What Is The Point Of K's Journey?
K is, at the start, a good replicant. He works for the LAPD under a cloud of prejudice but gets on with his job - perfect test scores, efficient record, content home life. It's only when the creeping suspicion he's Deckard's child enters his mind and he begins to suspect his supposedly implanted memories are real that things begin to crack. He fully believes this new, alternate truth. But, no, he is just a replicant who has been - by presumed chance (although there's a possibility it's part of a bigger conspiracy) - built with memories of Deckard's daughter. It's an embodiment of the Resistance plot.
His really representative arc, though, is the love story. Joi is an artificial intelligence made to give an artificial human a sense of living; a construct to love the unloved in a society so removed from itself. We see her evolve from an in-flat projection to a perpetual A.I., and their relationship grows alongside that. The question of if she's truly cognitive is an underlying worry throughout - does she really care for K or is she simply programmed that way? - which serves as an extended mirror of the original; we're having the same debate that Deckard had over Rachael. And because the movie hinges on their relationship and child, we're left to seriously consider that Joi's a real, aware being with genuine emotion.
Her "death" - the destruction of her portable home and with it that consciousness - stings because of that; she loves K, in its own way a miracle of life. Indeed, the subsequent realization of that is what powers him to save the day; their shared emotion is something that cannot rationally exist and yet he feels it. He thinks nay knows she was alive, and so she was.
His story is about the life-giving power of love (to both him and his partner); his subsequent death is obviously tragic, but it comes with a soul. He's done a good thing for a good reason and arrives at the end - something that is itself a proof of life - with a sense of closure. Crucially, though, his final moments are scored to the original's iconic track "Tears in Rain", which not only makes for a tear-jerking end, but also a realigning one.
K is Roy Batty
Because he's a stoic Blade Runner unexpectedly thrust into a plot bigger than himself, we're initially meant to view K as a Deckard parallel. He's our protagonist, after all. However, there's a different character who he's actually closer to: Roy Batty.
Batty was the "antagonist" of the original film, a rogue Nexus 6 who rebelled on his off-world colony and returned to Earth in a bid to be gifted more life from his creator. Things didn't go well; his team of replicants were slowly picked off by a dragged-out-of-retirement Deckard and he eventually discovered that by design he couldn't escape his four-year lifespan. In anger he killed Tyrell and with his final minutes entered into a brutal showdown with Deckard that culminated in him saving his combatant and accepting his fate; he laments how his life and its unique experiences are lost, but in his last moments comes to terms with it by way of the incomparable Tears in Rain soliloquy.
What's so striking about Roy is that while he's framed as the bad guy, his villainy really is all in the presentation. His motivation is survivalist but not selfish. He has an altruism for his team and fully understandable motivations. To call him a good guy may be too much and he's definitely got a maniacal, manipulative side, yet framed in a world where he's hunted, that's a product of surroundings. In short, Roy Batty was right.
Even though Batty isn't mentioned once, Blade Runner 2049 underscores that. K is the compliment to Roy, fitting the role of the tragic figure finally finding their place in the world and accepting their existence in death. Telling the story from his perspective - and in the end even using the same music to hammer the point home - makes an unavoidable conclusion about the universal replicant humanity, how it's powered by the self, and that love is what ultimately achieves it.
- Blade Runner 2049 (2017) release date: Oct 06, 2017