(From MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck. Click for full-sized replacement curtains.)
Sixteen months ago, Homestuck, the current installment of MS Paint Adventures, started its fifth act. Thirteen months ago, it started the second act of that fifth act. Two months ago, MSPA went completely silent as Andrew Hussie worked on the flash to end the act, and just shy of the one-year anniversary of the start of Act 5-2, released a few extra, contentless pages to tide people over. To put all of that in perspective, Homestuck has only been going on for two and a half years, so Act 5 has taken up over half its lifespan, and Act 5-2 has come pretty close. What’s more, Act 5 has done more than that to make Homestuck what it is; it was Act 5-1 that gave us a proper introduction to the trolls, who practically define Homestuck‘s appeal at this point.
And now, after all that time, it has finally come to an end.
The end of such a momentous period in the “comic’s” history should be with a bang, and on this Hussie more than delivered, with a Flash animation so long (13 minutes) it had to be hosted on Newgrounds (which it then proceeded to crash when first uploaded), starts with a card that divides it into seven parts, can be paused (something that hasn’t happened for any previous flash), comes with its own modified site design, and eventually spills over to cover up its own title. Hussie has said in the past that he intended to keep pushing the envelope with what he could do with Homestuck, constantly trying to make it bigger, better, more spectacular, and this seems to be the sort of thing he was talking about. Rose and alternate-Vriska’s fights with Noir were originally going to be an epic Flash animation, but it took so long to put together the idea was scrapped in favor of starting the Scratch interlude early; I almost feel like this animation would feel less jarring if that animation had come to fruition. The only previous flash that would come close was the flash at the end of Act 4, and that was a long time ago.
Leading up to the flash, Hussie published a series of pages depicting Jade and Noir watching the Courtyard Droll touching down near their location and setting off a Barbasol bomb. (Turns out, stealing John’s dad’s wallet from the Wayward Vagabond without his ring or the Tumor inside was just as planned after all!) The frog tadpole they were with fell into some lava, and Jade fell to the ground, dead. Noir’s reaction is, in some sense, the culmination of a plot thread that hasn’t even been running that long. We only got a real look at Noir’s post-omnipotence mindset back in February, when we learned of his boredom with nothing to do except kill and his frustration with the dog-like thoughts Bec’s prototyping left him with, including loyalty and love towards Jade. So he tried to get his underlings to kill Jade for him. But during the Scratch interlude, he went as far as following Jade around everywhere (which did give him the opportunity to stomp on a lot of frogs), and now he gets upset and ultimately kills the Droll off-screen for following his own orders to the letter.
Noir then starts trying to destroy the universe, leaves Jade on a Quest Bed, and takes off to hide in the frog temple, where he proceeds to kill most of the Exiles. The Aimless Renegade does manage to destroy the vessels they arrived in, but gets killed before he destroys the one the Wayward Vagabond is in, though not to save his life as Noir simply pops in and rips out the uranium in his belly. Then – by all appearances – the circumstances under which Noir entered the trolls’ session prove to be very different from what most people anticipated, as Noir appears to simply put the uranium in its place and up and leave the Vagabond’s vessel, and pops up in the trolls’ session. This leaves a number of questions unanswered, foremost among them why Noir showed up in the trolls’ session, and how he showed up through what the trolls called a Scratch.
The now god-tiered Jade – whose dog ears suggest she still has everything her dreamself inherited when she was used to prototype her sprite, meaning she now has the powers of Bec plus god-tier powers and the knowledge of a Sprite, and (presumably) the omniscience that comes with combining the powers of Bec with a sentient being like Jade that Doc Scratch has shown – proceeds to shrink down and juggle the Battlefield and all four planets, keeping a promise to save all the denizens, as well as retrieve John after he completes the Scratch (which actually starts the Beat Mesa headed towards Skaia), and then forms a rectangle with her fingers, which forms a fenstrated wall that flashes images from an earlier, relatively more innocent time in the comic (the first time, surprisingly enough, I’ve ever felt the comic’s flashes were of lower image quality than its static or animated images), and at the very end of the flash, she takes the ship which John and herself are on, and literally breaks through the fourth wall, with the last image of the flash, displayed by the wall, being the very first page of the comic. (I’m a little surprised the flash doesn’t contain an Easter egg linking back to that first page; several of the normal interface links at the top do, but that seems like a bug.)
This leaves plausible a whole mess of implausible theories, including previously suggested ones, about John and Jade’s ultimate destination and Hussie’s “one yard” of direct influence (apparently shaking the life out of Scratch and creating the opportunity for Aradia’s ancestor’s attempted escape doesn’t count), including one I once read on TV Tropes that suggested they would literally land in Hussie’s back yard. More likely however, John and Jade will simply burst through the two fourth walls Hussie set up one yard apart, and likely end up somewhere near the comic’s beginning.
I also suspect we haven’t gotten the whole story as to why Noir feels “exiled” or “tricked” into the trolls’ session. The interpretation most directly suggested by the flash is that it’s a result of his shame at god-tiering Jade, but we had earlier been told that Noir destroyed the trolls’ Prospit, Derse, and all the planets to prevent the mistakes leading to his banishment; I don’t see any “outsmarting” of Noir going on that would have led to his banishment as depicted, or even anything that Noir’s biased perspective would construe as “outsmarting”; everything he does to enter the trolls’ session, he does of his own volition. That tells me either Hussie made a mistake trying to misdirect the audience, or I’ll be writing another post on it down the line. Could it be that Noir’s mistake is more specifically related to what Jade does after being god-tiered, or alternately and less likely, to leaving the Peregrine Mendicant alive (more on that in a bit)? Or could it be the destruction of the Green Sun (er, well, more on that in a bit) or the scratch, which he travelled back in time to postpone or obviate?
Meanwhile (whatever that word means in this comic), with the Draconian Dignitary killed by Dave off-screen, both Dave and Rose make their way to the Green Sun, where they find, inexplicably, two Quest Beds waiting for them (or rather, inside Derse’s moon, but the flash seems to indicate otherwise). Once deployed, the Tumor cracks open to show that it is apparently powered by the destruction of both the kids’ and trolls’ universes, and may in fact contain them. After the Green Sun is destroyed (as a sign of how confusing the flash is, apparently the intent is that the Tumor actually creates the Green Sun, but that’s hard to convey without dialogue), Dave and Rose pop out god-tiered (who wants to bet someone’s calling “deus ex machina”?) in front of Aradia and the ghost of a future-dead Sollux. After the living trolls notice the glow of the Sun’s destruction (er, creation), Sollux is shown completely freaking out with his eye sockets flashing black and white, which I actually originally interpreted as something his ghost with Aradia was doing because of the similar color scheme, but which I later realized was him living up to his ancestor’s example.
Oh, and the Peregrine Mendicant recovers the ring from the Wayward Vagabond’s corpse and is shown challenging Noir, apparently coming the same way he did, but showing up ten hours and twenty-five minutes later, and apparently bringing WV’s body with her (if you look closely). Between her and the possibility of “dog-tier” Jade joining the fight, this comic is starting to look like an episode of Dragonball Z (without, of course, the long drawn-out multi-episode fight scenes… hopefully). Seriously, three nigh-omnipotent beings?
All told, the end of Act 5 lived up to every expectation it had to to wrap up something as epic as Act 5 itself was, wrapping up most of the act’s individual plot points and completely shaking up the status quo. But it didn’t answer every question, and it raised more than a few questions of its own. One particularly glaring omission? The flash barely even hints at Lord English.