The two halves of this episode couldn’t be more different from each other. It went from being the typical fun chaos that we usually get to a more emotional melancholic story, that was both painful but beautiful. I already loved the relationship between the Duke and Alice, but this episode cemented that feeling for me. The new animation for the intro fits perfectly for the story as well, as it shows us how much the Duke’s and Alice’s relationship and love has progressed, as well as the Duke himself.
But before we get to that, I’ll just touch on the first half quickly. The first half was cute with how Cuff wanted to impress Zain by learning how to read and write, which is surprising that she doesn’t even know how. And of course she was completely dumb and oblivious to Viola. Whenever Viola is involved in anything, it’s sure to be chaotic so that was fun. But I HAVE to mention Walter. Dear goodness this dude has such an insane inferiority complex to his older brother. On the outside he’s this cool good-looking popular boy, but on the inside he’s actually too sensitive and unhinged when it comes to the number 2 simply because he’s the second-born son, and the Duke still has a chance at the family title if he ever breaks his curse. I had been interested in seeing more of the family besides Viola and while we didn’t get too much of them, especially their mother, I think I understand Walter quite enough. He doesn’t like his brother, wants to come out on top, and seriously needs to calm the hell down. No wonder Viola always wants to leave lol.
I’m even more curious about their mother though. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make of her. She sent the Duke away to basically live alone, but from what Walter is saying, she still believes that he could step up to take the family title. Or that’s just Walter’s paranoia, I’m not sure. I would really want to know the mother’s perspective in all of this, from having her son cursed to having to send him away. Does she even care about him, and what does she think of her other children? I feel like she’s a central part in all this but we haven’t really seen her all that much, not even her face, which just makes her more intriguing to me. So I hope before this show ends, we can officially meet her at least once.
The second half of the episode finally shows us the “first time” the Duke and Alice met each other when she came to start working for him. I loved the way the episode transitioned from the present time to the past through their dialogue and body movements, like Alice blowing on her hands. Like I’ve said before, I like the fun hilarity of the show but when the show wants to be serious it really knocks it out of the park.
The Duke and Alice’s relationship has come such a long way, and the Duke in general too. The first scene of the flashback tells us so much, and the Duke from back then is nothing like how he is now. His entire room scratched up, with torn curtains, ripped papers, ink splotches, broken glass, turned furniture, and the Duke sitting in the darkness. People usually say that the state of your room represents the state of your mind, and in this place in time the Duke was at his lowest. He was not as friendly as he is right now, yelling at both Rob and Alice and sending them away. He was much more reclusive than he is now, and even when he was this way, Alice still acted the same way: Kind, patient, and a little teasing. For the Duke, it’s hard to believe that someone would genuinely care about him and choose to actually work for him because of his curse. To have someone honest like Alice is unthinkable, so for his own sake and even hers, he tries to kick her out but it backfires as she completed the challenging task he gave her. It was so sad to see just how miserable the Duke was, to the point of being suicidal and hoping to die in the snowstorm.
Suffice to say, they both saved each other’s lives. The Duke showed Alice kindness when she was a young sickly girl, when she had no friends because of her illness and her family’s poor status; and Alice saved the Duke by also lending her friendship, and her love, to him. It was a simple gesture, but it was enough to bring a bit of brightness in her life, and now she brought that light into the Duke’s dark and miserable life as well. Maybe I’m just reaching but I loved the symbolism with the Duke in his dark room and Alice standing in the light of the hallway. Sure it could just be…well it’s night time and the hallway is the only place with light as the Duke chooses to be in the dark at night but still! And maybe this isn’t on purpose, but Alice’s color palette (her hair and eyes) are brighter as well. Okay, that’s probably reaching but their designs do contrast each other with the whole light and dark thing going on. But I do like the touch at the end of the episode with the chess pieces, with Alice being represented with the white chess piece and the Duke the black one. Any way you look at it, Alice always represents brightness.
I also love that the two’s bond is represented with their hands, or more specifically, the action of picking the other up from their lowest point. As children, the Duke was able to physically pick Alice up. But with the Duke’s curse, Alice had to use her umbrella but I love the fact that she still outstretched her hand next to his before reaching for her umbrella, alluding to that moment from when they were children. It was such a nice touch, even more touching when you can see the condition of Alice’s hand after she had cleaned up the Duke’s room. That’s how much she loves him and ugh! It’s so sweet!!! I love these two!! What a beautiful love. T_T
Alice continues to be best. I am so glad we got an episode like this, it adds to much more to these two as characters and shows how much they’ve grown, as well as how much their relationship has grown. It started off with so much tension that it was the complete opposite from how carefree and silly they are now. Going back to the episode intro from before, it really showed the tragedy of the curse with the Duke as a puppet falling to his knees in despair. But now we have the new animation of the Duke happily playing his piano and with a smiling Alice next to him, and the intro ending with:
“Even strangers have spoken of him as the Death incarnate that dwells in the forest. And yet, he doesn’t feel the least bit lonely.”
is such a huge change. The Duke may still live with his curse, but he really is living now. And damn it, it warms my heart. I think it’s obvious to say, but these two really are meant for each other. <3