So we had some major shifts last episode. Akbari is dead, granny is dead, the curse is gone, Taryn is the new big bad or, rather the only big bad and everyone’s still going sailing just for funsies. And Sinbad apparently has a secret identity of some kind but absolutely no-one has bothered to tell him that
Anwar clearly has some issues to resolve – issues that are haunting his dreams, but no-one has time to listen to them. Especially since Sinbad has seen an island surrounded by wrecks (personally, and especially after what they’ve experienced, I’d think that makes said island a very bad place to go near) and he thinks treasure! (Because wrecks always have treasure). And it could be what they’ve been looking for (what are they looking for, again?)
Anwar’s also someone what confused by these questions (glad there’s someone with sense) but apparently wrecks always have secrets on board (not really – I mean a wreck just means broken boats don’t float. That’s not a novel secret) and they absolutely must investigate for the excitement of it all.
On the exciting island Anwar spots a tunnel which he decides to go investigate. Gunnar follows him until they find bodies arranged around a large box – which they seem to have died to defend. They take it out for the whole group to examine, intrigued by what could be inside it.
Finding no easy way to open it (there’s a pattern on the lid that suggests a puzzle box), Gunnar starts hitting it with an axe and Sinbad with a sword – neither of which makes any impression. It’s already being hinted at that the box is compelling them to want it. Especially when they try to load it in the boat and it’s too heavy – they have to send Sinbad to talk to Cook to sail round looking for deeper water so they can carry it to the ship. Cook thinks Sinbad is trying to avoid what happened in Basra, but Sinbad… well basically confirms it.
After breathing on the box to remove dust after much fiddling with the pattern, it dissolves in a wash of light to reveal – a woman, called Kuji. She claims to be a god – something the group doubts but she protests “what do you expect a god to look like?” and that the white beards normally shown are scratchy and, since she can appear in any form she wishes, she chose a prettier one.
The group doesn’t believe her, but since Cook has sailed round the island, they need to trek overland anyway. She eats a lot and they continue to doubt her divinity especially since she can’t prove it and even she says “rationally, you should leave me behind.” Anwar does spend time talking to her that night (though she won’t answer any more questions since they used up their three) and we find out that Anwar is distracted because it’s his birthday. And he is having a crisis of self-worth. The fact he didn’t rescue Rina in Basra despite what she claims, the fact that the whole team can act instinctively and quickly while he hesitates and thinks makes him feel useless. He wants to return home.
While they sleep that night, a horseman arrives, sneaks among them and steals their weapons – watched by the silent Kuji. The group wakes the next day, disturbed to find their weapons gone – but on searching they find them all neatly lined up not far from the camp.
Sinbad gets a hint of Anwar’s worries when they’re playing a game of “where would you rather be” and Anwar says home – but they’re interrupted by drumming and rush to investigate. They find smoke and go to investigate it – finding a burned camp, people attacked but not robbed.
Then they run into an army. Or a large collection of warriors anyway, with their faces hidden. And one warrior on horseback who demands they hand over Kuji, tomorrow, for she stole from them and is their blood, or they’ll all die. It’s a very dramatic speech.
The group considers what to do – Rina wants to hand over Kuji. Sinbad is confused – why would they not just take Kuji during the night when the enemies snuck into the camp. And Gunnar wants to use Kuji as bait for a trap to attack the soldiers. Anwar doesn’t like any of the ideas and sneaks off with her during the night to save her.
Gunnar, Sinbad and Rina wake and Gunnar reflects on the things people do for love – Rina stamps back that he barely knows her, it’s lust (yes, Rina. Yes!). Gunnar is furious and thinks Anwar and Kuji are a lost cause – but Sinbad and Rina won’t give up on Anwar.
They do catch up with Anwar just as Kuji is lecturing him about faith (because it’s wrong not to believe a random strange woman who calls herself a god? I’ll try that – walk down the street and announce that I’m god; methinks most people would have doubts) and failure – especially as all the soldiers have found them. They protests that if Kuji can do anything she has to act – but she is not a fighting god, she can do nothing.
The army attacks and Rina is hit with an arrow and dies in Sinbad’s arms (why didn’t Anwar, the doctor, rush forwards?) Anwar blames himself pathetically but Gunnar has a wonderful riposte “we all chose to be here.” There are some great one liners in this episode. The army arrives and they fight dramatically – Gunnar, Sinbad and even Anwar doing well in a pretty nifty fight scene. But they are overwhelmed – first Gunnar falls and then Sinbad.
Alone with Kuji, Anwar is given a choice, surrender her or die. Kuji tells him to give her his weapon and run to the sea, the Providence is close, but Anwar refuses, he won’t leave her.
To which Kuji says he’s won, that’s all she needed to hear. She raises a hand and slaps the Earth, her hand glows really brightly and sets off a massive shockwave. The soldiers disappear, left with just Anwar and Kuji and the exposition. She created everything, the soldiers et al, to prove to Anwar he is brave and to prove to him that he belongs since his friends came looking for him. Since Sinbad has an important journey ahead of him and he’ll need Anwar, Anwar needed to learn these lessons. If he didn’t, his doubts would have caused him to leave the Providence and Sinbad.
She walks away, into the water and Rina, Gunnar and Sinbad are restored to life.
I wondered last episode how they were going to keep the series going without an overarching motive. This episode didn’t give me hope since it rested on Sinbad deciding to investigate an island because of the shipwrecks (which should have been a warning) and then Anwar deciding to investigate a cave. But I’m willing to put it down to the machinations of the god (I’d like to know which god, though, since all I get from “Kuji” is a Taoist mystical system – and if she is supposed to be some representative of this Buddhist/Shinto mix then the casting of a white woman is rather problematic)
I’m reserving judgement still, we’re having foreshadowing of epicness, so I can hope.