Thursday, July 24, 2014

All Back To Marjory's : GW2

Over at Kill Ten Rats, Ravious has a nice rundown of GW2's second season story so far, which is good because that means I can just link to it here and say "What He Said". I would have been struggling to get my version done before we hit the next Episode and when that arrives no-one is going to give hoot #1 about Entanglement.

The running time of that video teaser for Episode 3: The Dragon's Reach lasts about as long as an Elementalist casting Meteor Shower and the impact hits about as hard. The forum has been on fire since it landed (Reddit, too, for all I know). Map chat buzzes and rings with speculation and, yes, delight. If you haven't seen it, it's worth forty-five seconds of your time.

It's always good to see Rytlock doing his thing, although from the chewing-out she's getting Rox may not agree, but even by his major predator standards that bit with the sword is going some.  "What the hell is he doing?" seems to be the most common response. Suffice it to say that, on the back of this little piece of movie-making alone, today I bought the Destiny's Edge novel just to have at least a glimmer of an idea.

Still, that's the future. In the past and the present we have some aftermath and some questions brewing. Like, is Scarlet really dead? My answer to that is she's as dead as any supervillain, namely she is until some writer decides he or she has a really neat idea on how and why she's not. That's genre writing, folks.

Then there's the whole "are we corrupted yet?" thing. Was that really the Eternal Alchemy and if so didn't you imagine it would be, oh, I dunno, more Werner Herzog, less Roger Dean?

Much more interesting is the whole Jory/Kas/Belinda thing. Here's how I read it: Marjory has serious issues with her family. She has made a number of ambivalent comments about her upbringing and she has gone out of her way to keep information about her bckground from Kas. Kas only meets Belinda by chance.

Maybe it's me. I do tend to see ironic foreshadowing pretty much everywhere...

Belinda's behavior on meeting Kas for the first time is emphatically over-enthusiastic, leading to numerous accusations from players that she sounds like a much younger girl than the character would suggest. This is put down to a poor line reading by the voice actor, even though, as a rule, recent GW2 voice acting and direction has been pretty good and even rather subtle.

Belinda's subsequent appearances show her to be a competent and responsible soldier, not a flighty, breathy ingenue. The voice acting is significantly less hysterical. Either the audio director had words or, my choice, the initial reaction to meeting Kas was actually played as over-reaction, over-compensation.

In each meeting Belinda goes out of her way to be excitedly, enthusiastically accepting of both Kas, herself, and Kas and Marjory's relationship. She want Marjory to know that she, at least, very possibly in strong contrast to other members of their family, has no prejudices either in regard to Kas's rank or to her and her sister's sexual orientation and/or lifestyle choices.

After Belinda's horrific and shocking death, (Oops! *Spoiler*) Marjory chooses to cut Kas out of the entire mourning/grieving/funeral process. The reasons and explanations she gives are unconvincing and Kas is indeed not convinced by them. Marjory insists and Kas, behaving empathically, allows herself to become convinced because it's clear that Jory needs her to go along with the fiction.

Marjory is hiding something. It has been rather deliciously suggested that Jory, being a necromancer, wants Kas out of the way so she can perform some revolting ritual that will bring her sister back to "life". Much though that would make for a fascinating sub-plot I don't think that's going to happen.

Then again, not without good reason.

My reading is that Marjory knows that, even at the best of times, introducing her aristocratic, same-sex lover to her family, and especially her mother was going to be a challenge. This is emphatically not the best of times. I actually can't read which of those factors is in play but there's certainly something there that's not right. I get the distinct feeling that Marjory knows that to arrive home with Kas for the first time, along with the news that Belinda is dead, compounded by the fact that the two lovers were there when she died and failed to save her, would pretty much put the tin lid on any happy ever afters.

I do hope it turns out to be an issue of orientation not class. The introduction of a same-sex couple in this storyline has been welcome and refreshing but so far there's been an almost wish-fulfillment element to the easy, complete and unfettered acceptance the lovers have received, in the game-world at least. Perhaps Tyria really is utterly without gender prejudice (which would be nicely affirmative, it's true) and Kas and Jory's relationship is, quite literally, unremarkable within the parameters of their written, cultural environment.

That would be positive in it's way but also a missed opportunity. It would be a lot more interesting, not to mention powerful, were they to confront and overcome at least some opposition to the choice they have proudly made.

All well and good. Best talk about it now, though. When Rytlock drives that blade into the Ascalonian flagstones no-one's going to be in much of a mood for gender politics or sociological theorizing.


  1. Conversely, I would much prefer it to be an issue of class, not orientation. In a fantastic world, there's no need to share the same hangups as the modern one, and it's easier to point out the absurdity of overreaction via an analogue. Our Krytan humans appear to have a class/caste thing going on that they take very seriously and it's a shame to waste that.

    It's probably a generational mindset. One of my first encounters with women in love with each other was through reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's books. While an iconoclast for her time, it's telling that she found the need to create an entire alien planet harboring very medieval chauvinistic ideas and then a sort of feminist commune within that, in order to portray lesbians in a sympathetic light. Nearly everybody in the greater 'outside' society found it hard to accept.

    These days, I find myself thinking more along the lines of certain web fiction and egalitarian gay portrayal in the mass media, where such relationships simply -are- and exist alongside heterosexual ones, just as people of all skin color work together in an office in a TV episode without comment and overt discrimination.

  2. I agree with Jeromai – I'd prefer it to be a class issue too. I even think it'd be more powerful if the orientation thing was just not brought up at all, like it's completely irrelevant, completely normal. The portrayal of a world where gender is basically a total non-issue would be a great thing, especially when the world is as popular as GW2's.

  3. @Jeromai and Andy Farrell

    I very much take the point. I recognize the value of both positive affirmation and normalization in this context, as I mentioned in the post. If that's ArenaNet's motivation (or the writers') then it's entirely valid. I've seen evidence in-game that it's having some effect, too.

    On the other hand, and it may indeed be a generational thing, I do worry sometimes that acting as though the battle has been won may lead people to believe the battle's been won and it really hasn't. If we're arguing about anything, which I don't think we are, really, it's over methods, not goals.

    Leaving the sociological implications aside, though, you both do agree that *something's* not as it should be, right? The only outcome I'd really hate to see is if absolutely nothing comes of this at all and it turns out to have been me that was indulging in wishful-thinking by seeing more layers to the onion than the onion really had.

  4. Well, the episode 3 video opened a can of Lore Wars: can Rytlock do what he did?

    But I just noted one Rytlock is left-hander and the other one is righ-hander... maybe I am seeing too much...

    1. The last thing I am is up to speed on the Lore but I did read that only the rightful ruler of Ascalon can lift the curse. And the Krytan Royal Locket shows the current heir to the Krytan Throne.

      What if we open the locket and it has a picture of Rytlock inside?

    2. The one good thing about an episodic story is that the writers can somewhat adjust to their audiences' expectations. Even if they weren't meaning to make anything out of it beyond "we don't have the art assets and resources right now to show players' Marjory's family," I'm sure when it finally comes time to meet them, -something- will be not as it should be.

      Can't have a good story without conflict or suspense/tension or ups-and-downs, after all.

      As for the whole Rytlock thing, my most pragmatic view of it is that he's going to -try- and get blown back into the wall because it's not him.

      Then the players get sent on the great hunt for the missing Krytan locket to figure out just -who- it really is, and then possibly persuade Rytlock to hand Sohothin over. And the human heir's going to try and get blown into the wall as well.

      For Rytlock to really stand a chance, he's got to get the claw of the Khan-Ur and unite the legions first, imo.

      Frankly, the most poetic version would be that -both- swords eventually need to go there, united, one in the hands of the human heir, and one in the hands of the charr heir. Taking apart the Foefire sounds like a climax worthy of Season 2, just as Season 1 had Lion's Arch in ruins.


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