“Castle of Lies phase.1”
Zephyr is still in the recovery phase from Hurricane Sandy, and dealing with a blizzard to boot, so he asked me to fill in on Jormungand this week. Since this is one of my favorite series, I was only too happy to step in…
Kasper Hekmatyar was much more of an off-screen presence than on in the first season of Jormungand (though his urinal confrontation with Jonah was certainly a memorable part of a memorable arc) but it’s remarkable how well it feels like we know him in spite of that. What we’ve seen of his relationship with his sister is the tip of the iceberg, and barely that – every moment they share on screen is full of subtext, and to call what exists between them complicated would be an understatement. And while only Chiqitua among his squad has had enough screen time to carve out an identity (and what an identity) episodes like this one paint a picture of a team every bit as skilled and loyal as the one that surrounds Koko.
In substance this was very much an episode in Jormungand’s comfort zone – heavy on politics, espionage, violence and superhuman feats of dexterity in urban combat. The character stuff mostly took to the back burner but it was definitely there, most noticeably with Jonah. This is really the first time we’ve seen Jonah so openly displeased at the notion of combat – the fact that he’s in the country he hand-picked to send his orphan charges to for their safety has something to do with it, but you can’t help but wonder if seeing them again gave rise to even deeper emotional causes for his uncertainty this week. By appearances it seems the first time he’s openly considered the possibility that their might be another way of living than the one he’s currently engaged in with Koko.
Japan is indeed a “safe country” as a whole, but the notion of the “SR Squad” headed by Col. Hinoki Yosuke (Nakamura Hidetoshi) isn’t so far-fetched as one might think – many of the organizations mentioned in the episode are real ones, and secret organizations lurking under the cover of the JSDF have been a reality in Japan since before the Vietnam War. Tojo is very much the man caught in the middle here – between an old boss in Hinoki who’s worked his way through the secret underbelly of the Japanese military to become the most powerful spy master in Japan (selling nuclear tech to Iran and then selling intel about it is a neat trick), and another old boss in Kasper who fully believes in his divine right to do business where and when he wants, and to kill anyone who gets in his way. Tojo’s exact role in all this is still a bit unclear, but Hinoki certainly feels as if he has his old subordinates number (and not just his prepaid mobile).
It could be argued that Koko is caught in the middle too, but as she says herself, the one hard and fast rule between the Hekmatyar siblings is that they always help each other out in matters of the family business. Tojo describes his two old superiors as being very much alike, inflexible as rocks and stubborn, and it seems neither has much interest in settling things peaceably. Hinoki himself goes to see Koko to “negotiate”, while sending an assassin dressed as a figurehead from the dummy corporation SR uses for cover to try and take out Kasper. There’s a lot you could take away from that scene, but one thing’s for sure – Chiquita is seriously talented. After saving Kasper from the assassin’s katana with a well-timed kick she takes out a squad of SR commandos with automatic weapons using nothing more than her blade – though she does use her sidearm to finish them off (one head, two heart) once they’re down. Lehm is the most skilled in the series with weapons, and Chiquita in close combat – it’s no wonder they were married several times. And divorced, too.
What seems certain now is that Jonah’s desire to avoid a “bloodbath” in his safe country is doomed – what’s not is how he’ll react to that. Hinoki and Kasper indeed seem incapable of compromise, and neither takes kindly to being showed up. Hinoki sees this conflict with HCLI as a chance to “go legit” – to blow the cover off the SR Squad and assume his rightful place as the power broker in the Japanese military. And as for Kasper, if Chiquita’s skills jumped off the screen this week what stands out for Kasper is his sheer, cold implacability. His smile never leaves his face, but it’s a different sort of smile than it is with Koko, and it hides different things underneath it. More so than at any time so far, it feels as if Koko is at the mercy of events, not controlling them – this is not her fight, but she’s in it up to her neck, and so is everyone on her team, Tojo especially.