Here’s the finale of the analysis of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s Bitch Planet #2. Spoilers for pages 17-24. If you’d like to see Part I, click here. For Part II, go here. For Part III, here.
This section all takes place in what seems to be the prison’s exercise room. The foreground and background tell two different but mirroring stories. As does the room as a setting. Kamau is running on a treadmill, though since it doesn’t have noticeable controls, I assume the speed is set by the controllers of the prison. Even in exercise, the women cannot choose their own speed. Perhaps they are assigned an exercise too. We see Violet and then Penny join Kamau, but Penny falls behind the speed and is threatened by a guard in the background. More on that later. Meanwhile, in the way back, large groups of women are doing group stretching. A ginormous screen shows them a woman with pink hair, leotard, and leg warmers and a magazine-ideal body type leading the group through the exercises. She bends and poses in ways that accentuate her chest and butt in sexy ways. She is an exercise model of the patriarchy, of the Fathers.
Violet is there to encourage Kamau to accept the offer of making a Megaton team. Kamau asks, “You think there’s a win there? Getting your ass handed to you on the feed to teach the world a lesson in compliance.” Kamau sees it as a probable public flogging. Their loss would be used by the Fathers to further acceptance of compliance rules. Violet sees it differently. “Doesn’t have to go down like that. Women lose if they play the game the way the men play. Distribute the weight right, pick the right players, and we could win. I’ve put together a roster for you. Our movement–” Kamau interrupts to point out she’s not part of this movement, and Violet points out that Kamau should be part of it. Violet sees the Megaton field as another place to be non-compliant. Women lose if they play by the men’s rules. But women don’t have to play by those rules. Women could win if they used their assets correctly and focused their resources. Kamau is not convinced. Violet finally asks, “What do we lose if we try?” to which Kamau responds, “Our dignity.”
Meanwhile, Penny, who has been threatened by the guard, has taken the guard’s baton and turned it on him. Three more guards, all in silhouette, join the melee. At the end of the conversation with Kamau, Violet noticed Penny is now being overpowered by the guards and leaves to join that background melee. There is a question hanging around the melee now–if Penny loses this battle, does she lose her dignity? Or is it less dignified to simply play by the rules the guards lay out without fighting back?
Now Meiko joins Kamau on the treadmills. She too says Kamau should do it. Kamau says, “There’s no way to win.” “Who cares?” Meiko responds. “I care. I’m not dancing for the entertainment of the Council,” Kamau says. Clearly Kamau doesn’t want to be anyone’s puppet. That’s a loss of dignity. But Meiko’s got more specific goals wherein a loss of dignity to could be a means to an end. She asks to be put on the team. Kamau points out she’s tiny, not an athletic asset. Meiko says to use Penny to balance her. Meiko shows her hand: the big finale will be on a ship and half the council will be in attendance–if something happened… And we fill in the blank–half of the council could be wiped out in one blow. “So what?” Kamau doesn’t see what this has to do with a NC team in Megaton. “I designed that ship,” Meiko reveals. And that bit of information changes everything. Kamau stops running.
Meanwhile, Penny’s melee has grown. It appears that one whole group of stretchers has joined the fray. Penny’s resistance to running at the required speed has turned into a prison riot. And the mirroring of the foreground and background shows just how a single act can change the whole group dynamic. Meiko’s suggestion to sabotage the ship on live television, if it is successful, could be exactly like this. Women and men who are oppressed and marginalized by the compliance rules could see this as a call to enter the fray and change society’s dynamic.
Kamau has requested escort to Specials. Specials accepts. We see that Operative Whitney has a woman in a back room cuffed to a table with blood on her legs. Whitney has blood on her gloves. Is she torturing the woman? Punishing? The ambiguity is frightening.
Kamau says she’ll make the team but that she has conditions. She wants her assets freed and made available to her family. She also wants a list of all the inmates with their stats and weights. Finally, she wants the name of Marian’s real killer. Whitney tells Kamau that she killed Marian, and Kam begins to walk away, saying she’s out. Whitney backtracks, says she’ll make the call.
We see Kamau exercising some power in this interaction, though Whitney makes it clear Kamau’s powers are limited. Still Whitney commits to at least attempting to get these things for Kamau, and that’s not nothing. Kamau deftly navigates the subtly art of playing hard to get. If she’s in for Meiko’s plan, then Kamau might have just gone in seemingly reading to play their game their way. But instead she does a kind of dance about conditions with Whitney that gains her things she wants and also makes her sudden willingness to go forward with Megaton less suspect.
Back on Earth, Father Josephson’s office. He is interrupted by the news that Ricky Fontenot, star athlete of the Megaton games has died on the field on national television. Half the world watching. Josephson, while initially playing the sympathy card, immediately wants to see the feed of coverage and is delighted to find that this tragic news has increased the engagement of the people. Ratings are through the roof. His smile, genuine, mirrors the smile of the newscaster, fake, while video of Ricky’s mother crying and grimacing plays behind him. But his back is to her. His concern is with his ratings. With engagement. Ricky’s death serves a purpose in the framework of his goals.