(For predictions, see the end of 15.1 post.)
That was… a lot.
Fuck, let’s split this up by the sections:
Darkness: A fantastic intro, raising many questions and getting the reader invested in where this chapter would be going and who it was about. Sets up the desperation of the trigger event as well as the way Carol would later feel about the long-haired guy’s betrayal really well.
Alan Barnes: By far the most mundane section, but it casually shows us who we’re following and how she’s dealing with what she knows of the Victoria and Amy situation by seeking more mundane work as a break from her endless search, while somewhat subtly making it clear that she favors Victoria. The section is not that interesting at first read, I think, but it’s not without purpose in the chapter.
It does suffer heavily from the inclusion of Alan Barnes and the fact that his surname was being kept from us until the end of the section, even though this was clearly the section’s second purpose: Telling us that Emma’s father, and therefore very likely Emma herself, is/are back in town. The fact that this happened just after we got rid of the other Alan, and only two chapters after the latest reminder of that name for the other Alan, made things extremely confusing for a while. Especially as this section happens early in the chapter, while we’re still trying to figure out exactly when things are set and how things are laid out.
Trigger events: Dandelions, fuck yeah. I love the fact that what appears to be their birth mirrors the spreading of seeds from a dandelion.
The action, and especially Carol’s reaction to the long-haired man attacking them, was also pretty decent, especially with the way the latter was later revealed to have affected her for the rest of her life.
Daughters, plural: A pretty short section, really more of a transition. Carol’s reaction to the others finding both daughters is worth a mention, though, and the way it reinforces what was subtly set up in the Alan section.
Marquis: Marquis is such a good character. Must run in the family.
The battle was very good. I love the fact that Marquis was defeated because he was acting differently than usual to protect Amy. It really helps to sell the love he has for her. And the way he acted after his defeat, entrusting his daughter to the people who were about to take him away from her forever? So good.
The battle was suspiciously different from what we’ve been told about it before, about how they sent in an all-female team to play off of Marquis’ honor. I suppose in retrospect that might’ve been a public fib made to protect the secret of how he was really beaten? Except I’m pretty sure we heard that story from Dragon, one of the few who seem to know the truth.
Anyway, I love how things come together in this section, between their trigger event and Marquis’ appearance and Carol’s behavior regarding Amy (as seen in two of the earlier sections and from Amy’s perspective).
Art: And the pain begins.
Carol confronting Amy and making it clear that only Victoria is her daughter.
Amy’s uncertainty and fear.
The horrifyingly beautiful sculpture that used to be Victoria, and the way that came about.
Carol picking that moment out of them all to finally realize that Amy wasn’t so different from herself.
So much pain in all the best ways.
“Please tell me what to do.”
One of my favorite characters just decided to take herself out of the story (as long as the Birdcage isn’t compromised, anyway). I’m fine. Sure.
You guys were just waiting for me to get to this, weren’t you. I know how liveblog readers work.
But seriously, this is a really painful but really fitting ending to her character arc. She’s been in so much turmoil since she found out about Marquis, and Bonesaw set her on a downward spiral of unethical use of her power. Now we got to see the climax of the latter and an apparent acceptance of the former – she must’ve known she’d meet Marquis in the Birdcage, and it might even be a part of why she volunteered to go.
And Carol’s found a certain acceptance. She’s not feeling good, but she acknowledges that Victoria is for all intents and purposes gone, and she seems to accept that Marquis and his daughter are reunited and may even be happy together in the Birdcage.
It’s bittersweetness at its finest.
Holy shit, this was so good and so painful but so fucking good.
See you next time. I have a chapter to go recover from.
She left the office, stepping outside into the too-bright outdoors, leaving the reunion to play on the screen.
That was all she needed to know.
Lung and Marquis moved forward, and the women of the cell block moved to block Lung’s advance, letting Marquis through.
They know what’s up.
Marquis stopped a few feet away from his daughter. Their hair was the same, as were their eyes.
The day I cease seeing her as his daughter and see how she could be mine, he takes her back, she thought.
No, he didn’t. She gave herself back to him.
“I’ve been waiting,” he spoke.
That was enough. She had the answer she’d wanted, even if she hadn’t consciously asked the question.
“Are you my dad?”
…oh wait. It’s Carol who has her answer, not Amy.
Is the question “does he still love her?”
Carol watched as the girl stepped out of the elevator. She pulled off a gas mask and let it drop to the floor. A small crowd was gathering around her, others from her cell block checking out the new resident.
I feel like some of the Brockton Bay inmates may treat Amy better than they would most new inmates. Amy has probably helped a lot of them in her day, including Lung.
How long would it take?
She would have asked Dragon, but her breath was caught in her throat.
I mean, if Marquis heard that announcement, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t come running, even if it broke with his usual calm and collected aesthetic.
He appeared two minutes later, as a woman who must have been the self-imposed leader of Cell block E was talking to Amy.
For a moment there I read “He appeared two minutes later as a woman” and was very confused.
Despite all the reaction images I have used from it today, this isn’t El Goonish Shive.
He looks older.
Somehow Carol had imagined Marquis had stayed as young and powerful as the day they’d last fought. The day she’d met Amy. But there were lines in his face. He looked more distinguished, even, but he looked older.
Sometimes we don’t realize things can change while we’re not looking at them. I suppose that’s the other edge of object permanence.
Not the bogeyman that had haunted her.
And that’s Lung behind him.
I hope they’re still good buddies.
Was Lung an enforcer for Marquis? It was hard to imagine. Or were they friends? That was simultaneously easier and harder to picture. But it was somehow jarring, as if it instilled a sort of realism in an otherwise surreal picture.
Because it makes them seem more human?
That’s this story in a nutshell, isn’t it. Revealing the humanity of both heroes and villains to instill a sense of realism in the surreal world of parahumans.
For an hour or so, she occupied herself by reading the pamphlets and the back covers of books. Reading a novel was too much.
Somewhere along the line, she nodded off. She was glad for the sunlight that streamed in through the window, the glare of the florescent bulbs overhead. Recent events had stirred her old fears of the dark.
This whole bit, us actually seeing the wait instead of time skipping… I like it. It’s very somber, very… relatable, actually, like the wait at a hospital. And it gives us insight into how Carol feels in the downtime, when things aren’t constantly Happening™.
It didn’t feel like hours had passed when she was woken by Dragon’s voice. “Carol.”
She walked over to the screen.
Time for an awkward reunion.
It was a surveillance camera image. The camera zoomed in on a door. An elevator door, perhaps. It whisked open.
“Would you like sound?”
“It doesn’t really matter. Yes.”
I certainly would.
A second later, the sound cut in. An announcement across the prison PA system: “-one-two, Amy Dallon, AKA Amelia Lavere, AKA Panacea. Cell block E.“
You know what? While I can tell it’s a Francophone name, I really like a little linguistic coincidence at play here. Because in Norwegian, “lavere” means “lower”, “further down”. Considering Amy’s downward spiral, which as far as I can tell hit its lowest point in this chapter where Marquis’ (or her mother’s?) surname is revealed, that’s very appropriate.
“It isn’t. There’s a bridge between the male and female sections of the Baumann center.”
Carol nodded. “Then I have to see. Please.”
“It’s going to be the better part of a day before she arrives.”
Yeah, might have to wait a bit for that one.
Still, I want to see it too. Can we have a final time skip?
“I’ll wait. If I fall asleep, will you please wake me?”
Dragon didn’t venture a goodbye, or any further condolences. Her face disappeared from the screen, replaced by a spinning logo, showing the Guild’s emblem on one side and the Protectorate’s shield on the other.
Because she’s part of both. Though we still hardly know what the Guild even is.
I kinda wish their emblem would be described here. I’m guessing an anvil or a hammer or something like that.
Carol waited patiently for hours, her mind a blank. She couldn’t dwell on the past, or she’d lose her mind. There was nothing in the present, and the future… she couldn’t imagine one. She couldn’t envision being with Mark without Victoria. Couldn’t imagine carrying on life as Brandish.
It sounds like the kids were the ones holding everything together.
And then they fell apart.
Perhaps she would continue filing. Something simpler than criminal law, something lower stress. At least for a little while.
Yeah, sounds good to me.
“I didn’t realize that was today. If you’d asked, I could have rescheduled Amy Dallon’s departure.”
“No. It’s fine. I prefer it this way.”
Why? So you don’t have to go with Victoria too?
“You didn’t want to see Victoria off to the parahuman asylum?”
I suppose what Amy did would cause a form of insanity.
“Victoria is gone. There’s nothing of her left but that mockery. Mark and I fought over it and this was what we decided.”
I see… Mark is more reluctant to accept that she’s not really Victoria anymore?
Those are my words, missy.
“If it’s no trouble, could I watch?”
Watch? Watch what?
“What are you wanting to watch, specifically?”
“Her arrival? I know the prison is segregated, but she’s still-“
Also, segregated. Right. Sure. Not like there’s a big hole between the sides.
Numb, she returned to the office that looked out on the lot. Dragon’s face displayed on a computer screen to the left of the door. The computer chair was unoccupied.
“That’s it?” Carol asked.
For now, anyway. Maybe at some point we’ll find out how the meeting between Amy and Marquis went – she must’ve known that would happen when she volunteered – and, if we’re lucky, the Birdcage may be compromised at some point.
(Yeah, I may not be theorizing on that as actively as I once did, but it’s still very much a possibility. Especially considering that the Birdcage is an attractive target to Endbringers, and that the apocalyptic threat is likely to cause a lot of destruction worldwide.)
“She’ll be transported there and confined for the remainder of her life, barring exceptional circumstance.”
Exceptional circumstance! You know, like the apocalypse.
Carol nodded. “Two daughters gone in the blink of an eye.”
Oh yeah, now she’s your daughter again. Now that you recognize her as another victim.
“Your husband decided not to come?”
“He exchanged words with her in her cell this morning. He decided it was more important to accompany Victoria to Pennsylvania.”
What’s in Pennsylvania?
She couldn’t forgive Amy, not ever, not in the slightest. But she was sorry.
Amy swallowed hard and stepped back, then stepped up into the truck.
Carol watched in silence as the doors automatically shut and locked, and remained rooted in place as the truck pulled out of the parking lot and disappeared down the road.