「楽園の終焉」 (Rakuen no Shuuen)
“The End of Paradise”
While it’s a given of late to expect amazing things from Altair every week, the conclusion to Mahmut’s opening battle with Balt-Rhein easily raised the bar going forward. This story was always one of seeing the forest for the trees and how simple, individual actions could build into something grand, but with the slaughter of general and Director both, Altair has shown yet another face in the perpetual battle of wills: the legitimization of choice.
As mentioned repeatedly throughout this episode, everyone is in a constant struggle against their contradictions. Mahmut as we know cares deeply for his fellow people and wishes harm on no soul, and yet in the same breath has little issue decapitating leaders and parading the gruesome results around for all to see. It’s an illogical dichotomy running counter to everyday morals (how can a kid so kindhearted find satisfaction in slaughter?), yet one tied closely to human nature. Our lives are one of perpetual rationalization, we all make decisions breaking purported principles and moral guidelines while seeking explanations for said transgressions. We know such choices are wrong, yet we do it anyway, whether for personal gain or selfless altruism. Mahmut’s awareness of the skeletons he carries around is one such reason, acknowledgement that his sins are present and won’t simply disappear because he chooses to ignore them. Altair has certainly focused on how Mahmut reconciled his beliefs with his duties, but with that largely answered the emphasis now will likely be on how Mahmut chooses to answer for what he has done. Whether justified or not he has taken lives, and such action always bears heavily on a man’s soul. As many a military man has done before, Mahmut will need to find an answer to calm the turmoil quietly growing inside of him.
Beyond Mahmut, however, contradiction extends further. Both Turkiye and Balt-Rhein are operating under their own contradictions, fighting for just causes while simultaneously acting in manners tarnishing those goals. Balt-Rhein’s transgressions are obvious, seeking their place in the sun and a future for their people while throwing citizen lives away for little tangible reward (remember the Phoinike battle?) and treating allies—the ones who would help them achieve their desire—as little more than cannon fodder. Fear can get one far, but if Balt-Rhein had only acted a little nicer, maybe treated its friends as nicely as Turkiye does theirs, its defeat would not have been so devastating and far reaching. No matter the cause self-justification (i.e. excuses) only work if victorious, for the key is acceptance by others—no victory parade, no acceptance. This is why Turkiye’s own expansion is accepted with little fanfare, all because one little Pasha is doing the impossible. Effectively turning Chielo into a vassal and monopolizing all private military force through economic influence? Nary a worried peep because Turkiye happens to be on the winning side. War is said to have no true winner, but as Turkiye’s actions this week show, it applies to far more than just material loss. In justifying wartime actions there is never one true answer, just one which happens to be more accepted than the rest. Quite a few learned that lesson the hard way this episode.
Certainly begs the question just what theme awaits us for next week’s finale, doesn’t it?