This has been sort of a tough week for me. I got into another depressive slump for no good reason whatsoever, and had a really difficult time motivating myself to produce any sort of quality writing (which is, obviously, why it's been a little quiet over in these parts). It's regrettable that my mood seems to have so much bearing on my output, but I suppose that the only real solution is to try and push through it.
Anyway, this cloudy day is perfect for staying inside and watching anime, so hopefully I'll have a better time focusing. Only two weeks left after this batch of episodes! What are you hoping to see during the end-game?
Act 19: Even If I Should Stop Being Me
Albert grapples with the reality of Franz's death, his guilt in the matter weighing heavily on his heart. He decides to strike out on his own, despite Mercedes' protest. Albert soon realizes the extent of his family's fall from favor, when the police bar him from leaving Paris and get into a fistfight with him. After falling unconscious and enduring a nightmare, Albert is rescued by Renaud. The Count starts making his next move, selling off the stocks which have helped Danglars multiply his fortune. With his empire quickly plummeting towards bankruptcy, Danglars bumps up the wedding between Eugenie and Andrea in an attempt to rescue his ailing fortunes.
Act 20: Farewell, Eugenie
Albert and Renaud rush back to Paris proper, in order to make it in time for Andrea and Eugenie's signing ceremony. The Count, now struggling to retain even the smallest pieces of himself, leaves all his possessions to Bertuccio and the other servants. Andrea reveals his true nature to Albert, and looks forward to causing more problems for his new family. Albert arrives to the ceremony, with help from Peppo, and facilitates Eugenie's escape while the police come to collect Andrea for his various crimes. Eugenie gets on a plane to New York to attend a music conservatory there, and Albert finally gets a chance to read Franz's last letter to him.
Discussion: These couple of episodes feature very few appearances by the Count himself, but involve some more of his behind-the-scenes machinations coming to various stages of fruition. The main event, obviously, is Danglars' financial downfall. When I think about the three men who are targeted by the Count for revenge, I find it interesting that in some cases I find them worthy of pity. Villefort did really bad things, like misuse his power to punish people and place the importance of keeping up appearances in front of the people about whom he was supposed to care, but the subplot about the lovechild he had with Victoria Danglars and his continuing feeling of guilt managed to humanize him a bit. Likewise, General Morcerf committed terrible war crimes in exchange for the purchase of his nobility and sent his friend to jail for the love of a woman, but all the same it's very clear that he cares for his family. Thinking back on the series as a whole, though, I cannot for the life of me think of an instance in which Danglars isn't thoroughly obsessed with money above all else; despite the fact that one of the main themes of this series is that revenge and hate aren't worth the price you pay for them, I can't say that I feel too sorry about Danglars going bankrupt. His line to Eugenie about his net worth being more important than her happiness kind of sealed the deal for me.
On a related note, I found it sort of interesting that the signing ceremony seems to be an act entirely revolving around the ownership of a couple's financial holdings. Is this something that actually exists? I suppose a prenuptial agreement is something along the same lines. The fact that the signing of this document seems to be almost as important as the wedding itself truly speaks to the importance of money in these people's lives.
I find it interesting that there can be such a contrast between the different family situations in this series. Eugenie is nothing but a bargaining chip for Danglars to use to his own ends, yet Mercedes seems very concerned with Albert's well-being regardless of their family's personal wealth. She offers to bring him back to her hometown and away from the collapse of their family and the Count's activities rather than cling to the remains of their material wealth. Perhaps this is a statement about the stagnation of the nobility - those who have been at the peak of wealth and power for a long time are disconnected from real human sentiment, while those who have only recently found their fortunes still remember what things like love and selflessness are. I don't know how much I agree with this (though there are plenty of wealthy people nowadays who make profoundly ignorant and uncaring comments about the lower classes, to be sure), but it does seem to fit with one of the story's main messages.
So how about that Andrea, huh? In these episodes, he not only seduces and gets it on with his biological mother (though I believe that neither one actually knows the truth about the other), and attempts to rape his half-sister, to whom he's betrothed. I usually have a problem with using rape or the threat of rape to "develop" an evil character; it seems like using something that's a real threat and/or reality to a lot of women (and some men) as a cheap way to make someone look really bad without doing a lot of work. I have mixed feelings about its use here; it's been established previously that Andrea has two sides - he's both an accomplished charmer and a dangerous criminal, and his treatment of Eugenie fits with the latter. At the same time, I think that there are, shall we say, less gendered ways in which his sociopathy could have been expressed.
There's an interesting parallel drawn between the Count and Albert during these episodes. This entire story has revolved around the Count's hate for the men who betrayed him, and his various acts of revenge. After Franz's death, it almost seems as if Albert is headed down a similar path. Of course, there's one major factor that rescues Albert from committing to something that might ruin him, and that's Franz's letter. At the end of episode twenty, we finally discover what Franz's last wishes for Albert were, and the most important of these is that Albert not allow hate to become the defining emotion in his relationship with people for whom he cares. I think that this is a very interesting statement about the vulnerability it requires to get close to others, and how dramatically we react to negative acts after we've opened up our hearts to another person.
For this week, I'd like to leave you with a line from episode twenty that struck me as very poignant. While Albert is infiltrating the signing ceremony, one of his friends comments that "he's no longer a member of the aristocracy, which means he's free now." Again, very critical of wealth and those in financial power, but also very meaningful in the context of this show. Since he's no longer beholden to wealth or family appearances, Albert is free to follow his heart.