Altair: A Record of Battles Episode 11
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?
Hamlet said it best – “the play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.” That (more or less) worked for him against his uncle Claudius, but the jury's still out as to whether the same trick will work for Mahmut in his continued mission to subdue the rebellious sultans. So far it seems like a good plan – in preparation for the upcoming assassination of Balaban and his fellows, Mahmut asks his performer friends to put on a show about their inherent corruption, framing Beyazit and Aishe as tragic victims of their machinations – and the only ones who can put a stop to them. It's a hit out of the gate, but will performing the play for the next six months, as Mahmut asks Shara to do, really help their cause?
It actually might have, because gaining the love of the populace through propaganda is a time-honored part of any shift in society. But this week's episode throws an impressive number of wrenches into Mahmut's works that may negate the play. One we absolutely saw coming when a new pasha offers his services in subduing the rebellious sultans because of his close family ties with them. Seriously, if that doesn't sound suspicious, I don't know what does, and fortunately Zaganos figured out his plan to warn the sultans almost immediately. Why he allowed him to continue on his “mission” is more up for debate – it could be better to have him think he's working in secret when he really isn't, and the cities of the sultanates will be easier to take over without those pesky sultans and their armies actually present. It also makes a degree of sense to sacrifice one sultanate in order to gain control of three, which could very well happen if Mahmut doesn't manage to contain events over in Kilik.
That's where another wrench comes in. The so-called masked sultan, Selim, sees the way things are going and decides that he'd rather not be slaughtered thank you very much, so he tells his besotted son Orshan that he's going to offer Prences Aishe's head to Balaban and forsake Torqye. While that would have been a blow to Mahmut, he at least would have known what he was dealing with – but Orshan's murder of his father and usurpation of the sultanate in order to save Aishe's life is an unexpected twist. Orshan is passionate, and he acts on his feelings rather than on cool-headed planning. That's not an easy kind of ruler to fathom, and while we'd hope that he'll be guided by Aishe's words, he's also just found out that Aishe and Beyazit have decidedly non-niece/uncle feelings for each other, and jealousy should never be underestimated as a driving factor.
All of this is leading up to a wedding worse than anything dreamed up by George R. R. Martin. Once again, Mahmut and his allies are in a walled city with invading forces at the gates, ready to wash the streets with blood. He's got a new, emotionally unstable sultan, unexpected angry sultans and their armies, and little knowledge beyond supposition about what the Divan is planning. While the continuation of this series into another cour confirms that this won't be his final battle, it's certainly not going to be an easy one for him to get through. Added to that is our new knowledge of how the relationship between brothers Balaban and Beyazit went sour, which gives us a better idea of where they stand. Balaban's devotion to what he sees as freedom for his people is contrasted with Beyazit's fidelity to his own notion of justice and questions of who deserves their loyalties. Big sister Fatma clearly being in Balaban's camp while her daughter Aishe is in Beyazit's just pushes the family controversy farther, adding an element that could be particularly dangerous as the fighting heats up. Emotions are messy, and they're a large factor in this game – especially since the glimpse we get of Aishe's much younger brother can't be a coincidence. The inclusion of a small, adorable child in these matters can't be good.
With the plot heating up, it's definitely disappointing to see the art and animation take a nosedive this week. The fight scene with Abiriga and a random soldier is seriously lackluster, and there's a lot of off-model and just not great-looking moments. Hopefully this is because the show is gearing up for something awesome in its mid-season finale – with the action building, it would be a shame if the art, which has usually been nice, couldn't keep up.
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