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My main method of engaging with this week’s episode of Reign of the Seven Spellblades was to determine if the show thought we were very stupid or reasonably smart. No sooner had I realized that Oliver’s mysterious protector, seen again at the beginning of this episode, was wearing a Kimberly uniform than we were introduced just a few scenes later to Oliver’s “cousin,” who also attended the school. Oliver had never previously encountered her. Come on, guys, you must presume we have seen a cartoon or two before. Otherwise, it would be too easy for the less comprehension-inclined audience members to wonder what this series is doing by adding seemingly inconsequential characters like that.
My favorite deployment of that kind of story-building comes in the alchemy class segment partway through this episode. We see Oliver overexerting himself, running to and fro, saving other students from the adverse effects of their poorly mixed potions, and even throwing himself on an almost-literal grenade for Pete’s sake. The whole sequence only works if we’ve correctly gleaned how indicative this is of Oliver knowing this stuff far above his student level and risking some “cover” of his situation by going out of his way to safeguard his peers. That’s strong character-building, even in the incomplete context of the story.
And that’s my point about Seven Spellblades giving us some credit for grokking the underlying plot it’s still working towards unearthing. For weeks, I’ve been anxiously waiting to see if this whole subplot about Katie and the troll would drop out from under us with some tragic plot swerve. Would her faith in the creature be cruelly betrayed? Would either of them be shockingly sacrificed on the altar of Oliver’s motivation? For a split-second in this episode, I had the wild supposition that the show was headed for a big twist that these magical creatures, or at least this one, were transmogrified humans. That turns out not to be the case, of course, with the truth being a bit simpler but also decidedly thorny.
The actual reveal arrived at in what we’re charitably calling an ‘arc’ here is that this troll situation was orchestrated by Miligan, a monster-specializing upperclasswoman and supposed supporter of magical creature rights. We don’t get enough context on her angle before the end of this episode, whether this is supposed to illustrate a unanimous error in advocating for monster rights or if she’s just supposed to be representing a misguidedly overzealous magical PETA equivalent. Part of Oliver’s conveniently knowledgeable info-dumping discusses the act of granting speech capabilities to creatures like the troll, puts me in the hopeful mindset that the idea of “upsetting the natural order” is more about forcing experimentation onto creatures that never asked for it, and already deserved basic dignity based on their existential status. There’s a whole discussion about whether the worst parts of humanity would relent in their bigotry if they could “understand” something they saw as lesser. However, whether Seven Spellblades has the conceptual intelligence to have that conversation is unknown.
So instead, it’s still more build-up to this cliffhanger on this week’s storyline and how rescuing Katie and resolving all this might inch Oliver closer to revealing his deal. I’m definitely at the point where I can’t, in good faith, accuse Oliver of being “boring” as a protagonist, but maintaining that “good faith” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. Making us wait to get to whatever parts will confirm whether he’s interesting still isn’t the best look for a show that’s forcibly centering so much of its structure on him. I’m also typing up all these suppositions with the knowledge of how red my face will be if Seven Spellblades really turns out to be a straighter-played story than I’m tacitly giving it credit for. As I said, the parts where the series plays off how it knows that we know can feel pretty clever. And with so much up in the air regarding the immediate plot, I am a bit darkly invested in how it turns out. But coming up on the halfway point of the season next week, I need this show to start meeting me more than halfway.
Reign of the Seven Spellblades is currently streaming on
Chris is back for another season of calling wizards nerds. Feel free to disagree with him on that on his Twitter (for however much longer that lasts), or check out his irregular musings on other nerdy subjects over on his blog.
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