“Swallow” finds life irrevocably changed for all our main characters, and a big revelation about John’s parentage throws the entirety of New London off-balance.
This recap of Brave New World season 1, episode 4, “Swallow”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Demi Moore, to the detriment of all, is dead. Brave New World episode 4 begins with John coming to terms with this, kneeling over her shrouded body as the Director and Mustafa Mond observe his behavior, pondering whether or not he can be integrated into their society after being raised in the Savage Lands. Bernard speaks with him, jokily wondering which color of soma is best suited for moments like this. It’s his job to help John. But can Bernard even help himself at this point?
Bernard clearly doesn’t understand John’s emotions; the barrier is that he can’t understand how to navigate that kind of territory without soma to smooth out the rougher terrain. John doesn’t just blithely accept the pills as everyone else does — in fact, he actively rejects them. Bernard doesn’t know what to do with this.
Lenina, too, doesn’t know what to do with being back in New London. There isn’t an upbeat instructional video for her initiation, unlike the one Bernard beamingly shows John. This doubles as exposition for the Indra supercomputer, to which everyone is tethered, and which is responsible for the gamey heads-up-display that appears when citizens look at one another. When they look at John, as we learn in “Swallow”, they’ll see an Alpha, which Bernard is shocked by.
Naturally, John takes the first opportunity to escape, but where is there to go? Since he’s not plugged into Indra, everyone can see he’s an outsider. But there are other outsiders in New London, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see John sat across from the Jacks, and CJack60, who offers him a tray of delicious gelatinous cubes. Yum! Bernard and Lenina, too, find themselves somewhat disconnected, not from Indra literally, but from what they believed to be true prior to their visit to the Savage Lands. Lenina lashes out at Frannie and looks uncomfortable as youngsters are subtly shocked with cattle prods into not deviating from their caste. Bernard is increasingly frustrated and increasingly dependent on soma as a miracle cure-all. But he’s not kidding anyone, least of all Lenina.
Sometimes, sweeping problems under the rug is better than confronting them head-on, which is exactly the Director’s attitude when he leads John to a bluff and a transport that’ll take him back to the Savage Lands. But he has an ulterior motive since the Director was once Warden of the Savage Lands, and during that time fathered John. John explains how his mother waited for the director, and he explains why he left; why Linda couldn’t come back with him, how New London has no mothers, or fathers, or sons. They wrestle briefly and the Director falls from the cliff, presumably to his death.
This revelation is also discovered by Bernard, who discovers the identical optics left in the Director’s office. The refusal of anyone above his station to listen to him about the matter is reminiscent of every bureaucratic run-around ever given. Bernard has no choice but to take matters into his own hands; and how quick he’ll be considered the enemy as a result. But Bernard sees that John needs help, to be rescued from a throng of orgiastic revelers.
Lenina, meanwhile, finds the walkman in John’s personal effects and loses herself in the music that floods the scene. She immediately tries to distract herself with sex, the show seemingly confused about whether the act is a symbol of rebellion or conformity.
But Bernard, in his altruism, has suddenly become “important”. This, according to Mustafa Mond, who puts him in charge of John’s integration. In the wake of the Director’s death, they’re at the beginning of something. Bernard offers John a handful of soma pills. Resigned, he takes them.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.