Straddling the Edge – Review of “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” Episodes 7 & 8

The life of a Cyberpunk is to live on the edge between crashing into a burning wreck or massive success. In the seventh and eighth episodes of Netflix’s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, we get to see David Martinez after a jump forward in time. Now a hardened edgerunner in his own right, David is straddling the edge between success and catastrophe. It’s plain to see that he’s losing his grip but ever the stubborn bastard, he won’t let go and change.

Spoilers ahead for episodes 7 and 8 of Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episodes.

The 7th episode, titled “Stronger”, picks up some time after the ending of “Girl On Fire”. David has taken over as leader of the edgerunner crew, with Rebecca and Kiwi still working alongside him. Falco, the ever-reliable driver, still works as wheelman for the group. David has grown considerably in the time skip, looking like a younger version of Maine (including the grenade launcher arm implant that Maine left him shortly before committing suicide in a Viking funeral). With Rebecca by his side as the mayhem-loving Solo and Kiwi serving as the team’s primary Netrunner, David is now capable of taking down an entire warehouse of Maelstrom gangbangers, including one chromed-out member that almost gives David a run for his money.

It’s clear David has gone overboard with the cyberware, a fact his older ripperdoc Doc points out, while drawing a connection to a Night City legend, Adam Smasher. As Doc puts it, Smasher is a full Borg (aka cyborg), someone who has basically replaced every part of their body with cyberware. The brief glimpses we see of Smasher are terrifying and rightly so. If there’s any one character from the Cyberpunk lore that could be considered an outright monster, it’s Adam Smasher, someone who never cared much for their humanity and reveled in causing destruction for the sake of doing so. Given that Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is considered a prequel to Cyberpunk 2077, it’s only natural that one of the big bads of the game make a cameo in the anime.

We soon learn that Lucy hasn’t returned to the crew since the Tanaka job went south. Instead, due to David’s growing reputation and proficiency as a mercenary, the pair live in a fancy rooftop apartment (which fans of Cyberpunk 2077 will recognize as the high-rise domicile the lead character V can get in one of the game’s endings). The pair are still together but there’s a distance between them that is widening, except for a quiet scene between the two in the desert outside of Night City.

Tales From The Red by R. Talsorian Games.
Available on DriveThruRPG

Lucy’s backstory is finally revealed in that scene, as she details her upbringing as a child soldier for the Arasaka Corporation. The megacorp snatched Lucy up, implanted her with cutting-edge cybernetics to ensure she could do deep-dive runs, and set her loose to roam the dangerous Old Net. For those not up on the lore of R. Talsorian Games Cyberpunk TTRPG, Lucy and David break it down succinctly in their conversation. The DATAKRASH virus released by Rache Bartmoss (a genius-level netrunner from fifty years prior to the start of the anime) destroyed the overwhelming majority of cyberspace, leaving behind roving Artificial Intelligences and programs called “daemons” that destroy any data or being they find in the Old Net. To say that Arasaka was rolling the dice with this experiment is an understatement, as we soon see many of the kids in the same program as Lucy get brain-fried from getting attacked by these AIs and daemons. Lucy managed to escape and she’s been hiding from Arasaka ever since. I liked this scene for a number of reasons, mainly getting the reveal of Lucy’s backstory and showing that she has come to trust David to a certain extent. It’s clear the two of them love each other but David’s obsession with living up to Maine’s standard as an edgerunner is driving a wedge between them.

The gap between the two only begins to widen further as the fixer Faraday re-enters the scene, hiring David on behalf of Militech International (the main megacorp rival of Arasaka). David’s mission is to eliminate any personnel related to a cyberskeleton project Arasaka is developing, something that could be considered a game-changer in the silent war that’s been brewing between the two megacorporations. Little does David know that this project was exactly what Tanaka Sr. wanted him to become a part of. As we soon learn that Arasaka has been hiring netrunners to piece together the data lost by Tanaka in his death, except Lucy is systematically hunting these runners down and executing them to protect David from Arasaka’s clutches.

This leads into the 8th episode, titled “Stay”, which picks up with David attacking an Arasaka facility and killing one of the directors. In the process, David freezes up and kills one of the director’s subordinates, a regular person who was just trying to get home to celebrate her son getting into the Arasaka Academy (making her a direct correlation to Gloria Martinez, David’s deceased mother). We soon see that David is starting to feel the early onset of cyberpsychosis, the same as Maine did. The tremors in his hand, coupled with the later reveal that David hallucinated during the Arasaka raid (which led to him killing the Arasaka subordinate), shows that even though David has a higher tolerance for cyberware, even he has an upper limit and he’s reached it.

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

In a Cyberpunk TTRPG game, one of the unspoken rules is that you can never fully trust anyone in the setting. Faraday shows how true that is in this episode. Arasaka, burned by the break-in and the murder of their netrunners, puts out a hit on any Fixers with ties to Militech. Faraday manages to escape unscathed but Militech refuses to provide any further funding or protection until the fixer produces results. When he reaches out to Arasaka, Faraday finds himself in a situation where he receives a generous offer to find the netrunner responsible for the murders, one that he happily takes up. This leads to the ending of the episode but we’re not quite there yet.

Throughout the episode, we see both Rebecca and Lucy trying to convince David that he is reaching the edge of his cyberware tolerance. Unfortunately, it’s falling on deaf ears. David’s obsession is to both live up to Maine’s direction of getting cybered up to contend with the big bad world and Gloria’s dream of David rising above the poverty he grew up in. On some level, David believes that he’s “special”, somehow immune to the same rules and restrictions as everyone else. Sadly, he’s about to get a dose of harsh reality.

The episode ends with Lucy finding out that another netrunner is trying to reconstruct the data that she wiped from Tanaka. The fact that this happens during an argument with David about his cyberware only exacerbates the divide between the two of them. Unfortunately, it’s a trap laid out by Faraday, who quickly subdues Lucy in order to return her to Arasaka. It’s a hell of a cliffhanger to end the episode on, leading into the inevitable confrontation between David and Arasaka that’s been brewing since the first episode. As I have mentioned in my previous reviews, this is a Cyberpunk story and there are no such things as happy endings. David, Lucy, and the rest of the crew are about to find out the hard way why there is no such thing as living legends in Night City.

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