I heard a bit about how gross ACDC’s power is, but yeah. Blood vessel tendrils. Yikes! The really eerie part to me, though, is how his fingernails (and, later, his toenails) open cleanly like lids to let loose the tendrils. It’s a small detail, but it’s so inhuman. Those small details are often the ones that end up the creepiest, in my experience. They show that someone put real thought into making someone function in an utterly alien way. And the thought of something so alien getting inside you and warping what makes you physically human? Truly chilling . . . it’s why body horror is to me the most frightening horror.
Luckily Joseph is not a doofy pansy like me and is well-prepared to combat ACDC’s grossness. This fight is the best example yet of what has made the fights in “Battle Tendency” so enjoyable: The back and forth of both sides laying out plans and improvising when seeing what their foes are capable of. It’s almost essential that Joseph think of new ways to apply the Ripple in each battle, because otherwise, he would come into every fight at a tremendous disadvantage, since his opponents know what he can do, but the Pillar Men are pulling all sorts of disgusting shit. When you boil it down to its core, the fights really amount to, “Aha! I have you!” and “Aha, no, I actually have you!” and so on until the battle concludes; however, the twists are executed with such ridiculous flair that it’s easy to swallow them despite how nonsensical they are.
The in-show comparison of Joseph to a magician is a clever way of making it easier for the audience to accept what is going on. I watched this episode twice and looked at the battle between Joseph and ACDC with a sharp eye the second time through — at no point is it ever visually apparent that Joseph is laying a trap. The one time he lets the audience in on it is his internal monologue regarding the Thread Shredder. But at that point he’s already set up his threads. So, really, it’s just a magician letting you know that the act is about to begin. We’re long used to this sleight of hand from Joseph, though (ever since the first episode with the grenades and Tommy gun), so he has carte blanche to pull whatever tricks he desires under the watchful eyes of the audience.
A magician never tells his secrets, after all. And again, we have Joseph playing the fool to great effect, although it doesn’t work 100 percent on ACDC. (I loved the moment where ACDC briefly turns the tables on Joseph by using Joseph’s predilection for prediction on him.) Aside from being like a magician, Joseph is also like a great comedian: He’s playing an act on stage in such a convincing way that the audience accepts that person they see on stage is who the comedian really is. (This was a great source of trouble for people like Rodney Dangerfield, who was by all accounts the opposite of the blustery dullard he played to the crowd.) Any shred of doubt, anger, or arrogance Joseph can instill in his enemies, no matter how minor or how shortly it lasts, is advantageous. As long as they view Joseph as who he wants them to think he is rather than who he actually is, that’s a win.
I will say, though, that the twist of ACDC’s brain staying alive and attaching itself to Joseph is a bit tough to accept. Joseph has shown himself to be hyper aware of his surroundings; it seems implausible that he’d shrug off a brain clinging to him as, “Meh, my shoulders must be stiff after that long, tough battle!” (Yes, I know, mentioning implausibility for this in the face of everything else we’ve seen in this series — up to and including a brain functioning on its own — is quite silly.) I suppose the problem of making hero and villain so sharp and deceptive is that, eventually, someone will be made to look the fool. I know that I was struck by the sense that Joseph’s battle against ACDC seemed too easy a victory. Even though I accepted that Joseph was stronger than he was before, a fight against a genuine Pillar Man shouldn’t be over that quickly, should it?
And so it is not. Still, I can’t help but be doubtful about Joseph being fooled so easily. Perhaps, though, ACDC is as great a magician as Joseph; he just felt no need to let the audience in on the trick. We haven’t truly seen a Pillar Man die yet, have we? Maybe ACDC’s grand explosion is merely for show? Probably not. That just sounds like I am making excuses. But Joseph knows as little about the Pillar Men as we do. None of us surely doubted that ACDC died, even if we were uneasy about the battle concluding so quickly. The relief of victory and relinquishing himself from ACDC’s poisonous hold on him likely clouded Joseph’s mind to the possibility that there was more to come. Then all of a sudden . . . ACDC brain.
Anyway, if there’s one thing mass amounts of horror and science-fiction have taught me, it’s that alien brains will stop at nothing to inhabit the fleshy husks of inferior creatures (if only to use as meat shields), so that is my guess as to ACDC’s final trump card. Maybe he’ll be arrogant enough to try and control Joseph, but there will probably be lots of resistance there. Imagine a literal brain on brain battle? The mind reels at the possibilities!