 6-4 far more on the cherubs, but it still seems difficult.
More importantly, I used to think that everything in Homestuck was building up to one grand climax, that all the pieces would fit together into a coherent whole, a premise that I suspect is at the heart of Homestuck’s popularity. But, and this is a feeling that has been increasingly building throughout Act 6, now I feel like I’m flying blind, and I can’t help but wonder whether or not Hussie is too. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of path connecting current events to the conclusion of the comic, especially with at least three whole acts within Act 6 devoted entirely to completely new characters (characters, I should point out, nowhere near as interesting as the trolls or even the pre-Scratch kids, except the cherubs, maybe Roxy, and a teensy bit of Dirk but only because he’s starting to take on some Mary Sue-ish qualities), and now I’m not sure Hussie feels the need to follow one. If Hussie can just drop anything he wants on us, it’s not going to be long before I no longer feel any reason to read the comic.
Act 6 has long been a shadow of the epicness that was Act 5-2, but Hussie now needs to pull a heck of a saving throw for the end of Act 6-3, intermission, and start of the next act to make me feel like maybe Act 6 isn’t one huge (potentially unnecessary) anticlimax, and hopefully, make me feel like I’m reading Homestuck again, as opposed to some sort of lame fanfic thereof.