Well, good news for those of you who couldn’t read the episode when it came out because of the technical difficulties. You get to read the review early! Sort of.
Well, at this rate, I might just run out of random early episode ideas by the end of the season. Needless to say, this is another one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. (Big shame that its stats suffered so badly because of these issues.) Now usually, I have a fairly long story about how various pieces come together to form an episode like this. But the way I remember it, this episode actually came to me pretty much fully formed. Very early in the planning phases of this series, I thought, “What can I do with Shadow androids?” And the twist at the end of this episode came to me within a matter of minutes, with the structure building up to it following quite naturally. Now, to be fair, that isn’t saying much, as, in the end, this was a fairly uneventful episode. It was basically just that one split second twist expanded out into a 40 minute narrative, spending a majority of that time just asking and answering its own questions. But it just worked out so nicely that I was able to base like 5 or 6 future episode ideas off of concepts introduced in this one.
I should probably mention that this still not the mid-season finale. That comes next. Originally, the mid-season would’ve been here, but it was brought to my attention that this first half of the season was way too concentrated in its flashback episodes, so I pulled this one forward from the second half of the season in order to spread those out a bit more.
This episode was meant to be heavily rooted in the…existential themes that the original Shadow the Hedgehog game was seemingly based on, admittedly with some pretty flawed execution that I was attempting to rectify. Just as that game did, I was intending to thoroughly pose a series of questions for the viewer to ponder. “What does it mean to be Shadow the Hedgehog? Is existence in the mind? In the soul? Would it be possible for two people to share that same existence? If so, does that existence have any meaning at all?” Of course, as in any fiction, “Shadow the Hedgehog” is a stand-in for “you.” For more on this idea, you can read my Opinionated Review of Shadow the Hedgehog. To sum up the important point, the entire purpose behind that game, the perfect synergy between story and gameplay, is that you the player are taking the place of Shadow’s conscience. Not knowing who he truly is, Shadow trusts his instincts to lead him to do what the real Shadow the Hedgehog would do, and you are deciding what those instincts are telling him. Obviously there was no such interactive element in this story, but the same theme was still explored. Shadow (the one that turned out to be the android) couldn’t remember what it is that the real Shadow would do, so he had to trust his own instincts to guide him, along with the added layer of Other Shadow’s questionably trustworthy claims.
In general, it was also a goal to simply use the Shadow Android concept to its fullest extent, since it was so severely underutilized in the original game. From the deep emotional torment that Shadow should feel at knowing that these things exist, to the legitimate fear of not knowing who is or isn’t an android, I personally feel that I succeeded all around where the game failed. I think the biggest shame of this episode is that I couldn’t reasonably show onscreen the moment where the real Shadow goes crazy enough to slice his own arm open to check for android parts underneath. I’ll admit that this particular idea was loosely inspired by a similar scene from a movie I once watched called “Ex Machina,” where the protagonist trapped in a house of androids breaks a mirror and cuts himself on the glass in a pretty one-note moment of him questioning his own sanity. That scene was kind of weird in that movie, it didn’t quite line up with the other themes that were going on, so I feel like I used it better, even if it only happened offscreen. Theoretically, that was supposed to be spurred on by the android requesting sleep, which Shadow didn’t expect to be possible, making him wonder if the android was actually the real Shadow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t explain that without spoiling the twist.
I suppose I also did a thing with Johnny. I know I said that this episode came mostly whole, but that there was a big last-minute decision. Even though, as this episode was approaching, I was liking the rapport that the two Shadows were going to have, I realized that it wouldn’t really be enough to fuel a meaningful climax. They would fight the androids, they would win, nothing would really feel like it changed. After that, it was a question of Johnny or Omega. (Poor Omega, he’s been completely shafted since the beginning of this season, and I feel bad about leaving him out again. This is actually the first time we’ve seen him repaired. Expect this to become a character arc for him.) Anyways, I decided on Johnny because this episode didn’t really have much to do with what I wanted Omega’s role for this season to be, and more importantly because the relationship between Johnny and Shadow is an important one that I wanted to establish sooner rather than later. As it is, the fact that Shadow and Johnny have history together that hasn’t been mentioned until now is a little odd. I was still considering a Deus Ex Omega at the end, but I left that out because I figured it wouldn’t add anything to the story. Anyways, there were definitely some awkward points that came of Johnny’s inclusion. His level of communication with Other Shadow compared to android Shadow was definitely suspicious, which I didn’t want, but the one who had the memories needed to be the one doing the talking most of the time. In the end, adding him didn’t really change the issue I was having with the climax not being climactic enough, so writing that whole scene dragged on for longer than I was hoping. The emotional moments between Johnny and Shadow during that whole fight scene were added more out of necessity than anything. My original plan was for them to be a little more indifferent towards each other by the end of this, and build it up more later. Still not sure what I’m gonna do about that, because they can’t be best friends come the next time they interact significantly. But I think that’s all I have to say now.
On to the trivia!
- The episode title, “A Shadow of Myself,” is a quote of the opening lyrics to Team Dark’s Sonic Heroes theme, “This Machine.”
- The song was also referenced elsewhere in the episode.
- GUN Fortress was the only location from a previous Sonic game featured in this episode.
- This marks the first episode since the introduction of the Rebellion Base in the premiere of Season 1 that Emerald Hill has not been featured in any capacity.
- This is the smallest number of established locations used for an episode since S1 E14, which only featured Emerald Hill and new locations. However, if you count Kamitatsu’s Palace as an extension of Press Garden, and the GUN Base from S1 E1 as equivalent to the GUN Fortress, then the record extends all the way back to S0 E25, which, besides new locations, only featured Tails’ workshop in the Mystic Ruins.
- The introductory sequence of this episode intentionally parallels a scene written for In the Shadow of Time, which showed Shadow’s first waking moments from his own perspective.
- This episode marks the first time in chronological CP-Canon that Eggman has referred to himself as Dr. Robotnik since the events of Sonic Adventure.
- The training room “specifically designed” for Shadow appeared to use solid, cube-constructed holograms which bear a striking similarity to Phantom Ruby Replicas. This will be explored in the future.
- This training room was also a reference to something else. But I’ll leave that one as a surprise.
- There were a few quotes back to Shadow the Hedgehog and SA2. See if you can catch them all!
- Here’s one to start with. “This blue sky, staring at it from afar…” (I think we all wanted to shut Shadow up before he could finish saying that nonsense the first time.)
- There was also an instance of the familiar “Sayonara” which was added by the suggestion of the editor.
- An interesting statement about the lore of Shadow the Hedgehog was made. It is now established that something resembling the events of the Neutral Story, taking on the Lava Shelter where the Shadow Androids were being made, happened—not during, but soon after—the game’s story. This will be touched on a bit more later.
That’s all for today’s trivia. I’ll see you all next time for the mid-season finale, which will hopefully be pretty soon! Stay tuned!
-And until next time, remember to live and learn every day!