「会議は踊る」 (Kaigi wa Odoru)
“The Congress Dances”
So close to happily ever after.
Of the two halves of this episode, the romance of Marrine and Alexis was clearly the stronger. Not the one with the most potential—it was a standard star-crossed lovers tale, Romeo and Juliet without the suicide (though there’s still time)—but it was the better executed. That’s because while it was standard, they hit all the beats well, and they did one thing unexpectedly well: Alexis is actually a good guy. Partially as compared to this boorish ass, but he’s a good person in his own right—kind, soft-spoken, and with an idealistic outlook that’s backed up by a coherent philosophy of leadership. His philosophy might be wrong, or at least ahead of its time—they live in a world of iron and blood, with no United Nations or bias toward diplomacy to hash disagreements out—but it’s certainly attractive. I can’t blame Marrine for falling for him. Add on how he pursues Marrine a bit too aggressively at first—and his love at first sight line definitely reeked of playboy, not a good move—but when she gave him a clear no later on he agreed to back off … I mean, most men in our enlightened modern age don’t do that! (If you think that last comment was partially sarcastic, you are correct.) That first half isn’t going to win any awards, but it was executed well with an element that elevated. I’ll take it.
The second half wasn’t nearly so good. The council session at times reminded me of the Round Table Conference of Log Horizon fame, but it lacked a crucial ingredient: how to inject drama into an all-talking scene. The Round Table Conference scenes watched more like a battle than many of the actual battles in Log Horizon, complete with surprising turnarounds and finishing moves. The flow of Grancrest Senki’s council scene is all in Villar’s favor—until suddenly it’s not. As best I can tell, the tide was turned when Alexis tried to cede leadership of the Union to Villar, which forced Villar to refuse because of his Kreische blood (I guess), after which Dawson pounced and pushed for Alexis’ preferred method of peace, likely because Dawson knew that the Alliance would refuse and would probably attack Altirk. Dawson is using the Alliance to eliminate one of his internal enemies, making the classic geopolitical mistake of letting your disagreements extend beyond your country’s/alliance’s borders, even while it’s actually a savvy political move (just one that’s liable to haunt him in the end, when he needs someone to defend him and Altirk is gone).
The problem is that the drama was lacking during the scene, and I had to piece some of this together later (and I’m still not sure precisely why Villar’s Kreische blood matters, rulers were always marrying into each other’s families during time periods like this). A few extra lines to give an immediate reaction—Siluca provided some of this, but not enough—would have helped, like a sports announcer providing analysis on the play-by-play. Or really just stage the scene so that it’s not so flat. The result was a weak scene that played more puzzling than decisive, not helped by all the nameless nobles who never do anything other than say “No objection.” Coulda been better.
At least something didn’t go Theo’s way this time, since Altirk is liable to feel the business end of Marrine’s hammer. Which will probably just give opportunities for more Theo heroics, but I’m cool with that, gotta get those somewhere. Oh, expect I guess Rossini got expelled from the Union, but that was a foregone conclusion. Heh, got kicked out in two lines of dialogue, like the footnote he is. Screw you, Pederico!
- Rant time: Marrine’s reason for backing out of the marriage is shit. So what if people are against your marriage, and willing to kill for it? When they kill someone, you mourn, and find the perpetrators if you can, but you do NOT let them change what you were going to do. You don’t let it stop you. It’s the same with terrorism—if they bomb the cafe, you rebuild the cafe just like it was. You make it clear: they do not matter. They are not important. They can cause pain, destruction, and death, but that cannot break you, and they cannot change you. As soon as you let these people change you, it’s over—they’ve won.
- That said, the above is a very relatable mistake. It took a long time for human society to recognize this as the right response—and then only some societies some of the time. Mostly we still fuck it up. It’s a very human mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. (And also granted, a ruler has to worry about what will keep them in power. It could be that their marriage would lead to them being deposed and executed. But if you believe it to be the right course, do it anyway. They apparently did before. They just faltered at the last step.)
- I highly approve of Alexis’ method of not-charity. Instead he’s tricking them (incentivizing them) into learning something they may enjoy, and which may enrich their lives. I’m totally down with that.
- “I don’t know how long it will take, but I promise to come for you.” That’s the crucial line. That’s what Marrine is doing, even now.
My SECOND novel, Freelance Heroics, is available now! (Now in print!) (Also available: Firesign #1 Wage Slave Rebellion.) Sign up for my email list for updates. At stephenwgee.com, the latest post: Book 3 Progress Report.