The truth is revealed: There are two princes, and one has a better claim to the throne than the other.
Elam Versus Alfreed
I’m glad that Arslan Senki reliably wraps at least a little comedy into every episode. This could easily be a story devoid of light, but the humor provides character, which makes us care about these characters more than we might otherwise. Of course, there’s always Gieve, who was jealous that it was Daryun, and not him, who got to spend so much time with Farangis. But undoubtedly, it was Alfreed who stole the comedy show. She switch to declaring herself Narsus’ wife fast, and her bickering with Elam was as funny as I expected it to be! I also could have done a whole post of Elam reaction shots, but I had to hold myself back. It wasn’t easy.
But I like that, even amidst the first salvos of that (presumed) running gag, Alfreed hasn’t been made into a joke character, not even for one episode. Her talk with Farangis revealed her cynicism about nobles, which very much matches Gieve’s. It also revealed exactly why she’s taken a shine to Narsus, for the optimism he engenders. But more than that, I liked how Farangis showed a soft side. Which is only right and proper—she’s shown every indication that she’s a kind person (Ex: saying a prayer for dead enemies at Arslan’s request), provided she’s around anyone other than Gieve or Lusitanian soldiers. It’s just that she spends so much time around those two parties, she always seems badass and cold. She’s more complex than that, as most people are.
I like that we’re getting to spend more time with Kishward. First of all, the dude is strong; anyone who can match (and even push back) Silvermask is definitely good in a fight. I also appreciate that he’s the only character using twin blades. Though it’s common in medieval fantasy, it’s a style that, while cool, usually isn’t as effective as a single sword, since it lessens the striking power and is harder to learn (and probably other reasons I don’t know about). Having one character that can do it, though, is absolutely fine—it can be done, and it can be extremely effective in the hands of a master. It just shouldn’t be common.
But more than that, I liked that, when confronted with the idea of Arslan freeing the slaves, he didn’t reject it out of hand. I was honestly worried! While Arslan’s former ignorance on the issue was understandable—he was a kid, and had just accepted the status quo as “the way things are done,” never considering whether they were right, until he did—had an adult like Kishward done the same, he might have been beyond saving. Fortunately, he’s not. He’s a good ally.
The Truth Is Revealed
“Something Vimes had learned as a young guard drifted up from memory. If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you’re going to die. So they’ll talk. They’ll gloat.
They’ll watch you squirm. They’ll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar.
So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.”
― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
I loved when Silvermask walked up to Arslan. It was immediately clear that he didn’t just want to kill his cousin. He wanted to torture him. He wanted to make him squirm. He wanted him to know that he was going to die, and what’s more, he wanted Arslan to know why he was going to die (saying that he knew Peshawar Citadel like the back of his hand, telling Arslan to blame his father, etc). Silvermask has been increasingly loose at the lips about his heritage, which makes perfect sense to me. He’s like a man who has slept with a beautiful woman—he wants everybody to know, no matter how unwise that might be.
But his enraged meditation over how to end Arslan’s life proved once again what kind of man he is. An evil man, to be sure. But also an unwise one; he lets his anger and pride so overpower his good sense that he almost devolves into a villain cliché. And I would call him one, if not for how diligently the story has shown him wanting to tell people of his lineage, and soaking in the unending rage of his misfortune.
But he was unwise. The good man kills (or captures—the good man is not necessarily bloodthirsty, just decisive) with hardly a word because to tarry is to give your enemy a chance to survive. Which is exactly what Arslan did—and he discovered Hermes’ weakness to fire as well, which may come in handy later on. And of course, he has to spill the beans in the end. Now our heroes know: Prince Hermes is alive.
(I liked that he used the reveal as a tactical benefit, using it to sprint past Narsus and Daryun while they were reeling. Silvermask may have been drunk on revenge most of the scene, but he still has some of that tactical mind that so destroyed Andragoras’ army.)
Would that was their only problem. But Bahman’s death reveals what Vahriz’s letter was out. If Hermes’ death would end the royal bloodline of Pars, that means that Arslan does not share that blood. He’s the son of Tahamenay, but not Andragoras, which is why he didn’t even know he was a prince when he was young. Now people in the know have a choice: Support the blood, or support the good man.
I know which one I’d choose. Easy choice.
Looking Ahead – Sindhuran Attack
There was no chance that the vultures would stay away. I’m once again interested in how this story will proceed, because, though we have another cour, it seems like we keep heading into detours … only maybe not. So far nothing has seemed like filler, but there is a certain aimlessness to the plot at present.
By the sound of it, next episode will be a recap. If that’s the case, don’t expect a post this coming Sunday, and meet back here in two weeks for the next new episode. Until then!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Trouble rousing troops, porous defenses, and barbarians at the gate mean Peshawar isn’t the game changer Arslan was hoping for #arslan 13
- Arslan still thinks Andragoras will listen. For such a thoughtful young man, he still has that one blind spot. For Pars’ sake, it might be better if Andragoras dies in chains, because I can’t imagine that old bastard retiring if he can instead reclaim the throne.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now available in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel short story. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: How to save Twitter, The secret to enjoying a long life, Story Review: Mad Max Fury Road, and How to not get butthurt when others insult stories you love.