Episode 19 brings the Heroic Legend of Narsus to….wait…wait…
Are we actually back in Lusitania?!?! Yes indeed, after an uninspired slog (or should a say uninspired SUPER VICTORY) during the Sinduhra arc, we have switched our point of view back to the capital and look into what Hermes is doing.
It appears Bodin and his Templar Knights are holed up in Zedar Castle after their exile and are continuing to cause trouble. Guiscard asks Prince Hermes to head out and defeat them, knowing full well (and hoping) that it means the loss of several thousand Parsian soldiers.
If you have been following the Rolling Review up until this point you’ll have noticed that we can’t stand the fact that Arslan never stands on his own two feet as a leader. If I had to complain about the Prince with diamonds in his pockets (I feel you Brendan, I feel you), I’d say that he is a one man wrecking ball. That makes is all the more shocking that this episode paints Hermes as an actual character and brings back the brilliant game of morally gray motivations that I complimented in Episode 3.
Hermes takes advice from Sam about whether or not to advance on Zedar Castle and take out Bodin. He is fully aware that Guiscard is up to something and he’s unsure if it’s the right move to play into his request. I loved this because it sets up the Death Note Light vs L idea of “If I know what you know, who’s going to come out on top?” This scene accomplishes some very important things. One is that Hermes is not infallible. He has been painted to be a powerful and brutal antagonist that the kind and gentle Arslan is meant to grow to defeat. We are reminded here that he is still a revenge driven 16 year old who was forced to grow into a man that feels he must win his way back onto a throne that is technically his.
We are also given the understanding that Hermes deeply trusts Sam (at least…as deeply as Hermes is going to trust anyone). He is clearly seeking Sam’s advice because he is torn on his decision to attack Bodin and not out of some desire to test Sam’s loyalty. It’s nice to see Hermes trying to reach out to someone in this small way. We are also given the indication that Sam is considered wise and worthy of counseling. I appreciate these small character driven moments and I wish the show did this more often with the enemies AND Team Arslan (Narsus).
Sam takes a trip to the dungeons to visit Andragoras III and question him about the murder of his older brother and attempted murder of Prince Hermes. Andragoras III tells him that the family is bathed in blood and lies and that it would make no difference to a man like Sam.
This one scene helps give us insight into Andragoras III unlike anything we have seen to date. To be fair, the King of Pars has mostly been off-screen since his imprisonment, but his time onscreen showcased him as a man who was a tyrant and craved nothing but war. Could it be that he is just a victim of a family of bloodthirsty conquerors; all fighting for the top? Does he laugh in Sam’s face because he’s been captured by a man as brutal as himself? A man he helped to create and someone who perpetuates the cycle of violence and distrust that the family is constantly spinning in? I certainly hope we come back to these plot points!
Hermes sets off on a journey along with Sam and a bunch of Parsian soldiers to take out Bodin and along the way Sam finds Kubard. Kubard has become a wandering mercenary who works for the shameless price of women and wine. He agrees to help out with the siege on Zedar Castle after hearing who Hermes is. It’s fascinating to analyze the men that Angragoras III turned into Marzban; Honest men, honorable men, brutal men and men who clearly would have been happier serving no master. It makes me wish we spent more time here in Pars delving deeper into the royal family and how it operated.
The battle with Bodin is uninspired and dull. They smoke out Bodin’s forces using an obvious trap and then attack from all sides using Sam, Kubard and Hermes’s forces, thus surrounding them. The battle is basically over before it begins but with the way Narsus out-thinks entire nations I suppose I should be happy that Hermes even took time to come up with a strategy. The Episode ends with Bodin holed up is the castle with his remaining forces, Kubard deciding he’d rather be a mercenary and riding off into the sunset, and Arslan signing decrees stating that he will take the homeland back from Lusitania and the he will free all the slaves.
What had me genuinely perturbed about this episode is how little I cared for what team Arslan was doing. The scene with him signing decrees was very out of place but nonetheless I felt nothing for it. I want to know more about Sam’s past, more about Andragoras III and his bloody rise to power, and more about Guiscard’s plans to betray Hermes and keep Lusitania fortified. The enemy is SIGNIFICANTLY more interesting than the team I am supposed to be rooting for?!
There is massive character and plot development gold in this episode. We learn more about the team left in Lusitania and get to see what makes some of our antagonists tick. Tune in next time for the Antagonistic Legend of Hermes.