Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Joran: The Princess of Snow and Blood ?
“Confidential File 637, A Fleeting Spring” is an episode that asks what every saga about a warrior who spends a lifetime seeking vengeance will eventually ask, at one point or another: “Can our hero lay down her sword and live a normal, peaceful life?” We don't actually need to watch the episode get the obvious answer to that question, though, which is, “Of course not.” There's, like, five episodes left in the season, after all. Sawa's going to get around to some more revengin', one way or the other.
Joran has never been ashamed of its reliance on archetypes and tropes, though, so naturally we will all humor the show and see how Sawa's latest tragedy plays out, anyway. So far as Sawa and Asahi's side of the story goes, it goes exactly as you expect. Their cozy new life in the village comes with plenty of idle chatter about festivals, schools, and finding Sawa a husband, and wouldn't you be surprised to learn that the local schoolteacher, Oikawa, is a dashing young man who is good with kids, and he is oh-so understanding about Sawa's mysterious past and closed-off demeanor. By the time Oikawa treats our girls to a starlit picnic and starts to get Sawa to open up about herself, you can clearly picture the idyllic domestic bliss that is waiting for this little found family.
In other words, both Oikawa and Asahi may as well spend the entire episode stapling giant red flags marked “IMMINENT DEATH” to their faces, and poor Sawa is none the wiser until Makoto shows up to murder the two of them to death. With all of Sawa's talk about putting in the effort to change her deadly ways for good, Joran was letting us know that we'd need another round of family annihilation for Sawa to get her taste for bloodletting back, and…yep. This definitely qualifies.
It's the Makoto side of the story that brings everything down from being enjoyably cliché to simply making no sense. We know that he is slowly dying and losing his mind from the painkillers that have kept him conscious all this time, and we learn this week that the treasure hunt he's been on has led him to some secret info about the Karasumori clan. Jin also reveals that he is on to Sawa and Asahi's ruse, and he threatens their safety to get Makoto to hand over the crystals in his possession, so there is enough pressure in Makoto's life to explain some erratic behavior.
What we don't know is why, all of a sudden, Makoto has decided that his “love” for Sawa is twisted into disdain for her peaceful life, and a willingness to murder her new friends and family to bring back that “fragile beauty” he is so obsessed with. Sawa herself even points out that Makoto was the one who schemed to fake her death and spirit them away to this specific village in the first place, and Makoto's only response is “I'll tell you later.” Then he kills Oikawa, transforms into a harpy-looking monstress, and cuts Asahi down in front of Sawa. Cue our anti-heroine's screams of undying hatred, and the return of her ghostly raven alter ego.
Did we just skip an episode in the middle of all this? Or am I forgetting some key detail that would explain Makoto's reverse-double-heel-turn as anything more nuanced then “He's crazy, now?” I guess there is a third option, wherein Makoto is faking even more deaths to lure Sawa into helping him destroy the shogun's regime, so that she can fully live her life in freedom with a secretly alive Oikawa and Asahi.
That might be one needlessly absurd twist too far, at least when Joran is lacking the build-up and context that would be needed to pull it off. Maybe the show will prove me wrong and really sell this latest tragic turn in the next episodes. At the very least, Sawa's return to the world of stabbing monsters in the face will provide us with some much needed action. I will be much more primed to let the silly story stuff just wash right over me if the show can get my inner-twelve-year-old pumping his fists to the rhythm of Sawa's war drums.
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