With these episodes, we're now 2/3 done with the series. On one hand, I'm sad that there isn't much left, because watching this series again has, as I've mentioned several times, reaffirmed to me how brilliant it is and how enduring the underlying tale is. On the other hand, it's the best series that know when and how to make their exit and leave us wanting more rather than wishing they had ended sooner.
I realize that I forgot to link to the previous discussions in last week's post, so I apologize for that. I'd pull the post and update it, but I've been having problems lately with some text encoding errors in posts that I've edited (you can probably see it in some of the previous posts I haven't fixed yet), so until I can resolve the problem, I'm going to just leave it alone.
Act 15: The End of Happiness, The Beginning of Truth
The Count brings Albert twenty-five light years out from Earth to see the Milky Way, called the "River of Heaven" by some ancient peoples. He tells the sad story of a man who was betrayed by a friend and framed for a crime, sent to rot in prison, and then reveals to Albert that he'll be leaving Paris after getting his affairs in order. Haidee visits General Morcerf's election rally, and reveals not only his past crimes, but his real name - Fernand Mondego. Afterwards, she feels immense regret, and makes plans to warn the Count before he too commits an act that he may regret. Franz speaks to Noirtier about Gankutsuou, and begins to discover secrets that have been locked away for years. The Count sends Albert back to Earth alone, and seems to have very mixed feelings about the actions he must take.
Act 16: Scandal
All of the suspicions and half-truths begin to fall into place for Albert as his father's scandal unfolds. An article by Beauchamp connects the dots between Fernand Mondego and General Morcerf, and Mercedes only corroborates the story when Albert rushes to speak with her following a visit to the military headquarters. Franz too begins to piece together the evidence, especially once Maximilien gives him access to his late fathers ship records. As it turns out, the mysterious Edmond Dantes was once the first mate of the ship, and Franz makes the connection between Edmond and the Count. Albert rushes to confront Haidee, then learns that Peppo has been an agent of the Count sent to keep track of his movements.
Discussion: Many of the episodes in recent weeks have dealt with concepts like fate and karma, but these two episodes strike me as being fundamentally an examination of growing-up and the loss of innocence that's supposed to go along with it. As Albert's world begins to dismantle itself around him, he learns rather quickly that it's been built on a bed of lies and deceit. Some of the people around him (really, the majority of the people around him, especially the adults) have constructed elaborate backstories for themselves, all the result of the betrayal of an innocent man.
One of the things I found interesting was Beauchamp's frankness about his job and why he wrote the article about Morcerf. I think that, too often, we accuse the media of being sensationalist (and in some cases it's really true, especially when they latch on like pit bulls to any sort of random things celebrities do), when there are probably many reporters and writers who are in the business of telling the truth to the people who deserve to know. It's interesting to me that Beauchamp's conflict of interest was portrayed so specifically; he's friends with Albert, but has a duty to the public to report on the abuses of a man who is otherwise likely to be elected to high office. Not to get all political suddenly, but there are many individuals who question the usefulness of bringing up past events in the lives of our current presidential candidates. The "story" isn't so much that these people acted as bullies or said cruel things in the past, but whether they chose to hide those things or to be forthright about them and use them as learning experiences. In this case, Morcerf's career is the result of committing a truly heinous act, and the fact that it's been so well-hidden for so long really speaks to the way in which it weighs on him and how it would affect him in the eyes of the public.
On the other side of the coin, it seems clear that getting revenge on Morcerf wasn't quite as sweet as Haidee thought it might be, and here we have some potential foreshadowing; Haidee's patron, the Count, is very clearly on a mission at this point to right the wrongs that have been done to him, and most of us would agree that those who hurt him deserve a lot of the punishment they're getting. But in the end, after waves of destruction have been left in her wake, Haidee is left sobbing and miserable rather than reveling in emotional catharsis like she may have expected, so what of the Count? It would seem that most of the relationships he's established since returning to Earth have been shams, meant to further his goals. When his revenge is completed and those he hates are all either dead or destitute or imprisoned, what then?
It's here that his relationship with Albert gets interesting and its true nature more muddied. There are moments where the Count seems to genuinely care about Albert and want to protect him from the worst of what will probably happen to his father, but then some truths come to light that cause one to be unsure (Peppo as a double-agent being one of them). Was Albert being tailed for spying purposes, his friendship with the Count but an "in" for this vengeful man to commit the acts he's since committed? Or was he being followed so that his safety could be assured?
Knowing the true nature of Gankutsuou (at least partly), makes me think of the character "Gollum" from Lord of the Rings. The Count seems haunted by two different personalities (literally, if we assume that Gankutsuou is sentient and Edmond is still aware somewhere in there), one which is fueled by hatred, and one which may have some second thoughts about what's going on. The scene where he closes the door on Albert and begins to weep in his chambers is very emotional and poignant, which makes his transition into wicked laughter soon afterward all the more striking. It's like a more literal incarnation of the angel and devil on the shoulder.
Rather than try to make a list of "response questions," I'd mostly just like to hear some reactions to these episodes, especially in regards to Haidee's confession and subsequent reaction.