Let’s open with a happy image, ’cause we know this episode won’t end well.
— Well, as a bit of a refresher, Marrine will attack Starck, and I guess Villar just happens to be in the way. Siluca advises him to fight back or else Altirk will be in deep trouble, but Villar just can’t bring himself to break away from Union. Why would he have to break away from Union? Cause they currently want to engage Alliance in peace talks. Do you care? You probably shouldn’t. After all, I definitely don’t. Like I said last week, all this fighting means nothing to me without the human element. I don’t care about lords, counts, and whatnot. They’re not the ones who truly suffer.
— Oh hey, we finally get another look at the people, and they don’t seem very trusting. Gee, I wonder why? Of course, the official explanation here is that there’s still plenty of Dimitrie’s kin here, but I mean, it’s not as if our heroes appear to do much for the people they rule over.
— So… since Villar dismissed Siluca, we now get to watch her and Theo tour the latter’s domain and battle giant wasps. That’s cool, I guess. Gotta protect them purple children. I know the story wants to set Theo and Siluca up as a couple, but are you feeling the romance between them? I’m not. A montage of scenes in a forest doesn’t convince me that they’re a great couple.
— Oh, here comes the cliche where it’s suddenly raining cats and dogs, so our couple has to huddle up in close proximity. Ahhhh, can’t stay in these wet clothes. Might catch pneumonia! Their twin ahoge makes them look kinda silly.
— Interesting, he outright said he was worried she might become Villar’s vassal since she was visiting the castle so often. Siluca quickly responds that she’d never leave his side. But why? Theo, however, wants to make it clear that he doesn’t just want her as a mage. He wants her because she’s important to him. He wants her by his side because he pretty much loves her. She confesses to him, he confesses back, and then they kiss. They do more than that, but hey, these are the good guys, so we can’t see them be that lewd. In any case, sure, this scene is adorable. I like romances in my stories. I like it when the hero gets the girl. The only problem is that nine episodes of scant romantic hints aren’t enough to convince me that they have an undying devotion to each other. On the one hand, I’m pleased to see a romantic pairing being established so early on in the story, but on the other hand, therein lies the problem: their relationship just doesn’t seem all that convincing.
— That poor horse.
— Aaaaand back to reality… which is this jumbled mess of warring soldiers.
— We also see Milza butcher people in cold blood, and this catches Marrine’s eye. Oh dear, is she going to make a deal with the devil?
— Basically, Marrine’s going to have a hard time winning this battle. The Starck Fortress has some nice natural advantages, and she doesn’t exactly have elephants to help her cross mountains.
— Her sleepy-looking mage then suggests that they use chemical warfare. Even in this universe, chemical warfare is prohibited. Unfortunately, Marrine’s too far gone now. She wants victory at all costs: “I have no intention of becoming a virtuous but inept leader.” But… a leader who nobody likes is pretty inept. A leader who ends up being overthrown by the people because she broke international laws is pretty inept. I mean, I could continue but you get the point. She thinks she can just hand-wave away her infamy by ruling with an iron fist, but surely, it’s a little more complicated than that. Of course, I get what she’s doing. Alexis is a saint, but he’s pretty goddamn inept. That doesn’t mean, however, that the opposite end of the spectrum is any better.
— These soldiers are no better. They barely put up a resistance: “If you’re prepared, then we will obey your command and fight.” Oh, you don’t need to tell me that this happens all the time in real life. I know it does. I’m just saying that these guys suck too.
— Marrine then tells her ladies-in-waiting to contact Milza. Oh boy…
— You’d think these awesome mages would whip up some sort of magical gas mask to help them with this nasty job.
— Aren’t war crimes just neato?
— You can tell that science (or arguably common sense) isn’t really a thing here, because uh… if I see poisonous gas approaching me, the last thing I would do is hide in an enclosed space and cover myself with a blanket.
— Later that night, the fortress falls with ease, and Marrine personally murders one of the lords. This is still a pyrrhic victory, since every single participant has lost their soul. Milza is pleased, though. He’s soured on Villar thanks to last week’s episode, but he must be impressed by Marrine’s unhinged nature.
— Alone in her camp, Marrine wonders how Alexis will react to the news of this battle… well, I wonder… any rational person would no longer be in love with such a heinous person, but I don’t know about Alexis.
— Marrine goes to meet Milza alone at his request. That sounds like a bad idea, but she’s desperate for his alliance. And shortly after they meet for the first time, Milza wants to fuck Marrine right here and right now. Why? Oh, for various reasons. First, he’s testing her love for Alexis, and second, sex is one (gross) way to bind their contract. Naturally, she has to inform him and the audience that she’s a virgin. And with that, we can’t help but feel bad about Alexis, because even though he’s rather childish, he’s not a bad person. He doesn’t deserve this. In any case, I kinda stopped watching the episode at this point, because I’m not particularly comfortable watching someone have unwilling sex.
— While I dislike Marrine as a person (she’s pretty fucking horrible), this isn’t necessarily a bad turn for her character. She’s represents the fallen individual who is willing to do anything for power, and in a better story, she would perfectly juxtapose Theo’s goody-two-shoes principles. She rejected love for power; on the other hand, he gave up almost all his power for Siluca. The rough, love-less sex here also heavily contrasts the sweet and innocent confessions between Theo and Siluca in the first half of the episode. It’s only implied that our heroes had sex. On the other hand, there’s no denying the fact that Milza and Marrine do the deed. Unfortunately, Marrine is plagued by two serious issues.
First, her thought process isn’t very compelling. It’s one thing to be evil; it’s another thing to make one bad decision after the other. Now, you can hand-wave this away by arguing that Marrine has never been completely mentally stable since her tragic wedding day. Nevertheless, she’s not a villain that draws you in.
Second — and this is arguably the bigger issue — this anime wants to be Game of Thrones but with only a tenth (and that might be generous) of the same run-length. As a result, nothing is fully fleshed out, nothing has a chance to breathe and develop naturally, and most of all, major plot points and character developments feel sloppily rushed. Marrine’s fall from grace doesn’t hit me as hard as it should, because I don’t know her at all. I also don’t know Alexis at all. I definitely don’t know Milza at all other than that I’m obviously supposed to root against him. Hell, I barely understand the conflict between between Union and Alliance. You can’t weave a politically-charged tale full of deception and intrigue with just nine 24-min episodes.
— The same thing applies to Theo and Siluca, and the sad part is that those two have had all season to establish their romance. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel as though the show dropped the ball pretty hard there. I just don’t feel their chemistry at all.
— Having said all that, as long as nothing egregiously bad happens to these two, I’m good. I don’t really care for them as a couple, but eh… we need some light to balance out the dark.
— Next week’s episode is titled “Blade of Betrayal.” Hm. I’m kinda hoping Villar bites the dust. I wasn’t really a fan of his shenanigans in last week’s episode either. The whole nonsense about not wanting to go to war against his own kin is ridiculous considering what’s at stake. But whatever, we’ll see what happens.