「別れの詩」 (Wakare no Uta)
“A Song of Farewell”
The realities of politics clash with the kindness of Arslan. On the balance, the kindness of Arslan wins.
The Banishment of Gieve
I don’t think we were supposed to feel good about the way Gieve was banished, as staged as it was. Arslan certainly didn’t feel good about it. And on that score, it was done well. Even with Narsus’ mention of “one more gambit” earlier in the episode, when it was all going down, there was a tremor of uncertainty. The acting was too good, with even Kishward making the farce appear real. Which is good; no viewer in their right mind would think Arslan would actually banish Gieve, not without a much greater transgression. But making us doubt it for a second is good.
But the underlying betrayal of Gieve, the sacrifice of all he has done for Arslan in the face of political expediency … even if it was necessary, it didn’t feel good. The idealist in us all wants to rebel, to pillory Arslan and Narsus for using their comrade so, even with his consent. And yet, was it not the right choice? The internal unrest existed, and such a situation could have left many more soldiers dead than would be were it not there. Hell, it almost did.
The Idiots Three
The three bakas have fulfilled their roles. They’re proxies for the way Arslan must win over his army—and eventually, the people of Pars—to his way of thinking, rather than the imperial terror that was Andragoras (and will/would be Hermes). What I appreciated was that they weren’t all the same, weren’t entirely shallow. Zaravant and Esfan were largely the same—proud, quick to anger, more bluster than intelligence—but Tus was more prudent, counseling caution and trying to calm tempers. Just that little bit of difference made them separate characters, and a little bit more interesting for it.
The Philosophy of Arslan: Do Not Needlessly Waste A Human Life
I liked that Arslan went after the idiots three, even if it would have been more expedient to sacrifice them for a more rapid march. And perhaps that would have been the “right” decision; it could be that they’ll lose more men than they saved if this gives Lusitania more of a chance to consolidate or defend. But I like the feeling behind Arslan’s decision, and even the tactical implications of it as well.
For all I enjoy reading, watching, and even writing stories of battle and war, I have a dim view of it in reality. A human takes three-quarters of a year to bear and birth, and many more to raise—fourteen so far for Arslan, and probably closer to twenty each for all of his soldiers. I would never want to waste all that time, love, and effort by spending a human life frivolously. Even if war must be joined—and in this story, from Arslan’s point of view, it certainly does—then that most precious of resources should only be spent when it absolutely must. So there’s a moral component to not abandoning those men, for me, and to Arslan as well. But what of the tactics?
True loyalty is far more precious than silver or gold. Imagine serving first under Andragoras. A frightening man, but a competent warrior, at least up until he lost it all. He is a king you would serve as much out of fear as loyalty. Then imagine yourself serving under Arslan. Imagine if you’re Zaravant, Esfan, or Tus. Where Andragoras would have left those men to die—or, if they somehow survived, either banished or killed them himself—Arslan forgave them. They expected to die, but they were saved by his earnest magnanimity instead. Would you not fight all the harder for someone like that?
And before someone trots out Machiavelli at me (though I’m sure someone will still say that everything I’m about to say is wrong), let me address that: On whether it is better to be loved or feared, Machiavelli concluded that it was better to be feared, because that is under the prince’s control, whereas love is given according to each man’s will. (Though the prince must always endeavor to avoid hatred.) That’s not wrong, though it’s often misunderstood. Between love and fear, perhaps fear is preferable—but why must we choose? Arslan’s Pars will need a certain amount of fear—of laws, and the consequences of breaking them—but when it comes to the people closest to him, love is much better, for their wholehearted loyalty is a force multiplier for the performance of those they command. And whether we’re loved or not—or rather, whether we’re someone who is deserving of love—is far more under our control than many of us think.
Gieve & Farangis – To Ship, or Not To Ship
I’ve resisted for a long time truly shipping Gieve and Farangis. For all Gieve’s flirting, and for all their wonderful banter, they never truly seemed like a match. Until somewhere along the line, Gieve stopped flirting all the time, and started just … being himself. Being there for everyone—for Farangis, for Arslan, and for all the rest of their merry band. Somewhere along the line, when I wasn’t paying attention, it feels like Gieve stopped treating Farangis like a prize to be won, and started treating her like Farangis.
Farangis is the first to hear Gieve’s music. She refers to him, with a smile, as a “capricious Djinn.” She finds Gieve up on the rocks, and gives him Arslan’s message. And she stares after him when he leaves. I wonder, has Farangis grown fond of Gieve’s company? It could be. It would make me smile if she had, and if Gieve’s absence makes her heart grow fonder. I won’t be shipping them, though. I’ll keep that for the kawaii anime girls. Gieve and Farangis feel too much like adults to me. I’ll let them figure it out on their own, and either way is all right.
Looking Ahead – Where For Hath Thou Gone, Gieve?
My most immediate question: When is Gieve coming back? Er, no—focus, Stilts. My most immediate question: Who did Narsus send Gieve after? My gut is that it’s a new character, otherwise the foreshadowing seems a bit much. I say that because my first thought was that it was Kubard, but had it been, Narsus would have just said his name. Besides, Kubard would provide a slight tactical improvement, not much more.
Though on the subject of Kubard, I’m glad he’s choosing Team Arslan. For some reason, I feel like for someone such as Kubard to choose Arslan over Hermes—for someone who is in no way an upright, moral individual to choose the young prince over the silver mask—is one helluva vote of confidence. One more badass for Arslan’s Brigade, coming right up!
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – Gieve gives one last performance. His role: The villain who is exiled by Arslan. Though that doesn’t stop him from saving the day #arslan 21
- Case in point: It feels like it’s been a long time since Gieve sparkled. And this time, it seemed more like one last inside joke before he departed.
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: Rejection, the secret place, & fundamentals, What are your two skills?, Passing the Bechdel Test, and Absence (from work) makes the heart grow fonder.