Cookie Fonster’s Homestuck Reflections Part 127: Proper Relevance at Long Last

Introduction

< Part 126 | Part 127 | Part 128 >

Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 5, Part 1 of 12

Pages 7449-7485

A6A6I5 has so many painfully boring panels, so I figured I’d have fun with the title pictures whenever I get the chance.

With my Psycholonials review post finished, now I can finally get on with the true home stretch of my Homestuck blog post series! It’s time to dive right in and analyze the final act of Homestuck that’s of substantial length: the polarizing Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 5, or A6A6I5 for short.

Whether you love or hate Vriska, you can’t deny that her getting down to business with fully alive eyes is a satisfying shot.
Or maybe you can deny that?

Act 6 Act 6 Intermission 5 begins with a flash called Vriskagram. Technically, the flash is called [S] ACT 6 ACT 6 INTERMISSION 5, but everyone calls it Vriskagram because, well…

I love how the V in the Vriskagram logo is based on Vriska’s horns.

Yep, this is another instance of late Homestuck parodying social media of its time. In my Psycholonials review post, I talked at length about how the story explores the danger and perils of social media; Homestuck, in contrast, incorporates parodies of social media websites just for the hell of it. This light satire of social media is a fun motif, I must admit.

You’d never guess, but Vriskagram is very controversial. A common criticism with Vriskagram is that it overwrites the three-year meteor journey, which had many detailed speaking scenes and even portions of walkaround games, in favor of a wordless photo montage. And honestly, that’s a very understandable criticism—it’s not like any of the members of the pre-retcon meteor journey survive the events of Game Over, like with the battleship journey (John) or the alpha session (Roxy). But on the other hand, this flash comes off to me now like it’s telling readers that the meteor journey went about the same as last time except with the differences showcased here. The image above is an example of something that went the same, except with Vriska alive and Gamzee tied up.

We see here that the meteor crew’s portion of Act 6 Intermission 1 went just about the same, with Karkat getting hit in the face by a bucket and Aradia and Sollux waving goodbye. These scenes are evidently meant to tell readers that the post-retcon meteor journey wasn’t that different, but it’s debatable whether that was successfully conveyed.

This image is very faithful to the time in Act 6 Intermission 2 where we saw god tier Feferi healing the Mayor; basically the same scene in a new art style. You know how commonplace circumstantial simultaneity is in Homestuck, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m not sure if it makes sense for these to be the same god tier Eridan and Feferi ghosts as last time or totally different god tier ghosts. I’m also not sure if it matters whether they’re the same ghosts as last time—do YOU draw a distinction between dead Nepeta number 563 and dead Nepeta number 564? That’s right, I didn’t think so.

Just to be clear, I chose 563 as a completely arbitrary number.
Same with 564.

This scene where Vriska sits on a comfy beach chair while forcing Gamzee to act as her servant is an obvious funny moment, but I never noticed before that Gamzee’s leg has been chained to an 8 ball. Vriska is completely no-nonsense when it comes to dealing with Gamzee, which is either a refreshing change or annoyingly perfect.

Not shown: Dave, Karkat, and the Mayor playing on a normal hopscotch board.

And here’s where the controversy starts to heat up. The post-retcon meteor journey seems to have a buddy system of sorts now: Dave, Karkat, and the Mayor; Rose and Kanaya; Terezi and Vriska; Gamzee and nobody. This buddy system often receives flack for coming off as simple and formulaic compared to the complex dynamics of the pre-retcon meteor crew. Dave and Karkat’s bickering, for one, seems to have considerably toned down, with them and the Mayor engaging in childish activities as shown above. I guess Hussie was lenient with what he allowed the artists working on Vriskagram to draw? The increasing amount of outsourced art clearly indicates a burnout on Homestuck. It’s not like Hussie had forgotten how to draw or animate by himself, as Psycholonials proves. It’s more that he normally isn’t the type of person to drag a work of media for seven years, but I guess Homestuck was just such a smash hit.

I’ll admit, though: Dave drawing a penis-shaped hopscotch board is hilarious.

Next comes a scene meant to indicate that Terezi and Gamzee’s caliginous relationship did not happen post-retcon. Gamzee stares at Terezi with spades in his eyes, but Terezi shoves him off, clearly not returning his feelings, and Gamzee comically lands on Vriska with a honk. The weird thing about this scene is that before the retcon, the black romance feelings seem to have started from Terezi’s end with Gamzee having manipulated her so thoroughly, so it might not make sense for Gamzee to simply develop hate feelings for her this time around? But then again, nothing Gamzee ever does makes sense.

I’ll be sure to have more to say about post-retcon Terezi’s seemingly enormous improvement in happiness as A6A6I5 proceeds.

The same scene then shows that Terezi and Vriska have apparently reconciled offscreen. Is it a clever narrative move to have them reconcile offscreen, so as not to cloud out post-retcon Terezi’s insecurities with positive fluff, or were we robbed out of an emotional reconciliation between two old friends with a difficult relationship? I’ll let you decide… or at least, try to decide, because I sure can’t decide.

Ah yes, the troll donkey ears.
The artists of Vriskagram may have gone overboard with creative liberties, but I find it hard to care that much.

Ah, Rose and Kanaya. The perfect couple who can do no wrong, as they’re consistently portrayed post-retcon. Although it’s sweet seeing them get along so well, I’m still pretty peeved that the retcon washed away any complexity or difficulties in their relationship. Homestuck^2 tries to throw a wrench in “happily married Rose and Kanaya” by introducing Yiffy out of nowhere, and not helped by the way the reveal was executed, the universal reaction was “what the fuck, this makes NO FUCKING SENSE”, which was exactly my reaction. For me, being believable is vital to making an enjoyable work of media! And even putting aside tirades about Homestuck^2, quite a lot of the events of Vriskagram aren’t very believable.

I will say, Rose and Kanaya reading a book on the quadrants with lots of color-coded bookmarks is a great way to show that Rose has been learning about troll romance in a much more productive way than last time.

I also must admit that Vriskagram has a good sense of humor, with Vriska eagerly intruding on Rose and Kanaya’s reading session much to their annoyance. Even though Vriska is portrayed as way too perfect in this flash, you could argue that’s to be expected since it’s her social media profile and she’s very self-important, a trait that she doesn’t hold back on demonstrating.

The reminder that the seemingly peachy events of Vriskagram are told from Vriska’s biased perspective doesn’t tend to alleviate readers’ criticisms of the flash, especially those who love to complain about Vriska. The criticism in such cases tends to shift from “ew, everything is way too peachy and dumbed down” to “ew, everything is told from Vriska’s perspective and we’re supposed to like her now”.

I still won’t pretend that Dave and Karkat giggling together is even remotely in character. This new characterization of their relationship to this day makes me think, “um, what?” Karkat smiling is supposed to be this extremely rare and special thing, but here he does it way too much to make sense. He’s a heartfelt and sentimental guy, but he doesn’t tend to show it since he’s such a massive tsundere and is very easily set off. I feel somewhat the same way about Dave smiling, but less extreme.

Terezi and Vriska share a laugh over Dave and Karkat acting like this, showing that Terezi has taken John’s “you don’t need him” letter to heart; perhaps upon coercion from Vriska, perhaps by reflecting on all this romance stuff herself. Her complicated love triangle with Dave and Karkat is another thing that her pre-retcon self kindly spared her from, and it may be another factor that leads post-retcon Terezi to doubt her happiness and self-worth.

The next scene for us to see retconned is Rose and Kanaya’s date from Act 6 Intermission 3. Unlike last time, Karkat has joined Dave in mixing beats, showing that he’s somewhat less in denial about sharing Dave’s interests, but just as much in denial about possible romantic feelings. Karkat taking a shining to Dave’s rap beats is something we knew about pre-retcon, as Dave talked about in his monologue scene where he explored his old bedroom. Don’t get me wrong, this is unquestionably shipping fuel for Davekat; I’ll get to that shortly.

As for Rose in the date scene, Vriska slaps the alcoholic beverage out of Rose’s hand and stomps on it before she can get herself drunk, making Rose’s alcoholism another negative development on the meteor that Vriska seems to have nipped in the bud. Through the Vriskagram profile she set up, Vriska is giving herself full credit for stopping Rose’s alcoholism, but Rose seems to prefer crediting Kanaya as we see in one of the lengthy conversations a bit later. I can’t quite decide whether or to what degree Vriska is glorifying herself through Vriskagram, but this flash greatly fuels her status as a controversial character either way.

I didn’t initially react to this scene with vitriol when Vriskagram first came out, because all the ship hints flew right over my head!
I think other people had to point it out FOR me.

Oh boy, it’s THIS SCENE. The biggest Davekat fuel in Vriskagram. When I had started this post series in September 2015, a few months after Vriskagram came out, I was so sure that when I would get to this part (which I presumed would be in 2017), I would delve into a lengthy tirade about how Davekat is the most awful and forced ship to ever exist, and how the ship had no prior buildup and doesn’t even remotely match Dave or Karkat’s characters. I had imagined I would refuse to even show any pictures of Dave and Karkat’s scenes in Vriskagram, while denying that I was being even the slightest bit heteronormative. Although my days of endlessly complaining about Davekat are now long past me, I will still take some time to go at length about this ship. It’ll just be much more neutral in tone, with an honest attempt at seeing it from both sides.

Dave and Karkat have had a hilarious dynamic since the first time they talked, and throughout their interactions, there has been eyebrow-raising amounts of dialogue about touching each other and romantic feelings. Their interactions start out insanely vitriolic and gradually mellow out into a bickerous* but loyal friendship through the course of the pre-retcon meteor journey. Now the question is, is it logical for this dynamic to evolve into a romantic relationship? That’s something nobody can agree on. Don’t you dare tell my past self from 2015 this, but I think the answer may very well be yes.

A big portion of the flack that Davekat received seems to have come from their portrayal in Vriskagram, and I think that may be a result of Hussie giving the flash’s artists too much leeway. We have these weird scenes with them giggling together and calmly watching a romantic comedy, and that’s something that I still feel came out of the blue. But teasing them as a ship was clearly Hussie’s idea, as many conversations that follow Vriskagram demonstrate. I’ll have to see for myself through the reset of A6A6I5 how much the conversations about Dave and Karkat’s relationship come off as forced.

* This is my blog, OK? I get to decide if “bickerous” is a real word, which it totally is.

Credit where it’s due: this flash does a good job showing both Dave’s and Karkat’s interests. We see Dane Cook on the computer screen, and he is to Karkat as Nic Cage is to John. I can easily imagine Dave being reminded of John whenever Karkat goes on and on about how great of an actor Dane Cook is, in his own matter-of-fact and insistent Karkat way.

Cue intense screaming from me in 2015.

Now that I’m at the memorable image that serves as the apex of this flash’s Davekat teasing, I’d like to talk about how I went through the five stages of grief regarding this ship. I was in denial about Davekat being a thing for the first month or two after Vriskagram came out due to extreme heteronormativity. Back then, I would also deny that I was being heteronormative. Then came anger when I complained endlessly about Davekat and how it came out of nowhere and ruined these perfectly good characters, shortly followed by bargaining when I tried to suggest ideas that Dave and Karkat used to be in a romantic relationship post-retcon and broke up before the meteor journey ended, or that any statements other characters made about their relationship were faulty presumptions, or some other stupid shit.

During the Omegapause, as I started working on my Homestuck blog post series and worked my way through Act 5 Act 2, that’s when the bargaining transitioned to depression. Not depression as in depression, more like annoyance and disappointment that this was the direction Hussie took Dave and Karkat’s relationship in. This sentiment stayed in me as Act 7 and the Snapchat credits released, and over the following years, it very slowly faded into acceptance as I stopped thinking about Homestuck as much, and even when I resumed my Homestuck blog posts a few months before the epilogues. The epilogues were the final push needed for me to accept and be OK with the fact that Davekat is a thing in Homestuck.

While I can’t say the comic’s portrayal of their post-retcon relationship doesn’t have major flaws, I now understand, and even somewhat agree with, what people see in Davekat. Two boys who drive each other up the wall gradually develop a close relationship while still driving each other up the wall and refusing to admit to anyone (even to themselves) what sort of relationship they have. I can see the charm in that, even though I couldn’t so many years ago.

There you have it, that was my lengthy tirade about how Davekat is the most awful and forced ship to ever exist. Except it was actually an honest discussion on how my opinion on the ship has evolved over the years as I’ve tried to be less heteronormative.

With the Davekat fuel done, next we get a montage of the post-retcon meteor crew meeting the Beforan trolls. From the Beforan trolls’ perspective, this is round 2 of them meeting the meteor crew, and it seems to go better than last time. Terezi appears to be learning a lot of fascinating Beforan history from Kankri, and I presume she’s developed a more positive relationship with Latula than the inferiority complex she had pre-retcon.

This scene with a game of Beforan Fiduspawn is a charming sight. I can only imagine all the ridiculous jokes about anime archetypes Dave is making, while Rufioh nods along and excitedly explains everything about the game, and Damara sits there being snooty but harmless.

This image kills two birds with one stone! And by birds, I mean pairs of Beforan trolls.

I can imagine what’s going on in Kurloz’s head here. While most of the Beforan trolls are eager to meet the meteor crew again, this time with an alive version of Vriska on board, Kurloz has a distinct “oh boy, here we go again” look. He probably had to go through a gigantic hassle to help Gamzee assemble his fake god tier outfit and isn’t enthusiastic about going through all that trouble again, but he’s going to do it anyway because, you know, gotta serve the angel of double death and all. As for Gamzee, I imagine he’s explaining how Vriska has been preventing him from expressing his pious juggalo religion to his fullest extent.

While she and Kanaya are meeting Porrim, Rose is no doubt joyed to see a robot horse that reminds her of Maplehoof. She may be a dry and snooty girl, but she can never hate that dear, sweet pony. Horuss exists too, and as forgettable as he is, it’s charming to see him having a blast riding robotic horses instead of being caught up in eternal romance drama.

Aranea is nowhere to be seen in this montage, showing that she has been truly written out of the story—a fate that stings much worse than death for her, because she was already dead as a ghost for an eternity. She doesn’t even get to join the other Beforan trolls in this lighthearted photo montage! In this scene, I bet alive Vriska assumed that the punk pirate girl standing next to Meenah was her dancestor, but we already know it’s really a ghost version of herself.

And naturally enough, alive Vriska is incredibly weirded out by this revelation, and by her ghost self in general. That’ll be revisited in an infamous scene later in A6A6I5.

This rendition of Jane as overweight led to some controversy among fans, but it was massively overshadowed by Vriska’s controversy.

The last portion of Vriskagram shows a few differences in the alpha session. Vriska replaced Gamzee as the mysterious troll who randomly appeared at Jane’s house, and this isn’t the only time she’s replaced another character’s pre-retcon role. It’s like she has a meta knowledge of how things were “supposed to go” pre-retcon and is replicating these events but with less nonsense.

Not shown: Jane making a confused face. I’ve shown plenty of pictures from Vriskagram already.

One example of Vriska trimming the nonsense is shown here. Instead of Gamzee prototyping Vriska and Tavros’s corpses to form one of the shortest-lived characters in Homestuck*, Vriska simply prototypes Tavros’s corpse to form Tavrosprite, which is fairly nice of her. I say “fairly nice” because she (and Hussie) had forgotten that Jane could have used her revival powers after going god tier to revive the dead trolls for real. Maybe you could argue that those trolls were killed too long ago for Jane to revive them? But it’s never stated whether she could, so we’re left with this weird gaping hole. No, not the hole in Jane’s house. The hole in terms of all the ways the dead trolls could be revived.

* Not as short-lived as the alpha kids’ Hegemonic Brute, in terms of panels.

Pointless trivia: On both sides of the retcon, Equius was prototyped by a neighbor of his on the hemospectrum.

Although she’s mostly done away with Gamzee’s troll amalgamation sprite nonsense, Vriska is faithfully replicating the creation of one sprite: Arquiusprite. She likely knows that Arquiusprite is destined to have plot relevance in Caliborn’s Masterpiece, and thus she’s holding Equius’s severed head, ready to prototype it into Dirk’s kernelsprite.

Vriska is spelling out the directions to create Arquiusprite crystal clear, knowing well that the sprite is destined to exist. Dirk is weirded out, but he will oblige anyway, which concludes Vriskagram.

All in all, as controversial as Vriskagram is, I think the flash is a reasonable solution to a problem that the retcon presented: how should the story show the retcon’s changes to the meteor journey and alpha session? I hesitate to say that the retcon shouldn’t have happened entirely, because it’s such a fun and engaging story arc. But the problem that a sizable portion of Act 6’s events have been overwritten prevails, and a photo montage basically serves as a compromise solution: it doesn’t show the post-retcon meteor journey in as much detail as the pre-retcon journey, instead in a single flash so that it doesn’t break the story’s pace.

Now, let’s move on to the rest of A6A6I5! Are you prepared for lots and lots of walls of text? Some of them I may end up skimming through (in terms of analysis, that is; I promise I’ll reread every word of them), while others you better believe I will comment on in INSANE depth.

Vriskagram is followed by a massive zoom-in from Skaian clouds, a common transition device in Act 5 Act 2 that makes a resurgence in A6A6I5. They’re an excellent fallback transition device, allowing Homestuck to transition from anything to anything.

Skaia is seen for a large portion of this zoom-in, giving a nice sense of scale.

The zoom-in leads to a surprising shot that ended the first Homestuck update after Vriskagram: twelve characters including all of the post-retcon meteor crew sitting on the human session’s victory platform. The frog platform is a fitting location to demonstrate that our heroes are approaching victory, and it’s cool that we had ever seen this platform beforehand (only the trolls’ platform), but so much of A6A6I5 consists of conversations on the platform that it gets tiring after a while, or at least I remember it getting tiring. I’ll have to see for myself if it’s really that bad.

I won’t be putting in every panel from all these long conversations.

OK, now I’m remembering all the gripes I have with A6A6I5. In this gigantic dialoglog, the first of MANY more to come in this act, everyone’s being all weirdly submissive to Vriska and accepting that she’s the new leader who knows everything. I guess it’s plausible that retconning three years has significantly changed all these characters’ mindsets from what we saw pre-retcon, but look at quotes like these:

DAVE: so jade came on a gold ship through a tiny window apparently
DAVE: but john wasnt on it??

VRISKA: Well, his corpse was, somewhere.
VRISKA: 8ut that John doesn’t matter anymore.
VRISKA: Kind of like how there was a 8ird version of you out there, now presumed dead, who also didn’t matter.
VRISKA: The “real” John and the other Lalonde girl will spontaneously appear from a different reality.
VRISKA: I determined a lot of this through my time travel reconaissance work upon arriving in this session.
VRISKA: Sorry to steal all the timey thunder from the gr8 “Knight of Time”, end quote, 8ut someone had to take the initi8tive and go on a fact-finding mission.
DAVE: no its cool
DAVE: you can have that thunder if you want it

VRISKA: I don’t know the full extent of John’s alt-reality experiences either. 8ut apparently things went raw for them in a8out as many ways as you can imagine.
VRISKA: Presuma8ly 8ecause I wasn’t around to keep everyone’s shit in order.

It feels very jarring for Vriska to be so genuinely on top of things without being questioned much. I’m torn on whether I think this is positive character development or forced excessive perfection.

Soon after, Karkat asks Vriska why Tavros and Equius are sprites now, and Vriska takes some time to explain this.

KARKAT: NO, I GOT THAT!
KARKAT: I’M NOT A FUCKING IDIOT.
KARKAT: I MEAN, WHERE DID YOU FIND THESE UNPROTOTYPED KERNELS? DIDN’T THESE PEOPLE ALREADY ENTER THEIR SESSION?

VRISKA: Yes, they did MONTHS ago, from the current frame of reference. 8ut this is a VOID session, Karkat.
VRISKA: I thought we talked a8out this?
KARKAT: ??????
VRISKA: A void session 8y definition is one where the players enter the game with the kernels unprototyped.
VRISKA: As such, it 8ecomes totally dysfunctional. It can’t 8ear fruit, 8ecause there’s no 8attlefield in Skaia, unless you go to the trou8le of putting one there of course.
VRISKA: Which the Condesce has already done for us! Via “Grim8ark Jade”, prior to our arrival. Quite consider8te of her, really.
VRISKA: This is aside from the point though. The 8ottom line is, this session comes courtesy with four unprototyped kernels, waiting to 8e put to use.
VRISKA: So, not 8eing one to let a sweet perk go to waste, I took initi8tive and put two of them to use myself.

I do like that Vriska reminds us how void sessions work and how she found those unprototyped kernels. She’s giving readers a refresher on something that we learned a long time ago while demonstrating her strategic way of thinking.

VRISKA: Really, this is some 8asic stuff, and I’m SURE we went over it all at one point during our trip.
ROSE: We did.
ROSE: Karkat, don’t you remember when I walked everyone through this?
ROSE: I was making extensive notes in my journal. When I looked away for a moment, you and Dave wrested the tome away, and began scribbling phalluses in it while giggling like children.

Continuing the theme of how the retcon changed notable scenes in Vriskagram, Rose then reveals that Dave and Karkat’s penis scribble fight still happened, except it was less of a fight and more of mutual laughter, apparently. It’s a very weird retcon which neuters a hilarious scene, but it’s good to know those phallic doodles still happened because of a scene where Calliope examines that same tome: it could very well be the post-retcon version, assuming the scribbles looked the same. Maybe Rose had drawn the start of a table before Dave and Karkat wrested the tome, since they didn’t get into a fight over sharing time with Terezi? I’m getting sidetracked here, so let’s move on.

KARKAT: AND SPEAKING OF WEIRD, ONE THING THAT BUGS ME ABOUT THIS IS…
KARKAT: I GUESS IT IMPLIES YOU’VE BEEN HORDING THE BODIES OF OUR DEAD FRIENDS FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS?!
KARKAT: THAT’S A BIT FUCKED UP! EVEN FOR YOU.
KARKAT: AND NOT TO GET TOO MACABRE, BUT I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THEY WOULD HAVE LIKE, ROTTED BY NOW OR SOMETHING.

VRISKA: Yes, there was some moder8te decomposition.
VRISKA: I did my 8est to preserve them for the journey, after quickly rounding up the 8odies while people had their 8acks turned.

Complaining about A6A6I5 is fun and all, but it’s still not as fun as earnest analysis. Vriska makes it clear that she replaced Gamzee as the manager of her dead friends’ corpses, and Karkat seems to know that’s not something she would normally do. Maybe he knows on some level that Vriska is stealing roles from others but doesn’t have it in him to question her motives. This is sort of like Vriska retroactively inserting herself into the events of the beta kids’ session, except with a proper in-universe retcon. This isn’t meant as a complaint about Vriska’s character, just an interesting observation.

KARKAT: WELL SHIT
KARKAT: THAT’S A HELL OF A MYSTERY, THAT I ALWAYS THOUGHT WAS A MYSTERY, BUT FOUND IT TOO DISTURBING TO CONTEMPLATE SOLVING
KARKAT: BUT DAMN IF IT DIDN’T JUST GET SOLVED, SO THAT’S FUCKED UP.

Karkat then gives us a callback to Dave’s “well shit thats a hell of a mystery” line which was itself called back to several times. This is a funny and fitting callback, but I recall getting annoyed with how many forced callbacks A6A6I5 would later start to have.

VRISKA: If you would stop 8eing a wuss for a half second a8out a 8unch of corpses, I’ll explain my reasoning.
VRISKA: These are the only two sprites I had any intention of using for resurrection purposes.
VRISKA: I 8rought Tavros 8ack, 8ecause let’s face it, that was kind of my fault, for unnecessarily impaling him with his own lance and all.
VRISKA: It was my responsi8ility to make amends for that! So I did.
TAVROSPRITE: aWWWWWWWWWWWWW, yEEAAAA-
VRISKA: Tavros, don’t interrupt.
TAVROSPRITE: wHOOPS,

We’ll later learn that Vriska’s reasoning for prototyping Tavros was at least partly to neutralize GCat. But I think another part of that reasoning may have been as a performative way to show she’s reformed and bettered herself, since she didn’t bring back most other dead trolls as Terezi later points out. It’s like she’s trying to tell readers on a meta level that she’s changed for the better while hiding the more dubious morality she has up her sleeve. Speaking of dubious morality…

VRISKA: SECOND, [Arquiusprite] is a fucking tactical genius.
VRISKA: Totally conniving and calcul8ting, and unafraid to use methods that are just a 8IT morally du8ious to achieve his o8jectives.
VRISKA: And since I can’t stick around for too long, your party is going to need someone like that.
VRISKA: 8esides, it seems like a really fitting f8 for Equius. He genuinely seems to 8e more comforta8le with this st8 of existence, and seems a lot happier than I ever remem8er him 8eing when he was alive.
VRISKA: So I’m perfectly willing to do him this solid. After all, he did help me out when I 8lew my arm off. So now we’re square!

I’ve skipped ahead a bit in Vriska’s reasoning for creating Arquiusprite. It’s interesting that she seems to see eye-to-eye with the auto-responder half of Arquiusprite; that’s something I’ve never noticed before. Dirk’s splinters have a strong pattern of engaging in narrative interactions with questionable morality, which is also a prominent trait of Vriska’s. Thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense for Vriska to treat Lil’ Hal as a tactical advantage.

I’ll continue quoting any passages with Arquiusprite as images instead of text. Easiest this way.

Arquiusprite’s hacking, a process helped by combining both his halves’ technological prowess, is a clever way to get rid of Crockertier Jane. Vriska did some more strategic thinking and decided that Arquiusprite would be a good choice to free an important party member from the Condesce’s clutches; one of many reasons why she decided replicating the pre-retcon creation of Arquiusprite was a good idea.

TEREZI: SO UM
TEREZI: WH4T 4BOUT OUR OTH3R D34D FR13NDS?

VRISKA: Huh?
TEREZI: YOU KNOW… N3P3T4, 3R1D4N…
VRISKA: Oh right. Them.
VRISKA: I was getting to that!
TEREZI: OH OK
TEREZI: 1 KNOW W3 T4LK3D 4 LOT OF STR4T3GY 1N 4DV4NC3, VR1SK4
TEREZI: BUT 1 R34LLY DON’T R3M3MB3R YOU M3NT1ON1NG 4 PL4N TO PROTOTYP3 OUR FR13NDS’ CORPS3S
TEREZI: M1GHT H4V3 B33N N1C3 TO G3T 4 H34DS UP!
TEREZI: UM, NOT TO M4K3 4 B4D PUN, ON 4CCOUNT OF TH3 F4CT TH4T MOST OF TH31R H34DS W3R3 L1T3R4LLY S3V3R3D >:[

Unlike Vriska, Terezi isn’t too caught up in heroic self-importance to consider who else deserves to be brought back (though she is too caught up in Hussie’s forgetfulness that Jane could revive the dead trolls without a need for sprites). Vriska discusses how there are four (three and a half?) corpses but only two kernels, which presents a dilemma because she refuses to make any wacky troll amalgamation sprites aside from Arquiusprite.

I don’t think many would disagree that Vriska choosing to forsake the hemospectrum is great character development. However, Arquiusprite’s suggestion to prototype the royal bloods led quite a few readers to think Hussie forgot that the Equius half would probably want to bring Nepeta back. But considering Arquiusprite and Davepetasprite^2’s hug bump reunion, it’s clear that Arquiusprite at this point is refusing to let himself think about Nepeta, while simultaneously not knowing or caring who Nepeta is.

VRISKA: So considering there are four left, and I can’t personally say that any is more deserving of life than the others, I intend to let them all rest in peace.
VRISKA: That is my ruling, and I’m inclined to call it final.
VRISKA: They can live out the rest of their afterlives in the dream 8u88les, which still need to 8e saved from Lord English, lest we forget.
VRISKA: 8ut of greater importance HERE is the fact that this leaves two empty kernels as a resurrection 8ackup, in case one or two of you jokers dies in the line of duty once too often.
VRISKA: 8elieve me, you’ll thank me later for thinking this all through so well in advance.

Even though Vriska has gotten a lot done with her strategic planning, she isn’t quite right about what will happen with the empty kernels. Those kernels eventually lead to the creation of Davepetasprite^2, a major component of Lord English’s prophesized defeat, so you could say that despite everything, Vriska is still at the mercy of predestination.

TEREZI: L3T’S TH1NK 1T THROUGH 4 L1TTL3 MOR3
TEREZI: SOLLUX’S H4LF GHOST 1S P3RF3CTLY H4PPY OUT TH3R3 W1TH 4R4D14
TEREZI: W3’V3 S33N H1M 4ND CONF1RM3D 1T OURS3LV3S, SO TH3R3’S NO R34SON TO CONS1D3R H1M
TEREZI: 4ND 3R1D4N???
TEREZI: H3 MURD3R3D F3F3R1, 4ND TR13D TO K1LL K4N4Y4 4ND SOLLUX!
TEREZI: H3 DO3SN’T 3V3N D3S3RV3 TO B3 1N TH3 RUNN1NG
TEREZI: BUT N3P3T4 4ND F3F3R1? WH4T D1D TH3Y 3V3R DO TO 4NYBODY?

VRISKA: Yes, this is my point exactly!!!!!!!!
VRISKA: I don’t want to 8e the ar8iter of Eridan’s value as a person 8ecause of the mistakes he’s made!
VRISKA: Or Feferi’s or Nepeta’s or Sollux’s or ANY8ODY’S!

Here’s where Terezi and Vriska demonstrate that they don’t agree on everything, which is a natural part of having a productive friendship and thus a good demonstration of character development. Terezi views Eridan as beyond any redemption, but Vriska doesn’t want to judge his morality, which makes sense because she’s morally dubious herself. As an expert on the matters of justice, Terezi insists the ruling is clear cut and proposes to bring back Nepeta and Feferi in their own sprites, which as a lucky coincidence would elegantly match their blood colors. After some reflection on what it’s like having Team Scourge back in action, Vriska proposes the following:

VRISKA: I st8ted my case, 8ut if you REALLY want to revive them, that’s fine with me.
VRISKA: I’ve got the torso parts with me right here, so feel free to round them up and prototype them any time.
TEREZI: YOU DO?
TEREZI: …WH3R3?

VRISKA: In the hunger trunk!
VRISKA: I’ve stashed all the spare remains there to keep them fresh, along with our, ahem. Final living party mem8er.
TEREZI: HUH?
GAMZEE: HONK
TEREZI: OH
TEREZI: OHHHHH
TEREZI: HMM
TEREZI: WOW, Y34H
TEREZI: 1 TH1NK, UM
TEREZI: 1 TH1NK 1’LL R3V1V3 TH3M… 4 L1TTL3 L4T3R?
TEREZI: Y34H.
TEREZI: L4T3R.

VRISKA: Suit yourself!

Vriska pulled a clever gambit with the prospect of resurrecting the rest of the dead trolls: if you really want to bring another one of them back, you’d have to deal with the presence of Gamzee. And she knows well that nobody wants to ever hear a word from Gamzee again, so resurrecting all those trolls is out of the question for now, just as she intended. The only reason she’s even keeping Gamzee alive is because she knows that doing so would break a whole bunch of time loops and create a doomed timeline. She’s begrudgingly following the rules of paradox space by locking the plot-armored clown in Jane’s fridge.

OK, what’s on the next page… Karkat going on a tirade about how much he’s OK with Vriska being the new leader? Right, that. That’s basically the start of Karkat’s whole new weird arc about firmly not wanting to be a leader, which I’ve always found weirdly flat and forced. That arc is interestingly not resolved until the epilogues, which are all about deconstructing the idea of resolving plot points and completing arcs. I have a few passages to quote from this page:

DAVE: what were you talking about
KARKAT: IT’S PRIVATE!
DAVE: i didnt hear you mumbling anything though
KARKAT: WE WERE MOSTLY COMMUNICATING THROUGH A SERIES OF SIMPLE GESTURES
KARKAT: I WAS TALKING SMACK ABOUT CERTAIN PEOPLE HERE, AND CHOSE TO REMAIN DISCREET ABOUT IT!

DAVE: no yeah i know what thats all about
DAVE: how when you talk to the mayor and most of the time words arent even necessary like he just *knows*
DAVE: man the mayor is just so wonderful i love him so much
DAVE: hey lets all take turns hugging him

I can tell Hussie enjoys coming up with occasional characters who everyone in the story loves and agrees can do no wrong. The Mayor serves this role in Homestuck, especially the second half; the horse named David Hasselhoof serves this role in Psycholonials.

VRISKA: Karkat, that was a 8eautiful soliliquy of acceptance and understanding of your role, due to acknowledgement of your overwhelming personal limit8tions.
VRISKA: 8ut 8e that as it may, you still ACTUALLY DO need to 8e paying attention here, so you can keep up with the plan.
VRISKA: While I may 8e the leader now, this may 8e the last day I see any of you for a very long time.
VRISKA: Someone’s going to need to step up when I’m gone!

Here Vriska is teasing a mystery to readers: why she won’t stick around for the human session’s long-awaited victory. She’s waiting until she’s finished going through all the battle plans to drop the grand reveal at just the right time due to her self-importance that borders on meta awareness.

Not shown: Vriska looking at her spider watch.

I don’t have anything to say about the rest of this dialoglog, so I’ll instead talk about the art style used here. This is the first of many panels drawn in a “fast and loose” art style, as Hussie described in one of his news posts. It’s a style that clearly indicates that Hussie just wanted to finish his comic already, or at least not prioritize art since there’s so many character reunions and dialogues that need to happen, and he didn’t even do all the possible reunion combos (cough cough anything involving Jade). Maybe the entirety of A6A6I5 is based on Hussie’s desire to wrap up Homestuck at long last, and he’s using Vriska and her strategic planning to exert that desire? I don’t know, just throwing around ideas.

John and Roxy arrive at the scene, leading to the first panel outside of Caliborn’s Masterpiece where all four beta kids are visible, and it’s an interesting first panel. We see the back of John’s head in front of the other three drawn supremely fast and loose, with Jade sleeping as usual. I guess it never occurred to Hussie to do a full four-way beta kid reunion? Or maybe he kept forgetting about it? Oh whatever, I shouldn’t think too hard about this, it’s just a random piece of trivia.

John greets everyone with a massive smile, ready to finish his grand heroic adventure on a strong note. Roxy, on the other hand, looks shy and nervous, more antsy than ever to find out if she’ll finally see Rose again.

One of the sweetest scenes in all of Homestuck.

And the answer to that question is a big fat YES. Roxy has waited her entire life for this moment, the opportunity to finally meet her mother/daughter in person; it was her main motive for starting Sburb in the first place, and she gets yanked out of the reunion again and again, the last time in an incredibly tragic scene. The moment Roxy notices Rose, she dashes to her teen mom with an overjoyed smile and gives her a big, warm hug, which is both the Lalondes’ payoff for all their crazy adventures. John says “d’awww” in response, and I sure can’t blame him.

John walks around the platform and greets everyone in typical John fashion. First off is Terezi and Vriska, both of whom he has quite a bit to say to.

JOHN: i know the scarf agenda wasn’t really YOUR idea per se…
JOHN: but do you have any idea what all that stuffed dragon shit was about?
JOHN: did that like…
JOHN: actually serve a purpose in the time line?
JOHN: or were you just fucking with me?
TEREZI: 1 W4S 4LMOST C3RT41NLY FUCK1NG W1TH YOU
JOHN: ok, wow. great.
JOHN: good to know.
JOHN: thanks for that, terezi. that was a really awesome use of our time.
TEREZI: 1’M GL4D W3 4R3 1N COMPL3T3 4GR33M3NT

I love that John still can’t decide whether his scalemate shenanigans were at all plot-relevant. Even though he knows Terezi gets a kick out of pranking him just as much has he does with her, part of him is convinced that since this is an event that canonically happened onscreen, there’s surely got to be some relevance to those dragon plushes. He later speculates about those plushes causing a “gay butterfly effect” because he still doubts they were only a prank.

JOHN: by the way, good to see you again vriska!
VRISKA: Good to see you too, John!
JOHN: it’s cool that you’re alive now, instead of being a cunning ghost pirate.
JOHN: i think your, um, *ways* probably are more valuable to have here, in the land of the living.
JOHN: at least… i hope so??
VRISKA: I couldn’t agree more!
VRISKA: I never got a chance to thank you for knocking me out a few years ago. I mean… o8viously? 8ecause I was unconscious.
VRISKA: 8ut thanks for that. I was 8eing an idiot, and deserved it.
VRISKA: And as a 8onus, it apparently saved my life???????? So, thanks.
VRISKA: You’re a real friend. ::::)

JOHN: don’t mention it!

John’s opinion on Vriska takes a turn for the positive here once more. At this point, we’ve been thoroughly exposed to his opinion on her swinging back and forth, so this isn’t much of a surprise. It’s very sweet of him when he sees Vriska’s good side and takes time to praise her.

JOHN: rose!
ROSE: Hi, John.
JOHN: hi!!!
JOHN: nice to see you, alive and well again.
JOHN: not to mention in the correct time line!
ROSE: Yes, you did it.
ROSE: I’m still a bit unclear on exactly what it was you did, but whatever it was, you sure did the hell out of it.

JOHN: yeah!!!!!
ROSE: Thank you for returning with my m-
ROSE: My, um.
ROSE: M,
ROSE: My Roxy.

ROXY: 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
ROSE: Thank you for returning with my Roxy, is obviously the remark I meant to say, and is the statement of a reasonable person.
JOHN: of course!
JOHN: really, it is so good to see you.
JOHN: i’d give you a hello hug, but you seem kinda tied up at the moment.
JOHN: oh my gosh, how cute.

Rose’s decision to know Roxy not as her “mother” but simply as “Roxy” is very symbolic. She has many regrets about her relationship with her mother, but she wants to move past them and turn a new page in their relationship, which is why she chooses to know the younger scratched version of her mother under her first name, which is Roxy. She wants pre-scratch and post-scratch Roxy to occupy separate places in her mind, the former as a long-gone guardian who she made mistakes with, the latter as a new friend who she has a sisterly bond with.

Jake is very nervous and shy when John greets him, but Tavrosprite insists he isn’t. Tavros’s submissive and faltering personality is often conflated with shyness, so it makes sense he clears that up as a sprite. As for Jake, can you blame him for feeling so nervous and overwhelmed? When he and John get to know each other in the select screen (which I’ll split across the next two posts), it thankfully doesn’t take long for them to break the ice.

What a wonderful SBaHJ reference.

John then greets Dave and Karkat with a pair of fist bumps, a natural one with Dave and a humorously forced one with Karkat. They quickly establish that this is a good place to chill out and catch up, which makes sense because there’s a MASSIVE pile of heartfelt reunions that are waiting to happen.

And then John and Dave talk about Jade, who is forced to sleep through all these reunions without a way to disable her corruption like Jane.

DAVE: i dunno if you know this or not but
DAVE: apparently along the way our version of john died
DAVE: so she made the whole trip without you

JOHN: oh no!
DAVE: yeah this timeline was gearing up to be pretty tragic i guess but then you sorta deus exxed out of nowhere and spared us those sadtimes
DAVE: i mean from your point of view i guess it isnt deus ex shit you were just the normal john you always were all zipping around like a nerdy hypergod saving everything from whatever
DAVE: but from our standpoint you just kinda yanked yourself out of random ass nothing but hey you know what ill take it

JOHN: man.
JOHN: i had no idea.
JOHN: i guess that’s what typheus meant?
JOHN: that’s so sad…
JOHN: poor jade!
JOHN: i can’t believe she had to spend all that time on the ship thinking i was dead…
JOHN: i mean, i guess i WAS dead. but…
JOHN: you know what i mean.

Jade’s shafting in A6A6I5 is one hell of an elephant in the room, and I still don’t get why she couldn’t at least have a reunion conversation with John or Dave. Or with Rose perhaps? Jade and Rose have a very unexplored dynamic that Homestuck^2 COULD have fleshed out with the reveal of them having a secret kid, but noooooooo, the reveal just HAD to be “bad on purpose” or some bullshit, so much to the point where it’s better to act as though it never happened. But I’m getting off topic.

JOHN: hey, what about dave sprite?
DAVE: dead
JOHN: noooo!
JOHN: that sucks too!
DAVE: yeah
DAVE: i guess so

JOHN: you guess??
DAVE: its a weird subject for me
DAVE: like
DAVE: the guy was always on borrowed time wasnt he
DAVE: i mean that was his whole “thing” right

JOHN: i dunno.
JOHN: i’ll miss him anyway, even if he isn’t the “real dave”.
JOHN: i kinda feel bad for ever thinking of him as a less real version, actually.

I wonder how many readers getting to this point fall for Dave’s statement and go “yep, Davesprite is definitely dead, no question about it”? Probably a good portion of them, but when I first read this update, I easily remembered pre-retcon Davesprite existed, I guess because all the pre-retcon and post-retcon characters were still very much in the back of my head. When Davesprite returned in the update that led to Davepetasprite^2, I didn’t think “wait he’s alive?” but rather “I knew it”.

JOHN: right now i’m still so excited to see everybody.
JOHN: there’s so much crazy stuff for us all to catch up on…
JOHN: i don’t even know where to start, it’s overwhelming!
DAVE: dont stress over it
DAVE: we still have some time to kill before shit starts getting real in this session
DAVE: at least according to our vriska in chief

JOHN: what do you mean?
DAVE: all the bad guys are still just outside the incipisphere
DAVE: they wont converge here until a few hours or so
DAVE: so lets all just sit back a while and shoot the shit
DAVE: and i do mean empty our clips into the shit, like really pump that turd full of lead
DAVE: right up until she gets bossy again and commandeers our fly brotimes with more shrill tactical exhortations

JOHN: ok, that sounds great!

This line leads us to the eight-way conversation selection screen, making this a natural stopping point. If you think back to my discussion on truth, relevance, and essentiality in this post, all these reunions are essential but not at all relevant. The story seems to be acknowledging this with its reunion dumps and the way A6A6I5 alternates between relevant and essential sections (though the relevant sections are also essential)—meat and candy, if you will. It’s not as good as seemingly integrating plot and character interactions, but this structure suffices as a way to wrap up Homestuck. Minus Jade’s shafting, which is completely dumb and unforgivable, but I can talk about that some other time.

See you next time as I go through the top half of the conversation select screen in a deliberately decided nonlinear order.

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