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Intermission, Part 1 of 2
Pages 1154-1264 (MSPA: 3054-3164)
It’s time to start Act 2!
OK so here’s the deal. In the Homestuck community reread, we’re doing the first half of the Midnight Crew intermission today. Partway through reading the intermission, I suddenly realized just how good it is. So good that I decided to skip to the intermission in my rewritten blog posts and slog through Act 2 later. Yes you read that right: I’m not skipping the intermission, but skipping to the intermission.
Act 2 was a little boring at parts, but Act 3 was a lot more fun and enjoyable and ended with an AMAZING flash. The intermission though, I’m suddenly in love with everything about it so I’ll jump right in and blog about it, this time doing this story arc the justice it deserves. This post will cover the first half of the intermission and next post will cover the second half.
Your name is SPADES SLICK.
If there’s any doubt that Homestuck is best experienced reread over and over, the intermission shatters that doubt. The first time reading it, it’s kind of weird and confusing, a complete departure from the first three acts. But the more you reread it, the better it somehow becomes.
Our new protagonist is Spades Slick, leader of the Midnight Crew. His introduction page goes like so:
Your name is SPADES SLICK. You are the leader of a notoriously vicious gang of mobsters called the MIDNIGHT CREW. A rival gang known as THE FELT recently knocked over one of your favorite casinos. Your long quest of revenge has finally taken you through the front door of the mansion belonging to their loathsome boss, LORD ENGLISH.
Your subordinates, CLUBS DEUCE, DIAMONDS DROOG, and HEARTS BOXCARS have been dispatched to various locations throughout the mansion to begin carrying out your mission. Your objective is to locate and crack English’s SECRET VAULT, and plunder its mysteries.
That’s the business end of it. The pleasure will be painting this ugly house red with the blood of those miserable green motherfuckers.
The new setting is introduced masterfully. Every detail of everything is something that’s never even been hinted at before. Well OK, we did meet the Midnight Crew as characters in Hussie’s in-universe webcomic but that doesn’t count, because this time the setting is nothing like the old comic. Everything is colored green and based on stock images, with a whole new set of enemies and a mention of what seems to be the final boss of this arc. The premise is all based around the destruction of a casino; since Slick is an iteration of Jack Noir, he’ll stop at nothing to get revenge. Is it any wonder that this guy is such a fan favorite?
Yeah I know, blah blah blah, the intermission seems to be unrelated to the main storyline at first but it actually is related. I’ll go over this arc and its connection to the acts as I go along. Also Slick characterizes Jack Noir, blah blah blah, I’ll go over this characterization as I go along too. Don’t have time for nonsense.
Immediately after Slick is introduced, we learn about the Felt’s obsession with clocks. I think it’s quite similar to the guardians’ interests littered about their homes; if you read between the lines, the intermission and the acts already have a bit more in common than you may think.
Just like WV, Slick’s inventory is introduced through a command to captchalogue something. Those that loved Problem Sleuth are in for quite the treat, just like the references during John’s alchemy binge.
4/1000 CLOCKS DESTROYED
Slick is commanded to build a fort with the clocks, just as if he were one of the human goofballs. Instead, he knocks them all into the fire, introducing to us the count of clocks destroyed.
Under the rug, he sees a species he does not recognize, with a furry upper lip. His true identity is foreshadowed here, and I wonder if maybe one person already connected the dots that he is the trolls’ Jack Noir way in advance. So far, it’s probably not out of the question that they played Sburb just like the humans did, considering that they are voiced characters and not mysterious entities.
You would need a DECK OF CARDS to play that infernal game.
Fortunately all you have is your WAR CHEST, which you deploy on the floor.
Items flip back and forth between two forms here without being questioned, exactly like in Problem Sleuth! People who like Problem Sleuth, especially if they prefer it to Homestuck, really deserve this treat.
The Crosbytop shows us some webcomic focused on human kids he doesn’t care about at all. Here’s a nitpick I have: while it makes sense to invert the situation that the Midnight Crew is fictional here, I want to say it makes more sense for the laptop to have a prototype, somewhat different version of Homestuck on it. The Homestuck beta perhaps?
> [I] SS: Delete the time setting on the crosbytop.
CLOCKS DESTROYED: 5/1000
I can imagine what went through Hussie’s mind when he used this command.
Reader: “Hey Andrew, did you notice that the time setting on this laptop arguably counts as a clock?”
Hussie: “Oh shit, good point.”
Hey, this pattern looks familiar…
It is ever so slightly more likely that someone pieced together Slick’s true identity by this point. WV’s pattern looks like this, we know that PM is from Prospit, and so it’s not out of the question WV hails from the same mysterious dark kingdom as Jack Noir. Slick’s identity as the trolls’ Jack, however, catches just about everyone by surprise when the intermission ends.
I kind of like the narrative choice that three of the Felt are already dead. It helps make us feel like we’re in a whole new story.
A paragraph roughly runs through each of their time powers or why they are hard to kill. Then we learn that nobody knows what Lord English looks like and that Slick plans to change that.
Where’s number eight, you ask? Right here of course! Unfortunately, Slick can’t kill the mysterious Snowman. We’ll see why soon enough, which I think will be at the start of the second half of the intermission. That’s also when I’m going to discuss that one character Snowman foreshadows.
Deuce and Droog split up to neutralize as many Felt as they can find. Your heavy muscle and expert safecracker, Boxcars, is headed straight down to the vault.
Attentive readers will think back to this guy. Maybe the intermission isn’t quite as unfamiliar and foreign as one may think? Nah, most readers think, it’s a whole separate story anyway so who cares.
After Slick contacts Clubs Deuce, who successfully captured Doze (2), we switch perspective to Hearts Boxcars.
“Be Hearts Boxcars.”
“You are now Clubs Deuce.”
Why is this so fucking funny to me??? This moment made me remember/realize how good the intermission is.
Spades Slick characterizes Jack Noir, a character we caught a glimpse of before; Clubs Deuce characterizes someone we haven’t even met yet. His character establishing moment we saw just now was proudly telling Slick he captured Doze, the slowest member of the Felt.
Deuce turns the Midnight Crew from a good group of characters to an amazing group of characters. He can never do anything right unless he does it in the weirdest unconventional ways.
> [I] CD: Punch clocks in faces to establish chronology.
Why would you do that? All of these clocks are lovely. You see no reason to harm them.
987/1000 CLOCKS UNHARMED
It’s only natural that this guy isn’t really with the program of destroying clocks at all. It’s also only natural that Slick is the only one of the four that cares about the clock part of this mission. Do you see Diamonds and Hearts destroying a single clock in this arc? I like how this theme occurs with all three versions of the Derse agents: killing all the Felt, stealing the white queen’s ring*, and killing all the alpha kids’ dream selves. There’s way too many parallels between all of these, which I’ll again discuss as I go along.
* Or killing Jade.
The book commentary points out something I somehow never noticed. War chest = John’s magic chest, Battledrobe = Jade’s wardrobe.
Clubs Deuce’s battledrobe mirrors Jade, Kanaya, and Dirk’s wardrobifiers, and appropriately, all four are special case characters. This is something I realized/decided about thirty seconds ago.
Skipping ahead a little, Itchy (1) just swapped everyone’s hats and now is running around like crazy. Slick catches Itchy’s weak spot—things that aren’t moving quickly—and knocks him down.
And so, Itchy gets his revenge for swapping everyone’s hats. Good way to establish Slick’s character, killing anything in his way.
This son of a bitch on the floor here has played his last game of musical hats. Soon these lugs will learn to show you some respect. You made this town what it is after all. Wasn’t nothin’ but a bunch of dust and rocks before you got here.
Oh my god, the foreshadowing. THE FORESHADOWING. “Dust and rocks”, I wonder which other group of characters has the 3×3 chess grid bar code and lives in a world of dust and rocks? This line is brilliantly easy to miss and it works too well. Just as the trolls’ arc serves as an example of a Sburb session more typical than that of the kids’, the intermission serves an example of exile repopulation more successful than what happened on Earth.
Licorice gummy bears
Did I mention the Midnight Crew members each have a corresponding candy? That pattern just kind of exists as a callback to Problem Sleuth. A good callback though. “Good” is italicized to show that it’s especially good, not that the other callbacks are bad.
They also each have corresponding pornography. Is that even the right word? Pictures of candy being treated like they’re illicit and sexual reminds us that this is the bizarre world of Homestuck.
After a bit more nonsense, Clubs Deuce remembers that he is actually Hearts Boxcars.
Ah, Diamonds Droog. He never got a big role in the beta kids’ session, and I can tell by his much bigger role in the alpha kids’ session that Hussie wanted to make up for that.
Oh hey, I think I finally figured out why the MSPA wiki corresponds Rose with diamonds rather than Jade.
In case you forgot, this is called the “brawlsoleum”, an echo of Rose’s mausoleum.
You are the only member of this band of thugs who is civilized enough to keep more than one BACKUP HAT, as well as an extensive array of FINELY TAILORED SUITS.
Even though DD roughly mirrors Rose, this line reminds me of Jade’s wise habit of keeping no less than five computers on her at all times.
Trace (3) ghost-punches Droog from the future, and we quickly learn that his weakness is that we now know where he’s going to turn up later. I’m glad the smartest member of the team tackles him on, instead of Spades or Clubs doofing around confused.
Of course this guy would use a Stretch Armstrong doll as a substitute for rope.
You flip the fuck out over the fact that this is apparently a BULL PENIS CANE.
Clubs Deuce’s mental breakdown when he realizes he’s carrying a bull penis cane mirrors John’s mental breakdown about Fruit Gushers in more ways than one. If you read between the lines just a little, parallels between the Midnight Crew and the beta kids are everywhere. Not to mention that Hussie helpfully stated the following in his book commentary that makes this parallel much more clear:
Actually, when I was rummaging around Google for cudgels and canes for Clubs Deuce to keep stockpiled, I don’t think I realized that particular one was a bull penis cane until later. Once it dawned on me, CD’s BULL PENIS FREAKOUT PANEL was completely autobiographical, much like John’s Gushers revelation meltdown.
In an alternate timeline, Die (6) is playing a game of cards with the ever-cheating Itchy, so he jumps to a timeline where Itchy is dead. Hussie’s analysis of Die in the book commentary is worth reading:
Die is a petty bastard, but ultimately he’s a coward. He doesn’t favor confrontation so much as exacting his revenge by jumping to a timeline where the guy he’s cross with has just been offed by someone else. I’m not sure what gratification he gets from this exactly. Especially since it seems to have a tendency to put him in the exact same danger that the guy he had a beef with just got killed by. Like in this case, a drub-happy horse hitcher.
Die’s weak spot is so fascinating, I wish I would’ve realized it myself. If he’s annoyed by someone, he’ll jump to a timeline where that someone is dead and then find himself in a bit of a tough spot.
Die jumps to a timeline where Slick is dead and time for a big “oh shit” moment. That line where Slick says he made this town what it is? We now get to see firsthand what that means.
Not shown: DD revealing his candy earlier to be Swedish Fish.
I hate Swedish Fish.
Also not shown: HB revealing his candy later to be Wax Lips.
We finally switch to Hearts Boxcars for real and I now realize that the Midnight Crew are super economical when it comes to showing their per-character patterns.
An oven appears and oh god no, it’s Biscuits (13), followed by his buddy Eggs (12). Poor Hearts gets stuck with the dangerous morons. He can never catch a break in any iteration.
Oh yeah Fin (5) exists, who can see future trails. Through a stable time loop, DD figures out how to kill him. I hope you like stable time loops, because we’ll be seeing some especially infuriating instances in following acts.
Spades Slick is commanded to rematerialize, which reminds me of WV’s equally side-splitting command, “JOHN WHAT ARE YOU DOING STOP DOING NOTHING”. Sometimes the stupidest things possible are hilarious.
In the timeline without Slick, Die realizes he has no option but to bring the guy back. This new analysis of Die’s character is something I never knew I needed in my life.
You grab his VOODOO DOLL, and stick his pin in there for good measure. Might as well keep track of everyone you’ve offed this way too.
Not that you intend to abuse its power to settle your score. What’s the point if you’re not gonna get your hands dirty.
Still, it might come in handy down the road. Lord English is supposedly indestructible. He’s rumored to be killable only through a number of glitches and exploits in spacetime. The doll may ultimately help you work the system if it comes to that.
Here, the narration hypes up a big villain unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Glitches and exploits in spacetime??? Maybe the intermission is relevant to the grand scheme of things after all, the reader may think.
I see Hussie’s ultimate handling of the villains as a character arc of sorts, that ultimately ends in failure at some parts; failure to overcome bias towards certain characters, as well as failure to make certain villains worth caring about. Don’t get me wrong, Collide was and is a blast to watch. The aftermath and reflecting on it can lead to a lot of aggravations though.
Diamonds Droog sneaks around the future trail so he can find where Trace is going and kill him. He’s actually really smart, because nobody reading the comic could possibly remember which trail corresponds to which, unless they extensively read diagrams like I did at one point. Hussie once released a news post showing a diagram someone made of the intermission’s timeline, and I’ll probably show that diagram once Slick is locked in the vault in the next post so that I don’t distract you. Don’t bother looking up that diagram, just keep reading this post.
Clubs Deuce follows some trail of blood* and oh my god you idiot, the blood trails will let everyone know where you are! What are you doing!
* I remember about as much as Deuce does about whose/which trail that is. But remembering the details isn’t the important part, just enjoying the ride is important.
After demonstrating that he’s a complete idiot, Clubs Deuce demonstrates that he’s somehow capable of killing people in the most creative ways: he hid a bomb under Doze’s hat and accidentally lured Trace there too, killing both at once.
Oh hey, Fin isn’t quite dead. He’s walking through the mansion to seek help, and since he’s worn out and dying he isn’t thinking hard about where he’s going.
So by being almost dead and being a clueless idiot respectively, Fin and Clubs end up taking the same path and making a stable time loop, or something? I forgot the intermission is kind of confusing.
I think the general confusion factor of the intermission is a bit like deliberately overpreparing for an exam. If you study harder than necessary for an exam, the exam seems easy in comparison. And here, trying to decipher this time travel nonsense makes it easier by comparison for readers to grasp much simpler time loops in the following acts.
But he can’t get a clear shot. Too dizzy, and with all that C4 under Deuce’s HAT, firing would be a bad idea.
MY GOD HE’S THOUGHT OF EVERYTHING.
Clearly dealing with a criminal mastermind here.
Clubs is smart in all the most accidental ways. He would be dead right now if Fin didn’t see a bomb under his hat. Coincidences working in his favor are so much fun to watch.
In the future, Deuce stops to admire a clock and then follows the blood trail again. I assume that the passage “Oh look. A trail of blood. You think you’ll start following it.” doesn’t mean this is his first time seeing the trail, because of how forgetful he is.
Confused and braindead about the timeline, Clubs represents readers’ thoughts just like Dave does a few times when Rose explains things about Sburb in the early Act 6 intermissions.
I started this post slobbering all over the intermission, but this is what I feel like now:
YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL YOU HATE TIME TRAVEL
With all this time travel more than a little overwhelming to follow, we switch perspectives and get to know a few more Felt members.
First up is Clover (4), who watches from above and reveals to the audience that there’s a simple answer to all of these problems and all this confusion.
Above, a spectator has appeared at the strike of 4 and has been giggling at your foolishness for a number of minutes.
Clover would have been tickled to help you open this vault! At the cost of answering a few of his clever TIME RIDDLES, needless to say.
Time riddles you say? Knowing leprechaun romance, it sounds like Clover is a little horny! I’m glad I looked at the old version of this post, which I definitely didn’t steal this joke from.
Self-plagiarism would get you thrown out of any reputable music school. (You are almost certain Patricia Taxxon said that.)
If only you’d thought to seek his help first, rather than charging like the silly brute you are into this deadly trap of stable and not so stable time loops. Mostly unstable, really. These guys are way too dumb to maintain even elementary looping stability for more than a couple iterations.
Clover also explains to us Hearts’ weak spot: he tackles everything head on and ends up beaten cold by people.
If you weren’t so preoccupied, Clover could tell you that you could use Crowbar’s help to pry anything out of a time loop, stable or otherwise.
If you weren’t so preoccupied, and if he weren’t so dead! Hee hee hee!
This narration is a bit of breaking the fourth wall, and I mean the regular usual fourth wall. He’s pointing readers in the right direction of what Slick should do and where he should go, since at the time this comic still ran on reader-suggested commands.
Stitch mutters to himself in his shop. He guesses Eggs and Biscuits are roughhousing again, because the fabric of spacetime is tearing something fierce on Lord English’s CAIRO OVERCOAT. This sort of thing is exactly why he keeps a BACKUP COAT, and always leaves Stitch with one of them.
Stitch (9) is another Felt member with an actual brain and a bit of an odd role. English’s Cairo Overcoat serves as our first rough glimpse at who he is. The tears in the overcoat might be hints at how he could be killed; Eggs and Biscuits are creating a myriad of clones from time nonsense and just making little tears into the coat.
Turns out Stitch has effigies to heal the Felt members. Fin comes in asking for help, but before Stitch can do anything he bleeds to death.
Everybody out of the god damn way. You got a hat full of bomb, a fist full of penis, and a head full of empty.
Stitch says drop the livestock knob and settle the hell down.
He says you do realize C4 is a stable explosive and won’t detonate with gunfire, right?
You say oh.
Wait are you telling me the Felt has a smart member? I guess Clubs’ idiocy and the other Felt members’ idiocy work in each other’s favor.
Drop it and get in.
Don’t bleed on the suits.
Droog appears and saves Deuce, knocking down Stitch but keeping him alive. Sometimes it’s good not to have Slick around, because he’d just kill all the green guys instead of figuring out which ones can be exploited to avenge the casino.
Slick pulls out Crowbar (7)’s pin and I’m stopping here for today, just like I did in the old version of this post. The community reread’s section for today goes a bit further than this but whatever. Full thoughts on the intermission coming at the end of next post.