Otwórz oczy, or Open Your Eyes, has a deeper layer that people are not talking about

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

Otwórz oczy, or Open Your Eyes, is a Polish language Netflix show. I’ve now watched all of season 1 three times, so I have some thoughts.

Spoilers ahead, don’t read unless you’ve seen it.

Tamal Kundu has written up a straightforward, but mistaken, view of the story. He compares the story to The Matrix. In his view, episodes 1-5 happen in a simulation, but then in episode 6 we learn the truth. But I don’t think this is correct. At a minimum, like Inception, the simulation must have at least 2 layers to it.

It is curious to read the reviews of this story. The Decider says “It has the wierdness of a show like Legion combined with the high-school-of-it-all tone of something like Gossip Girl or Elite.”

Not really. Like a lot of stories from Eastern Europe, it is also dealing with a theme of totalitarian observation and control, and the theme of memory is as heavy here as in a Milan Kundera novel, such as The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting. When Kundera said “The struggle against totalitarianism is the struggle of memory against forgetting” he could have been talking about this show.

Tamal Kundu compares this show to the Matrix, but another obvious reference would be The Sixth Sense. It seems likely that someone is dead or in a coma, but they don’t know it.

Other reviews summarize the show, read them if you haven’t seen it.

I’m left with this impression:

At the end of episode 6, Dr. Zofia says there are many such programs around the world, that is, programs that steal talent from one person and gives it to another. When Karolina was a child, her mother signed her up for one such program. There was a person named Julia who had tremendous talent with the piano. Julia’s talent was stolen and given to Karolina. Along with the talent, Karolina was left with some of Julia’s memories. At some point in the distant past, Julia burned down a building. Perhaps she burned down the clinic where she was being held as prisoner. Karolina keeps remembering the fire, but we know the fire did not occur at Karolina’s home, because the home is unharmed, both in the simulation and in “real life”.

Karolina’s father is missing or dead and Doctor Tanatowski is missing or dead. Are they the same person? Is Karolina actually the daughter of Doctor Tanatowski? At one point, in episode 4, the therapist Piotr says “It was a mistake to bring Doctor Tanatowski’s daughter here.” We are supposed to believe that he is talking about Anielka, but watching it again, it is clear he means Karolina.

There are some questions to wonder about:

Why are the police investigating Karolina inside the simulation?

Why is there a global pandemic inside the simulation?

If there is a simulation, who is in control of it? Why would they allow a global pandemic or a police investigation? Clearly the doctors don’t control the simulation. Does anyone? Is the simulation really more like an Astral plane, a place where different people’s soul collide? But if there is a simulation running inside the mainframe computer, why can’t Dr Zofia do anything to control it?

Why would anyone abandon a Mercedes car at a gas station? Is the global pandemic something like a zombie pandemic? But then why do visitors come once a month to visit? How can it be safe for these people to come visit in the middle of a pandemic?

And why tell Karolina that she has an aunt who is about to visit? And then, why doesn’t the aunt actually appear?

A special relationship exists between Anielka and Karolina. Are they half-sisters? Or are they the same person?

Assuming Julia burned down the clinic to escape, and Doctor Tanatowski was locked inside, does that mean that Julia murdered Karolina’s father?

It’s possible that the person who was robbed went by the name “Julia”. It’s possible that when Karolina remembers a fire, she is remembering the fire that Julia started when Julia escaped the clinic — presumably this happened about 10 years before the story begins.

We know that Karolina has a special relationship to crows, we don’t know if Julia also had a special relationship to crows. And we don’t know if Julia is still alive. If Julia is still alive, is she a character we already met?

Karolina, when she thinks she is Julia, says that she was named after her aunt. Does that anything to do with the aunt we meet in episode 5?

Karolina’s mom claims she was in a car accident. Is the mom lying? Was the car accident really an accident? It seems likely that someone deliberately set up the car accident; either the mother did it because she wanted to give her daughter a second chance, or Second Chance did it because they wanted to steal Karolina’s talent.

When she was a child Karolina’s mom took her daughter to a program where they stole talent from Julia and gave it to Karolina, but Karolina never got the desire to play. Karolina and her mom fight constantly because Karolina now has great skill but no desire to play, perhaps the mom wanted to force Karolina back to Second Chance to give the “steal from others” idea a second attempt, but this time, instead of stealing talent, the goal was to steal the desire to play. In episode 5 we meet Karolina’s aunt, the mother of Janek, who says that Janek and Karolina used to play piano together. So the aunt also had a desire for a child who could play piano.

Why is the institute called Second Chance? Is this institute specifically for children who have already absorbed someone else’s talent? Karolina has stolen someone else’s skill but not the desire to play. Did mother fake a car accident to get Karolina into a second “steal from other people” program , this time to steal desire instead of skill?

Why are all the patients at Second Chance given fake names? Are they all remembering the names of the person they stole from? In Episode 1 Karolina asks Dr Zofia what is her name, but Dr Zofia seems unable to answer. In fact, Dr Zofia is desperately trying to figure out the name of the person from whom Karolina stole her talent — Dr Zofia avoids the topic till Karolina remembers the name “Julia” which gives Dr Zofia the information she was waiting for. Possibly Dr Zofia is unable to steal a second-chance person’s skill till Dr Zofia has learned the name of the source person?

In the simulation, when they police question Karolina, do they see Karolina or do they see Julia? Are the police summoned by a guilty conscience?

What force do the crows represent? Clearly they represent memory, and they gather when Karolina is regaining certain memories, but do they link her to memories of Julia, or only memories from her own experiences?

Karolina has multiple memories of escaping from a fire and the police are investigating her for arson/murder, but where is the fire? Her home has not been damaged by fire, neither in the simulation nor in the “real world”. Clearly, this memory is from Julia.

At the start of episode 4, Karolina is having a dream where she is back home in her real bed, and her sister is there, her sister then summons fire, then Karolina is being questioned by police about the night her parents died. Did Julia also have a sister? Has her sister ever started a fire?

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