Often referred to as “Mankind’s Pandora’s Box”, no one is entirely sure how the Plants work, or what they are; appearing to most to be massive, bulb-like machines.
Inside the inner core, however, is where the Plant’s true form lies.
Sometimes mistaken for angels, the Plants are essentially beings made of raw energy, able to defy physics to create and destroy matter, and used by the humans on Gunsmoke to survive the harsh planet. For a price.
Though no one knows for sure, it’s assumed that the Plants were originally intended to be used to terraform a potential planet for the SEEDS ships to colonize; however due to the Big Fall, the surviving colonists have been forced to use them to generate food, water, power, and resources that don’t exist on the desert planet, and the data on how to efficiently manage their energy has been lost. Such a strain has caused many Plants to perish due to this.
Rarely emerging from the core of the bulb-like machines they live in, Plants cannot survive outside of their bulbs for long, and they cannot control their own energy. It’s the machines that act as life support to them, and the machines that convert their raw energy into what’s needed.
As useful as they can be, and as vital to Gunsmoke’s survival, Plants can also be incredibly dangerous. They are intensely radioactive, and are essentially living nuclear reactors capable of creating both matter AND antimatter. One small leak from the bulbs can poison an entire city, dooming all inside. As such, the glass on these bulbs is incredibly strong and thick, able to protect the people from the radiation, and keep the Plant safe from the violence of the planet.
One subject of debate is whether or not the Plants are sentient. At their core, they seem innocent and kind-hearted, though they cannot communicate through words, and don’t seem to understand human language. It’s not known whether they can think for themselves, though they do have memories; and seem to communicate with each other through these memories in a phenomena called the collective consciousness.
THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS:
The Collective Consciousness is the collective memories, thoughts, feelings, and wishes of each Plant on the planet, similar to a hive mind in some senses. When a Plant has been fused with another one, the Collective grows stronger.
Plants may have little will of their own, but they still have wants and desires, and feel a need to survive. Many seem to actually enjoy taking care of “their” humans, and have fond memories of watching them thrive, but they still feel pain and fear when they’re pushed to their limits, and forced to watch the violence on Gunsmoke on a daily basis.
THE LAST RUN:
A Plant’s energy is immense and impressive, the very energy of stars that created both light and darkness, even antimatter; the material of black holes, but it is NOT limitless.
Plants have a finite amount of energy they live off of, and are only able to generate so much raw energy at a time. When a Plant has been drained of it’s energy past the point where they can continue to survive, they go through their Last Run, going out of control in one last burst of energy as their bodies rot from the inside out, tearing themselves apart in a painful, gory death.
This is the fate that awaits many Plants on Gunsmoke, being pushed past their limits to keep the humans alive. They weren’t made to support a whole population, but due to the difficulty of finding water, and inability to irrigate the land, the humans have no choice but to depend on them for survival. Many aren’t even aware that they are alive.
Within the last 150 years, however, a new type of Plant has emerged. Independent Plants.
Very rare, with only five known in existence so far, Independent Plants are born from a bulb Plant (or Dependent Plant), but have a distinctly humanoid form, and are able to live outside the bulbs.
These Plants are entirely independent (hence their names), and have the ability to control their energy output (to a point), and communicate just as a human would, fully sentient and essentially able to pass as a human. They often have light colored hair and eyes, and have been observed to occur both on Earth and Gunsmoke. They are also Independent in the mind, not connected or subjected to the collective consciousness and able to form a will of their own; though they can connect to the Collective, assuming they’re able to retain their sense of self long enough to do so.
Unlike humans, however, Independents grow at an accelerated rate from childhood, reaching childhood within one year, then begin to slow in their teenage years, and eventually plateauing in adulthood, capable of living for hundreds of years, assuming they don’t get killed.
Also like Dependent Plants, Independents have a finite amount of energy in their bodies. Able to manifest their power in wings, blades, even energy canons (and likely more), an Independent’s power can run out and they will die just like a Dependent. When an Independent begins reaching this point, their hair begins to turn black, a process called the “Black of Decay”. When their hair is fully black, they will die.
Intense emotions or stress can also lead to them going out of control, similar to Dependents.
With the emergence of Independents, a new ability of the Plants was discovered: Fusion. Any number of Plants, from two to two thousand, can be fused into one being, gaining the energy capacity of all of them, and theoretically becoming unstoppable. This can only be performed if an Independent Plant is initiating fusion, as the Dependents are unable to do so themselves. Dependent Plants lack the willpower to remain sentient in a fusion and are essentially merged into the psyche and bent to the will of the remaining Independent.
Two Independents can also fuse, though it’s more dangerous; the stronger of the two remaining sentient while the weaker is fully absorbed.
Plants from Earth have been equipped with devices that inhibit fusion for this reason, though they’ve shown to be capable of being disabled.
And no, these are NOT the same plants that grow in your garden. More like a living power plant.
Highlights: Vash as a walking contradiction, which makes him a complex character. Vash has 4 characters arcs (character “growths”) in only 26 episodes. Most characters are lacking in one of three area: proactivity, competence, and likeability. Vash lacks in proactivity. He learns to become proactive. He also moves from dependence to independence. Why it’s significant that he lets go of Rem and her beliefs at the end.
Highlights: Vash has two more character arcs. Vash’s ignorance of his own nature, and how he comes to terms with it. His desire to identify with humans. While Vash forgives just about everyone, he has a difficult time forgiving himself and Knives.
Highlights: Wolfwood as another walking contradiction. How Wolfwood’s belief system parallels Knives’. The complexity of his final moments and his character growth. How Wolfwood defeats Chapel by showing mercy.
Highlights: Never underestimate the epicness of the final showdown ever again. How the very fact it takes place in the middle of nowhere, without an audience, without humankind even knowing about it, makes Vash even more of a hero.
Highlights: Meryl fills an important role in the series by standing in as the “every person.” The way she changes over the series ultimately embodies how people’s perspectives of Vash change. Her tightly wound personality provides more opportunities for Vash to be humorous.
Highlights: Another great character contradiction. Milly has the most firm identity out of the characters. Each of Trigun’s main characters bring their own kind of humor to the show, and then play off each other.
Highlights: Knives’ belief system comes from Joey. Vash’s comes from Rem. Knives’ views trickle down to Wolfwood. Knives’ perception of Plants and humans. Trigun is really battle between two belief systems, and that’s where the themes come from.
Highlights: How everything Knives does to Vash is meant to attack and bring down Vash’s belief system, particularly with the Gung-ho-guns. I explain how Knives technically won with his plan, but Vash’s character development allowed Vash to veto it. Mercy and compassion (and love and peace) beat out Knives’ belief system. Here’s how.