What Did Wallace Want?
The primary “antagonist” of Blade Runner 2049 (although we’ll see that term is as loose as it was in the original) is Niander Wallace, a serial industrialist with Alexander-level ambitions. After the collapse of the Tyrell Corporation in the 2020s following the death of its creator and the prohibition of replicants in light of the Black Out, he brought up the company as well as all its patents and ideological rights. Developing a new wave of seemingly-controllable replicants, in 2036 he was able to force restrictions to be relaxed and begin mass production again. Alongside artificial creation, he’s a colonist, helping expand the off-world expansion of the human race onto nine separate planets.
His goal is simple: power. Alexander the Great was said to have wept when he discovered the stars were worlds he could not conquer – Wallace, who’s already saved the world once with his artifical crops and has building towering over the once giants of Tyrell’s, wants to do just that. And the method of doing so is replicants; he views them explicitly as slaves – a disposable, less-than-human workforce. This is reflected in Luv, a replicant who never once escapes being a dutiful henchman – right through to her “I’m the best” final words. She has her own, artificial glass ceiling.
Wallace’s barrier to his dream is, like any massive company, scaling. He just can’t increase production to match his high demand. This is where the child comes in. If replicant reproduction is possible, then Wallace has the means to create a near infinite army. However, due to all records of Rachael’s creation being lost and her death remaining a mystery, he has no way to replicate it. He’s driven in the film to find the child and crack the mystery after K draws a potential solution to his attention. At first he tries the bones, but once that fails follows K to Deckard; while Rick by design doesn’t know what happened to the child, the chain of people he does could lead Wallace to it.
The irony, of course, is that the child has been right under his nose the entire time.
What Does The Resistance Want?
The other big force present in the world is what we’ll call the Resistance; an underground group of replicants working for freedom from the prejudiced society. Or, more targeted, a slave uprising aiming to overthrow Wallace.
They’re an evolution of the group that helped Deckard and Rachael and later caused the Black Out, still led by Freysa. Their driving ideology is a mixed one of selflessness and identity; an appreciation of the individual but an understanding that their cause is bigger than them. They’re powered by belief – in both the child of Rachael existing and the symbolic longing that it could be them – which, in their eyes, makes them human. Evidently, everything they represent is the opposite of Wallace.
We’re almost dealing with a Biblical allegory. 2049 is full of nods and references to Christian doctrine, but on a macro scale both sides are powered by traditional yet opposing religious structures; the creator sees himself as God, even calling his creations “angels”, while the Resistance are the pilgrims trying to form Israel. The child is thus a prophet – except not the son of God, but the son of man. It’s a reclaiming of the myth.
Where Does The Ending Leave This Fight?
The state of Wallace and the Resistance at the end of the film may just be 2049‘s version of the original’s defining question of if Deckard is a replicant. It could almost be sequel set-up if the movie’s story wasn’t emotively resolved; instead, their conflict fades into the background.
As the credits roll, Wallace has lost Deckard and by extension any way to find the child – K is dead and Deckard is likewise presumed deceased in the sinking spinner – but the Resistance also didn’t have K kill Deckard to end the chain to her; the final twenty minutes are powered by K grasping their ideology, but apart from their official structure. There’s an obvious moral right in this war, but true peace comes from something else. Which brings us to our protagonist.
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