The dead don't kill, the dead tell great big whoppers instead...
I was watching Battle the other night, and I was struck by the fact that Kai, at one point, has Prince in his sights and then abandons the shot. Stan asks him why, and Kai tells him that his brace is malfunctioning. Despite this, Kai manages to make a number of incredible trick shots through the episode, from capturing the moth, to jumping from the balloon and using it to catch himself at the last moment, to using it to rescue Xev from the water, and finally to do some amazing balloon switching maneuvers for himself and Stan. True, his brace does miss Xev right at the end, but overall the range and accuracy of the tool in this episode is astounding.
But he couldn't make a killing shot to Prince? Or perhaps he simply didn't want to. Was he lying to Stan?
Consider this. Kai, while himself, has arguably never killed a human being or used the brace to kill a human being throughout the three seasons of LEXX. Ah but, you argue, he certainly nailed Wist several times. True enough, but Wist wasn't human: at best, her incarnations were colonies of satellite worms, a biological weapon. He's got no problem with nonhuman things; he nails the Web creature in Web and Net and happily slaughters Mantrid drones left and right and has only a little trouble squashing talking brains. Well, he almost killed Stan in Terminal? Not in his right mind. Spearing Mantrid in K-Town? Same thing. Tough on Zombies in Twilight? Not human, not in his right mind. The glorious slaughter in Wake the Dead? Definitely not in his right mind. Mantrid in the opener? Not in his right mind, and under the control or influence of the essence.
Of course, Kai does threaten to kill on several occasions. In Stan's Trial he offers to kill Jihana. In Nook he threatens to kill Brother Randor, in Woz he threatens both the Wozard and then agrees to kill the Dark Lady. He threatens Brizon. He threatens to kill Stan in Net. But interestingly, he never ever follows through.
There are other occasions where Kai clearly and simply does not want to kill. He refuses to kill Giggerotta in Supernova when she's a danger to the crew. At the end of Terminal he persuades Stan not to destroy the Medsat. In Luvliner he passes up a shot at Aulk, something which Xev doesn't do. In Woz he definitely changes his mind and refuses to destroy the Dark Lady, after putting it off for as long as he can. In White Trash, he has a couple of shots at Paw Golene and doesn't take them. At the end of May, Prince's men fill him like a pincushion, he simply holds them and then walks away. The Dark Lady's minions and Jihana's Guards open fire on him in both Woz and Stan's Trial, he simply shrugs it off. Guards strike him in Girltown, he barely responds.
This is particularly interesting because in interviews McManus has described Kai as an essentially reflective character, he responds as he is acted upon, a mirror of his environment. So one would expect him to reply with violence, but he very explicitly does not.
Well, what about the scene in May where he throws the gondola crew to their deaths? Ah, but they're definitely alive and kicking when he throws them over the side into the water. They're high up, but the might well survive the fall and make their way to the city they've so recently helped to destroy. It's interesting and instructive that Kai does not kill them directly, he doesn't use the brace on them as he did with Wist, nor does he strangle them or break their necks as he did with the kids in Wake the Dead. At best, he seems to kill indirectly. It isn't his throwing them off which will kill the Gondola crew, it's the sudden impact, or drowning, or possibly they won't die at all.
There's also a scene in Terminal, at the end, where he vaporizes the two evil Doctors. Arguably, this is indeed murder. But once again, he doesn't use the brace, he doesn't strangle or break their necks. Rather, he uses a reflective sheet to cast the villains energy back at them. Again, as with the scene in May, the killing is indirect, and there seems to be an element of rationalization to his choice. The villains have set vast energies loose which are now surging through the chamber. It is these energies, their own works, which kill them. Kai at best only redirects this energy. One might argue that they would have been killed eventually anyway by the stray bolts that were flying around. It is a curiously indirect method of execution, perhaps it is one intended to evade responsibility for the act of killing.
In Boomtown and Battle he captures moths, and as with the gondola in May and Battle, he simply throws the crews over the side to survive if they can. In Boomtown (or was it Gondola?) he participates in a battle of moths, destroying all or most of Prince's moths (live Kai accounts for some), but even here he never aims a shot at a person. Rather, he attacks the non-human moths. To destroy a moth in flight may well mean death for the crew, but as we discover with Fifi and Duke, even this is not necessarily true. At worst, these are once again, indirect killings.
In fact, there is only one moment where he actually does commit deliberate cold blooded murder, and that is his execution of the false Xev in Key. But before doing this, he pretty much drags himself out for the whole episodes. Even here there is an element of rationalisation. Kai determines that she isn't the real Xev, ergo, she is a false Xev, ergo, she is a construct and not human. His execution of the false Xev may be equivalent to him to his execution of Wist or of the false Zev in Eating Pattern. Certainly at this point, once he determines that it is not the real Xev, he may be justified in assuming she's not real at all.
Does his reluctance to kill Prince subsequently, come from his realization that the false Xev was a real live person, and not a robot or drone or nest of satellite worms? I've written earlier about the odd perambulations Kai goes through in Woz, which seem explicitly designed to either avoid killing or to avoid taking responsibility for killing. In a larger sense, this avoidance/evasion characterizes much of Kai's behaviour through the series. Laid out simply:
Kai will threaten to kill a person, if he thinks it will get him what he wants. (Brizon, Randor, Wozard, Stan)
Kai has claimed to be willing to kill a person, if someone else will assume moral responsibility for the death. (Dark Lady, Jihanna)
Kai will, if necessary, act in ways which may result in death for others, such as throwing them out of balloons or gondolas into the water, disabling moths, or reflecting their energy back at them. Death is not a necessary result and it is indirect, if it occurs. (Terminal, May, Boomtown, Gondola, Battle)
Kai will not respond murderously to murderous attacks on himself or those he protects, rather his inclination is to disable the aggressor either directly or indirectly. What happens to them after that is not his affair. (Jihanna's Minions, Dark Lady's Minions, Prince's Minions, Queen's Guards)
Kai is willing to stand aside if people he is not actively protecting choose to kill each other. (Lyekka/Astronauts, Woz/Dark Lady, Doily/Guard or Doily/Queen)
Kai is willing to kill if he believes that the being is not human (Wist, False Zev, Robots)
Kai will not directly kill a human being, if human beings are killed or are to be killed, he will bend over backwards to avoid accepting any moral responsibility for it. In short, what we have here is a remarkably fluid moral perspective. We see that Kai is making deliberate choices, not just acting automatically. Instead of being neutral and having no personal motivation he seems to go out of his way to keep his conscience clean. Moreover, this effort to keep his conscience clean results in what may be some extremely fine slicing, nonhumans, indirect deaths and getting someone else to take moral responsibility, that may not be meaningful from an objective point of view.
Is it valid to take an action that results in death as opposed to simply killing? From an outsiders viewpoint, I don't see a distinction. But Kai apparently does. I suggest that this involves an element of self deception, an evasion of moral issues.
But it isn't an evasion that sits comfortably. In Woz, having gotten his 'go out and kill for free card' from Stan and Xev, he still hems and haws, waffling at killing the Dark Lady. He has successfully absolved himself of responsibility for the act, but still can't quite do it, which suggests he's not buying. In Battle he draws down on Prince but can't quite go through with it. Why not? What's going through that dead mind of his? He knows Prince can come back, he's clearly not sure of whether or not Prince is human, he's killed the false Xev/Prince. So he prepares to kill Prince. But then he changes his mind. Is he having a debate with himself? A struggle of conscience? He could get away with killing the false Xev because in a sense, she wasn't real, and he could, at least initially rationalize that as meaning she wasn't human. But was she human after all? Was it a mistake? And if so, does he want to make the mistake again?
We don't know. All we do know is that between his brace doing all of its wonderful magical feats, including reaching Prince's balloon, he tells Stan its not working right. Is he lying? I think we have to assume that his threats to kill are lies, based on his failure to follow through and his avoidance of killing elsewhere. Clearly the fine distinctions he draws to avoid responsibility for killing have an element of self deception. Accordingly, we have to assume a capacity for simple deception.
Kai can and will lie to suit his purposes or to evade things he considers unpleasant. Thus, he'll threaten or agree to kill to get what he wants or to avoid having to deal with troublesome questions. The interesting question is whether or not Kai is conscious or fully conscious of these things.
When he tells Stan his Brace won't work right, does he know he's lying to Stan, or is he also lying to himself? When he threatens to kill, does he know he's bluffing? When he maneuvers Stan and Xev into telling him to kill the Dark Lady, does he recognize he's evading responsibility? In short, is there a mind there, establishing its principles and ideals and then struggling to adapt them to the circumstances? Or is it all unconscious and mechanical?
Instead of elaborate games of deceit and self deception, of rationalization and loopholes in a moral code, is it simply a mechanical application of behavioural rules?
My feeling is that he is making conscious decisions and has at least some level of awareness of the moral issues. Kai as an unreasoning machine seems decidedly lethal, as we see in IWHS and in his occasional reversions in Terminal and K-Town. At the end of IWHS there are severable memorable scenes which apply. The first, where he's talking to a Predecessor, Kai explicitly states that he has free will and strength and proves it. In the next scene, he gives his speech about being a killer: implicit in that is that he is repudiating it all. In a final scene he tells them that in the Light Universe he was darkness, perhaps in the Dark Zone he can be light.
Essentially, Kai in these scenes appears to be consciously looking at his existence and making choices, he takes a moral perspective and establishes a stand that he will not kill again.
© 2000 (October) Darrow.