Bittersweet Candy

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Content Warning for rape, abuse and suicide.

Homestuck is an iconic piece of internet literature, known for its dated references, interesting fan base, and being excruciatingly long. But author Andrew Hussie wasn’t satisfied with his gargantuan story, and in 2019, he published The Homestuck Epilogues. Split into two parts — “Meat” and “Candy” — The Homestuck Epilogues follow two alternate timelines of our protagonist John Egbert. 

Now, an attempt at the impossible: a brief summary of Homestuck. The main (Beta) timeline follows four kids: John Egbert, Rose Lalonde, Dave Strider, and Jade Harley. They play a multiplayer game called Sburb, which results in the world ending. If they win the game, they will create a new universe. Within the Beta timeline, there are also a group of aliens called trolls who have played Sburb, lost, and are now watching the Beta kids play while harassing them online, the only ones still alive being Terezi Pyrope, Gamzee Makara, Kanaya Maryam, and Karkat Vantas. There is another timeline, the Alpha timeline, which has four different kids: Jake English, Roxy Lalonde, Dirk Strider, and Jane Crocker. In the Alpha timeline, a different species of alien, cherub, talks to the Alpha kids online, particularly Calliope. In the Alpha timeline, the Beta kids are their parents, and in the Beta timeline, the Alpha kids are their parents. The Beta kids end up losing their game, so they travel to the Alpha timeline, where the trolls, Beta and Alpha kids finally meet. Throughout the story, when a character dies, they ascend to God Tier, which gives them powers. In the end, they use their powers and work together to beat the game and create their new universe together. 

The prologue of the Homestuck Epilogues opens ten years after the beginning of Homestuck. John, now an adult, has morphed into a recluse. He randomly receives an urgent message from Rose. Upon meeting her, he sees that she is extremely ill due to her powers. She tells John that he needs to use his powers to go back to the original game and beat the antagonist, Lord English, a god who lives to destroy worlds since their current timeline has become “non-canon” due to him never being beat. John meets with Roxy and Calliope. Calliope tells John that he has two options: either stay in the current timeline or leave timelines to fight Lord English. John’s choice is similarly the reader’s choice, as narrative diverges depending on which food John chooses to eat: meat or candy. 

In “Candy,” John stays behind. This option dives much deeper into the characters themselves and how they have grown since originally playing the game, and within “Candy,” we see the several different ways that they process the trauma from their game. 

Before meeting with Rose, John has no contact with any of his friends except for Terezi, the latter of whom is so deep in denial over her close friend’s death that she has spent years traveling alone through space looking for her. After making his choice, he starts spending time with Roxy and Calliope. John wants to get closer to Roxy but is hesitant because of Calliope’s very obvious feelings for her. In the end, Roxy drifts away from Calliope and begins dating John,

Dave, Karkat, and Jade are all living together. Dave and Karkat have a complicated relationship: they both clearly have feelings for each other but refuse to admit them. Jade is aware and tries to both force them together and insert herself into their relationship. Jade grew up completely alone on a remote island, only ever meeting another person once she entered the world of Sburb. In the epilogue, Jade is looking for a genuine connection. This isn’t inherently bad, but Jade approaches this in an unhealthy manner, by forcing herself into Karkat and Dave’s relationship. She looks for affection wherever she can get it, even if it hurts her or the people around her. Her desperation for romance and affection has been festering since she was a child, alone on the island, and her happiness has come at the cost of Dave and Karkat’s. 

On the other hand, Dave’s trauma spawned from the connection and relationship he had with his guardian Bro. Bro was a neglectful and abusive caretaker who never spoke to Dave, only leaving cryptic messages around their house. Bro would also force Dave to engage in combat on the roof of their apartment complex, where Bro would always kick Dave’s ass.  Due to this physical abuse, he began to hide his emotions, always wearing shades and remaining pretty stoic. He spent the majority of his life thinking that his abuse was normal, tricking himself into thinking that suffering is equivalent to masculinity. It isn’t until deep into “Candy” that he acknowledges the abuse and the effect it had on him as a child. Dave still has a lot of internalized homophobia due to forcing himself to be hypermasculine as a child.

 The dynamic between Jane, Dirk, and Jake is incredibly complex. Throughout the main story, both Jane and Dirk outwardly express their romantic feelings for Jake, who doesn’t reciprocate either of their feelings and is manipulated by both of them. Jane’s relationship with Jake is extremely toxic. In the main story, she grows to resent Jake as he complains to her often about Dirk, despite her obvious feelings for him. As adults in the epilogue, Jane meets him unannounced in his mansion to complain about Dirk. She finds him drunk and has sex with him by having him use Calliope’s candy, which functions as a roofie. Jane gaslights him into going along with it, saying it was his idea, despite him saying earlier that they should never use it when alone together. This leads to a spiral of Jane’s controlling nature. 

Dirk and Jake’s relationship has fallen apart over the years, and Dirk has become closer with Jane, helping her build battle bots and drones for her presidential campaign. It is unclear how he knows, but he recognizes that John’s choice has made their universe “non-canon” and no longer wishes to live. He tells Jane to cancel everything and goes to commit suicide. As he climbs the bell tower he thinks to himself, “A flip of the cosmic coin has rendered your entire life completely inessential. What could you accomplish in a dead-end existence like this?” Dirk is experiencing a form of existential depression, which is common in both those experiencing PTSD and those who have been thought to be “gifted”. Dirk is an extremely talented roboticist, making robots from a young age to accompany him, as he grew up completely alone. In the world that John has created with his choice, Dirk finds no meaning; there are no longer stakes or consequences, and to him, no point in living. In Sburb, there was always a challenge, always a boss to defeat, or a new level to reach. He takes a very active role in the original story, and being forced into passivity by living in a non-canon timeline is just too much for him to bear.

Dirk’s funeral is a catalyst for the chaos that follows. Everyone has a complicated relationship with Dirk, especially Dave. In Dave’s timeline, Dirk was Bro, his abusive guardian. Dave wanted to be close to Dirk, to try to mend a relationship that he thought was beyond fixing. It’s Dave who finds Dirk’s suicide note while trying to meet him to open up about his sexuality. During Dave’s speech, his stoicism softens and he almost cries He leaves the church with Karkat, leading to one of the few moments where Dave and Karkat are alone and are allowed to express feelings for each other. They almost kiss before John interrupts them. Dave never opened up about his sexuality, and being able to talk to Dirk, someone who’s openly gay and still strong, would have helped him overcome his internal biases. But now, that idea has been bogged down by Dirk’s death, causing Dave to repress his sexuality even further. Dave ends up marrying Jade when Karkat leaves them, but even at his wedding, he tells John he wishes Karkat was there.

Roxy proposes to John at Dirk’s funeral. Months later, John is happily married, except for the fact that he hasn’t told his now pregnant wife that he has been talking to Terezi. Despite everything seeming relatively okay, John feels something is wrong. He tells Terezi that he thinks he’s the only sane person left and that all his friends are puppets in a world he created. He also reveals that he’s growing angry with Roxy since she always goes along with what he says. His texts to Terezi become more and more frantic and begin to seem like John has stronger feelings for Terezi than friendship. 

Jane and Jake are still together, except Jane is openly having sex with Gamzee on the side. Jane is a powerful businesswoman, practically controlling the government and press from behind the scenes. She believes that having Rose and her wife Kanaya create the Mother Grub, a powerful being that all trolls descend from would cause a mass amount of trolls to enter society, outweighing the humans and other sentient beings. As a result of these fears, Jane has been trying to install troll population control. When Gamzee hints that Jane is acting slightly xenophobic, she snaps at him, bringing up his past addiction and murderous tendencies he has worked hard to overcome. Karkat ends up leaving Dave and Jade after calling out Jane’s oppressive ideals. Jane is one of the most complex characters in Homestuck. During the game, she was possessed and forced to attack and murder her friends. It’s clear that her trauma from these events is manifesting through her controlling tendencies to both her family and the whole government. She lies and manipulates others into doing what she wants, lying to Jake about raping him to the point where they have a kid together. 

Jake is trapped in an abusive relationship, spending his entire life being manipulated by Jane and Dirk. This has evolved him into a complete pushover, sitting on the couch with their baby while Jane and Gamzee have gross clown hate sex. He and Jade are opposite sides of a coin; Jake is trapped while Jade has trapped Karkat and Dave. Throughout all of Homestuck, Jake is just eye candy, shiny and dumb. He allows himself to be controlled so he doesn’t have to make decisions, so he can be absolved of any future blame. It isn’t until over a decade later that Jake leaves Jane. After leaving, he meets up with John and asks him if he’s a bad person. He recognizes that his entire life he’s been pushed around by people, first Dirk and now Jane. He brushed off all his wrongdoings as something he couldn’t control, something he was forced to do, and maybe for once in his life, someone should blame him. Blame him for letting things get so bad with Jane, and for their son Tavros. He realizes that he got out and that the first step towards autonomy he never allowed himself to have. 

Three years after Dirk’s funeral, the Mother Grub is birthing trolls, and due to the massive increase in the troll population, Jane has successfully banned certain forms of troll reproduction as well as restricting the jobs trolls can have, leaning more and more towards fascism. John’s relationship with Terezi is bordering on romantic, keeping a photo of her in his wallet, behind the picture of his son. John’s resent towards Roxy is still there, wishing for any sort of conflict. This desire leads to John undertaking a dangerous plan, kidnapping Jane and Jake’s son, Tavros Crocker. He acts more like a butler than a child, only speaking when spoken to, clearly a victim of abuse. While together at Jane’s mansion, John asks Tavros about his horrible family life, and Tavros explains that Gamzee has an unsavory relationship with him. John tells Tavros to pack his things and that he is going to live with him and Roxy. Tavros is quietly happy, packing as John prepares to sneak out the window until Jade interrupts. Jade tries to stop him and John snaps. He finally goes off at her about her relationship with Dave and formally Karkat, saying she pushed him away by not listening to him. The rest of the group hears the fight and rushes to them. John, finally expressing the feelings he’s been bottling, calls out Jane for not only being an abuser but a fascist. At the climax of his anger, his wind powers destroy Tavros’ room. He leaves dejected and textsTerezi, who reveals that she thinks she is going to die soon. John begs her to come back to Earth, she refuses and John realizes he will never see her again. 

Ten years into the future, Earth has descended into fascism under Jane’s control and Karkat has become the leader of the troll resistance. Roxy has split up with John, and Dave and Jade are married. Karkat finally starts the war against Jane’s army, one of the trolls killing Jane’s father. This sends her over the edge, telling her army to kill every troll in sight. Gamzee standing beside her makes the mistake of calling her xenophobic and she finally kicks him out, as he has outlived his usefulness. 

While the war rages, John and Roxy meet for the first time in years. John starts his speech about how not only did he ruin her life, but the entire timeline by choosing candy, and because of that, he controlled a lot of people’s decisions. Roxy cuts him off and puts him in his place. She tells him that he doesn’t control things, especially not her and that just because he hates his life doesn’t mean everyone else does. She likes her life, despite its flaws. John is surprised as he finally got the disagreement he never got while married to her. Roxy reveals that she’s been repressing a lot of stuff, things about her gender, sexuality, her feelings for Calliope and how she didn’t allow herself to think about it, and how relieved she is to finally share it. Finally, his son comes home. The son that John never got to see grow up stands before him, almost a man. Despite the years of distance, Harry Anderson Egbert is genuinely happy to see his dad. 

While exploring a desolate jungle, Dave sees something strange and goes to check it out. To his surprise, it’s the White House, or what’s left of it. But there is something odd, a God Tier costume hanging on the wall. As he stares at it, a hologram approaches, the one man Dave has idolized his entire life, Barack Obama. Obama tells Dave he knows all about his Alpha timeline self, and what he’s done to protect Earth. Obama, too, was a Sburb player and made a digital version of his brain so that he could speak to Dave at this very moment. As they walk through the halls of the White House, Dave laments to Obama that he feels he will never live up to the alternate timeline version of himself. For the first time, Dave cries, he lets the tears fall below his sunglasses as he tells Obama how if only he had a chance to talk to Dirk, maybe things would be different with Jade and Karkat. Finally, he tells Obama the one thing he’s been holding in his entire life, “I think I’m gay.” Obama consoles him and tells him the reason he wanted to meet. He believes that it’s time for him to rise to his Ultimate Self. The human body can only withstand being God Tier, and to rise to the Ultimate Self, you must leave your body. Obama reveals that he has made Dave a robotic body if Dave chooses to ascend. Dave accepts his fate and allows Obama to kill him. His soul is then transferred into a robotic body, his new Ultimate Self. 

The final moments of the epilogue take place on a ship, soaring through space and time. Rosebot, a robotic Rose that is connected to her comatose human body, irons clothes. As the ship approaches a planet, she calls someone into the room. The final line, from a character we haven’t seen since his suicide asks, “Are my fucking pantaloons ready yet?”. 

“Candy” does not tie up loose ends nicely. The Homestuck Epilogues describe a realistic outcome to overcoming trauma – there is no magical solution, even within the fantasy world of Homestuck. The characters of “Candy” process their trauma in different ways as it morphs and changes based on new experiences. Some characters confront it, some let it engulf them, and some face them, and “Candy” shows examples of all three of these approaches. They grow and change and become new people, sometimes unrecognizable from their initial versions. But again, that’s life, and for one of the most memeable, nonsensical, fantastical pieces of internet culture, Andrew Hussie did a good job showing that. 

Homestuck can be read at https://www.homestuck.com/

The Homestuck Epilogues can be read at https://www.homestuck.com/epilogues

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