Jormungand: Perfect Order Episode 2: Dance With Undershaft Phase. 1
“The life of intel is its speed. If you’re a second behind the enemy, you let your comrades die, and if you’re a second ahead, you can save lives.” -George Black
Summary: In its second episode, Jormungand: Perfect Order continues to build upon the characters and conflicts introduced in episode one as it fills in some of the backstories and motivations that are driving R, George Black and the nefarious Hex.
(Proof that I too can write a one sentence summary instead of the usual two paragraphs. Victory is mine!)
Impressions: My initial impression was one of “Uh…well that wasn’t really what I was expecting.” After watching it a second time, I think I’m more than okay with how this episode went down. In a clear break with the first season, which was more about fast and dirty one or two-part episodes full of action, this season is clearly taking it’s time to really build up the suspense. While I’m no expert in action-spy-thrillers, and I feel safe saying that I’m sure that there are shows out there I’ve never seen who do this type suspenseful build up thing with much more subtlety and finesse, it’s a nice change of pace to see Jormungand try to expand it’s boundaries a little and try it’s hand at something new.
Instead of the action-packed episode a lot of people (myself included) were hoping for, episode two spends a majority of it’s time focusing on how R and George Black first came to work together, as well as giving us the down low on Hex. R (real name Renato Soccia) and Black met during the Balkans war, where R is serving with the UN. Black ends up saving a family that had been helping R, leaving R to feel he owes Black and thus agrees to work for him at the CIA. One has to wonder at Black’s motivations; did he save those people out of the goodness of his heart? or did he do it so that he could then manipulate R into coming to work for him? My money is on the latter, since later in the episode, we see that Black has no qualms about destroying anything that might be in the way of him getting what he wants.
Working for Black lead to R becoming a mole in Koko’s operation, and this episode hints at the divided loyalties that are clearly at work inside of him. On the one hand, he owes Black and could never betray him, but on the other, he’s been working with Koko and the team for so long, that he’s bound to feel at least a little bit of something akin to loyalty to her as well, since he doesn’t strike me as the stone-cold killer type (he clearly looks horrified that Black is willing to let Jonah be killed, so he has to have some humanity and compassion.) As it has been made clear in many a previous episode, Koko has a way of inspiring loyalty and love from the people that surround her, so it seems only natural that R would fall under her spell as well. If push comes to shove, I wonder which side R will choose? The man to whom he owes a debt or the mysterious ever-smiling woman who’s been in his care for the past couple of years? I pity the poor soul who has to make that choice.
Hex also gets a full backstory this episode. As a former soldier, she was better than many men, and when the all-female unit she was a part of was shut down (because of a low rate of passing the training stage or because of a misogynist general who didn’t want to see women serving in the military is left up in the air) she was recruited to the CIA. After her fiancee was killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11, she went to Afganistan to use her exceptional skills to hunt down terrorists and arms dealers. When her actions start to cross the boundaries of what international law considers right and wrong, Black had no choice but to add her to “Operation Undershaft” in order to 1. keep her from going too far and killing the “helpful” (read: useful to the CIA) arms dealers and 2. to avoid an international incidents that might have landed the US in hot waters. Hex is a woman that loves her country, but her country is like “Er…we might love you, unless you do something bad, like kill the wrong person, in which case we don’t know who you are.”
I though the reason that Hex hates Koko would be something better than well she’s an arms dealer and they’re all bad news, but I guess for someone as fiercely patriotic as Hex, someone like Koko, who has no real loyalties except to herself and has no problem selling weapons to those that Hex might consider “evil”, would be pretty awful. There’s also probably a feeling of needing to get even, since Hex failed to kill Koko after an incident in the woods that we see a flashback of. Because of the actions of one of Koko’s bodyguards named Echo, Hex’s attempt to get at the young Koko is foiled. It’s a scene where we see a side of Koko that has all but disappeared; the scared, helpless, spoiled Princess whom Valmet has every right to slap as she does. We also learn the origin of Koko’s eternal smile (because Echo told her that’s what a boss should look like, in exchange for laying down his life to protect her). That brief interaction between Echo and the young Koko is so telling of a lot of her current personality. It’s clearly the moment that she realizes what loss is truly is, and explains her fear of any of her current team leaving or being killed. She never wants to go through another Echo situation again (half of me wonders if she wasn’t in love with him, in the way that young girls fall in love with older men, especially the “Prince” like ones.)
And then of course there’s George Black, the Puppeteer, Saw, Bookman, whatever else you want to call him. I would most accurately describe him as one cold-hearted son of a bitch, which we really see in this episode. He’s a man who wants to know and control everything around him and will do whatever it takes. He needs R to gather information on Koko in order to try and gain control over her but he also needs people like Hex, who is a necessary evil, to do his dirty work by acting outside of the law to take out terrorist that might otherwise escape. If you make a deal with the devil, eventually he’s going to want a sacrifice, and Black is more than willing to offer up Jonah to keep Hex happy and under his thumb, even when he has all the information he needs to put an end to it. I wound’t be surprised though if Black wasn’t under the impression that he has more control over Hex than he actually does.
What I like about Jormungand though is that even a character like George Black, who is kind of a bastard, has his human side. This might all be my own wild speculation, so take this with maybe a grain of salt, but let’s look at the amount of food he eats. People eat for a lot of reasons, hunger obviously being number one, but sometimes also out of loneliness, or boredom, or sadness, basically to try and fill some part of themselves that’s empty. I think that is what Mr. Black does. I think on some level he’s not totally okay about the things he has to do, and tries to fill that part of his soul with food, leading him to be known as what amounts to a glutton.
Elsewhere in this episode, we spend a some time with Koko and company, who get new weapons and run practice drills. It makes sense for them to all use the same types of guns with the same ammo, so that if one person runs out, any one could give them a replacement cartridge. It’s good to see the team working and having fun together. Koko also meets with Amalia Trohovski, who gives her some information from the DGSE (the French intelligence agency). Koko seems to be very aware that the information from the DGSE has been fed to them by the CIA, and it gives the impression that she knows very well what is going on around her regarding Black, Hex, R, and Operation Undershaft.
For not a lot of action, in the end I think this was a pretty good episode. It’s a bit different, and a little slow, but next episode’s preview looks like it’ll come to the show-down we’ve been waiting for between Hex and Koko, with Jonah as the prime target. Will everyone’s favorite dead-eyed child solider be able to make it out unharmed? Will R’s loyalties with the CIA let him stand by as Jonah is offered up to Hex? Does Koko actually know exactly what George Black is trying to do and already have a plan in motion to stop him? Will we finally get to see some shooting at the O.K Coral? I’m sure you all are waiting just as impatiently as me.
Final Thought: I don’t really have one, because think I wrote about just about everything, so I’m going to make a movie recommendation for those of you who like thrillers and action, and that is for the movie Headhunters. It’s a Norwegian movie based on a book of the same name by Jo Nesbø. It’s very clever and well done. The plot revolves around this guy who works as a “headhunter”, meaning someone who looks for people to hire on behalf of big companies, and who steals artwork to supplement his income. One day he steals from the wrong guy, who then comes after him, using all of his military expertise. The rest is a cat and mouse chase between the two. Super good, although a little bloody at times. Also there’s a scene with an outhouse that will forever be burned in my mind. Why this movie? Jormungand = Norse Mythologhy = Scandanavia = A Norwegian thriller. Seems like some good logic to me. Oh, and it has Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the guy who plays Jamie Lannister from Game of Thrones, in it, so…yeah…eye candy. It’s streaming on Netflix Instant for those of you in the U.S, and otherwise, I’m sure you people are smart enough to find a copy elsewhere.