Maria the Virgin Witch
by Gabriella Ekens,
Maria the Virgin Witch finally went to hell this week. It's been a long time coming – the past six episodes have been spent outlining the cracks in Maria's worldview, and it's time for her self-image to come crumbling down. We last saw her rushing off to interfere with another battle, and this episode details the outcome.
Maria's rash interference causes disastrous results. Her protestations aren't enough to stop the fighting, which descends into chaos. In an attempt to salvage the battle, Count Guillaume orders his cannons to fire into the mass of people, killing indiscriminately. When the mercenary boss threatens to take away Galfa's earnings for his role in starting the chaos, Galfa murders him, only to have his arm ripped off by a stray cannonball immediately afterwards. Maria tries to summon another monster, but Ezekiel, who's been frantically chasing after the witch, catches sight of this and transforms into Michael's spear. The angel is forced to pierce Maria, but manage to avoid dealing a killing blow, only knocking her out of the sky. Angry soldiers find her and attempt to exact vengeance on our unconscious heroine, but Viv – who's been watching with her guild – stops them and takes her to safety. When the battle is over, Galfa agrees to join in on Bernard's plan to stop Maria.
Ezekiel's transformation over the past five episodes has been heartwarming. The angel started out as such a sheltered stickler for heavenly mandate but has now begun to think and feel for itself. I'm glad that Joseph was the one to talk Ezekiel out of this funk. He seems to be Michael's ideological opposite – someone whose morals fall in line with the spirit rather than the letter of heavenly doctrine. Joseph makes decisions based on empathy while Michael bases them on mandates. Both are passive, feminized male figures, but Michael is an executor whereas Joseph is a provider. I also like Ezekiel's designation as Michael's literal spear, and that Michael sees everything that the angel does. After saving Maria, Ezekiel's biggest worry is that she was hurt at all. When Maria greets Ezekiel without judgment, the tears start flowing. From rough beginnings, Ezekiel has become a full-fledged member of Maria's family.
I see what they're doing with Galfa now – the first half of the series makes us understand him as a person before he becomes Maria's biggest threat. I appreciate how Maria the Virgin Witch has so far avoided any unilateral depiction of evil. For a series that's so concerned with the practicalities of life as a woman during this period, they've set up sympathetic circumstances for the man most likely to attempt sexual violence against Maria. This episode's attempted rape was also tastefully done. A group of angry soldiers find Maria unconscious body and, angry at her continued interference, grab her leg. Viv stops them in time, but considering this series' stakes, the implication is made clear without being exploitative. In a world of constant violence, rape is depicted as a man's go-to way to hurt a woman. Thankfully Artemis and Viv were there to protect Maria!
I'm also glad that Maria got to spend some time with her fellow witches. Although she's a slight black sheep amongst them, it turns out she's far from a pariah – despite all the trouble she's caused, they're still friendly towards her and entreat her to join their guild. I'm most curious about Edwina, the reclusive pharmacist. The cat from past episodes is her familiar, which she uses to make deliveries and meet with the guild. Edwina houses Maria when she's injured, so there might be a connection between the two. Edwina blushes when Maria compliments her and might have been avoiding her specifically in the past. At this point in the story, it would be odd to introduce a new character whose struggle is entirely disconnected from the protagonist's, but we'll see where it goes.
For as harsh as Maria's world can be, it's far from bleak. Violence springs more from differences in worldview and mutually exclusive benefit rather than malicious intent. The common thread between people is that they do what they think is best – it's a show without the comically amoral sociopaths that plague fiction as a source for easy villainy. While I wouldn't call Maria's world "realistic," it reads to me like a psychologically whole depiction of how and why conflict happens between well-adjusted people. Violence isn't some untouchable evil, just a tragically common symptom of human nature. Maria's actions can't prevent violence, only postpone it. Now that this is established, it's time to see what sort of transcendent act could make Maria remembered in a saintly light.
Maria the Virgin Witch is currently streaming on Funimation.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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