Tarquin and General Villainy.
Hmm, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that, been busy with a few things. Some of which you can buy.
Something that can always benefit a story is having a good villain. Some of the most popular shows and movies out there are either focussed on an interesting bad guy or at least include one. Game of Thrones, The Godfather and especially Breaking Bad all include baddies who you can see where they’re coming from but still understand that they’re evil and need to lose. However, they aren’t annoying enough to make you grind your teeth every time they’re on screen so that their eventual fall is more like a relief than sadness that the story is over.
With Order of the Stick, I do like the big bads, Xykon and Red Cloak, because of their individual personalities. Xykon is a monster but is so affable about it that he comes off more as darkly humorous. Red Cloak is more of a fallen hero who is still trying to do the best he can for his race but is not nice about it. Whenever these two take up screen time, I’m not groaning and waiting to get back to the Order themselves, I’m enjoying them. Rich Berlew is good at making interesting villains and General Tarquin, Elan’s father, does fit the bill.
So why does he? Well, let’s take a look.
First, I need to compare him to someone similar, Walter White. Both are fathers interested in the well being of their family, both do horrible things but justify it for some greater good and both have large egos that fuel their motivations. But while I always enjoyed BB, there were times I couldn’t stand Walter. That groaning I mentioned above? Happened a few times over the run of the series, which is not good for a protagonist.
The big difference between the two is that Tarquin is clearly painted as being insane. With Walt, his pride refuses to let him accept he could be wrong. With Tarquin, he seems to have lost the entire concept of morality. He knows he’s the bad guy in this story and happily plays his part, unable to comprehend that his children don’t see the world his way, or that they may not even want to be a part of the story he is trying to create.
This could be explained by his power as well as ego, the combination of the two outright destroying any semblance of morality, although we have had hints he may never have had a moral compass. After first meeting him, we are slowly shown a man who is so used to getting his way that he will kill an innocent man just because he fancies a married woman and it’s heavily implied he has committed marital rape in the past. However his reaction is actually a little more disturbing than if he had been malicious about it. He isn’t, he’s so calm, polite and cheerful about everything that it’s almost scary.
I think one of the best moments showcasing this is the death of Nale. For the previous one hundred comics, Tarquin was subtly manipulating Malack to prevent him from killing Nale by making Nale too useful to dispose of. Tarquin even indulged in allowing his son to command him and some of his friends. Even when he discovers Nale killed Malack, Tarquin volunteers to vouch for Nale. And when Nale says he didn’t want it, Tarquin is absolutely confused for a moment as he tries to process the fact that his son does not want his help.
Which leads to Tarquin’s best flaw: He refuses to accept he isn’t the main villain.
Anyone who has been reading the comic saw it from the start, the man is a sub-boss who is just getting in the way of the main story. This is Roy’s tale of vengeance and saving the world, with Elan just along for the ride. But that taints Tarquin’s legacy. He wants to be remembered as a great villain, or at least a great leader over a continent. And he wants his children to continue this proud tradition. If Elan were to become a great hero, then his family line would have fame that way.
However, if he stopped to think about it, he would realise he is trying to assassinate the true hero of the story. For all his talk of following proper story structure, he is the one sending it off the rails and disrupting the proper final conclusion. However, that does not fit into his world view and so it cannot be true.
It’s this irony that prevents me from getting annoyed with this divergence in the overall plot. I’m actually looking forward to seeing Tarquin finally being forced to realise it. While Miko became grating after she killed Shojo and Kubota trying to play for power at a time like that just had my palm hit my face a few times, Tarquin knows what he is, just not the scope.
Though I do admit I would like to know what’s going on with Xykon at the final gate. Hopefully we’ll get a wrap up before this whole thing ends up dragging out for too long.