Learning to Live on the Edge – Review of “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” Episodes 3 & 4

When the world continuously takes away your options and shatters your dreams, what choice do you have but to rebel and make your own path? That is the core question at the center of episodes 3 and 4 of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. The callous disregard of Night City, the setting for both the Cyberpunk TTRPG and the videogame Cyberpunk 2077, was on full display in the first two episodes. In the next two episodes, David Rodriguez finds himself joining a crew of fellow cyberpunks and beginning to descend into the shadowy world they inhabit.

Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watch episodes 3 and 4 of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

The third episode, titled “Smooth Criminal”, picks up immediately where the previous episode left off. David is at the mercy of a group of edgerunners (aka cyberpunks) lead by the absolutely monstrous man called Maine. It turns out that Gloria Martinez, David’s mother, had stolen the Sandevistan implant currently in David’s body and arranged to sell it to Maine. Unfortunately, Maine never received it due to Gloria’s untimely death. When Maine finds out that David is Gloria’s son, he calms down enough to allow David to strike a bargain: letting David join Maine’s crew to work off the debt incurred. At first hesitant to take on a teenager with zero edgerunning experience, Maine agrees.

What follows is David’s first job with the group: grabbing the GPS data on an Arasaka executive named Tanaka through the driver. Seeing the group setting up the gig and pulling it off is quite a bit of fun. I’ve always been a big fan of heist movies and this episode definitely fits the bill, with narration from Maine intercutting with the crew actually pulling off the heist. Of course, everything goes to hell with the driver is called in to work, forcing Lucy and David to steal the executive limo (which will bring down the wrath of Arasaka Corporation). Sure enough, David and Lucy have to fend off a pair of Tyger Claws (a street gang that often does the dirty work for the Arasaka Corporation). The timely intervention of Maine prevents David from getting flatlined by the Tygers, which goes to show that even with the Sandevistan implant David is far from being capable of protecting himself in the big bad world of Night City. After the job, we find out that Maine and his crew were working for Faraday, a Fixer in Night City that acts as a middleman to set up gigs for edgerunners like Maine and his people.

Cyberpunk Red Core Rulebook by R. Talsorian Games.
Available on DriveThruRPG

Twice in the third episode, David is called by the principal of the Arasaka Academy to offer him a scholarship to return to the school, provided that he makes a formal apology to Katsuo (the student who had taken delight in bullying David until David cleaned his clock after getting the Sandevistan implant installed). By the end of the episode, David tells the principal in no uncertain terms that if Katsuo wants to continue their beef, he can come find David in the streets and that he has no intention of returning to school. Given that he has found a place for himself among Maine’s crew, it’s a feeling a exaltation seeing David cast away his old life but it’s tinged with a bitterness knowing that his new life will most likely not have a happy ending.

We also get introduced to the rest of Maine’s crew in episode four, titled “Lucky You”. The crew is made up of a motley bunch: Maine, a former mercenary turned cyberpunk who has extensive cybernetic implants; Dorio, Maine’s right-hand and lover; Kiwi, a netrunner (a computer hacker who can mentally interact with cyberware and the Net); Lucy, the other netrunner in the group; Rebecca and Pilar, a brother and sister tandem (with Pilar being a techie obsessed with being the crude comic relief and Pilar being arguably the best shooter in the entire group).

Much of the plot of “Lucky You” is the group training David to become a better edgerunner, including emphasizing the need to carry a gun (the slang term being “iron”) and the need for further cyberware implants to give him an edge when combat starts. Lucy takes to running with David, getting his stamina up and generally providing a perplexing dilemma for David. It’s clear to everyone in the crew and the audience that David is falling for Lucy but she remains distant from him. We get to see more of how the underworld of Night City operates, including a visit to the Afterlife, a prominent bar in Cyberpunk 2077 where edgerunners are known to frequent. It’s a tradition in the Afterlife for drinks to be named after famous edgerunners. Just one catch: you have to die spectacularly to earn that distinction.

Tales of the RED: Street Stories by R. Talsorian Games
Available on DriveThruRPG

Everything comes to a head near the end of the episode, though, when Pilar is suddenly killed by a cyberpyscho. The randomness of his death is the first signal to the audience that no one is safe in this story, which is how it should be. I mentioned in my first review of this anime series that life is cheap in Night City and Pilar’s death shows that Studio Trigger and the writers for Cyberpunk: Edgerunners aren’t afraid to follow through with how anyone can die suddenly and without any real reason. It also marks a turning point for David, who up to this point in the episode can’t bring himself to shoot to kill. When Lucy is at the mercy of the cyberpyscho, David loses all of his hesitation, unloading a single shot into the side of the psycho’s head. Later that same night, Lucy and David share a quiet moment on the rooftop of Lucy’s megabuilding. It’s here that Lucy reveals something that David is just now starting to realize: the life of an edgerunner is short and cheap. As Lucy puts it, “You don’t make a name as a cyberpunk by how you live. You’re remembered by how you die”.

This ties in to the overall ethos of the Cyberpunk TTRPG and Cyberpunk 2077: there’s no such thing as a living legend in Night City. Anyone who chooses to live the life of a cyberpunk is living on borrowed time. Sooner or later, their ticket is gonna get punched. It’s not a question of if but a question of when but more importantly, how. As David and Lucy share their first kiss under the moonlight, David makes the childish promise that he won’t die on Lucy. It’s meant to be a sweet moment but this is Cyberpunk and there are no such things as happy endings in a Cybepunk story.

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