My thoughts on the eleventh episode of Arslan Senki.
Entertaining enough episode however not much ground was covered in the long run – mostly a travel and skirmish kind of episode to remind us that there is distance between points A and B and that Arslan is being hunted in extreme fashion. While I liked the introduction of Xandes, who appeared quite formidable when he presented himself before Hermes, his appearance later in the episode took my by surprise. Not only was it odd that he was able to cross a great distance so quickly and confront Arslan’s company but simply from a pacing point of view I hadn’t expected him to so immediately show up. His sudden and inexplicable arrival can most likely be attributed to the passage of time that the show glossed over; this is fine however the show failing to communicate this by some simple dialogue exchanges are a short traveling montage blurred things a bit and made the whole execution of things much shoddier than it could have been.
I like the idea of Gieve throwing away some of his gold in order to help Arslan as, at a symbolic level and as a gesture, it give a great deal of insight into his thought process and is very overt in its implications. At that point in time, he valued the life of Arslan over cache of gold. That being said… what soldier in their right mind would fall for such a ploy? Sure the Lusitanians have some less than stellar characters amongst them and a few soldiers may have chosen to pursue the gold instead of the prince however this weakness of character fails to account for two things. One, that there are no loyal men within the group – even one would probably suffice in the dire situation that Arslan and Elam were in however the choice of gold over the capture or death of the prince speaks most directly to their disobedience to their commanders and leaders.
Secondly, and this one stings a bit more, I don’t see any way in which capturing or killing Arslan would not be more monetarily rewarding than a few scattered coins. Surely the soldier who defeated Arslan would be compensated for their work and very likely in a far greater way than a bag of coins as the reward would most likely come directly from Hermes or someone of similar importance. That being said, if the soldiers were to ask based on greed… the only correct decision I can imagine would be the pursuit of Arslan over Gieve’s gold and therein the scene falters considerably for me. In the end, it was a fantastic gesture on the part of Gieve but a horrible plot device.
I felt like this episode tried to hammer home something that was already quite evident and that is Arslan’s attitude towards his followers and to what lengths he would go to protect them. At this point in the series, we know perfectly well that Arslan is in no way like much of the other royalty we have seen thus far and his actions have made that clear repeatedly even while in the company of Gieve. And so when Gieve draws attention to how different he is and how Arslan would risk his life for a ‘lowly’ friend, I feel like we are beating an already established trait to death. It was most likely to give Elam some attention while given Gieve something to ‘realize’ about Arslan and thus show some progression of character like in the gold scene however I think it was somewhat poorly done. Arslan is a good person and anyone taken aback by his actions this episode clearly hasn’t been paying attention to the way in which he has conducted himself thus far.
The last thing that I will say regarding this episode is that the religious fanaticism as exhibited by Bodin and his followers is reaching an uncomfortable level. He is so overtly awful that we are left with no choice but to despise him and his goals however when juxtaposed to more complex and understandable characters like Hermes and even Guiscard he seems so flat and underdeveloped in his awfulness. If we had more characters like Etoile that truly believed in the faith that would help I think however the thing that the fanatics lack most is individuality.