Arc Thoughts: Monarch

Let’s look back at an interesting Arc!


Like any well-written climax for a conflict that has lasted through the entire story so far (starting from Arc 3 at the latest), Monarch is an Arc that seems dedicated to highlighting how far Taylor and the other Undersiders have come.

While the Dragon conflict early in the Arc may not be the best the story has had to offer (especially the Azazel chapter, which I found to be a let-down after all the hype), on account of out-of-story circumstances in Wildbow’s life, it did what I think it set out to do rather well: Showcase Taylor’s skill at her new leadership position and how the Undersiders can no longer be held back by something as simple as, say, seven ultra-advanced mechs created by the best tinker around. Each of the Undersiders’ plans worked out very well in this section — one might even say too well, if it’s conflict and difficulty one wants to see — but that’s part of the point, I think. They’ve grown to the point where they can deal with this kind of threat efficiently.

I suppose in retrospect, the biggest problem with that is that a huge part of the final solution was for Lisa to get Coil to pay for outside help off-screen, but I can let that slide, especially since that also turned out to be part of her plan to leave Coil without enough money to outbid her. More on that later.

Part 2 of the Arc was the calm before the storm, a few chapters of downtime before things started blowing up in Taylor’s face. Literally. Here, we got to kick back and relax a little with interactions on both the parahuman and civilian sides of Taylor’s life. It was nice.

Then Coil’s plans of city takeover entered the final stage, his identity was revealed and he put Taylor through a few final challenges before his defeat. A fitting climax to both the Arc and the longstanding Coil arc of Worm.

On top of all this, we got updates on Defiant and Dragon’s hunt for the Nine and on AMY *ahem* Amy and Marquis. Apparently Amy figured out something the Simurgh doesn’t want humanity to know, which is… ominous. Possibly related to Noelle somehow?

Monarch was also an Arc about Coil himself. His backstory, his grand plan (though he may still have had grander plans related to why Cauldron wanted him to succeed), his ethics, his end — we got a better look at the man than we have before, and in that respect, Piggot was surprisingly important. It turns out she is a foil to Coil — he’s a thin man who projects a veneer of civility and honor over a villainous self and embraces the idea that powers let you play by your own rules; she’s a fat woman nominally on the heroes’ side, who embraces shamelessness in a different way than Coil does, and abhors that understanding of powers. She believes it, but she doesn’t like it like Coil does. They share a backstory, but took completely different lessons from it.

Foils are a fantastic tool for characterization. Taylor actually puts it very well in 16.3:

This was the director of the PRT?  Hearing her speak, I’d almost thought she was like Coil, at first.  Cultured, proud, arrogant.  Now that she was showing her true colors, it was almost the opposite.  And strangely, it was equally problematic.

She’s both like Coil and the opposite of him. They are two sides of the same coin.

All in all, while it has its imperfections, Monarch was another excellent Arc overall, and a worthy climax to the story of Taylor vs. Coil.


The arc title

I stand by “Monarch” referring to Taylor’s leadership of the Undersiders, but it’s also Coil and his plans to take over the city. I think both of those things are very important to this Arc, so I’m not going to pick one — the title refers to both.


Prediction review

From the Arc Thoughts: Colony prediction review:

And finally, I think there’s a good chance we’ll finally learn what the Travelers’ deal is. Hell, if my theories on that are anywhere near right, that might even be another reason for the title.

Not yet, but we’re definitely building up to it, what with the massive secret and the Sundancer development. Roll over.

We’re getting closer, but damn, this is taking longer than I thought. Roll over.

We’ve got Noelle up next. This time we’ve got to get some answers. Roll over, for presumably the last time!

Before title:

So. Coil knows the Undersiders are plotting and wants them to know that he knows, and that he knows how to fool Tattletale’s power.

I think I didn’t end up mentioning this in the recap in 16.13, but at one point it became clear to me how he did this: He was planning the murder of Skitter in Monarch, not one in Colony, and either let Tattletale catch on to that a little too early to test her like he said, or claimed it was a test specifically to throw them off the scent.

I think that means we’ll see more obvious moves on his part next Arc, now that both sides know the other is playing. Colony was just the beginning of the game – now we’re heading deeper into it.

Definitely. To some extent Colony and Monarch are part 1 and 2 of the same story.

On top of the game against Coil, parts of the Protectorate and Wards will likely be an issue, spearheaded by Assault. Or, if something happens that changes the remainder’s minds on the subject, a larger portion with draconic backup. I think there’s a good chance Skitter will be captured in a surprise attack – question is just whether she’ll be able to get out of it fully by her own power and/or negotiations, or need backup in the form of a rescue mission.

Coil would probably support the rescue mission as long as no one else wound up captured. Skitter in custody is an information leak waiting to happen.

I’d say I got close here, but Skitter is slippery.

It’s also possible we’ll hold off on this stuff until Arc 17, perhaps with the events of Arc 16 being what prompts a change of heart from the PRT’s side.

Arc 16 may also involve Victor a bit more. That could be involved in the PRT reconsidering?

Nahh.

Honestly, Victor has gone surprisingly ignored for a while, aside from some stuff he was helping out with in the background. Maybe he’ll come in handy against Noelle?

It’s possible the Arc will build on the “divided Undersiders” foreshadowing from Colony a bit, perhaps having such a division happen right before the Protectorate moves on Skitter. Regent would likely be on the other side of the rift, making for extra irony points when he’s part of why they’re moving in the first place.

Does 16.12 count? I don’t think it does, because that instance of Undersider vs. Undersider was an issue of misdirection rather than cracks in the team, and not really related to the fractures in Colony.

After title:

Monarch.

That’s an interesting title. Very regal.

The obvious candidate is Coil. The guy at the top, the man who wants to rule the city. But I think at the same time the title probably also refers to Taylor.

Nailed that much, I think.

It’s likely we’re going to be touching on Taylor’s new status as leader of the Undersiders and her preexisting status as ruler of her territory (perhaps there’s a challenge to her rule there), in addition to taking on Coil around the time of the election that would make him monarch of Brockton Bay.

Bingo. Except the challenge to her rule of her territory, unless you count the drone-deployer Dragon mech.

And if I get more metaphorical and start grasping at straws for a second, maybe there’ll be something about the butterfly effect (Monarch -> monarch butterfly -> butterfly effect), perhaps with regards to Skitter fucking up Cauldron’s plans with her little wing flaps?

Sounds like fun. See you there!

This’ll have to wait.

From Monarch 16.1’s intro:

Maybe they’ll also find out some news about Parian at some point. Coil wasn’t thrilled to have her in on the deal, so he may have arranged for her to be… taken care of, successfully or otherwise. If something like that happens, now or in a later part of the Arc, that’ll give Flechette reason to stand against the Undertravelers on Assault’s side, and may be another droplet towards making the glass spill.

Yeeah, no. But it’s an interesting point, what happens with the Undersiders and Parian now that Coil’s gone?


Predictions for Arc 17

Before the title:

Time to finally find out what the Nohelle is up with Noelle!

I suspect Arc 17 will be a bit of a boss Arc, similar to Extermination, especially given the parallel between 7.12 and 16.13 — abrupt appearance of a new problem of air siren level scale, leading right into the next Arc (though Arc 7 did close off with an Interlude). There’s also the fact that Noelle’s problem was first introduced at the very end of Extermination, theorized to be connected to the Endbringers, in an Interlude which would serve as a segue into “Book 2” (ultimately I’d consider Sentinel part of Book 2 if I had to draw the line, even though that, too, is a bit of a segue) by giving us a closer look at some of the big bads of the “book”.

I feel like that makes it fairly clear how much of a threat Noelle seems set up to be. Tattletale seems to consider her an Endbringer-level threat, or near it, and the story structure seems to agree with her. And so the Arc looms ahead of me.

Of course, it really doesn’t help anyone that the Undersiders, especially Taylor, are still recently injured and exhausted in several ways and there’s no healer in town.

Speaking of which, I think Taylor’s blindness is here to stay, at least for a good while. Maybe she’ll get that fixed before the end of the story, allowing her to properly describe the final threat, but for now, she’d better get used to it. It’s a good development towards her becoming more and more one with the swarm.

Actually, maybe she won’t have her own eyesight restored, but instead she manages to harness her ability to see through insectoid eyes? That really would be the next step in being “one with the swarm”, and it would let her see things without going back on a loss.

That’s probably not going to happen next Arc, though, unless Noelle makes it so she has to see through the insects’ eyes, or die.

Back on the topic of Noelle– oh fuck, a thought just occurred to me. What if this was what Cauldron wanted Coil to succeed at? Not his plans to take over Brockton Bay, but his supposed attempts to cure and/or tame Noelle?

–as I was saying, I’m fairly stumped on what exactly is going on with her. I’ve suggested a few vague options before, such as Cauldron experiments (which might either mesh or clash with that theory from last paragraph, depending on their reasons), Endbringers being capable of making more of themselves even if the original three were never human, a power with a missing passenger… but none of them stand out as any stronger than wild mass guesses to me. Even the Endbringer one, which has some canon backing.

I think Trickster believes he’s to blame for it somehow, but I’m unsure that he actually is.

Hm, what else… I know this Arc doesn’t take place over a long duration, since someone told me in an ask a while back that Arcs 16-19 take place over only four days. (I wouldn’t have let that through myself, but I trust Sharks’ decisions.)

Okay, I think it’s time to read the title!

After the title:

Migration?

Interesting. Is it time for the remaining ~60% of the original population, or at least the Undersiders, to get the hell out of Brockton Bay? I suppose I did mention in 16.6 that “I don’t think Brockton Bay would be in great shape to do a rematch against Leviathan right now”, and Noelle does sound dangerous enough to qualify.

If this really is the case, we might have some conflict surrounding Taylor’s territory. She wouldn’t want to leave it behind, but maybe she’ll have to. At least if that happens, she won’t have to worry about post-Coil funding, though Tattletale’s recent and not-so-recent antics would probably have helped her out on that front.

I think we’re in for a hell of an Arc, and I’m very much looking forward to it! 🙂

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