One crucial scene in this episode feeds directly into the series’ endgame. It’s likely not the one you think, but trust me that it’s very significant. Of course, it pales in comparison to virtually every scene with Maalo the little armadillo (armadillian?) – can we all agree that anyone who would hurt him must be dealt with severely? He even manages to charm the prickly Ilya, which is no small feat.
Ilya’s encounter with Maalo is more than just an excuse for Sacrificial Princess and the King of Beasts to cram cuteness into our eyeballs. Ilya has harbored a hatred for beastkind since his family’s deaths at their hands, and he’s allowed himself to become convinced that all beasts are human-murdering scum. When he hears that children are being kidnapped by beastkind, he immediately heads out to take care of the problem, only to discover that it’s beast kids being kidnapped by humans. To say that this is an uncomfortable realization would be an understatement, and Ilya is utterly unprepared for Maalo to be like any other child. His previous hatreds and assumptions are tested in the face of Maalo’s charm, politeness, and trust. It’s a close call, but when Ilya realizes that Maalo’s cries for help sound just like his deceased little sister’s, it all comes home to him. Hatred doesn’t help anything; it just begets more hatred. Maalo doesn’t care that Ilya is a human; he only knows that Ilya saved him and is leading him home. When Ilya understands this, he turns around and does the right thing. It isn’t a complete surrender of his biases because this show understands that such deep-seated prejudice doesn’t just vanish overnight. But it’s a step in the right direction and a reinforcement of what Sariphi asked him to consider: that beasts are just as human (for lack of a better word) as humans. “They look different” isn’t a valid excuse for hatred.
That’s something that Anubis could stand to learn, although he’s getting better. He’s still not thrilled with Sari’s presence or her weird little friend group, but he’s gotten used to them, and that’s a pretty big step for him. It’s Lante who points out how odd Sariphi’s situation is: she’s a human marrying the beast king, her best friend is an alligator, her helpers are cyclopes, and her guard captain is a hyena. None of it makes sense on the surface, but once you get closer to her group, it all makes perfect sense. Everyone has something to contribute to the rest, and Sari’s willing acceptance of that makes everything work.
Lante has quickly become an excellent addition to the team, and I’m not just saying that because I love how his tongue is often out of his mouth, just like my dog Max. (Max has no teeth. The vet calls him “sideways tongue boy.”) This week he steps in to help both Sari and Amit when Jormungand breaks Amit’s heart by returning the amulet she made him; he tries to explain what might be going through Jor’s head. When that doesn’t fully work, he challenges the other man to a duel, not because he desperately wants to fight him (although he enjoys it), but because he wants Sari and Amit to feel better about the situation. Amit may not want to see Jor get hurt, but she needs to see that there’s more than a perceived rejection going on, and Lante does help with that.
The group will need to be close-knit for what’s to come. It looks like there’s something very like a rebellion brewing, and even Anubis’ careful machinations and Leonhart’s desire to do what’s right are going to need a little help if everyone is going to come out unscathed.
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