Last week's discussion dipped into the mechanics of Albert's and Eugenie's relationship and the major way it differs with the novel. I'd suggest giving it a look if you have the chance to do so. That said, the version portrayed in this adaptation does manage to distinguish itself by being particularly compelling in spite of its more standard story arc.
I've had several people mention at this point how difficult it's been to keep from plowing through more episodes at a time, and that makes me very happy; I think that speaks to the timelessness of the story being told, as well as the quality of the telling. More selfishly, as someone who considers herself a fairly decent critic of anime, it makes me happy to know that I've made a welcome suggestion to other people.
On to the episodes!
Act 13 Haidee
Villefort levels several accusations against the Count outside the opera house, including the poisoning of his wife. The Count proves his upper hand once again by revealing that he has taken Heloise into his own custody. Franz enlists Lucien to help him probe for more information about the entity known as "Gankutsuou" after a search of the public archives turns up nothing. The information turns out to be more difficult to uncover, and what they do learn is startling. Albert visits the Count's home and learns more about Haidee's past before Andrea shows up to cause trouble. Villefort confronts the Count, pistol in hand, and Albert rushes in to prevent tragedy.
Act 14: Lost Souls
Villefort is prevented from carrying out his plot to murder the Count and is arrested, to the delight of many onlookers. Maximilien returns to Paris in order to retrieve Valentine's grandfather, Noitier, before wishing Albert goodbye. Andrea pushes Danglars about potentially setting up an engagement with Eugenie, in exchange for his insider knowledge of the markets. Albert learns from Beauchamp about some more rumors haunting his family, then discovers that Andrea and Eugenie are now engaged. Albert and Franz meet in their childhood hideout, only to get into an argument and leave each-other on bad terms. As Albert leaves on the Count's ship to space, his father prepares to give a campaign speech and Haidee makes moves to interfere.
Discussion: Whereas many of the previous episodes have dealt more indirectly with the show's themes, these two episodes in my mind seem to deal more directly with the plot. Specifically, several plotlines are coming to a head at this point (with several episodes still remaining - just imagine all the intrigue and drama yet to come!), which doesn't leave a lot of room for meaty rumination on the nature of fate or the consequences of deception.
I think perhaps the most interesting thing to me about these episodes has to do with the creative way the futuristic technology has been approached. The show has its fair share of computer displays that float in mid-air and fancy space vehicles like any other science-fiction series, but I was really impressed by the creative way that the government archives were portrayed and they way that Albert and Lucien were able to access them. There's something to be said for the timelessness of this story and how parts of this adaptation might simply appear to be a visual re-skin of something which could have taken place in almost any time period in human history, but there are moments during which the more "decorative" elements begin to feel like living, breathing parts of the world, and this was one of them. It seemed like a very atypical use of the concept of virtual reality which gave a personality to the vehicle used to deliver plot-related information. Are there other examples of this that you can think of?
The other standout part of these episodes to me was the fact that Haidee was finally given a bit of character development. I think that, to this point, the show has run the risk of allowing her to appear as little more than exotic arm-candy; a demure ornamental flower with which the Count could display his wealth and taste for the unusual. Instead, Haidee's tale of her family's betrayal by Earth forces and her meeting with the Count is woven into the plot and she's dealt her own hand with which to play. It should be clear now why her reaction to seeing Morcerf at the opera was so dramatic - his actions in and around Janina are responsible for what happened to Haidee as a child. The fact that she, in the Count's absence, seems poised to bring about her own brand of justice by visiting Morcerf during what is supposed to be a moment of his personal triumph. My only criticism of this situation is that I wish Haidee had been given a little bit more to do during the build-up to this point. While I'm thankful for her scenes here, they almost seem shoehorned in since she's barely been seen for several episodes.
Returning to Eugenie and the upsetting turn of events regarding her marriage engagements, I'm finding my sympathy for her to be even stronger during this viewing of the series. I think what she and her situation represent to me the strongest is the terrifying lack of choice so many of these people are given in regards to their relationships. While the lower classes have few options due to their lack of funding, the upper-class characters who comprise the majority of the cast lack choice due to obligations and the requirements of living within the nobility. The way Eugenie's father completely ignores any consideration of his daughter's feelings and uses her to fulfill his personal goals is honestly quite frightening to me. That greed can override basic human decency should be no surprise at this point, though; The trio of Morcerf, Villefort and Danglars seem to have built their lives on the back of the very concept, and even the Count's lust for revenge could probably be categorized the same way.
All-in-all, many of these episodes' moments seem more like build-up for later events. Which of the implied plot developments are you looking forward to the most?