Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Reflections Part 125: Vriska the Bus Driver No Longer

Introduction

< Part 124 | Part 125 | Part 126 >

Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 4, Part 8 of 8

Pages 7359-7408

I came up with this post’s title months ago, so please appreciate it.

Just a reminder, don’t expect more Homestuck posts for probably the next few months. I have a real life too! Not to mention ambitious projects unrelated to these posts.

It’s time for John to read the final instruction on Terezi’s scarf. He has the following to say about it:

JOHN: uh, wow.
JOHN: not sure what to expect for this one.
JOHN: alright, here goes.

I can imagine how confused John is. He’s far too thick-headed to have any idea who Terezi wanted him to stop her from killing. Obviously it can’t be Vriska, right? As far as John knows, Vriska and Terezi hardly knew or cared about each another. I never stopped to think about how long it took for him to learn that Terezi killed Vriska—he didn’t know that until he was about to stop that event from happening!

Oh hey, it’s this page again. The same page that I wrote an enormous tangent about when I first got to it because of the command split that is a pretty blatant spoiler for what’s to come. I think it’ll be fun if I went back and critiqued my own commentary on that page from almost five years ago (what the fuck, five years ago???).

Below the page we get the one alternative [???????] option that I don’t think should be there. Why is that exactly? Because it borders on outright spoiling to the reader that Vriska will be un-killed—what else would the alternate pathway from Terezi about to kill Vriska be? Depending on the attentiveness of the reader, this may ruin the impact of her death scene.

Honestly, I can’t argue with my past self here. The impact of Vriska’s death is indeed retroactively dampened through this page, which is a negative aspect of the whole password arc.

But the problem with that is, if you removed this alternate option, it wouldn’t be consistent with all the other pages with alternate options. The whole concept of alternate page options being retroactively added is a clever metafictional idea. It gives us an intriguing mystery arc that didn’t even exist until years after the pages that now have a second option are posted. However, every such link comes at the cost of hinting at future events. And by hinting I mean blatantly hinting; obvious not only in retrospect but also when you’re reading the first time around. In this case, the problem of potentially spoiling future events outweighs the metafictional cleverness.

Again, I can’t argue with that. Both about the clever metafictional idea part and the blatant hinting part.

I am far from the only one who feels that bringing Vriska back was a questionable way to develop the story. I refuse to outright say it’s bad because in my opinion, very few things the comic does are intrinsically bad. It depends more on how such twists are executed.

I’m agreeing with my past self more than I expected to. Execution is what counts in a work of media, and it’s generally the main thing I aim to critique when analyzing media.

As I’ll explain later, the problems with Vriska’s return could be redeemed in several ways. Even the idea of Dave and Karkat being possibly in a relationship, which even though I haven’t brought it up in a while I still don’t think makes sense, might be alright if it wasn’t shoved in our faces following the retcon with no prior buildup. I know it’s kind of a silly example but at the same time it’s about one of the most debated topics in the comic.

Dave/Karkat did have prior buildup, you doofus. And by you doofus, I guess I mean me doofus. I am the doofus, it’s me. I just denied it because of internalized heteronormativity which I hope I don’t have as much of now as I did then.

Retconning Vriska’s death could be better if it kept more things relevant from the original timeline that was the main one for so long.

Thinking about it now, retaining John and Roxy from the pre-retcon timeline was probably good enough—John is the protagonist of Homestuck and Roxy is arguably the true protagonist of the alpha kids’ arc, and they represent the pre-retcon battleship journey and alpha session respectively. The pre-retcon meteor journey isn’t represented among any of the final surviving cast, but Terezi does end up remembering… er, remem8ering it all.

Through the Omegapause, I thought of the idea of making the ghosts from Game Over relevant, or giving relevance to the so-called ringless Game Over timeline—it’s heavily implied that in some version of the pre-retcon timeline a universe was created—or even the idea of a second retcon, which is a prospect that I at first despised but later grew to like.

Hey, I predicted the epilogues here! Well, at least the part of the epilogues where John rounds up the pre-retcon kids to fulfill Caliborn’s Masterpiece and the fight against Lord English. That was from a timeline where John grabbed the Ring of Life before Aranea could steal it, which is exactly the “ringless” timeline I was referring to.

Alternatively, the retcon could’ve still been in place but done something completely different from bringing back Vriska. I’ve thought of the retcon being instead used to fix the creation of the genesis frog; perhaps in one timeline the frog became the universe Lord English came from, and in another it was the universe god tier Calliope came from, which would solve a lot of plot mysteries.

The divergence between Lord English and god tier Calliope’s birth timelines is still a total mystery. It’s now commonly thought that they were born in the distant future of the Meat and Candy epilogues respectively, but some other media could well throw a wrench in that idea. Although given the collapse of Homestuck^2, I don’t see Homestuck getting new official media anytime soon.

This is exactly the sort of stuff that everyone hoped would be resolved in the ending of the comic, but instead we only got a dramatic presentation of things that were obviously going to happen, with excessive ambiguity to boot. That’s something about the story that is inherently bad, which of course is subjective but so are all my other opinions. It’s also another thing I could rant more about but I won’t.

I still have a ways to go until I reach Act 7—I again won’t discuss it here, especially because it’s been years since I last rewatched that flash. Spoiler alert: I already have a name in mind for my post covering Act 7, which will also cover the Snapchat credits.

Back to the point, how could the alternate pathway of Vriska being un-killed be kept without it being as “bad” as it is? Maybe there would be hints of an alive Vriska being up and about. That actually was done in the dreambubble storytelling scenes, but way later than it ideally would be. That idea would also only work well if the story was changed as said above.

Again, can’t argue with that. Though I am surprised that I at one point called it “dreambubble” instead of “dream bubble”, like a reverse John Egbert. You know, because John likes to put spaces between compound words, and I did the opposite of that.

Wow, this might be the longest tangent yet. The main point is, there’s a lot of problems with showing us a future alternate option of bringing Vriska back this early.

It’s still easily one of the longest tangents I’ve ever gone in my Homestuck posts; not sure if it’s the longest. But either way, I’m a total lost cause when it comes to not rambling about Homestuck.

Anyway, final password: FL1P.

Vriska without glasses still trips me up so much.

Especially in sprite mode.

When John zaps into the scene, the tension of Terezi about to kill Vriska is quelled by the rendering switching to a more symbolic manner, plus Gamzee tied up with a horn humorously clogged into his mouth.

JOHN: NOOOOOO, TEREZI!
JOHN: DON’T DO IT!!!

And then the tension is destroyed entirely with John’s over-the-top horrified reaction to Terezi about to kill Vriska.

VRISKA: John????????
VRISKA: What are you doing heAUGH!!!!!!!!

JOHN: KAPOW!!!!!
TEREZI: JOHN NO! >:O

John punches Vriska in the face, and it’s way more hilarious than it has any reason to be. He shouts “KAPOW” like he’s from some cheesy action movie and interrupts Vriska about to ask what he’s doing here at the best possible time, all in a callback to Kanaya punching Vriska because one punch in the face clearly wasn’t enough. Vriska is totally thrown off by getting punched so similarly to last time. She’s completely stupefied and cannot make sense of why her loyal windy apprentice would appear out of nowhere and punch her.

Vriska’s body goes through a slapstick sequence with exaggerated physics until she lands face-up, finally saved from certain death. This heavily contrasts against her dramatic pre-retcon death where she lay face-down void of cartoony humor (except with a watermark of Nic Cage).

In the post where I went through Vriska’s death, I compared it to the trolley problem, or rather a sometimes-cited variant of it where a bus is about to run over five people and your choice to save the people is whether to shoot the bus driver rather than whether to flip a lever that kills one person. Although this post is titled “Vriska the Bus Driver No Longer”, in this metaphor she’s still a bus driver, just in this case an external figure appeared out of nowhere and punched the bus driver in the face, steering the bus absurdly out of control but keeping everyone in the scene safe. Vriska probably wouldn’t be allowed to drive a bus anymore if something like this were to happen, so maybe this post’s title is technically accurate after all.

TEREZI: JOHN, WH4T H4V3 YOU DON3!
JOHN: whew! that was close.
TEREZI: WHY 4R3 YOU H3R3??
TEREZI: HOW 4R3 YOU H3R3???
JOHN: it’s a long story terezi. don’t worry about it.
JOHN: the important thing here is, we did it. everything’s going to be ok now.

TEREZI: D1D WH4T?!
JOHN: um…
JOHN: i’m not sure, actually.

TEREZI: OH MY FUCK1NG GOD

John’s presence isn’t news to this version of Terezi, but she still has no idea why or how he’s here. It’s probably a question she’s been meaning to ask for quite a while now; she isn’t as flabbergasted at his presence as Vriska was.

JOHN: well, i just clobbered vriska and knocked her out, like you said.
JOHN: jeez, i hope i didn’t punch too hard…

John’s last line is a rather sweet way to indicate that his opinion on Vriska has taken a turn for the positive once more. It’s a fact of life that John’s opinion on Vriska fluctuates, somewhat like a sine wave.

JOHN: i got help from your older, possibly wiser self. you helped me come back here, using the mysteries of the mind.
TEREZI: 1 S33
TEREZI: BUT TH4T DO3S NOT 4NSW3R TH3 MOST 1MPORT4NT QU3ST1ON OF 4LL

JOHN: what.
TEREZI: WHY 4R3 YOU SUCH 4 DORK?!

After John explains why and how he’s been interfering with the timeline, Terezi asks some real questions. She’s been exposed plenty to his dorkiness, both by talking to his doomed post-retcon self and getting random messages from his older, possibly wiser pre-retcon self. She understands what John supposedly did but still thinks he has created a doomed timeline.

And so, John and Terezi fight and squabble over future Terezi’s scarf.

JOHN: ok, there is one last thing i have to do.
TEREZI: WH4T
JOHN: it says i have to give you my wallet.
TEREZI: WH4T??
JOHN: but…
JOHN: i don’t actually have my wallet?
TEREZI: YOU DONT?
JOHN: no.
JOHN: i lost it years ago.
JOHN: i think i gave it to…
JOHN: damn. who was it.
JOHN: liv tyler, the bunny?
JOHN: or was it that short chess dude.
JOHN: shit!

When John of all characters has trouble remembering an event from canon, that’s how you know it’s obscure. On some level, he might be aware of how much the Droll and the bunny fought over the wallet during the Derse battleship mission or whatever that was.

TEREZI: WHY WOULD 1 T3LL YOU TO G1V3 M3 YOUR W4LL3T 1F YOU DON’T H4V3 1T
JOHN: i guess you didn’t realize i lost it??
JOHN: hell, even i can’t remember what items we still have half the time.

John interestingly reveals here that he knows he remembers the events of canon better than anyone else. Perhaps that has to do with his various tantrums where he claims to be the only one who cares about important stuff? Or it could just be a realization of his unusually high attachment to canon.

In any case, John accepts that the wallet arc is a mystery for now. Vriska reveals early in A6A6I5 that she and Terezi deduced the most likely reason for it and that they alchemized a copy of the wallet, which is a cool way to resolve this final scarf problem.

Let us pay respects to the emotional Karkat/Terezi hug from Act 5 Act 2.

And then Karkat appears and goes on a typical Karkat rant about John’s unexplained presence and all the other nonsense going on. I don’t have much to say about that rant, most unfortunately.

This image is a perfect encapsulation of John and Karkat’s dynamic.

JOHN: karkat, take it easy.
JOHN: here, read this.
KARKAT: WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS.
JOHN: it’s all on the scarf, buddy.
JOHN: it’s all on the scarf.
KARKAT: GET THIS NASTY FUCKING RAG OUT OF MY PROXIMITY!

Karkat reminds us with this line that despite his perpetual grouchiness, he’s also very sensitive and very easily grossed out.

As Kanaya and Sollux join the scene, John rambles to no one in particular about the confusing time paradoxes he may have caused. This Egbertian ramble is interspersed with Karkat throwing a Vantasian tantrum about how little sense John is making.

Just to be clear, “Vantasian” rhymes with “persuasion”.

JOHN: ok guys, really, i’ve messed with your time line enough as it is.
JOHN: sorry for clocking you, vriska, if you can hear me in your dreams. haha, you probably can’t.
JOHN: but hey, i guess this means i get to meet alive you soon, instead of ghost you? so that’s neat.

With these lines, it’s clear that John’s opinion on Vriska is the polar opposite of what it was a day or so ago when he first met Roxy. John perceives time on a canonical scale, with his thirteenth and sixteenth birthdays absurdly stretched.

KARKAT: EGBERT DON’T YOU DARE FUCK OFF
JOHN: please tell her i’m sorry for punching her in the face.
JOHN: but also, she’s welcome for saving her life.
JOHN: i’ll see you guys later. um, in three years to be precise.

KARKAT: WHAT???
KARKAT: NO, DON’T
KARKAT: YOU STAY THE HELL PUT. DO YOU HEAR ME YOU UGLY, PEEJAY PACKING, FLAPSNIFFING SHIT INFANT
JOHN: bye dude!

Remember the pre-retcon scene where Karkat thought a year was two weeks until Rose told him otherwise? I imagine that post-retcon Karkat learned the length of a year from another troll after this scene, making this horrific revelation happen a bit sooner than it did pre-retcon.

When John zaps away, we get a couple wordless panels where we can easily imagine what’s going through all the trolls’ minds. Karkat is spewing out profanities like popcorn kernels in a microwave, Vriska is all “what the fuck just happened?”, Terezi is as relieved as she is confused, Gamzee is staring aimlessly at the sky in gagged shock, and Kanaya and Sollux… we’re right about to see what they have to say to each other.

KANAYA: I Suddenly Dont Understand Anything And Am Currently Casting Sincere Doubt On The Laughable Insinuation That I Or Anyone Else Ever Actually Did For Even A Single Moment
SOLLUX: kanaya, d0n’t be such a damn n00b.
SOLLUX: the explanation for all the stuff i just heard is s0 0bvi0us.

KANAYA: What Is The Explanation

SOLLUX: mutha.

SOLLUX: fuckin.

SOLLUX: shenanigans.

Please stop and appreciate this rare moment where Sollux gets to shine. He botches an attempt at a cool one-liner by putting his old glasses on backwards because he can’t see anything. This makes Sollux let out his inner dorky side, something he doesn’t do anywhere near as often as Karkat does. It’s also fitting for Sollux’s one-liner not to come off as cool and badass, because he’s emphatically just a supporting character.

Wow, this panel is so much less detailed than the previous one.

Back on LOWAS, it’s time for the token heterosexual romance to come to life! Well, come to life symbolically at least.

John and Roxy are overjoyed to see each other, and John gives her the Ring of Life in a very romantic scene. At the end of the credits and start of the epilogues, this scene is a distant fond memory in both John and Roxy’s hearts; a potent spark for a romance that may be reignited depending on John’s culinary choice.

And then they hold hands. John’s plain, boyish smile and Roxy’s nearly tearful smile are very typical of a token heterosexual romance, but these two have such a fun dynamic that I don’t have it in me to groan at it. Just look at them together—they’re actually holding hands!

In a drawn-out sequence, John zaps his planet away, ready to enter the retconned alpha session. He didn’t even need an instruction from Terezi to do that; he’s motivated all on his own to finish this adventure strong.

Then he zaps the entire panel away, symbolizing true mastery of his retcon powers and the merger between the pre-retcon and post-retcon players.

Alright, now for the flash that ends A6A6I4 (named “shes8ack”), which is a callback to the flash that ends A6I2 (named “DOTA”). In this flash, Jade tells us the final missing portion of her and Jane’s post-retcon story. She mentions that she was not expecting to see Vriska, which is a good indication of to what degree the Condesce messed with her mind. I say this because Jade showed John the meteor crew at the start of the pre-retcon battleship journey and presumably did the same in the post-retcon journey. I think it’s a safe bet that post-retcon John immediately recognized Vriska, just like how he recognized Karkat. Thus, Jade would have known Vriska was on the meteor crew if not for the Condesce’s influence.

I had no idea Jane was such a big fan of The Who.

This image above is like this panel but with a few differences. Rose is standing on her own without drunkenly latching onto Kanaya, and Terezi has her glasses; everything else is the same. This is an early indicator that the meteor crew’s relationships went quite a bit better with Vriska’s presence.

And so, alive Vriska is gradually revealed in the same way ghost Vriska was revealed in the DOTA flash. Just look at those yellow eyes in her silhouette, contrasting against the white eyes she had last time.

Vriska looks so confident in this scene, much unlike her appearance in DOTA.

And here’s the big reveal: Jade and Jane weren’t dead, but rather put to sleep by none other than an extremely alive Vriska Serket. I don’t think anyone would disagree that this is one hell of a punchline; dream bubble scenes are resounding with clever fakeouts and twists after all.

In the post-retcon timeline, all of Vriska’s practice in putting humans to sleep has paid off. She swiftly takes Jade out of the picture by putting her to sleep just like old times, complete with a pixelated Z. Jade’s green silhouette reminds us that she’s the same “silly girl” who would always randomly fall asleep back in Act 3, which as we all know is retroactively Vriska’s doing. As controversial as Vriska is, I’d argue it’s satisfying for her to finally interfere with the kids’ session in a non-retroactive way.

And just like that, Jade is asleep with the bizarre pose that she always sleeps in. Her arms and legs are oriented in exactly the same way we saw her at the start of Act 3, and she’s looked upon by the very same character who retroactively involved herself in much of Jade’s backstory.

Caliborn’s curtains close in on alive Vriska’s face, ending A6A6I4 and paralleling the end of A6I2.


Now to recap A6A6I4!

Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 4 is a portion of Homestuck focused primarily on the retcon arc. As John edits the events of the comic under Terezi’s guidance and convinces Roxy to persevere with him, mysteries are driven in dream bubble scenes with Jade, Jane, and Calliope, all of which turn out to center upon Vriska—the same character whose pre-retcon self undergoes a personality overhaul while spending lots of time with Meenah. It’s interesting that the cast of Homestuck is stripped down for this act, but that probably increases the act’s quality because Hussie isn’t good at juggling so many characters. The story presentation and mysteries are done fantastically throughout this act, with a good mix of humor and plot revelations, plus lots of ship teasing with John/Roxy and John/Terezi, plus unfortunately Vriska/Meenah. It’s also awesome to see John finally complete his planet quest in a way that matches with the increased stakes of Act 6 Act 6.

Just like how Homestuck went on a three-month pause after this update (dubbed by fans the Masterpause), I will now pause my Homestuck posts for an indeterminate amount of time, probably no more than three months. See you in June or so as I begin the final leg of my Homestuck blog posts with Caliborn’s Masterpiece. In the mean time, perhaps you’d like to check out my posts analyzing a certain horse show?

(My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. That’s the certain horse show. What, don’t look at me like that! The show rules. Just trust me, it rules.)

EDIT: It was actually May, not June. Only a month off! Though May probably qualifies as “June or so”.

>> Part 126: CLAYMATION REVELATIONIFICATION STATION.

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