With the combined might of the Lusitanian army outside, a slave revolt within, and Kharlan’s further treachery bringing a raiding party within the royal palace, Ecbatana is at last conquered. Prince Arslan and his companions continue to hide in the forest, waiting for their chance. Queen Tahamenay shrewdly escapes the palace before it is attacked, however, using Gieve and a handmaiden as a decoy against Silver Mask.
There’s plenty to take in during this episode, and much of it is good. The animation maintains its good quality. Of Arslan’s band, all of them are interesting characters, though I find myself really enjoying Narsus, the strategist, as he councils Arslan on the folly of returning to Ecbatana, and on the virtues of patience. Rather than simply telling Arslan (and occasionally Daryun) that his ideas are dumb, he provides the context for Arslan to come to the same conclusion as Narsus on his own, and the writers have done an excellent job of making these sessions informative to the viewer as well as to Arslan without the conclusions being so obvious you wonder why Arslan didn’t immediately see the problem. I’m also interested in Tahamenay’s character – sure, she ran and left the city to burn, but she’s clearly shrewd enough to read the way things are going and act quickly and intelligently, so I’m expecting more from her later. Gieve is, so far, an enjoyable character with a lot of secrets to reveal, though it’s possible they will push his “disaffected, can’t-be-bothered” attitude too far, so we’ll have to see. His sense of smell is kinda creepy, though.
I didn’t like everything about the episode, though. The whole slave uprising thing seems kinda shoehorned in, and doesn’t have enough impact. With Silver Mask and Kharlan the Treacher bringing men in through the sewers to burn the royal palace, it didn’t seem like the slaves made a huge difference in the outcome. The same can be said for the whole “hearts and minds” discussion between Sam and Garshasph – the entire episode, they have a running argument, with Sam advocating for greater freedoms for the slaves and trying to stop the rising tide of distrust against them, and Garshasph advocating for the slaves to be suppressed with force and/or jailed. Now, this is a fine argument to be having, but it’s not like either of their philosophies, if followed during this episode, would have stopped Lusitania from taking the city and killing its defenders, Sam and Garshasph among them. Basically, I question why we spent so much time on these characters and on their philosophical dichotomy, since no decision they could make would change the outcome.
Then there’s Silver Mask, who is shaping up to be the show’s main antagonist. He seems much too powerful compared to any of the other characters – no one can seriously challenge him in a fight, he always seems to be one step ahead of everyone, and he practically seems to be in two places at once. It’s good that he has some kind of aversion to fire, or he would be invincible, but he’s so strong that it just doesn’t feel right, especially as he has personally, and effortlessly, killed at least two of the greatest warriors in the region’s strongest military. Plus, we really don’t know his motivations at all. Contrast this with Kharlan, whose treachery is something interesting that we want to learn more about, and who is competent at fighting, but not superhuman. He, at least, gives me hope that Silver Mask can get enough development that I can suspend my disbelief. On a side note, concerning Kharlan – seriously, Andragoras, maybe don’t tell every general ALL of Pars’ secrets? All it took was one man to bring down the entire nation.
Episode Summary: Recommended
Despite my concerns, the show is definitely still worth watching. This seems to be the last of the “prologue” episodes, in which Arslan can do little but survive the downfall of Pars and wait. With almost every military and civil leader of the country dead, captured, or fleeing, the story will have little choice but to focus on his journey, so here is where the show will either take off or fall apart/descend into filler.