The most capital-a Anime moment of the series (yes, including That Scene).
Episode Specifics: Villefort’s attempts to arrest the Count grind to a halt when the Count threatens to use Heloise and Eduard as witnesses, leading to Villefort’s public humiliation and eventual removal from duty. While Danglars sows his own demise and Fernand is disgraced in the polls and cut off from financial support, Franz enlists Lucien to help him search the database of state secrets for information on Gankutsuou.
Hoping to warn the Count of Villefort’s dangerous intentions, Albert instead meets Haydee. She tells him of how the Count bought her as a child, after her father and his kingdom were betrayed and she and her mother were sold into slavery. On his way out, Albert passes an unstable Villefort making his way to the Count’s door. He returns just as Villefort pulls a gun on the Count, diving in to throw the shot off course at the last second.
Remember when I said the show is extremely smart for largely severing the story from its historical ties? This is why. The script does the absolute bare minimum to establish how the larger whole informs the characters’ actions, and bless it for that – it’s far more interesting when it’s focused on character drama than worldbuilding, and it knows it. So the stuff that gets mentioned here is as macro as can be – there was a Government, and a Prince, and a War Where Stuff Went Bad. It’s not much, but it’s really all you need to understand the emotional stakes. And the show then motors away from it at top speed, hoping you won’t notice its simplicity in contrast to the complex emotional drama being spun around it.
If there’s a downside, it’s that it rather irons out some nuance – Villefort is discussed as a war profiteer, more or less, while Noirtier was a saintly official who only wanted peace. Whereas book Villefort was trying to be on the right side of a turbulent political system and bet on the nobility, while Noirtier was a revolutionary who supported the then out of favor Napoleon (which lasted for all of five seconds, relatively speaking).
Villefort’s still a pretty incontrovertible dickbag, but there was at least some nuance in his original characterization from an opportunistic man influenced somewhat to greater good by his young wife (who died young and tragically, fridged to harden him) to a present day…well, pretty much what you’re seeing on screen. It’s one of the rare times where a character got less nuanced in translation, though in the end it’s an awfully minor distinction. We can very nearly walk whistling away from historical context at this point, anyway.
Character Spotlight: Inevitably, we were going to wind up looking at some characters several times over; with Haydee finally given the chance to voice her own story (fun fact: the episode title and original Geneon subs use “Haydee” while the updated Funimation subs use “Haidee,” and I am too deep in to change at this point), it’s past time for an update.
If Andrea is an unapologetic chaotic evil monster and the Count is a once good man made monstrous by revenge, Haydee represents the link between Albert and the Count: wanting to move on and live her life in peace, but unable to let go of the anger and humiliation of her past without closure; and the only path to closure she sees is to bring down the man who murdered her father and consigned she and her mother to slavery. It leaves her feeling sick and unsatisfied, but she isn’t able to turn away.
As I said, it’s important that Haydee chooses to tell Albert her story here – in the novel, Albert comes around asking questions, and the Count is the one who tells him the beginning of her sad story (which is eventually how Albert pieces together that the Count disgraced his father and challenges him to a duel). Haydee is always a tool, much as the Count adores her. And even as he adores her, he puts on a boast of owning her to Albert.
It’s too long to transcribe here, but Haydee gives a rather genuinely moving account of her memories of escaping the palace in the wake of the betrayal, which is perhaps too long for the visual medium of the anime. But even then, she does so guided by his hand, to create an impression for Albert (the Count tells her, in Greek, “tell us your father’s fate, but not the traitor’s name or his treachery”). He’s a constant presence, always looming as the chessmaster even with characters who willingly put themselves into his hands.
Not only does this new arrangement give Haydee a bit more agency, with her positioned as the Count’s keeper in his illness, but it furthers the background parallels between Albert and Haydee. She asks him if he “cares for” the Count to much blushing, and describes herself as choosing to stay with him even after being offered freedom and all the world in Paris. Unlike Bertuccio, who has no illusions about the Count and no apparent goals outside service, Haydee and Albert both share elements of the Count’s disposition – innocence that was trod upon by life, taken in by this natural force of a man and becoming (one knowing, one not) pawns in his all-consuming plot for revenge. Both absolutely adoring, though they suffer for their association (and it’s only gonna get worse, people).
Courtly Intrigue Update: The Count has begun cornering his three persecutors, driving Danglars to financial excess, Fernand to social ruin by exposing rumors of his treason during the revolution, and goading Villefort into making an arrest attempt (and stepping the charge by threatening to use Heloise and Eduard as witnesses) in order to have him removed from the courts.
As the noose begins to tighten, it bears noting that the order of vengeance is reversed – in the novel, Fernand is felled first by suicide, after Mercedes and Albert turn against him; then Danglars, then Villefort, presumably going in order of how culpable each man was in keeping him locked away for those many years. The anime, by virtue of being Albert’s story, naturally shifts the final conflict with the Morcerf family to the show’s finale (of course, in the book that whole business with the poisoning is still unsolved even after Fernand’s death, and Heloise kills both herself and her son, so).
Elsewhere, Lucien and Franz attempt to dig up information on Gankutsuou only to be thrown out the database, and decide to go to Valentine’s grandfather Noirtier for answers. For added irony points, Franz and Noirtier’s whole interaction in the novel consists of “oh btw, he killed your dad in a duel, which means you can break up with Valentine and we can usher you out of the plot.”
Adaptation Corner: Since today we have at least a small shift toward trying to spotlight a woman’s voice (comparatively, anyway), it’s as good a time as any to bring up that time there was a female Edmond Dantes – in the 1984 Venezuelan telenovela La Dueña. While English-speaking audiences might never have heard of it, it’s a big deal in its genre, with at least two remakes (one in 2006, Dueña y Señora, filmed in Puerto Rico; one in 2013, La Patrona, filmed in Mexico; and one, Soy tu Dueña, which was filmed in 1995 in Mexico but was later broadcast internationally in 2010 as A Woman of Steel, meaning it’s probably the most well-known to English speakers).
Just about every version of this story has swept for awards. The original, from the research I could glean using a combination of my lousy Spanish comprehension and Google Translate, was exceptionally low budget even by the standards of the time, with only one or two sets and a whole lot of interiors; but it made up for it with an almost universally strong cast pulled from backgrounds on the stage, with writing that focused on a lot of drawn-out scenes to highlight the dialogue.
The specifics of the setup are a touch different – the conspiracy against the orphan Adriana involves institutionalizing her to get at her suddenly inherited fortune, and then she’s helped by her….secret billionaire dad in Paris? Before coming back to get revenge. And I cannot for the life of me parse what the specific character cocktail of her love interest is supposed to be (he almost seems like Mercedes and Fernand as once character). But in general, this is in keeping with the point where we’re going to start seeing more loose adaptations – not to say that there weren’t a metric ton even in Dumas’ day, but we’re getting close enough to the present where those things survive in public memory and we have the era of fashionable cultural remixes.
Themes: How fitting that as we cross the threshold into the anime throwing up its hands and saying WAIT, WE HAVE A BETTER IDEA and leaving the novel behind, we also have the first protracted look at Gankutsuou as an individual being. And it.
I’m really down for this addition to the plot. Revenge-as-possession isn’t exactly a new device, but the visual representation leads to some absolutely stellar scenes from the Count, the finale not least among them. But when Gankutsuou is isolated as a concept, as it is here, it becomes the most anime-sounding pseudo-philosophical garbage. It is hilarious word salad. He was DEFEATED BY FATE, y’all. HE IS A MYSTICAL DEMON SEALED IN A JAR (although yes, I totally took the “wowza, cool,” bait when they called him the Man in the Iron Mask).
While the spirit absolutely works in its scenes with Edmond, serving as a handy externalization of internal struggles, it’s a little bit out of its depth here in trying to make this a grounded, real character that other people can see and interact with. Not just that, but a thing that can be caged, as if every generation doesn’t suffer the need to wreak horror on their fellow human. It’s really the only time is the case, so it’s a minor stumble in the grand scheme of things, but it stands out as the single most anime-esque moment of the show.