Wow. I just…..wow.
It’s hard to summarize why Jormungand is such a delight to watch: if a few words could come to my mind regarding the show, they would be ‘funny’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘sexy’, and ‘bold’ – but not ’emotionally heartbreaking’, and definitely not ‘tearjerking’. With this week’s episode however, I might have to reconsider my list. This episode came out of nowhere, hit me from the left field, and blew everything out of the water. If the last two episodes of Perfect Order only raised the tension, this was the climax and breaking point: and boy, was it a sight to behold.
A strength that I’ve noticed in Jormungand is how it manages to restrain a rather large amount of dramatic emotion for such a dramatic show. Sure, we’ve had tones of seriousness balanced by fun and energetic moments, but Jormungand has never been so honest and raw when it comes to playing with feelings. It’s as tightly lid as Koko herself; revealing no really powerful moments until everything completely turns into chaos. Koko seeds chaos and lets it grow: but this was the first episode where it was the other way around, with heavy consequences. I’m not just talking about R’s death; I’m also talking about the consequences his death had on Koko and the entire team. I’ve said before that the heart of Jormungand lies in Koko and the bonds she forges with her team; with this threatened, everything is bound to change.
But before predicting what happens next, let’s take a look at all the amazing things about this episode. First: R! I know I was warily cautious of him becoming a main character but I was very pleased with the way things turned out before his death. R was obviously conflicted about Koko from the start, but up until now he had little qualms in actually taking her down before the plan to annihilate Jonah was revealed. We know that he followed Bookman’s order because in a way, he respected Bookman and he also believed in duty. However, he still felt attached to Koko (who wouldn’t, after all those years) enough to act accordingly and try to save Koko and Jonah from being killed by Hex. These actions give some solid grayness to his character; a quality Jormungand boasts but rarely has when it comes to secondary characters. What I really admired though, was how this episode perfectly portrayed R’s struggle and dilemma to either try and save the team and thus completely blow off Operation Undershaft, or let it proceed except with the blood of a child soldier on his hands. It once again brings up the point that despite these people being Koko’s A-team and having killed so many people before, they still are very flawed human beings. Jonah, if on the enemy’s side, would have just been another target that needed to be wiped out. Here, the time we’ve seen with Jonah and his interaction with the group (though slow, and sometimes awkward) actually amounts to something: a crucial decision made on R’s part to try and save him. That, combined with the fact that R values both his bosses and isn’t bolstered to become an extreme hero or villain is something this show sorely needed, and was really well done in this episode.
The second best thing? “Koko will probably have my head if she finds out that I turned traitor,” R says in the previous episodes, but the magical thing is that Koko never knew. Let me say that again: Koko never knew about Operation Undershaft. She had no idea about R being a spy! Considering how Koko has often been portrayed as all-seeing, omnipotent and a mastermind when it comes to playing these sorts of games, this was a pretty big deal for me. She’s won every battle with little scars, but here, she seriously suffered some serious damage. No one was expecting this game. If R hadn’t come, Koko wouldn’t have found a way out. She would have died. Died! It proves two very important things: Koko is vulnerable, especially without her team. Her team is the fuel of her power; if she’s not with them, she is as good as dead. Two: this vulnerability proves that Koko, despite being highly intelligent, is one young girl in a battlefield full of adults. She may be experienced, but she still has some inner fears that are very childlike, and I’ll get to that in a bit.
I also really enjoyed Hex’s last fall, which really proved to me that she was a damn good antagonist, as short lived as it was. Hex’s unstable nature for once was not based off power or revenge. It was a fully committed desire to protect the nation that has betrayed her every step in the way. To me, that sets Hex up as a far more tragic villain than all the other ones we’ve met so far. She was brought up to protect a place she loved and had pride in, only to be left behind to the very end. Not even her own skewed version of justice could save her, and the moment where she fleetingly calls out “Koko, let’s meet again in hell” amongst a burning warzone wasn’t forgettable. Hex’s contribution to the story was important as much as it was essential: she wasn’t just another tool for Koko’s games. She was a tough enemy, but also human, and I did feel for her loss unlike the other villains that were introduced in the first season.
The actual best point however, is of course, Koko. We’ve seen her slip once in a while or so, but this was the first time – after 14 episodes- where Koko falls. Falls hard. Not only has she been outwitted; in fact, I wouldn’t even say it’s because she’s been outwitted. Koko’s greatest fear is betrayal and losing anyone from her team, and today, those exact two things happened. The reveal of R’s betrayal by none other than R himself is a major blow to her heart to the point where you can actually pinpoint the fear and sadness in her eyes.
The fact that it’s Koko who says this of all people – Koko, the woman who won’t tolerate shit if she’s messed with – to R – just knocked me off the floor. It’s this exact moment where actual hell breaks loose. Not Hex’s ambush, nor R’s heroic efforts resulting in his demise. The show has always been about Koko and thus the slow building intensity only erupts when she loses her cool and her mask for a few minutes. What’s amazing is that the previous episodes have carefully laid such a stable foundation for Koko’s complexity, making her one of the more layered and different female protagonists to date. So when all of this comes crashing down in one simple moment as Koko is reduced from a powerful woman to a simple girl who needs these people by her side, it really shows how significant this is. Koko isn’t just an arms dealer. She’s a lonely girl looking for someone to need her; for someone to recognize her; a woman with a smile as her only defense. What’s the repercussions of this breakdown then? Well, you could say it creates some of the more emotionally wrecking scenes in this show: Koko even shouts at her companion Valmet. “All I am is an arms dealer!” And in a sense, that really all that Koko is, and while she never forgets that, for the first time we see how this job does take a heavy toll on her. But it’s also important to remember that to her team, Koko isn’t just a girl, a boss, a princess, or just another arms dealer. Valmet hugs her and tells her, “You are wonderful,” and it’s this sort of relationship that really makes Jormungand stand out: this is a family at work here, not just some random individuals making up a team.
The rawness doesn’t stop there though. Blood must be paid with blood, and the shocks keep on coming as we truly see what lies behind the steel and smiling mask of Koko when angered. It’s not a pretty one.
Koko’s actual ‘facepalm’ which leads to a bloody nose doesn’t even stop her from brutally wiping out every bit of Hex’s existence off the face of the planet. Even her threat to her father’s company bears weight; I don’t doubt the slightest that she would have gunned everyone looking for Hex in that room easily without a single care. Koko is no doubt a dragon, but up until now we have never truly tasted her fire. A crack has finally been shown, and I can’t help but think that R’s loss to Koko isn’t just something that can be patched up with a smile after a couple of episodes. This was a solid and real loss, and it’s bound to bruise our Princess for some time, if not forever.
Of course there were some snags in this episode: the fact that Bookman could control a random car from GPS, or the gunfight between R and Hex was a bit awry, but at the same time I think R was struck by the fact that he was facing his own death, and that made him miss the shot and graze Hex’s eye instead. I am sad that Hex is gone, because I would have preferred her being the final enemy of Koko instead of Bookman, despite his character being formidable enough to satisfy ‘final boss’ requirements. To me, Hex was exactly what Koko would have been had she gone down a different path in life, and I would have loved to see them go face to face at it. It doesn’t mean that this still wasn’t a satisfying conclusion – on the contrary, this was Jormugand’s best episode yet, and I’m looking forward to see how our now a-little broken heroine faces her next enemy: her brother, and Jonah’s dilemma with yet another Hekymatar. I’ll need to brief myself about the episode on how the two met again so I can remember the details, but I have a week to do that, so I’ll be informed by next Tuesday for sure!
So long and rest in peace, Renato. You did your job(s) well.
Enjoyment Level: 12/10 (yes, I mean it)