Well, I biffed it a little bit and forgot to put up an open post last weekend, but the conversation has been a little bit light as of late, so I'm not entirely sure that it would have been terribly missed.
This post marks the actual halfway point in the series. How is everyone enjoying it so far? Has your impression changed at all between the earlier episodes and now? I'm coming from a place of experience when I say that things are only going to get juicier from this point forward, and I can't wait to share the experience with this group.
Act 11: An Engagement Broken
Franz, Maximilien and company manage to get kidnap Valentine after Madame Villefort collapses in the street. Maximilien escapes with Valentine in tow, and they head to Marseilles so that she can recover her strength. In the meantime, Prosecutor Villefort discovers his wife's affinity for poison, and his concern for his own public image causes him to send her away to a mental hospital. Albert and Franz have another disagreement regarding The Count, and Albert goes to visit him to reassure himself. He learns about the workings of fate from the Count, who he admires as a strong man able to make his own way in the world. Eugenie is happy that she's finally allowed the chance to play piano with the orchestra, but Albert arrives home to discover that his engagement with her has been broken.
Act 12: Encore
The broken engagement turns out to be the work of Danglars, who's caught wind of some unsavory rumors about the Morcerf family. Because of this, he attempts to keep Albert from attending Eugenie's performance at the opera house. Lucien, feeling some guilt for doing things that have upset Eugenie in the past, sneaks Albert in backstage. Between songs, Albert and Eugenie reconcile their feelings for one-another. The moment is short-lived, however; Danglars appears with Andrea Cavalcanti alongside. Andrea reveals that the performance (and the sold-out seats) were all his doing, and he makes his moves on Eugenie. Albert meets the Count in the lobby of the opera house, where he's soon cornered by Villefort.
Discussion: As much as I remember the gist of the story that this anime series tells, now that we're getting into the really meaty stuff, I continue to be surprised by how emotional I get as the plot unfolds. These two episodes really qualify as ones that toy with the emotions of the viewer. Just as it seems like Albert and Eugenie's relationship, which as been both rocky and passionless from the start, seems to be heading towards some sort of development, a bunch of obstacles get tossed into the way and we're denied a true cathartic moment.
Rather than spend a lot of time analyzing what's happening from their point of view, I think that discussing how our point of view as the audience affects how we feel about what's going on might be more valuable. We have the advantage of seeing everything from multiple character points of view, and are privy to most of the dirty dealings going on away from the eyes of those who they most affect. We see multiple characters as being sympathetic, even if their personal goals are entirely at odds with one-another. Most of all, our opinion of the Count, the puppet master in the background, can be very conflicted. I suppose that I can only really speak for myself when it comes to the Count, but most of the time I both love and hate him as a person. He's done some terrible things, both on screen and off, including indirectly facilitating the deaths of other people, and yet the more that his story is revealed, the more I feel for him. In this specific case, he both serves as an advisor and confidante for the young, na�ve Albert, yet his act of releasing Andrea from jail and raising him up as a nobleman has only served to help steal away this happiness. Not only that, but the Count himself seems to be a being of two minds (literally...?), his desire for revenge complicated by the fact that he still has genuine human emotions getting in the way. It's fascinating to watch, and it proves that it doesn't take twelve-hundred pages to develop a compelling character.
The concept of fate shows up again, albeit in a confusing manner. The Count tells Albert that he believes in acts of fate and elaborates a bit upon the workings of Karma (consequences of past actions). Even being ignorant of the exact details, it should be clear where these acts of karmic retribution (as he sees it) originate from. Yet he describes himself of something of a self-made man, working for his own power and taking what he needs to take in order to achieve it. The implications of this are a bit depressing, in my opinion. Those who were wronged in life have the opportunity to facilitate their own revenge, should they be motivated to do so. They're allowed to seek compensation for the wrongs done to them rather than sit idly as their fate as a victim unfolds. On the other hand, those who do bad things aren't offered the opportunity for redemption - they're to become the victims of unavoidable karmic punishment. Reduced to this basic line of thinking, I find this idea really sad, though as the ravings of someone totally consumed by the desire for revenge, it makes some sense.
Finally, these episodes do a good job of fleshing-out Villefort, Danglars and Morcerf, at least as far as their most obvious personality traits are concerned. Villefort is shown, in the darkest way possible, that his concern is entirely about his own public appearance; when Heloise is shown to be a criminal, he makes moves to lock her away out of the public eye and appears to show no remorse. Danglars trades his daughter's freedom for what appears to be a great financial gain; Eugenie even protests that her life is nothing more than another of his "stocks and bonds." Morcerf's situation is less clear, but he seems to be entangled in a web of lies, all the way down to his very name - he's referred to as "Mandego" by the other man from his past, and it's suggested that he may have done something irredeemably terrible, all for the love of a woman. There's an old saying that the man who lives by the sword will surely die by it; it seems as if these men, who are all concerned about different aspects of their own current reality, may be brought down in ways that are almost too poetically-related to those things.
Greed, power, fame... and it's the next generation that seems poised to suffer because of the consuming nature of these men's selfishness.
As a minor aside, I thought that the scene during which Albert and Franz just missed meeting one-another at their old "hideout" was especially tragic. Franz seems to be one of the few people actually, truly concerned with Albert's well-being, and yet his attempts to help always seem to fail for one reason or another.
- Fate shows up again in these episodes. How do you interpret the Count's seemingly contradictory viewpoints on how the workings of fate affect the people in this story?
- How do you feel about Andrea? Though he originally seems as though he may be a pawn of the Count, some of the things he's doing seem equally beneficial to his own ends. Do you see a conflict of interest here?
- If you have any emotional conflicts regarding the characters, please elaborate (share in the woes of your fellow viewers)!