Who is a replicant or human in Blade Runner 2049?
At the heart of Blade Runner, there have always been questions without answers. Should we believe that Deckard is a human or a Replicant? What would become of Deckard and Rachael? Would Replicants continue to be hunted throughout time? With his new film, Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve has taken steps to reveal the answers to some of those questions, while simultaneously asking more. The high-concept science-fiction spectacle never provides closure, but perhaps that is entirely within the spirit of the franchise.
We may have never gotten the true answer as to whether or not Deckard is a replicant. We only know that the product of his love with Rachael produced a miracle. Now is the time to discuss what we learned from Blade Runner 2049 and the questions we still don’t have the answers for.
K is a perfect replicant
Right from the beginning 2049 answers perhaps the most pressing question, is K a blade runner and is he a replicant. It is discovered that K (Ryan Gosling) works for the LAPD as a Nexus 9 replicant developed by the Wallace corporation. This series of replicants is completely compliant with human wishes, as we witness in the Blade Runner short, 2036: Nexus Dawn. They are considered the pinnacle of their species, with a lifespan that is only determined by how much a potential client is willing to pay for them.
His strength and resilience are quickly shown off in his battle with another replicant. Sapper Morton, who is a rogue Nexus 8 replicant introduced in 2048: Nowhere to Run short film challenges K within an inch of his life. K ends up winning in the end.
The Nexus 9 replicant is continuously checked to make sure they are working in optimal order. When K returns to the LAPD, they have him answer a series of call and response type questions to check his baseline. The Nexus 9 replicants are also implanted with false memories similar to how Rachael started her existence in the original Blade Runner. This keeps the Nexus 9 grounded in reality with something they can call their own.
Joi is for everyone
Joi is played by newcomer Ana de Armas who is getting her big star turn here. Joi is also artificial intelligence, but she is a hologram that specifically offers companionship to K. Other customers can purchase their own Joi, but K’s Joi has specific memories and instructions to help K enjoy his life. Through Joi, K is able to experience many of the human emotions and experiences that would otherwise be out of reach.
She is capable of being enhanced as far as money will allow. She is also a product of the Wallace corporation, perhaps intended as a companion to replicants all along. Little by little, K is able to afford more freedom for Joi. Whether that means she can exist outside of their apartment or that she cohabitate a replicant body in order to physically interact with K, Joi shows K what it means to love and how powerful that can be.
Niander Wallace has a god-complex
Niander Wallace is an industrialist who has revolutionized farming. With the growing population of the Earth, he found a way to make hunger obsolete. Now, he has taken over the Tyrell Corporation where Tyrell had left off. After he got the go-ahead in 2036: Nexus Dawn short, Wallace starts making his Nexus 9 replicants in full force.
He has dreams of traveling off-world and reaching planets humans could never dream off, but he needs his replicants to make that journey. He likes to consider them his slaves and that humans would’ve never made it as far without a disposable workforce. Wallace’s biggest problem lies in how fast he can make his Nexus 9 replicants. He has spent millions of his own money and countless days trying to create a massive workforce, but he cannot meet his own demands.
It is with the reveal of the existence of Rachael that Wallace finds his answer. Rachael was special to Tyrell, so much so that he bestowed the gift of recreation within her. Somehow there is a child that exists that is the product of the love shared between Deckard and Rachael. If Wallace could discover how Tyrell made this possible and run experiments on their offspring, then Wallace might find the answer he needs to create replicants faster.
The Blackout conveniently hides the past
There is an event that is repeated constantly during Blade Runner 2049’s runtime that is vital to the plot. That event is known as the blackout and it is actually seen in the anime short Black Out 2022. In that short, two replicants seek to destroy all the data on registered replicants so that they cannot be hunted anymore. They are successful which led to the ban on all future replicants being built until Wallace managed to create his Nexus 9 series.
The blackout conveniently covers up the trail of escaped replicants including Rachael and her child. There might’ve been records once, but the blackout made all that disappear and extremely difficult to trace. K continuously finds himself at dead ends because none of that information still exists. This makes K’s job as a blade runner particularly difficult since he is tracking down replicants that have no recorded history.
The Resistance will prove replicants are equals
K discovers that he is not the child of Rachael and Deckard even though he has believed that as truth. There was a replicant there at the birth of the child known as Freysa (Hiam Abbass). She knows that Rachael gave birth to a female and that all records that say otherwise were falsified.
Freysa has a dream where replicants will be accepted among humans. With the ability to reproduce, they could stand as equals with humans. They must take down Wallace’s evil corporation and lead their people to freedom. They must begin a revolution and Rachael’s child is at the center of that.
Despite K’s belief that he is the son of Deckard and Rachael, he learns that through their shared memories each one of the members of the resistance has felt that way before. Only through his introduction with the resistance can K understand what he must do. When the film ends, we are still left with the lingering question of whether this war will take place and how many lives will end because of it. We can only imagine the war will take place only if she is involved.
The Child of Deckard and Rachael: Dr. Ana Stelline
Stelline is this she that is vitally important to the present and future of Blade Runner. Her story isn’t necessarily a riveting one unless you know everything that led to her being isolated. After she was born, she was smuggled to the scrap yards of San Deigo after having being smuggled there by replicants. She was supposed to be in some off-world colony, but an auto-immune deficiency made it so she couldn’t leave. Sealed off in a container, she became known as a genius of memory creation, creating many of the memories for Nexus 9 series. When K visits Stelline he believes he is seeing his own memory, but he is actually seeing one of Stelline’s memories.
When K discovers that he is not the child of Deckard and Rachael, he makes it his mission to save Deckard and bring him to his daughter. This leads to a confrontation with another replicant known as Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) that leaves K critically wounded. Although he lays dying on the steps, K can revel in the fact that he brought Deckard to his daughter, the woman who might change the world.
Blade Runner 2049 leaves plenty of other questions unanswered as well:
Is Stelline human? A replicant? Or a new genetic miracle?
Will Wallace and Freysa have an all-out war to determine the fate of the replicants? Will Deckard and Stelline be at the frontlines?
Just like the original Blade Runner that left plenty of questions unanswered, we may never get answers to these questions. The movie is only considered of telling the story of K, his love for Joi, and his mission to find out about what he truly is. Once the story of K is over, so is Blade Runner 2049.