Thunderbolt Fantasy Sword Seekers 2
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 12 of
Thunderbolt Fantasy: Sword Seekers 2 (puppet TV) ?
Several weeks ago, I debated whether Lou was being insincere in his manipulations of Xie. Well, I realize now that we've had the answer to that question for a while—the man formerly known as Diddy Kong really was that much of a myopically solipsistic turd-for-brains, asking sophomoric questions that are challenging only to people like Xie out of sincerely empty-headed curiosity. But maybe I'm misrepresenting the guy, because he may be better characterized as a maniac rather than an idiot. After all, it's not that he's incapable of interacting with the world in a way that's effective to his goals. (On the contrary, he is scarily effective at it.) Rather, his mind just operates on a plane of logic that's largely alien to most other humans and, in a twist of fate, even the demonic succubus sword he's taken as his beloved.
Alright, so the best scene in this episode was obviously when Lou nearly solves the entire plot by killing himself and stranding his vampiric sword wife at the bottom of a cavernous ravine for the rest of time. This is the logical conclusion to his maniac logic, since it's the best way of ensuring that he's the only man to ever touch his lady love ever again. The Seven Blasphemous Deaths is understandably horrified by this, since she's only with the guy for the sake of the lives he can feed her. It's just too soon for this type of commitment. Unfortunately, Lou doesn't give a shit what she thinks, being as self-centered as ever even when he's fully convinced that he's dedicating himself to another person. As Lou makes his momentous steps toward the pit, SBD realizes that he isn't even under her charms; the dude is just like this all the time, and he happened to fixate on her because she was the first thing to make him experience any brain dopamine. Or maybe he just thought she was pretty. I feel bad for The Seven Blasphemous Deaths even if she 100% deserves this. (For my part, I headcanon that Akira Ishida was cast as Lou due to his previous experience playing a disaffected asshole who attempts lover's suicide with an unwilling inhuman construct. Now he just needs to bust out some rakugo.)
Fortunately for SBD, the day is saved (and everyone else's is ruined) when she manages to come up with something to distract Lou: jealousy toward her exes. She starts talking about how sexy and cool Shang Bu Huan was when he had her bound up in a scroll, which causes her current beau to rush off in the opposite direction to restore his besmirched honor. As it happens, Lou's jabbering also wakes up Death King, who'd been napping at the bottom of his intended tomb. Remember Death King? He's that dragon that our main cast took turns beating up at the beginning of the season. Anyway, Death King declares that he's going to kill all humans in revenge (something that he was making great progress toward in his sleep, I'm sure) and starts attacking the couple. Lou destroys him while SBD continues internally panicking over what she's gotten herself into. All in all, they're the couple of the year. I've got to hand it to Thunderbolt Fantasy for crafting a scenario in which a man attempting murder-suicide with his unwilling bride becomes the funniest shit I've seen in ages, but that's where this sort of long-running narrative payoff can lead sometimes.
Otherwise, this episode is dedicated to Shang and Lang's showdown against the fully renegade Xiao Kuang Juan. I'll admit that this part felt a little contrived to me, mostly serving as a premise to get the boyfriends back together to correct a flaw of Lang's that we hadn't really seen in action before. Lang's been mad at Shang and working solo, so that means he has trouble working in groups, I guess? Whatever. So the newly-outed Barbarian Chief manages to corner our wounded Bard via underhanded means until Shang rushes in to save him. We learn that Shang is even more awesome than we knew before, all of the hostage guardians are like “my hero,” and Xiao runs away baffled that a guy who can do so much would just hide it instead of becoming king of the world. In the end, Shang and Lang kiss and make up, Lin joins the party out of the frustrated desire to school somebody, and Lou is making his way back to our heroes to prove that he's the only one worthy of possessing the mightiest wang sword in the land. It's kind of an odd place to end a penultimate episode, but I should really stop trying to lecture Thunderbolt Fantasy on its story structure. It just leads to be getting punked in the end.
As we enter the finale, I feel like Thunderbolt Fantasy S2 will end on some big revelations (possibly regarding backstory) to set up season 3. I've had a lot of fun with this season, but so far it's been much less of an independent construct than the first. The drama felt like a bunch of middle arcs of character trajectories (particularly with regards to the Vape Wizard, whose machinations turned out hilariously irrelevant to everything), battles against mid-bosses, and setup for bigger fish down the road. This isn't to say that it's been worse than the first season – the show's overall quality has been maintained or even improved. It's more that my future reminisces on these events will depend a lot on what comes after. Will future events involving the Bug Bunch make me feel better about Xie's untimely death? That's yet to be seen. However, I still have to consider the hubris of trying to out-predict a show like Thunderbolt Fantasy. Many of my previous attempts (for example, my judgment that a smart Di Kong would be preferable to a dumb Di Kong) have proven hilariously misguided. For all I know, the next episode could serve as the most conclusive possible ending to the entire franchise. Of course I hope not, because it would mean living in a world without more Thunderbolt Fantasy, and we can't have that, right? Right???
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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