Most of Blood Blockade Battlefront operated inside its own little realm of reality, and though there was clearly a realm outside of it, the show’s focus on Hellsalem’s Lot meant that what we saw was almost always a fantasy joyride that operated on its own laws of physics and badassery. Typically such shows provide little in the form of emotional investment. Characters are treated as comical punching bags or the ones doing the punching. What little downtime exists is often used to drive a plot, not explore character dynamics through small moments. And BBB had its handful of such instances, but give the crew behind this adaptation credit where it’s due; there’s no denying Hellsalem’s Lot feels like a living, breathing, place with characters who, even if just shown once or twice, feel like they have their own life waiting outside their immediate involvement in this patchwork of a story.
Which is good. Shows like that reflect life, as all art does in some way or another, and episode 6, titled “Don’t Forget to Don’t Forget Me,” hit harder than I expected it to. Throughout it, we follow Leonardo’s adventures as he meets a squishy mushroom-like blob named Nej (his full name’s longer, but I’ll spare you as he does) who freakin’ loooooves burgers. Angry that a couple asshole gas truck drivers keep overcharging Nej for food from a district he can’t visit himself and that people generally seem apathetic to his wellbeing, Leo takes over the role of Nej’s hamburger harbinger. Unlike his relationship with the other two thugs, Nej develops a deep friendship with Leo but nobody else seems to understand why. Could just be cause Leo’s a nice guy and the rest of Hellsalem’s Lot is too “leave me be or I’ll fuck you up” to care, but the important thing is that Leo does care.
And it’s important that Leo cares because this entire episode is thematically centered around minority ostracization and effectively, Hellsalem’s Lot’s version of racism, where – for most of the episode, at least – Nej is its victim in smaller ways, like not being able to enter a human-only district or having people laugh at him get hit by large vehicles several times his size and weight. Leo thinks of Nej as his equal, but that’s an individual pleasure, not a societal outstretched hand; Nej is still clearly different enough from the humans and other Beyondians in HL to feel like a foreign factor, but not one dangerous enough to regard as anything more than a passing bystander. So bystand people do – to the point where it becomes obvious that this treatment is systemic and not something Leo or Libra (some of the guys like Zapp don’t even care) will be able to change.
But Nej won’t remember that. Given enough time, due to his living conditions Nej won’t remember anything too long-term. Apply blunt trauma to the mushroom head and he’ll promptly release a sea of amnesia (and coma)-inducing spores. The episode’s short-term antagonists end up being the truck-driving duo who desperately need cash and hope to abuse Nej to collect his spores as their weapon. These two are their own kind of stuck, but they take advantage of a “lesser” and “inhuman” being in an attempt to get on better footing. While Leo is able to save himself and Nej from death, both his and Nej’s memories of each other vanish by the end of the episode, leaving their final post-climax exchange an open-ended question, as Leo exclaims this little guy’s request for a burger feels awfully familiar for someone he’s never met. Nej never shows up in the show again as far as I can remember; BBB was filled with one-time characters, but his absence after this episode is sadder than most because it reinforces how small a voice Nej has that he can’t be seen to the rest of the world, even when just requesting food. The long-term antagonist is a society that willingly ignores its inequalities.
And that’s a lot of heavy shit to coincidentally air in a time where over in America, we’re faced with discussion again about very real, very entrenched, and very dangerous systemic racism and inequality.
So it’ll be Christmas in a few days. I myself am not Christian, but I still celebrate the holiday as my family does because it means we’re all together and enjoying each other’s company. It doesn’t escape my mind that I’m very lucky to have this privilege and that many of you do as well. So with the timely spirit of giving already here, remember this holiday season to help those less fortunate in some way or another; the marginalized, the outcast, the impoverished. Just do something good for someone else, not for your peace of mind, not for great justice, but for them. Even if it’s as small as giving someone you may not remember a few months from now a nice juicy burger and letting them know they’re not totally on their own.