The seventh episode of Beacon 23, the penultimate episode of the season, brings us to a brief flashback to Solomon’s time as a keeper. Meanwhile, during the present, Halan and Aster are surprised by hijackers invading the beacon, wanting to know about The Artifact.
Solomon, whom we saw last episode in episode 5, arrives at the beacon for the first time. BART tries to make him feel welcome, but Solomon immediately gives off red flags.
He’s an absolute bag of Ds to the AI and informs him that he knows he helped Parsim, Farut, and Grisha escape. Sadly, Farut was caught and confessed everything.
Fortunately, his child and the mother weren’t with him. So the ISA big bosses have given Solomon carte blanche to make BART more “reliable.”
Much to BART’s chagrin and protests, Solomon hits the factory reset. This erases everything that the AI had known up until Solomon’s arrival, including all the folks that have been there, the data about the rocks, and the behavior of The Artifact.
Beacon 23 season 1, episode 7 — Restart BART
Poor BART. I mean, he’s a machine but you got to feel for any kind of intelligence forcibly remade into an infant.
Solomon even makes a quip about the young, implanting on the first parental figure they see. Flash forward to the present, Halan and Aster are working in shifts, taking turns to track the seemingly random appearances of The Artifact around their beacon.
Soon they’re like an old married couple, or veterans during wartime. Neither of the AIs, not Harmony nor BART, are able to recognize or detect it at all.
Aster gets a vision of her time on the beacon, seeing her younger self as Parsim on the Cupola. She also flashes back to memories of her parents and her early childhood.
Meantime, Harmony informs Halan that she’s detected his former ship, The Amboyna, entering their drone perimeter. No lifeforms are on board.
Also, a commercial ship coming from Vega is headed for them with unknown occupants. When the ship arrives and wants to dock, the comms that it sends over says it’s Keir; our old friend from The Column that tried to blow up the beacon.
BART has no memory of him of course, nor of Aster as Parsim.
Beacon 23 season 1, episode 7 — Keir and the Column return
Halan and Aster are, however, intrigued since he knows about Aster’s former name and knows plenty about The Artifact—especially how it’s only visible to organic lifeforms, and that it’s made from the rocks. Unknown to everyone, Keir has implanted a piece of nanotech on the wall, and it’s already let in some of his friends.
As they drink beer, it’s now apparent that the Columnist is just biding time so his friends can get in. Two guys from the Column make their presence known.
They knock out Halan before he can act. Aster fights back but is subdued, too.
For a place on the absolute fringe of the galaxy, things are always exciting on this beacon. Bart’s story comes to a close here, but before all that they need to confront what’s going on here.
Three members of the Column, Keir (now very much aged, presumably from his jail time), and the two other guys, Finch and Saldana, have invaded the beacon to gain more knowledge about The Artifact. Apparently, the rocks and their sentient whirling version, is something that they consider holy, even superstitiously so.
Thing is, the three don’t really agree on each other’s methods and argue about it. Keir favors diplomacy and talking it out.
The other two prefer hacking into systems and torturing folks.
Beacon 23 season 1, episode 7 — Calculating absences
For one thing, Keir also believes Aster and The Artifact have a special connection. That Aster can communicate with it, given the right tools and circumstances.
Keir declares it’s why she was drawn back to the beacon in the first place. Neither Finch nor Saldana believes this is the way to go, that it’s all BS.
But BART saves the day by looking deep into his subroutines. He’s able to give them a prediction of where and when The Artifact will next show itself according to the pages from Farut’s journal, Aster’s father, from the time when he was studying the rocks.
To think that BART was able to accomplish this by computing the “absences” in his data is astounding. Aster compliments him for this victory.
Still, several problems arise. First, some enforcement Cutters from Isa are coming, because BART contacted them once he saw the Column ship arrive.
Second, Halan decides to go out in the picker to get to his ship Amboyna—BART actually helps him open the airlock. Third, the inside of the beacon is getting hot, as BART seemingly is making a bid to throw out the invaders.
Aster figures that BART is undergoing some kind of crisis, even a breakdown, and he’s not really trying to kill the people but wants to burn himself down. Like in an AI blaze of glory.
Beacon 23 season 1, episode 7 — Shakespearean AI
BART even has a Tyler Durden-esque angst speech of being unable to know who he is, frustrated at being thwarted from his function. Despite protests and encouragements from Aster, telling him about her memories of their time together, BART is inconsolable.
“We machines depend on humans to provide us with faith.” A very cool BART line that conjures the shortcomings of today's baby AI.
The AI ends his life, removing his sentience from the beacon. With the erasure its like he was never there, that he had never existed.
He’s been deleted. I’ll genuinely miss the snarky and clever AI.
This is a real tragedy and one of the high points of this season’s storytelling. Why, I never knew that AI could opt out of their existence.
Even Harmony comments that BART’s death was unprecedented.
Beacon 23 season 1, episode 7— Most exciting beacon in the galaxy
Aboard the Amboyna, Halan finds the very dead Solomon, suffocated from the 6% air that Halan had left when he arrived at the beacon. He also finds a huge chunk of the rocks, aka the Solominium.
This he promptly throws out into space, and we’re later shown that it rejoins its fellows on The Artifact. Several things happen almost simultaneously, or as the cut makes us believe they do.
The Columnists argue with each other as their options have been cut down. Having fitted the Amboyna for his escape, Halan changes his mind and heads back to the beacon to help Aster.
Harmony coaxes Aster to surrender to the ISA and present the evidence of all that’s been going on in the beacon. She believes everything on the archive will absolve Aster.
Aster climbs the Cupola and sees The Artifact whirling right above it as predicted by BART. The Cutters have broken through the beacon’s drone wall and are now well on the way to exact ISA’s judgement on all of them.
What a setup for the season finale. One more episode to go!
Beacon 23 is now streaming on MGM Plus.