Angels of Death is not an especially subtle game.
It is an enjoyable game; I would be inclined to go so far as to say it’s a good game, even, for all I’m still not entirely sure how I personally feel about it. I like the art style and the music; I could do without the consistent use of childhood abuse as an explanation for why people become serial killers. I love Zack and Rachel, and found their dynamic through the game to be interesting and at times genuinely touching; I would prefer games as a whole stop representing therapy as something that is either useless (at best) or actively harmful (at worst).
Angels of Death is sweet, and sincere, and funny, but it’s also very clumsy, and extremely dark. It’s an exploration of abuse on both systemic and personal levels, on how it shapes us and the ways it ruins us; about how for all the systems that seek to exploit people may make them seem monstrous, even at their worst they are still human. And it’s hilariously unsubtle about that. Like, “Big Bad gets lectured on some of the game’s symbolism by his villainous friend while he bleeds out in the crumbling tower of abuse they built together” unsubtle.
For the most part, the floor bosses fall very neatly into a different power structure. Daniel Dickens is a psychologist who uses his position to kidnap and manipulate Rachel into joining the Death Tower. Catherine Ward is a prison warden, forcing her victims to choose between a slow death in the cells and a painful one for her amusement. Reverend Gray is a priest who uses the aesthetic of his former faith to condemn others. Edward Mason is a cop.
Eddie is the boss of B4, a grave keeper who develops a fixation on Rachel after hearing her wish to die. His role in the Tower is, functionally, that of a janitor; he cleans up after those killed by the various bosses, making sure they’re buried out of sight of anyone outside its walls. To Eddie, the responsibility of burying the dead is an act of both compassion and possession; in their last moments they become his precious treasures, and he believes it’s his duty and right to ensure that they go to better, kinder places than they left.
On the one hand, Eddie is an agent of death in a far truer sense than the other serial killers that reside in the Tower. He takes a certain pleasure in the killing and burial of his own victims, of course. To Eddie, anyone who doesn’t become his in death is doomed to a sad, lonely end; in fact, a big part of why he snaps at Rachel’s refusal to let him kill her is that she does so in favor of someone who, at that point, has no interest whatsoever in making sure her death is a happy one, that her grave is peaceful.
On the other hand, the work he does is in service of protecting Gray’s experiment. Without somewhere to dispose of bodies on the premises, the local police might notice a slight uptick in murder rates, and have enough of a trail to follow back to the building they’re hidden beneath. And Eddie is uniquely suited to the task, both as the son of a long line of grave keepers, and also for the reasons listed above. He knows how to make graves suited to the people who reside within them, and is deeply invested in ensuring they remain undisturbed.
But Noah, I hear you ask, how the absolute fuck does that make Eddie a cop?
The function of police, especially in societies with a conservative capitalistic bent, is to ensure that the systems dedicated to the exploitation and disenfranchisement of oppressed minorities can continue functioning. They work with psychologists to ensure that their suspects will be tried regardless of whether or not such a thing would be appropriate; they ensure that prisons have a steady supply of cheap labor for corporations to take advantage of, and have access to an unsettling amount of information they use to further the abuse of those they claim to be trying to help.
This is actually made slightly less subtle in the anime, through a change made to Cathy’s floor. In the game, we get to experience Zack’s hatred for being given orders through a floor puzzle, where he ends up stuck and Rachel has to guide him through it. In the anime, however, they change it so instead Rachel has to direct him to re-enact his childhood trauma using a dollhouse. It’s safe to assume that Cathy got this information from Eddie – Gray is more interested in observation and judgment than interference in the other levels, and Rachel finds her and Zack’s files in Eddie’s workshop. He actually has the files for seemingly everyone who’s entered the Tower, which makes sense since he uses that kind of information when personalizing graves. Through the work Eddie has done and the information he presumably provides, Cathy (the prison warden) has a new, more effective avenue for manipulating Zack and driving a wedge between him and Rachel.
In Angels of Death, Eddie serves much the same role to the Tower as police serve to a capitalist society; he enables the abuses and oppression of those in power while also ensuring that anyone who might potentially cause problems for them is dealt with in a way that won’t threaten Gray, his experiment, or the other floor bosses in the Tower, even as he claims to be doing so in the best interests of their victims. He’s not as overtly sadistic as the other floor bosses, but he doesn’t need to be. His role is different – rather than embody any one specific system, the work he does protects and maintains them all, and it isn’t until you stop playing along that you see the twisted power fantasy he’s trying to indulge.
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