Altair: A Record of Battles Episode 5
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Altair: A Record of Battles ?
Mahmut's world is expanding. Last time we saw him – which was three weeks ago – he was leaving Torqye (the new spelling also kicked in during the previous episode) after having joined Zaganos Pasha's spy network, bound for Phoenike, the in-world version of Phoenicia with a dollop of Greece thrown in. Word of Mahmut's triumph over the Empire has reached the rulers of the city-state, but not his demotion, which stands to have a significant impact on his stay. He's arrived just after the Empire's emissary, who has come demanding that a portion of Phoenike's well-protected harbor be ceded to them for their own use. The Phoenicians are torn between bowing to the will of an empire that could eat them for breakfast or refusing and maintaining their pride with the help of their ally, the Doge of Totally-Not-Venice.
So where does Mahmut fit into all of this? Even with his demotion from pasha, he's still a recognized representative of Torqye, and his mere presence could be seen as a tacit statement of alliance between the two nations. Mahmut is definitely not comfortable with this, and the fact that his contact in the city, Kiros, basically told him to leave as soon as they met is not instilling confidence. This episode is the least comfortable we've seen Mahmut with his own actions, and he isn't really sure which way to turn. Given that Suleyman Bey, his previous contact, was so self-confident and reassuring, it stands to reason that Mahmut might assume that all of Zaganos Pasha's men are seasoned spies willing to guide him in the right direction. After all, Mahmut's own actions led to his demotion, which not only came as a shock to him, but also must have undermined his confidence in his judgment severely. We see evidence of this when Kiros threatens Mahmut's life, dangling him over an abyss both literal and metaphorical until he feels assured of Mahmut's future actions.
And what are Mahmut's plans? As Kiros' stellar Captain Jack Sparrow disguise foretold, the sea is going to play a significant role in this, as the Empire stages its siege outside the city's supposedly impregnable harbor gates. Naturally, Louis has more sinister plans about the city's mountainous back entrance (insert Game of Thrones quote here), but for now, Mahmut's best option looks to be breaking through the harbor siege and finding out what happened to the city's backup. They almost certainly haven't been told what's really going on – Doge Lucio is made to sound like Ibrahim, so if he was able, he'd certainly already be there helping the besieged city. Given the nervous hand-scratching of Kiros' father, a high-ranking official in the Phoenician government, it feels like a safe bet that he has betrayed his city and perhaps never sent the message to the Doge at all. Mahmut is aware of this even if no one else seems to be, hence his insistence on going himself to find out where the Doge's men are.
All of this really puts Mahmut back in the hot seat. He's not just a random Torqyean guy out for a vacation in Phoenike, he's an officer in the army and as such a representative of his country. For him to take such an active role in another nation's affairs seems at least risky, both in terms of further censure from the Divan and when it comes to his continued well-being. That Torqye is at war (or at least in conflict) with the Empire doesn't really matter in this case – he's still a foreign agent interfering in another kingdom's affairs. Zaganos Pasha and Halil Pasha may not be able to get him out of this one if something goes wrong.
Given the brutality of the siege scenes (I won't be unseeing that arrow through the cheek any time soon), it seems that things will only be heating up for Mahmut. Louis is ruthless, and the continued scenes of him with chess pieces on a world map indicate that this is all some sort of game for him, possibly because he's not present for the actual battles. Mahmut will have to learn to be a cannier player on the world stage, because his foes and allies are both far more versed in the rules. Captain Jack lookalike or not, I wouldn't want to be on Mahmut's ship when it seeks to sail beyond the blockade.
Altair: A Record of Battles is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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