In the conclusion of “Pickup on South Street the chief-of-police character “Tiger” announces to Skip as he is leaving the police station with his now-femme-fatale girlfriend that Skip will soon be busted again and then sent to prison for good. The femme-fatale [her name is Candy] challenges “Tiger” with the final line of the movie: “wanna bet?” Then the door is closed and the police station and scene. This conclusion is sufficiently noir because it doesn’t end with certainty. The emphasis at the end of the movie is about playing the odds of life. Candy is placing her bet on going with Skip. She is not necessarily saying that she trusts the future will be good or happy. She has risked her life and almost died in order to protect Skip’s life, and she has taken the hardest punches of any character that is still standing at the end of of the film. There are no delusions regarding the fact that a life associated with Skip could mean violence and injury, but still she chooses to follow this path of life [that is, who knows if the characters will be together in the months that follow, but as far as the closing scene is concerned, they are together]. Candy’s choice at the conclusion of the film thus invites the viewer to consider what punches are worth pulling, and what bets are worth placing.
In William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Molly and Case engaged in a high-stakes betting game to empower an AI. Case and Molly were risking their lives on account of the skills that made life worth living. Case risked his life to help the AI because the offered reward was returned use of his hacking skills. [As an aside, Skip in “Pickup on South Street” also bet his life on his hacking skills of pickpocketing.] Molly submitted that her reason for participation in venture was that it was her calling to use her physical skills. One highlight of Neuromancer, then in the same way as “Pickup on South Street,” emphasizes the bets one places in life to make life worth living.
Further justification of the importance of placing odds in Neuromancer over conventional societal romance ideals can be seen in the conclusion. In the last chapter of Neuromancer, entitled “Coda: Departure and Arrival,” Molly leaves a note to Case that says “HEY ITS OKAY BUT ITS TAKING THE EDGE OFF MY GAME, I PAID THE BILL ALREADY. ITS THE WAY IM WIRED I GUESS, WATCH YOUR ASS OKAY? XXX MOLLY” This style of speech and plot-development is at the same time brusque and glib; it interjects a surprising finality to the sappy desire to see the man and women ride off on a white horse [or two] with boxes full of treasure. In this way Gibson’s coda overturns the conventional ideal of the sunset with the girl and a happy ending, as seen in Western movies popular in the 1950s, and fortifies the conclusion with a sufficient noir twist–that is, neo-sci-fi-noir–that points to a life philosophy that doesn’t begin and end with the goal of being in a heterosexual relationship as the reasonable and satisfactory conclusion.
Molly’s departure in the coda primes the reader for a revelation of deeper meaning; by taking away one happiness we are left floundering for finality and forced to reflect on what else is out there in the universe, just like one would after a “break-up” in one’s own personal life. Gibson then guides us to reflect on godlike beings that are unbound by space: the Wintermute/Rio AI that communicates with another like itself in the Centauri system. Somewhere and everywhere out floating in space this technologically superpowerful being that is reduced to imitating humans–i.e. The Finn–to communicate with Case and is capable of generating convincing replicas of humans e.g.:
he saw three figures, tiny, impossible, who stood at the very edge of one of the vast steps of data. […] Linda still wore his jacket; she waved, as he passed. But the third figure, close behind her, arms across her shoulders, was himself. Somewhere, very close, the laugh that wasn’t laughter (p270-271)
This AI is capable of populating the matrix with personalities that are as convincing as the original people–at least so far as the novel represents, the reader is open to speculate on how human these simulations can be. Certainly nothing betrays them as two-dimensional, except for the inhuman laugh of the dead Dixie Flatline. This conclusion offers opportunity for the question: what is the importance of a personality in itself? Is the distinction between Case and Linda really a significant distinction? Or does each personality come from the same fabric of existence, replicable by a powerful AI suggesting that the truly mysterious matter of life experience lies elsewhere, outside the realm of personality, beyond the distinctions between humans?