Episode 24 brings our team to Ecbatana and the awaited confrontation between Hermes and Arslan. Who will win the throne and claim Pars’ kingdom for his own? More importantly can HLoA pull this story together at all in its last two episodes?
Here we have it ladies and gentleman. Wake up, put back on your socks/shoes, and be sure you have your belongings because this is the last stop before the final destination.
Etoile reaches Arslan’s secret camp and for the very first time realizes his true identity. The young boy that he’s been running into this entire time is none other than the ultimate enemy seeking to take back the throne of Pars. It is in this moment that we understand just how weak Arslan’s writing was and how flimsy its character development has been.
The confrontation between Etoile and Arslan should have been a linchpin of the series. In reality these two are two sides of the same coin. They are both good people trying to do right for their respective sides. This should have been a meeting of tragedy as two people who could be united under any other circumstances are forced to fight one another (potentially to death). Unfortunately, While watching this scene all we get is a time-waster (and an Arslan bacon-saver). Etoile freaks out and stabs Elam as he defends Arslan and then runs off due to being outnumbered.
If you read Dan’s review of Episode 23 you’ll remember that he felt Etoile’s appearance at Arslan’s secret camp was fairly ridiculous. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet people! Alfreed is tasked with following Etoile and discovers that there’s a secret cave from the area leading to….Pars! This sets the Parsian defense sequence into motion as the walls are seized by Alfreed’s team and Lusitania’s forces start to crumble. The one saving grace here is that Arslan actually takes up arms and joins the troops in battle. It’s about time kiddo.
The problems for this episode begin here and if we had better understanding of the characters I would have had an easier time swallowing the events that follow. Nonsensical things begin to happen because the writers wanted to show off Arslan’s forces. In one scene Arslan and Daryun are nearly to Hermes, when they get caught in a room full of archers raining arrows from up above. Farangis straight up walks into the room and starts wrecking guys with her superior archery. She then turns to Arslan and states that she cannot be hit by the arrows of these heathens. She has “divine protection”. I almost threw my laptop in frustration.
Prior to this, things looked dire but Kubard shows up at the last minute to lend his aid. Did he run out of booze to drink and women to bed? He made a whole speech about how he wants to be his own man and not get tied down by a master. Has he just been following Arslan’s exploits and got tipped off that it’s the penultimate episode?! In a display of fourth wall breaking glory, it’d be just like Kubard to hear that there’s an episode entitled “A Decisive Battle” and say “Oh hell yes…I am making my return right here!”
All of this just makes the episode silly and frustrating to watch. There’s no real tension, no suspense, no…feeling…to this episode. It’s just sequences of action.
To make up for the hideous battle last week we get an amazing battle with Daryun and Hermes. It’s a shame this much effort wasn’t put into other fight scenes in the show. It’s also a shame it all ends in Hermes being rescued by cheater sorcery. All we needed was Gieve to show up right beside Daryun and help him off to the side. Gieve is notably absent from the episode which is a shame because by this point I was excited to see what kind of crazy, timeline-be-damned method the show was going to use to throw him in.
This episode has a bizarre shift in tone towards the end of it. I’ll admit that a lot of people die in Arslan and yes, we’ve seen blood, but most of the show has been off-screen deaths and tame violence (CG battles anyone?). Women throwing themselves off of a high tower to commit suicide?! We were given those small moments of morally gray glimpses into both sides (Pars and Lusitania) so we could make up our own minds about who is “evil” and what it means to be “good”. Yaldaboath faith dictates that men and women should commit suicide rather than listen to another set of views. Oh…well that certainly throws out all the interesting notions I had about these two sides. Sorry HLoA…I didn’t mean to give you so much credit.
The episode ends with a misunderstanding where Etoile walks in just in time to see what looks like Colonel Barcacione being stabbed by Arslan. It is here that Arslan learns the secret the audience learned in episode 20. We are now primed for the final battle.
Arslan actually took to the stage and fought in this episode and I was extremely impressed with some of the battles. I appreciated that the last stop before the end was action packed from beginning to end. Unfortunately the nonsensical character sequences, the culmination of poor character development, and the unnecessarily dark tone shift at the end made this episode mediocre.