Qt3 Movie Podcast: Blade Runner 2049


And how much does it matter which it is if you can’t tell the difference?


I am genuinely surprised how many interesting questions Blade Runner 2049 brought up. They really did a great job at manufacturing an entire world, without filling in all the details for the audience.


Second time around, I still don’t know where I fall on this.

Joi is a very well made program. I think she thinks she has agency - the morning after interaction between her and Mariette certainly speaks to that, and she talks K into letting her risk real death for him, and there’s an undeniable, well, joy, when the eminator lets her out of the apartment and she experiences rain for the first time.

On the other hand, all that could be obeying her programming of telling K everything he wants to hear.

On the other, other hand, doing that is fucking up things for her manufacturers - Joi talking K into breaking her antenna removes Wallace corp’s surveillance and causes Luv to flip the fuck out. It also mirrors the way K breaks - and @tomchick is dead wrong when he says this not a story about a robot breaking on the podcast. This is totally a story of a robot breaking his programming. Ultimately though, K just breaks it in the most empathetic, self-sacrificing way possible instead of the expected individualistic way the movie teases,


Personally, I think the whole agency vs programming thing is a false dichotomy. Humans are programmed and have agency, just as much as JOI. And I’ve said here before I find philosophical zombies to be an absurdity. If it can respond like as a human would, we have no basis for saying it doesn’t think and feel as a human does. That said, I’m not sure the film agrees with me. The scene with the ad certainly suggests otherwise, but then I don’t really understand what that morning after scene Soren mentions is there for. The best I can come up with is it’s all part of the “does it matter if they’re real or not?” ethos it has going.


It seems to me you’re making unfounded assumptions about what their “programming” is. As was mentioned upthread, I don’t remember anything about Wallace Industries creating Joi as a surveillance mechanism any more than Apple makes iPhones to track the locations of their customers. Am I forgetting something here? Her suggestion to K was just common sense: bad dudes are after you, here’s a way to keep them from tracking you. Basic advice. No more breaking her programming than, say, Gertie in Moon.

As for K breaking his programming, I’m more open to the idea, but I’m not sure I see it. He retires Sapper Morton, he does some follow-up investigation on his own – presumably these advanced replicant variants can take their own initiative during investigation – and he is ultimately motivated by empathy to make a decision that in no way runs counter to his job as a policeman. Am I forgetting something he did to become a rogue cop? Where is the evidence that this is somehow violated what he’s “programmed” to do? It’s entirely possible I’m not remembering a plot point, so let me know if I’ve overlooked something.

My point about it not being a movie about a robot breaking is that K does not malfunction or go rogue. Joi does not acquire sentience or defy her creators. This is not a movie about robots going rogue, or progressing toward the Singularity, or discovering they’re the Chosen Ones, or anything like that.



Well, he does lie to his boss about his findings and he doesn’t show up again after failing his conditioning checkup. I guess that’s going rogue.


I don’t think that’s what Tom means. Sure, K is “going rogue” from his job, but he’s not defying or exceeding some innate programming or restriction. He’s not doing something that shouldn’t be possible for a replicant, he’s doing something that will get you fired as a cop.


Robin Wright told him to take time off after he failed the conditioning drill. You’re making it sound like he went AWOL, which isn’t how I remember it. Am I wrong about that?

And what was the lie about his findings?

I really should stop having conversations about this movie until I see it a second time. :)



I’m pretty sure she gave him a pretty strict window of time. She says she can get him out of the building but doesn’t he have to be back within 48 hours or something for his next test or he’ll be retired?



Yeah, that’s about how I remembered it. Like the results of his previous test meant he already should be facing consequences (can’t remember if it was anything short of retirement, or even specified), best she could do was stop that from happening right away and buy him some time, but that if he didn’t come back and ace another evaluation, they’d definitely be out to retire him at that point.


I watched it a second time this week. Here’s how the part after the failed baseline test plays out:

  • K significantly fails the test
  • Switch to K being Madame’s (Wright) offce - to which he’s obviously been escorted by security personnel. She orders them to leave so that they can talk alone.
  • She scolds him for screwing up until he interrupts her and tells her that he did what she asked him to do. He says he found Rachel’s offspring and makes her (Madame) believe that he killed the target. This instantly changes her mood and focus because she’s relieved to hear that.
  • She tells him that he has 48 hours off to get his shit sorted out, and that’s all she can do for him. Should he fail the next baseline test, she won’t be able to save him from ‘retirement’

My understanding is that K will have to face a baseline test again after 48 hours, and Madame hopes that he manages to get back to baseline within that time. Had she not intervened, he’d have been retired immediately after the first fail - to which the security guards are a testament.

In the podcast the question was brought up why Madame would do K this favor and buy him some time. I think it’s pretty simple. Firstly, I think Madame likes K in one way or another even if she makes a less nice remarks about replicants earlier in the movie. And what about the scene when she is in his apartment, sips and then says “And what happens if I finish this drink?” and stares at him knowingly. You can see a whiff of disappointment in her reaction to K not really responding to that.

Obviously, there’s also the enormous gratitude she must feel towards him after he tells her that he took care of the secret mission she had sent him on. He basically saved the order of the world and was loyal to her (or so she thinks). On top of that, there’s the guilt because she has to assume the experience of killing the offspring is what made him go off baseline. Earlier, K had clearly indicated to her that he doesn’t feel comfortable doing what she’s asking him to do. (The “I didn’t know that saying ‘no’ was an option” quip scene.) So, Madame owes him in more than one way.


Yes, exactly. Well said.

The only question I’d add to that is: I thought it was pretty dumb of the movie for her to accept the child is dead, just like that… but does she believe him without proof because she’s gullible or is lying so alien to K that his word is (usually) as good as proof? Does it go against his programming to lie to his boss?


I forgot which scene it was, but at some point someones says that replicants–not sure if referring to replicants in general or K’s specific Nexus series–can’t/don’t lie.


Yeah, not breaking her surveillance capailities is an assumption about her priorities I’m making, and not one supported by the text. I do think the movie supports her thinking (or maybe more accurately, simulating a person thinking) they have free will. And that’s just a super fascinating can of worms.

As for K, the moment he lies about retiring the child (which he at that point believes to be himself) he’s off the reservation. He’s come to a point where there’s an irreconcilable conflict between self-preservation and doing his job.

That’s Luv’s ironic “Because we never lie – I’m going to tell Mr Wallace you tried to kill me.”

The implication is clearly that replicants aren’t expected to lie. Even if the new improved and “obedient” models do.


Welp, China won’t be adding a lot to the international box office haul…


Wow, that’s got to be a gut punch. Crushed by a SyFy movie.


I’m glad the podcast liked it, although I would side with Kelly Wand that Ford was the weakest link. Mainly because of his script - I didn’t wait 30 years to see Deckard again just for him to complain about missing toasted cheese and to tell me what his favourite Elvis song was. In fact the insertion of all those references - Elvis, Nabokov, Sinatra, Treasure Island - felt really off. Mainly because their insertion imply the BR timeline diverged from our timeline after the 1960s which feels implausible (I want plausible killer android movies dammit!).

An interesting take on the film is from Zizek - he goes into a number of Marxist readings of the film, but I was struck by his take on what an ‘authentic’ relationship between humans and androids might look like (which he criticises Blade Runner 2049 for not exploring).

So what would have been an authentic contact between a human and a replicant? Let’s take a (perhaps) surprising example: Wind River (Taylor Sheridan, 2017), a movie which tells the story of Natalie Hanson, a native American girl found raped and frozen in mid-winter on a desolate Wyoming reservation. Cory, a hunter whose girl also disappeared three years ago, and Jane, a young FBI agent, try to unravel the mystery. In the final scene, Cory goes to Hanson’s house where he finds a desperate Martin, Natalie’s father, sitting outside with a “death face” (a mix of blue and white) paint on his face. Cory asks him how did he learn to do it, to which Martin replies: “I don’t. I’ve just made it up. There’s no one left to teach it.” He informs Cory that he just wanted to let it all go and die when the phone rang. His (delinquent) son Chip called him, released from prison, asking him to pick him up at the bus station. Martin says he will do it “as soon as I wash this shit off my face”: “I should go and get him, eventually. Just sit here for a minute. Got time to seat with me?” Cory says “yes”; they seat there silently, and a title screen comes up saying that statistics are kept for every group of missing people except native American women. Nobody knows how many are missing.

The terse beauty of this ending is slightly damaged only by these final words on the screen (they state the obvious and thus introduce an element of fake objectivity into an extreme existential drama.) The underlying problem is that of a ritual of mourning which enables us to survive an unbearably traumatic loss, and the glimmer of hope provided by the ending is that Martin and Cory will be able to survive through such a minimal ritual of just sitting silently. We should not dismiss lightly Martin’s “as soon as I wash this shit off my face” as grounded in the fact that his death face is not there in the old authentic way but just improvised by him: it would remain “shit” even if it were to be done authentically. Martin has already irretrievably lost his ancient ethnic substance; he is already a modern subject unable to practice “death face” with full immersion. However, the miracle is that, although he knows and assumes all this, improvising a death face and just sitting there with it works as authentic in its very artificial improvisation. It may be shit, but shit works in its very minimal gesture of withdrawal from life’s engagements. We should bear in mind here that Cory is a white man living on a reservation, and what Martin asks him to do is not to show solidarity with a grieving native American and participate in a ritual which is meaningless to him: such patronizing respect for a primitive culture is one of the most disgusting versions of racism. The message of Martin’s request is that he shares with Cory the distance the latter feels towards the native American ritual. Cory’s – white man’s – distance is already Martin’s, and it is this distance that makes the ritual authentic, not part of some ridiculous “immersion into a native culture.” Do we not encounter here yet another example of a twist that characterizes the Moebius strip? When we progress from the naïve immersion in a ritual to its utter dismissal as something ridiculous, we all of a sudden find ourselves back in the same ritual, and the fact that we know it is all rubbish in no way diminishes its efficacy.

Can we imagine something homologous taking place between a human and a replicant? A situation in which the two invent and participate in a similar empty ritual? A ritual which is in itself totally meaningless – we search in vain for a deeper message hidden in it – since its function is purely tautological, or as Jakobson called it phatic?


Treasure Island has already been referenced in one of the deleted scenes from the first movie.


Fits with the source material (published 1968), surely. Not to mention all the now very dated 80s references in the original movie.


Untrue - the scene is deliberately ambiguous - you are just omitting the other half of Wallace’s line. The movie goes out of its way to deliberately support either the replicant interpretation that Ridley Scott preferred, as well as the more watered down theatrical cut which doesn’t contain the (most significant) evidence that he’s a a replicant, so the presumption is that he’s human. The sequel accounts for how he could be a replicant and yet the age he is, and also could have created the first human/replicant offspring.

Another interesting homage to the original that I didn’t see mentioned here – the very first scene, which introduces K, in which he confronts Drax at the farm house. That scene is directly from the the early scripts for the 1st blade runner – the soup bowling on the stove, the Blade Runner walking in and waiting for the farmer, and ultimately Deckard shooting the farmer (that was how the movie originally opened) and removing his lower jaw, which would have had mechanical (!) parts to reveal (for the first time) that the farmer had been a replicant. Kinda cool that they incorporated that scene in the sequel – sort of like how JJ Abrams used so many of Ralph McQuarie’s unused designes for the original Star Wars trilogy in Force Awakens (including Rey’s wardrobe).