So far, this conspiracy story’s been told pretty well, by my lights. We’ve seen its effects on ordinary people thanks to the smear campaign against adventurers. We’ve had some thrilling machinations, with established characters falling like dominoes. We’ve had a solid conflict, with the highly capable if perhaps overly sincere Syr’Nj clashing with the devious Altruists. And now…comes quite a lot of talking, even by our standards.

It’s not the amount of talking I mind, though. It’s the belief underlying all that talk: the belief that conspirators can plan basically everything down to the tenth decimal point, as if chaos theory is just for non-geniuses or the poors. A Xanatos gambit allows for various possible outcomes and plans on turning each into a way to win, but too often, conspiracy stories assume there’s only one possible outcome that the conspirators have engineered with clockwork precision. Nothing’s quite wrong with what Jarvis has said so far, but oh, we’ll get there.

I suspect this reflects a certain anxious desire to convince everyone else, and maybe ourselves, that Guilded Age was more precisely planned than it was. If you’ve followed these annotations, you know that we had a lot of shit figured out well in advance…and there was a lot of other shit we sort of stumbled into. I mean, I love writing big revelations as much as anyone–“You see? You thought these four plot threads were unrelated, but it all fits together like a jigsaw!” Individual chapters in Guilded Age could be like that, maybe. But our series in general was more of a beautiful hot mess, swarming and bustling with character and life. This feels like trying to force it to be something it’s not.

Oh  well. I do enjoy this really cool flashback panel, with younger versions of Annunziata, Iwatani, and Persson (the three standing on the left) and the actual flesh-and-blood Priestlord Gigundus (armored on the right), with a couple of now-departed others rounding out the group. Look at how bright-eyed Annunziata and Gigundus seem to be, and hoe everyone else varies between idealism and concentration. Back then, even Iwatani seems to have been happy just to be among peers. Great times, I’m sure. But things are always hopeful at the beginning.