“Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is a very dense and loaded show. And some of the plot points whizz past so quickly that it’s almost impossible to decipher on the first viewing. Still, I’ll try my best to explain everything that happens, leading up to its absolutely explosive ending. Created by Rafal Jaki, the show follows David (Kenn/Zach Aguilar), a high school student who lives with his mother, Gloria (Yurika Hino/Gloria Garayua), in Night City. A tragic accident leads to her death, and since she owes a debt to a gang of cyberpunks, David promises to pay them back by working for them. The debt involves a cyberware implant called the Sandevistan (which is capable of increasing its wearer’s speed) that David has installed in his body. The gang in question is led by Maine (Hiroki Tōchi/William C. Stephens), and those working for him are Dorio (Michiko Kaiden/Marie Westbrook), Kiwi (Takako Honda/Stephanie Wong), Pilar (Wataru Takagi/Ian James Corlett), Rebecca (Tomoyo Kurosawa/Alex Cazares), and Lucy (Aoi Yūki/Emi Lo). And Maine works for a broker called Faraday (Kazuhiko Inoue/Giancarlo Esposito), who is trying to climb the corporate ladder made by the two big corporations essentially running Night City, Arasaka, and Militech.
What Causes David’s Cyberpsychosis?
Something that is set up from the very first frame of “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is the concept of cyberpsychosis. David illegally streams into an ex-soldier suffering from it due to the over-installation of chrome parts in his body and derives a kind of fun from it. He neither empathizes with this person (just like a lot of 17-year-olds who watch violent videos to feel edgy), nor does he understand the toll Gloria’s job is taking on her, since she’s the person who has to clean up the mess created by that cyberpsycho. The only time he does feel something is when he is expelled/suspended for messing with the school’s software, and his mother expresses how strongly she wants him to succeed and become someone notable. But it’s too little too late as they unintentionally wade into a gang shootout, which leads to Gloria getting grievously injured. And since they are not insured, the trauma team doesn’t save them, and Gloria dies. David doesn’t even get to see her. All he gets is her ashes in a container.
So, yes, this is one of the first things that hangs heavily over David’s psyche. He doesn’t get to process Gloria’s death as he is quickly swept into Maine’s gang. Two things happen during his time with them. He falls in love with Lucy (which is almost like a “star-crossed lovers” thing as he keeps seeing her before actually meeting her), and he forms a father-son or brotherly bond with Maine. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that his romantic relationship is one of the reasons for David’s cyberpsychosis. Rebecca pretty much spells it out that his connection with Lucy is the only thing that keeps him sane. Maine is so formative to his growth that he doesn’t get to shake off the fact that his cyberpsychosis was inevitable. He keeps thinking that he could’ve done something to stop Maine from going over the edge, despite knowing the inevitability of it all. That’s why, instead of choosing a different path, he strives to achieve more than Maine by becoming him (he even wears his mech-hand, I guess) as a way of fulfilling Maine’s dreams for him.
All that said, the biggest reason behind David’s cyberpsychosis is his overuse of cyberware. He thinks that he is built differently, as if he’s a “chosen one” character, and he is not going to meet the same fate as Maine (or any of the cyberware users). He is warned several times by Rebecca, Lucy, Ripperdoc (Kenjiro Tsuda/Borge Etienne), and even his enemies that that’s not how this works. But he doesn’t listen to them since he’s under the impression that if he just puts his mind to it, works harder, makes more money, and reaches the top, things are going to end differently for him. And if that doesn’t speak to the “hustle and grind” mindset that capitalist corporations are pumping into our brains better than anything out there, then I don’t know what does. They do want us to become machines that’ll bring them profit. They don’t want anything organic to grow within us. In fact, you can say that David doesn’t completely go off the edge because, even in the end, he’s tethered to his core feelings due to his relationship with Lucy.
What Does Faraday Want From David?
Here’s where things get a little convoluted. In Episode 6, titled “Girl on Fire,” the group takes on the job (assigned by Faraday) of extracting information from a man named Tanaka, i.e., the father of the guy who used to bully David. Kiwi breaks into his mind’s security system, which is called ICE. The process involves submerging Kiwi in a tub of ice water, completely naked, while connecting her to the host’s mind. While she’s under, Maine’s cyberpsychosis starts to act up, and he accidentally attacks Kiwi, thereby rendering her unable to continue the operation. The break in the connection somehow alerts the security forces to converge at the gang’s headquarters. Lucy takes Kiwi’s spot, with David supervising her dive into Tanaka’s mind. Maine and Dorio take on the hordes of security personnel. The whole exercise quickly goes sideways. Maine and Dorio die in battle, while Lucy and David barely make it out of there alive.
There’s a massive time jump after that incident. In that period, David takes up Maine’s spot and leads the team that’s now made of Kiwi, Rebecca, Falco, and temporary wannabe cyberpunks. Lucy is apparently in retirement because she hasn’t shaken off Maine and Dorio’s death, and the things about David’s past that she saw in ICE. Kiwi sets up a meeting with Faraday for a job. This time, instead of Arasaka, he brings a deal from its rival, Militech. And he seems particularly adamant about getting Lucy back on the team. The reason becomes a little apparent when Lucy explains how she’s a runaway from Arasaka’s training camp, where they recruited kids to do netrunning (which is exactly what it sounds like: hacking through the internet). The other thing that becomes clear is that Lucy isn’t actually in retirement. She’s going after netrunners who are trying to find out all about the latest person who is using the Sandevistan, i.e., David.
Two meetings later, it’s revealed that Militech wants Faraday to extract a game-changing mech suit called the Cyberskeleton from Arasaka and deliver it to them. Meanwhile, Arasaka wants Faraday to eliminate everyone who knows about the Cyberskeleton and bring in the netrunner (Lucy), who has been killing Arasaka’s netrunners whenever they get close to finding David’s identity. So, Faraday recruits Kiwi (yes, she double-crosses David) to set a trap for Lucy, and she walks right into it. Since Lucy and David departed on a sour note, he doesn’t check up on her for a while and instead heads into the mission to get the Cyberskeleton. Even though things go south, the team gets to the cyberware. Faraday uses Lucy to get David into the Cyberskeleton. He complies. Kiwi ducks out as hundreds of thousands of Militech armies arrive to kill David. So, Faraday apparently double-crosses Militech again and tells David to show Arasaka that he is the only one who can wield the Cyberskeleton by killing the oncoming soldiers. It’s a doomed path, but at least Lucy will survive.
‘Cyberpunk: Edgerunners’ Ending Explained – How Does David And Adam Smasher’s Fight End? Where Does Lucy Go?
Even though David’s cyberpsychosis begins to spike, he uses the Cyberskeleton to not only finish the Militech armies but also make his way to Arasaka to save Lucy. According to his agreement with Arasaka, Faraday kills Kiwi because she knows about the Cyberskeleton and starts to proceed towards the Arasaka HQ. Arasaka’s employees understand that David has crossed a line and he needs to be stopped. So, they reveal Adam Smasher, the mythic all-cyberware supersoldier, as he is apparently the only one who can go toe-to-toe with David. Faraday delivers Lucy to Arasaka. David makes a grand entry while slowly going over the edge due to his cyberpsychosis. He saves Lucy and takes her to their vehicle, while keeping a relentless Adam Smasher at bay. Rebecca is killed by Adam Smasher. Falco realizes that if they stay there any longer, all of them are going to die. Hence, despite Lucy’s protests, he leaves with Lucy because that’s what David wants him to do.
David takes on Adam Smasher one last time, but totally fails as he damages all his equipment. Adam Smasher says David can make for an interesting construct. David says that he doesn’t care. So, Adam Smasher kills him by shooting him point blank. Another time jump occurs, and we see Lucy on the Moon (is that a “Lucy in the Sky” reference?), which is a tourist spot, if it wasn’t clear before. She imagines her virtual reality date with David and stands in solitude, taking in the warmth of the sun. And if that’s not a clear indication that “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is a love story at its core, then I don’t know what is. Yes, the show speaks about a lot of things, ranging from capitalism, violence, misogyny, and how all of this is degrading humanity, in general, and within ourselves. At the stage we are at, it’s almost impossible to take on these mega-corporations and bring any kind of change. What we can do, though, is stay beside our loved ones, fulfill their dreams along with the ones we have, and try to live a full life.
“Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” is a 2022 Action Thriller Anime series created by Rafal Jaki.