War has been declared. Closely-guarded secrets are being made public. The rules of engagement are battered if not broken. Can Kris summon the Warders’ Circle one last time and broker a peace with Quloo now they have evidence of Mertika’s treachery?
I won’t lie, I feel a bit like Born to the Blade has borrowed the original Game of Thrones season arc, where the penultimate episode is the OH MY GOD WHAT JUST HAPPENED ARGH one, and the final episode has to tidy up (yes, my tongue is in my cheek but still). That’s not to say I didn’t love it – it just had a hard act to follow, and a lot of tidying up to do.
And oh, gloriously, how it did it.
This is one of those final episodes that has a look at all the elements of the series so far and then packs everything back into different boxes in preparation for season two. There will be new narratives, new ambitions, new alliances, new threats – All the Nations of the Sky prepares the ground and watches proudly as its airship sails off into the sunset.
…quite literally, in Michiko’s case – she bows out of the narrative surprisingly early, abandoning Kris to their political battle in favour of going home to Kakute to stir up trouble (oh I can’t WAIT to see what season 2 has in store for Kakute). And it turns out that Kris has learnt to keep their head just enough to forge a quorum of the Circle – and to force Bellona to hear Xan’s evidence – and has gained the political acumen to find a path through her hostility and obstructionism. It’s perhaps a little too neat in terms of their character development, but I love how this season has been about the rise of a younger generation in the face of adversity and I punched the air to see (most of) the Circle intact and determined to fight for the future at the end of it.
The Circle should make room to imagine more, to see the nuance. To create possibility
But I’d like to finish my love-in with season one of Born to the Blade by finally talking about Ojo. He was an early favourite of mine in this season. An older, experienced Warder who welcomes his colleagues and offers his hand in friendship. He – more than any other – epitomises the ideal of the Warders’ Circle. His low-level feud with Lavinia isn’t about his nation’s long-term rivalry with Mertika, it’s about Lavinia being a cruel, aggressive, pig-headed bully (and let’s face it, he expresses it by finding opportunities to frustrate her politically or personally, not by picking fights for the sake of it).
He’s a sweetheart, and one who has lost his heart to the Vanian Battlemistress who asked him to act as stud so she and her wife could have a child (the complexity of his friendship-with-benefits with Penelope twangs my heart strings every time). But he’s also a man with a lot on his mind. Quloo has a history of aggression as vicious – if not more so – as Mertika’s. After all, Mertika has never torn an island out of the sky. Quloo destroyed Zenatai and are sinking their own homeland in their quest for an ever bigger fleet.
Ojo has qualms about Quloo’s past and is terrified for its future. But it has become clear that Ojo is not entirely representative of his people – this season has played out the narrative that the people of Quloo, back against the wall, are leaning ever more towards their historical aggression. I’m not actually clear on whether the High Skies faction are elected or have simply seized control, but they’re warmongering – as they see it – for their own survival.
It doesn’t matter who sank the Rumikan fleet; it’s too perfect a pretext. No evidence can be good enough to get the Quloo dreadnought out of Rumikan airspace: Quloo needs their aerstone – and their refinery process – too much, and the new government isn’t the sort to believe these things could be acquired diplomatically (and hey, having stolen an entire island and stripmined it, it probably can’t be now, in spite of their Warders’ optimism).
Talk about ways to put Ojo’s professionalism to the test. The second half of this season has done nothing but make him lie to his friends, disappoint his allies and be reprimanded for his strengths. And now he’s been cut half to ribbons, so badly that he may never hold a blade again, and fired.
There have been moments where Ojo’s loyalty to Quloo has raised my eyebrow, but I can’t really fault him for loving his homeland regardless of what jackasses are currently in charge of it. To see him cast aside this week felt inevitable after the weeks of wrangling with the High Skies leadership, but is still heartbreaking. After all (and ignoring the fact that it’s a terrible development from my pro-Rumikan perspective), it was loyalty to Ojo that brought Vania to Quloo’s aid when Mertika declared war, as a certain Battlemistress paid her debt and honoured her lover.
His self-pitying response also seemed proportionate. Ojo has surely been bottling a hella lot of emotions through recent events. He has a lot to get off his chest. And when he pulls himself out of his funk, he finds himself being made an offer that has me tearing up just thinking about it, because I’m so excited for the future. Shun – and I hope we see a good deal more of Shun next season, because gosh they’re stepping out of the twilight here and (like Ojo) I feel terrible that I’ve not paid them more attention (well-played, writing team) – effectively suggests he joins up with Twaa Fei.
Think about it.
The independent, neutral islands of Twaa Fei. The place where outcasts and refugees seek shelter. The home for a political forum in which they have no representation (and yes, I get the whole debate about bias, neutrality and so on – I’ve spent time in DC; it’s a fascinating catch-22). And now it will adopt a Warder (who will no doubt become anathema to his own government, but Adechike will surely never turn on his uncle). Will Twaa Fei seek a seat in the Circle? Or do they simply hope to add a new way to influence the Warders through their former colleague?
I DON’T KNOW BUT I’M HERE FOR IT.
Especially as their stated goal is to end the war.
Oh, I can’t wait for Season Two.