To The Moon Play-Along – Act 2

After the slow, intensely mundane, plodding nature of Act 1, Act 2 was instant relief.

Dare I say, I probably enjoyed Act 2 the most, if only for the absurd comedy gold of watching our two protagonists -completely- barking up the wrong tree and attempting their best impression of NASA recruiters.

Autism cure-all! HEAD TO SPACE!
Don’t save the dying girl! Don’t save the house or the lighthouse! Dump it all and peace out to the MOON, bro!

To no avail. Ha.

I’m like, no sh-t, it didn’t work. Why are you guys so puzzled about this?

Onward to the play-along questions!

1. When Eva was sitting, thinking about the reasons nothing at all changed in Johnny’s simulated memories at all — what conclusions do you think she reached? What conclusion did you reach?

My take on this is that she reached exactly zero conclusion. That’s why she went into the house and started asking random questions of Lily and making small talk, wandering around aimlessly until she came upon Neil on the phone and the next convenient plot hook to move us along to Act 3.

My conclusion was pretty much what I felt from the beginning. Johnny’s desire to go “to the moon” has to be interpreted in a more figurative sense than literal. It’s a subliminal urge. It doesn’t mean that he wants to join NASA and jump onto a rocket and -physically- go to the moon (which is why Act 2 is comedy gold.)

It’s an emotional yearning that somehow ties in with his love for River and his missing her after her death. The unspoken desire is that he wants to be reunited with River; the moon doesn’t factor in beyond being a metaphor for a far away, impossible-seeming goal.

Possibly, this insight was already helped along by one’s cultural background. In Chinese mythology, there is the legend of a lady who became the moon goddess Chang Er. Elixirs of immortality and white rabbits are also closely associated with the tale. Ultimately, she leaves her husband and floats/flees to the moon, where they remain separated and alone.

So the imagery of a husband staring at the moon and yearning for his lady was already a subconscious underlying theme through the game, helped along by several dozen origami rabbits.

2. The block on the youngest memories and the use of beta blockers… What do you think this will be all about? (Or if you’ve played before; what did you think it was about?)

You know, I googled beta blockers right after Neil mentioned it… and reached absolutely zero conclusion. Beta blockers in real life block adrenaline and are primarily used for heart conditions. As a secondary use, they may be used for anxiety and reducing blood pressure by slowing the heart rate. The stated side effects do NOT include memory loss.

So I was momentarily baffled, before deciding that “beta blockers” were being used as a medicinal plot device – just name a drug and pretend it has the effect that we need for the plot to go forward. Ok. I will suspend disbelief as appropriate and proceed.

My initial guess, pre-experiencing the remaining acts, is that maybe we’ll end up with an ADHD storyline. I mean, we’ve already covered autism. ADHD is the other very common childhood symptom that is diagnosed and “fixed” through massive drug use. Except that beta blockers are not used to treat ADHD, so that didn’t quite fit…

…nor are they used to wipe clean someone’s memories. So nothing fits!

You know what? No clue. Let’s just move on and accept whatever the story tells us the magic “beta blockers” are to be used for.

3. What about Neil taking off for a moment while Eva returned with the… ahem… Contained dead squirrel odour? What could have been so important to him?

I figured it was laying in some foreshadowing groundwork down the road for some plot revelation or other.

At the time, no clue what exactly. It wasn’t as if there seemed to be anything of importance left in or outside the house.

Or maybe he was really taking a leak. Wouldn’t put it past Neil.

(While reviewing the story through the Let’s Play Archive’s coverage of To The Moon for purposes of this blog post, there is apparently two white pixels’ worth of an item you can pick up while Eva is rummaging around in the car. These teeny pixels appear to be painkillers.

Which Neil apparently needs and wants, and Eva can kinda-sorta-but-not-quite confront him on this when she bumps into him. Which suggests the whole incident was busy laying in the foreshadowing groundwork of some Neil/Eva revelations in a future game.

I am 97.8% sure I did not even see these white pixels in my playthrough, let alone click on them, because playing a 640×480 game fullscreen on a 3840×1080 ultrawide means the whole screen is pixels of one type or another. One was already pixel-hunting enough to get through the required bits.)

4. We still have the third act to come. What do you think it will focus on? (Or, if you’ve played before — what did you think Act 3 would be about before you got to see it for yourself?)

I figured we would see the last memory from his childhood that we didn’t get to see from Act 2. No real clue what it would be about.

Maybe something about how his creativity got snuffed out and how he became so mundane and ordinary (like maybe an ADHD diagnosis, being pumped full of magical “beta blockers” that turned him into a medium-functioning non-weird zombie that made him crave for River’s unique braaainns.)

I figured that Act 3 would also cover the slow but dawning realization that Johnny doesn’t -actually- want to go to the moon in the literal sense, and that there’s a gaping hole in his life that only River can fill, in all her moonlit strange glory.

2 thoughts on “To The Moon Play-Along – Act 2

  1. ~2009, so a couple of years before To the Moon came out, there was a number of stories circulating that Beta-blockers could eliminate bad memories and might be useful as a treatment for PTSD.

    As the media so often does — this was a misunderstanding (if not intentional misrepresentation) of what the study in question was *actually* saying, but it took off like wildfire.

    If you’d like to read more, then: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2009/02/16/beta-blocker-drug-erases-the-emotion-of-fearful-memories/ — but the summary of it is that being asked to recall memories while on propranolol lead to the reduction in the emotional/fearful response initially associated with the memory.

    So I expect this to be the origin of this plot-line, but whether Kan knew at the time he wrote it the more appropriate interpretation of the study or not I don’t know. Entirely possible still ran with it out of a degree of artistic license to make the story work.

    I like your more metaphorical take on Johnny’s stated desire of going to the moon as well. 🙂 I didn’t know about the Japanese folklore tie-in until Rakuno’s act 1 post last week, but I do like the way all of it seems to tie together. I have absolutely no doubt now that this is the inspiration, too.

    1. Ah, good to know where the inspiration source for that might stem from. I can see how beta blockers, if they block adrenaline, might numb the intensity of a fear/anxiety response.

      As you say, in real life, memory loss doesn’t actually occur from that, but yeah, a few media extrapolations later, it becomes a pretty good concept to steal for a speculative fiction re-interpretation.

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