This was a chapter I've been meaning to do for a long time. I was fearful of it being an exposition dump of course, so intersecting it with more action oriented scenes and stuff going on down on Reach made flow better. I like to think it was more character focused in general though which helped serve to overall intention of the chapter and gave a bit more depth Zek, Zhoc and even Dread Feather himself.
Zhoc's motivation and goal is now more clear. He wants the Astral Cutlass to alter the political landscape of the galaxy. Placing himself in a position of authority he feels was denied to his sister. The one person he truly ever loved. This isn't intended to be incestuous, it's the kind of familial love that is lost on a lot of people who inevitably decide to ruin it with something perverse. Zhoc sees his sister, Zvaz, as the only thing that kept him safe and told him he had value. He's latched onto that idea of her and resents that she was denied something he felt she deserved because she was such a perfect and amazing person in his eyes.
He's of course perverted the memory of his sister in an attempt to be more like her. More cruel, more vicious, more deadly. She took no crap, why should he? He's of course deathly afraid of blood, making such a transformation hard, and he's more accustom using his brain than his fists. The image he crafted for Zvaz however enforced the idea that had to merciless in order to succeed. And he had to succeed in order to give his sister what she deserved in death what she was denied in life.
At times I worried this could see like a fridging situation, that Zhoc is motivated by the death of his sister, a woman in his life. I like to think this more my attempt to comment on Jackal society and its more matriarchal roots. Too many make the mistake of writing such societies as just misandric inversions of standard patriarchal bullshit. They play up females oppressing men and being cruel, using them as only a means of procreation, its rather ridiculous. It just seems to reframe the argument that of gender equality as a sort of "if women were in charge this would happen." It's a fun allegory, but it largely feels like its missing the entire point and is a subtle condemnation of feminism while pretending it supports it.
Matriarchal societies aren't just women running everything. They don't typically oppress or deaman men. They're not like the various Amazonian planets you see in pulp sci-fi. There are varying degrees and layers to matriarchal households, tribes and groups. It's mostly about women being in a position of authority because they are seen as best capable of running matters, allowing men to, generally, not have to worry so much about every tiny matter. Women generally are accepted as primary decision makers for whatever social reason or society values. It is not a system of oppression but of mutual understanding a female's value in the discourse of a society. See the Hopi Native American tribes for just such an example.
Jackal society is Matriarchal, women hold more significant power, but they do not oppress men. They simply utilize the males in roles they find suit them and that they enjoy. They provide them opportunities for advancement and they are not just something they use as living sperm banks. That's not how it works. From what I've read, they function more or less the same as any anarcho-capitalist system would, just with women in charge. So it's not like males can't run their own ships or be prominent figures. It is simply rare because all the responsibility is foisted onto the women to make the primary decisions, what few are made because they are still a capitlist society that opposes any form of regulation.
In my mind, Zvaz's death motivates Zhoc only in so much as it's not seen as selfish in his mind. He's not out for his revenge, he's out to fulfill Zvaz's revenge. To succeed in his life and allow her to achieve greatness through him. He considers himself a vessel for her fury, her anger at being rejected. He hasn't built any of his empire for himself, he's building it for her. At least in his mind. I suppose you can also see it as a true exploration of toxic nature of Fridging trope and revenge in general. It changed a male Jackal from a rather meek creature who was repelled by violence, to someone who employs it liberally and routinely. I still imagine it might be problematic for some, but I like to think this sub-plot is more about what Zvaz really wanted and how Zhoc deals with his grief. Saying more would involve spoilers, for now, I think its safe to say that Zhoc has built up an idea of how Zvaz would be running things which might not be entirely accurate and perhaps he is in denial about what he ultimately wants and for what reason.
Speaking of denial, Zek's revelation about his father was another thing I wanted to touch upon. I think the general scope of his sub-plot and character arc is ultimately accepting growth. He refuses growth. He doesn't want to change. He's created his own perception/excuse as to why he doesn't want to become a freedom fighter. All based around how much he hates his dad, for leaving his mother, for abandoning him and then dying for selfish reasons. Zek never even met Dread Feather, yet he absolutely despises him for those sole reasons.
So when it is revealed that his perception of Dread Feather was wrong, that his father was in fact thinking of others when he died, that his death was not brazen stupidity but a heroic last stand, the general path that would take would be that he'd reevaluate things. Zek doesn't want to though, he hates the idea of ever being like his father in any way. Being told the man was trying to be a hero rather than a pompous selfish jerk who sacrificed himself pointlessly, is a blow to him psychologically. He imagined Dread fEather as someone who cared nothing for his crew, got them all killed biting off more than they could chew and was incompetent as a leader. Instead, Dread Feather knew exactly what he was doing. Maybe he was naive, but he was thinking of the kig-yar race as a whole. None of what led to his death was out of a lust for personal glory.
So Zek reframes it and finds a new way to blame his father for how much his life sucks. And to be honest he's not entirely wrong. Dread Feather still abandoned him and his mother, he still died neglecting them. Even if his purposes were heroic, he was still a horribly shitty parent and husband. Zek might be overboard in claiming it was his father's last stand that ruined his life. It did convince Zek to join the Covenant when given the same choice his father was presented with, but that was hardly Dread Feather's intentions. Zek is more than likely unwilling to accept his father had any redeeming qualities and prefers to simply hate him. Rather than accept that he is control of all his decisions, his hatred for Dread Feather is so great he needs to reinforce it constantly. It's not exactly healthy and it has led him into making many of the same mistakes his father made. I don't think he's unaware of that either though, but he prefers to deny it and try prove himself better constantly.
The general idea for all of this was always the case from the start. Dread Feather was always a secret rebel and the revelation would never be enough to change Zek. But it does push him to a dark place because his personality is so caught up in out doing his father. For Zek to really change, he needs to accept who his father was and let it go. Not something easy to do when you've built your whole life around one upping a dead man you never met. I don't think he'll ever really stop hating his father, but with any luck he can learn what it really means to be better than him. Without hurting himself and those around him.
The battle in the rings was born out of a love of submarine battles. Run Silent, Run Deep in space. Zek's cloak gave him that opportunity, along with the way the rings interefeared with tracking. In this case, Snarlbeak's forces are sub destroyers, the Prowler and the Serpent are the subs. I've been meaning to do this for a while, I was just waiting for the right moment. And I always enjoy giving my battles more dimensions, which space is a great playground for.
Down on the surface, I wanted to remain focused on the Spartans, so a large portion of this chapter is dedicated to them and their perspective. How they work with each other, how they fight with each other. Any individual Spartan on his own is a weapon. The Master Chief seems capable of turning them into something greater than the sum of their parts. I did my best to illustrate that, placing Chief in his element as a tactical and strategic commander. Utilizing what few resources he has into creating a capable and well-executed plan of attack or defense.
I like to think I give him more heart than most people expect from him. Chief isn't interesting as a character to me because he's a badass. There's an appeal in that, but I think of him as more than that. He's damaged to a degree, being a child soldier, but from that pain and the pain of others he forges a greater bond and greater whole.
It's something akin to Batman honestly. Bruce Wayne isn't cool to me because he's got a cool cape and gadgets. Batman is more than that. He's a damaged, hurt individual dealing with pain and loss the only way he knows how. What makes him more than just some burly fantasy of empowerment is the people he surrounds himself with. The Bat-Family is the most important part of the ethos. The Robins, Nightwing, Alfred, Batgirl, Batwoman, Spoiler, Azrael, and the various other heroes and anti-heroes who took inspiration from and follow him. Batman lost a family and built another from the ground up. Attracting people with the same sense of justice or instilling it in similarily lost souls like himself. That's what makes him an enduring and powerful symbol to me. And why, even though I still like them, I feel the Dark Knight Trilogy missed the mark on excluding those characters entirely from the series.
The other Spartans are integral to understanding the Master Chief as more than just a silent stoic badass. As are the other soldiers and heroes he surrounds himself with and fights alongside. Johnson, Keyes, Cortana, the Arbiter, they all become important comrades, people he trusts, confides in, fights tooth and nail for. This is why I feel it was a good idea to introduce Blue Team in Halo 5. And why it was a mistake to not focus on them specifically. Especially if they were gonna do nothing concerning that whole Spartan Civil War idea they advertised. Blue Team deserve more love in general. Expect to see more of them and their weird family dynamic. Because that's what they are to me, family.
Well, that's enough for now. I think we need something lighter. Next time, you'll get just that.