osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Today's Girl Genius

Wherein things take a turn to comedic misunderstanding.

Perhaps modest spoilers.

A rule I picked up from Commedia:

Never, NEVER trust the well meaning intelligent servant on a question of romance. It is a sure sign you are about a third of the way through the show. Either the intelligent servant has misunderstood the situation, or you will execute the plan devised by the intelligent servant totally wrong. Either way, you will be in deep trouble with your True Love by the end of the next act.

On an unrelated note, I keep want to write a piece called "Tarvek and the Good Slytherin." It goes to the concept of ambition and a concept that Rowling seemed to be driving at during some points of the Harry Potter series but then abandoned. Each one of the characteristics of the 4 Houses of Hogwarts, like any virtue, can be a vice if taken to excess. Bravery of Gryffindor becomes recklessness, the intelligence of Ravenclaw becomes cold detachment, the loyalty of Hufflepuff becomes complicit with tyranny.

Slytherin, being about ambition, becomes most easily the bad guys (especially in our modern society ethic, which applauds financial ambition but frowns on political ambition). But ambition is also a necessary quality. Good leadership includes the desire to prove oneself and a desire for recognition, properly limited and channeled. As the Sorting Hat notes, Harry has these qualities. What is important is the choices you make.

Which brings us back to Tarvek. Tarvek is certainly a schemer and manipulator. How could he be anything else and have survived the world in which he lived? But his vision is not simply of himself with power. Like Baron Wulfenbach, he wants power to achieve what he thinks is right. His rant to Agatha (as she is unfortunately slipping back into being the Other) back in Book 9 about how "I will become the Storm King and bring peace and justice to Europe" is not just about ruling. It is about trying to do good.

Certainly that way lies temptation and a well trod path to evil. This is one of the reasons our natural sensibilities in the modern age favor Agatha, who doesn't want power but will assume it out of a sense of responsibility. The spectacle of self-centered egotistical would-be demagogues claiming a desire to exercise power for common good has been a common one for as long as anyone can remember. But at some level, a leader also has to want to lead, not just feel he has to lead.

Which is why I like Tarvek so much as a character. His struggle and temptation are with his ambition. His maturity and growth, the thing he needs to learn from Agatha (and to some degree from Gill) is that the ends do not justify any means. He is beginning to show this with his capacity to put Agatha's happiness ahead of his own. This is also what gives today's strip its potential tragic element. Unintentionally, Violetta is undermining Tarvek's growth as a character and transformation from an anti-hero to a true hero. Violletta is luring him away from the realization that there are things more important than himself (and that therefore he must be ready to sacrifice his own desires to achieve what is good and right) back to the idea that "what's good for Tarvek is good for everyone."

Looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

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