“Gwennifer, hi! I can’t make it. I’m doing a bottle episode!”
The group makes their way to Marco Polo International Airport and manage to take control of a plane for their own use. The gang is carefully surveying the plane and the surrounding area to make sure that they’re free of potential enemies. As Abbacchio sets up Moody Blues to pilot the aircraft, Narancia spots a rather portly and hideous Stand user walking in their direction. His menacing wordless presence is immediately undercut when Mista fires some shots in his direction, killing him instantly. Brushing off this encounter, the group begins their flight to Sardegna as everyone gets to relax for a bit. Bruno and Trish begin conversing about the boss’s potential identity, and she brings up an interesting tidbit: “Cala di Volpe”, referring to a resort that her mother mentioned once as the place where she met the boss back in the day. It’s as solid a lead as they can follow for the time being, and it could be enough to lead them to their target.
Giorno notices a suspicious rumbling sound coming from the cabinet in front of him, and when he goes to inspect it, things seem normal at first. However, Mista calls attention to the surprising sight of 4 severed fingers within the cabinet, which he realizes are from the man they killed at the airport. Giorno inspects the fingers to make sure they’re free of any life energy and to rule out an enemy Stand, coming up empty before Bruno disposes of it just to be safe. When Giorno goes back to his seat, he spots an unnervingly high amount of graffiti messages written next to him which get alarming specific as he reads them. He soon uncovers a message confirming that they are being subject to an attack from an enemy Stand called Notorious BIG, which quickly appears as a fleshy mass on Giorno’s arm. Mimicking its shape, he tries to cut off his arm before it can dig any deeper, but this doesn’t work, as he needs to have Mista shoot his arm off, leading to 4 of the Sex Pistols being trapped within. Narancia attempts to attack Notorious BIG, but it resists and attacks Aerosmith. Giorno pieces together that there’s a pattern to the enemy Stand’s attacks: it chases after the fastest moving entity in its immediate vicinity. In a risky move, Giorno tricks BIG into latching onto his remaining arm so he can bust open one of the plane’s windows and sever it, sending the enemy Stand flying away while crippling his access to Gold Experience’s powers in the process.
Bruno, feeling guilt over what has transpired within the plane, places his incapacitated comrades into Coco Jumbo to figure out a method of healing them, if one is even possible. As Trish sits alone with her thoughts, she notices a small ball of some kind that feels a bit unnerving. Observing the wing of the plane, she is suddenly caught off-guard by the surprise appearance of Notorious BIG, who tracked the plane’s movement. Trapped with no one else in her immediate vicinity, Trish stays perfectly still to avoid being attacked by the Stand. It soon moves away from her direction and within the vicinity of Giorno’s brooch, which has begun to spawn a new hand. Having imbued the brooch with Gold Experience’s powers, Trish realizes that this new hand can give Giorno access to his powers again. Now, she just has to figure out how to sneak past Notorious BIG and its persistent tracking.
Golden Wind has covered quite a bit of territory in its run up to this point, exploring many different action setpieces, scenarios, and power logic, but something that’s felt oddly lenient so far is Araki’s penchant for straight-up horror. While the battles taking place across the arc up to this point have had their fair share of terrifying scenarios, but only the boat trip and the initial encounter with King Crimson felt evocative of the kind of horror filmmaking that JoJo often pays homage to. Fitting then that a battle that relies heavily on references and motifs to familiar stories is one of the most confidently executed and scary things the series has crafted yet.
First, the setup. Golden Wind seems to have a particular affinity for battle scenarios involving vehicles: car chases, trains, boats, etc. Naturally it wouldn’t be a proper travel-based story without some kind of plane-based mishap, and while I’ve been a bit critical of the arc for reusing a lot of ideas from previous parts, the plane thing feels like a deliberate motif at this point, so I’m cool with it. Note to all future JoJos: steer clear of all air travel. That’s the real family curse right there.
The plane actually provides some great fuel for the battle in question, and it comes down to how many layers there are to this setup. The first and most pressing matter is the enemy, as the notion of what is effectively a zombie Stand is a massive obstacle: the user is already dead, so what solution is there? Even the most strategic of minds would have difficulty finding a weakness to Notorious BIG. On top of this, the episode mixes in elements of overt body horror, as the enemy Stand is a blob-like creature that morphs into its targets’ limbs and can consume them in a parasitic fashion, acting as an unmistakable reference to John Carpenter’s The Thing.
As I joked in the opening sentence, we are effectively given a bottle episode with the action confined to the body of a small private plane, which makes things tense as there are few places to run or escape to inside the cabin. It’s an innately terrifying setup, as I think most of us have fears of flying for reasons like this, and those fears are stretched to their fullest. Side note: it’s actually strangely coincidental that this episode aired within 3 days of CBS All Access premiering Jordan Peele’s new iteration of The Twilight Zone, which featured a reworked version of the classic episode “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet” about a mysterious creature tormenting a passenger on a flight. The key to making this admittedly limited setup work well is all in visual flexibility and pacing. There’s a deliberate slow burn to how things escalate after killing the enemy Stand user (named Carne, for the record): scans of the area showing everything is fine, the mysterious noises from the freezer, the severed fingers, the graffiti, etc. Each of these elements slowly build and stack on each other until the sharp spike of Notorious BIG’s appearance on Giorno’s arm, and things only get worse from there as it incapacitates three of our heroes who all are mystified by its mere existence. The shot composition works wonders in getting the most out of a geographically tight space and selling the panicky frantic state of things.
Perhaps the strongest example of the episode’s mileage (pun completely intended) is during one of the quitter moments of the episode when Trish is left alone on the plane. At first, the scene is cast as somber and mournful, with our heroine pondering about how she’s responsible for the tragedies and hardships that have befallen Bucciarati and his gang. The mood is driven by the lighting, using the orange haze of the sunset to cast shadows that show how depressing this is. However, this same lighting also becomes a signal of ominous dread the second that Notorious BIG comes roaring back onboard. The scene does so much with just these basic elements, acting as a testament to the strong storytelling on display. However, I do have a minor fanboy critic to make. While it’s important for studios adapting a source material to make certain decisions about what can be skipped or glossed over for the sake of narrative efficiency (even in the generous context of television), the episode unfortunately decides to cut out one of the most memorably absurd bits from the original manga:
Despite that, I’m hooked enough o want to see where things go from here, especially with the upcoming introduction of Trish’s own Stand.
New episodes of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind premiere every Friday and can be streamed exclusively on Crunchyroll.