Hello and welcome back to MGA Study Hall, where all things “Morning Glories” are analyzed, dissected and poured over with the hope that we can figure out just what is going on!
Today’s issue is issue #49, in which SPOILER ALERT.
Join me as I discuss the issue, its story and the possible hidden secrets that I may or may not be picking up on. I should note: this column contains massive spoilers for the issue. Enormous. Colossal, even. The issue is out today, so make sure to read it first before you read my thoughts. It helps to give the issue a few read-throughs before coming here, so consider this your warning about impending spoilers.
As always, our column header was designed by the graphic designer for the actual book, Tim Daniel! For more of Tim’s work, please visit his site Hidden Robot.
One more thing before we begin, as I’d like to continue to throw out this short plug:
It’s a fun time. If you enjoy reading this column, you just might enjoy the TinyChat. For more details, click the image above.
As for myself, I’ve got theorizing to do. Let’s kick it off.
A Quick Note to Begin RE: the Print Column vs the Online Column
Many of you read both the online and print versions of this column. Usually, the column contained in the book is a predecessor to what I write here online; I get the issue, I cover what I think are the biggest ideas to cover for print-only readers, then take my original write-up and translate it for the online audience in an expanded/wildly over-written format.
This month, however, the online content will be 100% different than the print edition due to how big importance-wise this issue is. If you’ve read the print version already, please know that literally none of the words there are contained here, and I didn’t even bother re-reading what I wrote there to ensure that I didn’t contradict myself. It’s just 100% brand new content with the passage of time allowing me to gain perspective on what I’d read, as opposed to going with the gut reaction that comes with writing the print edition.
So there’s that. Who knows what will happen with #50?
Half the World Away
As the issue opens, we’re given a brief glimpse of a mysterious beach, with a hand grabbing into the sand. One key thing to take away here is that this is the triumphant return of the first-person perspective; a frequent device that was utilized a lot in the beginning of the series, its usage has died down a bit. Now it’s back in the penultimate issue of the season, and its importance is fairly big — especially given a line from Dagney that will be spoken later in the issue (about eyes being opened — you know the one). But keep in mind that the use of POV was done in order to show us things not quite normal, or out of sync with what we could potentially define as reality in the book. While the reasoning behind its use here seems pretty blunt, it’s worth noting the importance of bringing back this device in general.Continued below
We learn quickly that this hand belongs to Casey. It’s worth noting that the beach itself was previously seen with Vanessa and the teaser image for “Morning Glories” Season 3 that featured (what we assume is) Casey sitting on the beach looking out at the sunset. While we’re not quite sure where the beach is, whether it’s a physical location or something that is visited through alternate means, Dagney’s later discussion with Casey about this does seemingly confirm some actuality to its existence. We’ll get into that a bit later.
That being said, the implication here seems to be that the beach itself is a known location. What I mean by that is, rather than the beach being a random vacation spot that Casey finds herself drawn to, the beach seems to be something with a deeper relationship to the Academy — or, at the very least, there must be some deeper purpose why anyone would end up on a beach at all. Thinking about it in the same way we would analyze the Cave on campus in relation to Plato’s Allegory, I’m tempted to relate this to Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”.
To borrow from the analysis in that link,
[Arnold] hears the sound of the sea as “the eternal note of sadness”. Sophocles, a 5th-century BC Greek playwright who wrote tragedies on fate and the will of the gods, also heard this sound as he stood upon the shore of the Aegean Sea. Critics differ widely on how to interpret this image of the Greek classical age. One sees a difference between Sophocles interpreting the “note of sadness” humanistically, while Arnold, in the industrial nineteenth century, hears in this sound the retreat of religion and faith. A more recent critic connects the two as artists, Sophocles the tragedian, Arnold the lyric poet, each attempting to transform this note of sadness into “a higher order of experience”.
Having examined the soundscape, Arnold turns to the action of the tide itself and sees in its retreat a metaphor for the loss of faith in the modern age, once again expressed in an auditory image (“But now I only hear / Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar”). This fourth stanza begins with an image not of sadness, but of “joyous fulness” similar in beauty to the image with which the poem opens.
The final stanza begins with an appeal to love, then moves on to the famous ending metaphor. Critics have varied in their interpretation of the first two lines; one calls them a “perfunctory gesture … swallowed up by the poem’s powerfully dark picture”, while another sees in them “a stand against a world of broken faith”. Midway between these is one of Arnold’s biographers, who describes being “true / To one another” as “a precarious notion” in a world that has become “a maze of confusion”.
All of which seems to tie nicely into recurring themes of “Morning Glories.”
This passage from the analysis also seems relevant to our book:
The metaphor with which the poem ends is most likely an allusion to a passage in Thucydides’s account of the Peloponnesian War (Book 7, 44). He describes an ancient battle that occurred on a similar beach during the Athenian invasion of Sicily. The battle took place at night; the attacking army became disoriented while fighting in the darkness and many of their soldiers inadvertently killed each other. This final image has also been variously interpreted by the critics. Culler calls the “darkling plain” Arnold’s “central statement” of the human condition. Pratt sees the final line as “only metaphor” and thus susceptible to the “uncertainty” of poetic language.
Again, all of which seems to tie nicely into recurring themes of “Morning Glories.”
Last but not least, the beach itself could inherently be a nod to LOST, the long-standing mystery show that has been referenced in the book multiple times and which stands as a direct influence on the creators behind the book. While we don’t know whether the beach itself is an island or simply just a shore, there’s probably at least a part of Spencer and Eisma playing the LOST influence up here. If a polar bear shows up, though, then we’ve just gone too far.Continued below
Anyway, more on this whole beach thing later.
We begin with Casey totally pulling a Rick Sanchez Wedding Toast before diving into one of our favorite “Where are they now?” sequences in the book. We get these fairly often, dialogue overlayed with single panel imagery to reacquaint everyone as to where the major players of the book are. Here for Casey’s speech, the montage serves two inherent purposes: it both shows us what Casey’s values are, and splits up the appearances by showing us on the first page of Casey’s speech those who relate to her relationships, versus the second page where we contrast this by showing those taking direct action against the Academy — which I will, of course, break down further.
So with that in mind, lets break down Casey’s montage a bit:
|“But there are people depending on me.”||Jade||Jade has been locked in the basement for most of the arc as a planned sacrifice. While the danger factor here seems low since Jade is alive in the future, there’s still a question of exactly what the purpose of keeping her down there is at this point (other than a constant reminder that Jun is unstable).|
|“People I care about–“||Hunter and the AV Club||Really this line seems only directed at Hunter. I can’t imagine Casey cares about the other members of the club, and even if her relationship with Hunter is a bit weird (not necessarily in the “will they, won’t they” trope, but also kind of in the “will they, won’t they” trope) he’s the only one that she has any kind of direct relationship with; I’d imagine the others are there more symbolically than anything else, or by proxy.|
Also, Hunter is attending her speech, as is most of the AV Club. Please don’t start theories that there are AV Club Clones out there, people.
|“–People who deserve to be free.”||Fortunato and Akiko||Both Fortunato and Akiko are prisoners of different kinds. Fortunato is literally a prisoner in the basement of the school, and Akiko is figuratively a prisoner in some kind of ethereal space between life and death, only able to interact with Fortunato (as his self-proclaimed guardian angel). Also it looks like they’re on the sixth volume of “The Invisibles” now.|
|“I see so many people who are trying to take a stand–“||Guillaume and Jun on the Towerball Team||Guillaume’s plan was to use Jun as a ringer so that they’d purposefully lose at Towerball before coming back as the champions, thus defying a primary decry that the Headmaster made as to which team would always win and which can not — the idea being to defy the decree of God and thus remove his power.|
|“–trying to fight back–“||Vanessa at the Science Fair||Vanessa’s plan here is a bit less against the Headmaster and more to undermine the Academy, a place that does not allow contact with the outside world. Vanessa’s plan is to prove it’s possible, which would inherently prove that the Academy is something that can be defeated in some way rather than just the Headmaster.|
|“–each in their own way.”||Ike, Ian and the Cylinder||Ian’s plan is to use the Cylinder to change reality. Ike’s plan is for Ian to use it to rig the election for Casey. Therefore, “in their own way” in this instance refers to how each of the two boys are attempting to do cheat in order to accomplish their goals, with Ian being the shittier person of the two here.|
I will break all the plots against the Headmaster down later in this column. For now, lets look a bit more into what happens with Casey.
Thank You And–
Casey delivers her closing speech, which is mostly just a rehash of things we already know about her and her opinions: she doesn’t want to be here, she doesn’t buy the story that the Academy is trying to sell, and she otherwise wants to burn the place to the ground. She believes in free will over destiny, yadda yadda, all the good stuff.
Of course, her speech is paired with shots of Ike and Ian manipulating the Cylinder. They do this by placing a bubbled sheet through the scantron machine that is somehow mysteriously associated to the spinning device, which I believe we can interpret as they filled it out in a way that inherently reads “Everyone votes for Casey” (here’s how scantron’s read data, if curious), and they ten coincidentally put it through the machine at the exact point that Casey finishes her speech. This does some reality warping of a fashion, which results in literally everyone in attendance of the debate then casting their ballots for Casey.
Of course, as reality gets manipulated, it has a visceral reaction on Casey, causing her to pass out. This is similar to what we saw back in #29, when Casey interacted with the Cylinder to fix the broken reality that Irina had caused, and similarly passed out. In that instance, it seemed to be a moment of timelines colliding or converging in order for reality to be “reset”; here, however, Casey is taking no direct physical action with the Cylinder — she’s simply the object of what it is being used to manipulate around.
The connection between Casey and the Cylinder is fairly unclear, let alone the Cylinder and — well, anyone, really. We only “kind of” know what it does in the first place. And while Daramount is furious at Casey when all the votes come in for her after the Cylinder does its trick, the connection it has with Casey is something that’s fairly curious. We’ve seen it activate around her, we’ve seen her ability to touch it and ostensibly give it instruction that way, but that it can activate without her around and still have some kind of affect on her seems an area worth exploring a bit more deeply, at least conceptually. If Casey’s destiny (whether she accepts the existence of this or not) is tied so deeply to the school and what happens there, it’s possible that there is more to her relationship with that particular device than we’ve come to assume.
What, I’m not quite sure. Casey, while smart, doesn’t seem to be the busiest student here; that and, not for nothing, but all her major accomplishments were achieved by cheating — which doesn’t mean she’s not intelligent (she grows up to be a bad ass assassin/school teacher, after all) but rather that her having a direct hand in the creation of this device doesn’t seem likely from everything we know. I wouldn’t rule it out, and there’s clearly a connection here; we’ve not seen the Cylinder interact with too many other students to give a full analysis to this, but, well, there’s *something* about Casey in general, so everything’s worth diving into.
Putting the Headmaster in Danger
As we transition to the scene between Hodge and Daramount, Georgina’s main point of fury seems to come from her belief that Lara has “put (their) father in danger.” There’s a few interesting things about that, the obvious answer being that Daramount obviously considers Casey a threat, but also that Daramount thinks that something can happen to the Headmaster in general. I would imagine this would have to do with what happened when Irina broke into the Greenhouse, her actions of which were left somewhat unclear; the Headmaster is seemingly all-powerful, but it’s clear that he’s at least still somewhat a man. Maybe. Probably.
Furthermore, this is actually just further confirmation that what Hodge is doing isn’t really a secret. Take that into consideration: while there is dramatic irony in play that allows us to comprehend that Lara is manipulative, it’s something that is apparently worth discussing openly. Lara, daughter of the Headmaster, a lead member of this faculty, can openly rebel and push students like pawns into actions that would defy the Headmaster without action being taken against her. Georgina, on the other hand, loses the kids to time displacement hijinks once (see: the PE arc) and gets whipped for it (#20).Continued below
That’s an interesting factor to consider, I think. Afterall, it’s Hodge that pushed Casey into the student election, let alone every other little thing Hodge has manipulated Casey into doing. This isn’t Hodge’s dirty little secret, this is is basically her triumph — everything she has done has worked, and now Casey gets to meet the Headmaster! And there’s literally nothing Daramount can do to stop her, despite being seen as one of the more nefarious members of the staff (the whole first arc was basically dedicated to her being the supreme villain of the story).
The counter-element to this is Dagney, who not only supports Casey’s win (and seems to acknowledge Hodge’s machinations, which we’ll get into later) but says that they have to honor this: “Remember, we keep our word — and this is the most sacred of our promises.” This seems to fly in the face of what Hodge has done; not that Hodge has inherently lied, but manipulating the deck does seem a bit shifty in terms of allowing these children to play towards a destiny. Then again, perhaps Hodge knows more than we do, so her manipulating of Casey is simply pushing Casey to her destiny; that kind of stuff gets confusing to debate, really.
That is generally an interesting point, though: that it’s okay for the students to cheat and lie because that’s all they know how to do, whereas for the adults, they can not. Maybe there are different truths (Dagney touches on this later), but adults still have to be the ones who are “honest” or “correct.” Part of this plays into elements about youth culture, I think, in that adults are supposed to be all-knowing guardians who stand by their word every time; when you find out that your parents are “as bad” as you are (so to say) it’s always a culture shock moment, because they’re supposed to be perfect role models. That seems to be in play here for the Academy as well, in that while the students will do what they need to do to get by and grow and learn, the staff will be held to a higher ideal.
Does Lara break that? Maybe; I’m not quite sure. It’s easily debatable from both perspectives. Dagney’s reasoning makes sense to me, even with what she says later in mind, but beyond that things seem dicey.
Now: for the sake of my own sanity, lets take the next three major events of the book and group them together by event, rather than discuss them scene by scene. We’ll start with:
Taking Down the Headmaster, Part 1: The Towerball Game
As we get into Towerball, we see we’re gearing up to another Blue Team failure. Jun is frustrated that he can’t play the game well, and Guillaume only gets Jun to back down by threatening to reveal that he has Jade tied up in the basement to the staff. However, as the fourth period comes around, Guillaume finally allows Jun to take over the game — when the clock strikes 8:13.
So there it is. Our infamous numbers, making their first (of a few) appearance within the issue. And as the Blue Team wins and Guillaume openly challenges the voice of the Headmaster, the room begins to shake as if there’s an earthquake as the actual clock strikes 8:13 as well.
Originally the numbers we saw were associated to Hunter, in a disorder that caused every clock he viewed to only show this time. This was passed on to him by Abraham, who visited him as a child and gave him a watch with this time stamp. This seems to be a nod to the story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22, 8-13), but the numbers show up frequently in other random situations — whether this be hospital rooms or abandoned building floors and suites. Perhaps most relevantly, especially to this issue, are the numbers appearing in that Shire-esque laboratory (#15); while Hunter’s association to the numbers is important, what I think is worth pointing out is that not only are these numbers clearly not accidental (as revealed by their inclusion in the lab) but they’re known and so is their importance — Guillaume is familiar with the numbers and makes sure that the action he and Jun takes centers around it.Continued below
So why 8:13? The obvious answer would ostensibly be the nod to the Biblical story of Abraham’s sacrifice, which has been an influence in “Morning Glories” for some time now, but as a specific time stamp that someone like Guillaume would know about I feel like it’s worth digging deeper into. In this context we have it as both a clock and a countdown; we’ve discussed this before (I believe — you think I’m going to dig through 48+ renditions of Study Hall to confirm this?), but with “Morning Glories” utilizing the idea of Samsara and cyclical events as a plot point, you have to imagine that something very important happened at 8:13 AM or PM, and likely on May 4th as well (ie the date of birth for all the characters).
If we can wildly speculate deeper on that, it’s perhaps not unfair to reason that whatever is the prime impetus to everything that occurs in this series — our Big Bang, if you will — happened at that exact moment, which is why so much importance and focus are given to this date and time. What that might be, we’re obviously unsure; the Academy’s reasoning for what they do is still wildly up in the air, so it could be literally anything. However, with the clues we have (specifically that this is a school that’s clearly trying to train these kids “for a better future”), it’s safe to assume it’s of some greater cosmic importance. Definitely big picture.
Taking that in mind and other things in this issue, we can then presume that there is symbolic importance to that. As much as Guillaume is challenging the Headmaster and his institution, he’s also taking a central tenant of his presumed power and using it as a weapon; with 8 minutes and 13 seconds left on the clock, Guillaume openly defies the word of law that we have been given. It’s a “fuck you” as much as anything else, and as we’ll discuss later in terms of how the Headmaster operates, a direct affront in how the Headmaster presumably draws his power.
So the Blue Team wins, Guillaume delivers his “fuck you!” speech, and the Earth begins to shake as a result. Take down the central pillar of a building and of course it’ll lose its stability and begin to fall. Guillaume has taken away the power of the Headmaster, and now everything is crumbling around them.
But, is that the only reason?
Taking Down the Headmaster, Part 2: The Science Fair
As the Science Fair begins, Vanessa seems to be our only real contender. Ian hasn’t really brought anything to show (only tell), and Oliver Simon, the judge of the event, notes that everyone else seemingly did something related to Chemistry for some reason. The Chemistry jab seems on point, though as to what I’m not quite sure.
Ian’s comment to Vanessa about staff being worried someone might cheat seems to tie well not only with Dagney’s remarks earlier in the issue and Ian’s own actions, but Casey’s history in winning at Science Fairs — let alone Vanessa getting this radio essentially as a free entry into the fair (“She said it would work” referring to her mother).
As for Ian’s presentation, the pencil is a pretty ballsy move. The pencil is an obvious reference to the #2 pencil used to fill out the sheet used in the scantron (you clicked that link I provided, right?), but with Oliver being a judge for this, it’s probably safe to assume that he knows what his son did even if he feigns otherwise; by Ian simply bringing this utensil, key to a school environment but also the main tool he uses to communicate with the scantron machine (filling in dots on a paper à la SATs), Oliver’s “…where have you been?” seems to indicate at least to me that he has some idea of what his son has been up to. He may not know exactly what, but somewhere deep down Oliver Simon surely must know.
(Also, Oliver Simon is literally the worst flirt in this book. “I’m sure your bed must be a wonderful place.” Give me a break, Oliver.)Continued below
As Vanessa gives her presentation about how she wants to utilize radiowave technology to create a signal that reaches outside of the school, Hodge tries to stop her at the last moment. Hodge warning Vanessa about this is curious. On the one hand, we can perhaps assume her warning is in relation to the upcoming earth rumbling scenario. While Vanessa is not defying the Headmaster in the same way that Guillaume did, she is doing work to inherently undermine the authority of the school, thus helping to destroy its power, which could be related to the shaking that we’re seeing as consequence. With the Academy having strict rules about what can come in and out, a signal breaking through that behavior could cause upheaval in what is holding the Academy together wherever the hell it is.
On the other hand — and I’ll openly admit that this is the more dicey theory — Hodge also knows that at some point, she brains Vanessa in the head with a stone and causes her to get locked in the basement for an extended period of time. Our assumption was that this happened immediately after the events of issue #1 where we first met her; that Vanessa separates from Brendan and goes back in time to recruit Hodge to the cause. However, this has since been proven as not necessarily the case, as Vanessa still being around campus as someone both young and old dislodges that theory as to where the event occurs on the timeline. Hodge warning Vanessa here might be her last chance to warn Vanessa that if she does this, it will put her on the path that ultimately results in her being locked in the basement as a prisoner in the first place.
This is a bit unclear, to be honest. As Vanessa ends up connecting with her future self on some beach hundreds of miles away and everything starts to fall apart, Hodge gives Vanessa a knowing look and says “I’m so sorry.” Again, this happens at 8:13 which relates it to the Tower Ball events, but as to what Hodge is sorry about I’d be interested to find out. I imagine whatever happens to Vanessa next will give us a bit more insight into this, but as for right now it seems that Hodge is the one with the dramatic irony here.
Taking Down the Headmaster, Part 3: Winning the Election
As Dagney and Casey discuss the election results, we actually end up with a lot of new and interesting information to work off of before Dagney sets Casey on her path to meet the Headmaster.
First of all, Dagney’s remark: “I say many things, Miss Blevins, depending on who can hear. And when the audience changes, or at least diminishes, sometimes I say something altogether different.” Earlier I spent some time to write about what she meant about holding to certain values, and maybe this is inline with the “there are different truths” idea I threw out there, but this does seem to completely contradict that earlier sentiment, doesn’t it? Her coy reference to “what did you see when your eyes were opened?” obviously is playing towards that phrase being in wider circulation in the book, but here Dagney seems to be saying it with a wink and a nudge to Casey. She says,
You gazed into the sun without so much as a blink. And then you looked around you, at the whitest sand, the most beautiful beach man has ever set foot on. The unspoiled beauty of the world.
I still think looking at the Beach through the eyes of “Dover Beach” is fairly relevant, but I like Dagney’s commentary here for two reasons. One, she seems to be implying that wherever this beach is, is somewhere where not only no one has gone, but also where no one is supposed to go. “The unspoiled beauty of the world” has a lot of heavy implications upon it in a grand sense, and perhaps gives us a clue to what this beach is or what its importance is: it’s somewhere that only someone like Casey can get to in the first place, and the rest of us don’t inherently belong there, nor are we able to go there.Continued below
However, the bigger point is that the last time we had to deal with someone whose eyes were opened, it was more about seeing streaks in the sky and traveling to the future. Here, it’s not definitively something different, but it’s also about being transported to another place — so perhaps this beach is the Better Future they’re working towards. Afterall, what better future would there be than a beautiful beach that has been unspoiled by man? And having your eyes opened does seem to relate to gazing into the future, even if for Jade it meant seeing a dystopic one. Who is to say that there isn’t more than one future, and that one is a utopia? Or that both exist at once, and at one end of the spectrum there’s a ruined school and at the other end there’s a beautiful beach?
What I find interesting is that it happens out of the blue for Casey, without any extra elements happening in place. If we compare her eyes being opened in comparison to Jade’s, there’s less force or events involved; it’s more of a natural occurrence, even if it happens at an otherwise awkward time. This could be in relation to something awakening in Casey that she was heretofore unfamiliar with. Why it would happen now is a bit curious; she’s traveled through time, grown up, traveled back and done all of these incredible things — now seems a particularly unastonishing time to be “awakened.”
As we start moving towards the conclusion of the issue, Dagney starts getting a bit heavy with Casey. She tells her that this is what both of them were born for, tying in with the greater running themes of destiny within the book, and even goes on to say that Casey’s meeting with the Headmaster is something “we’ve all waited for…”, with that sentiment being echoed in the final pages of the book as well. However, where Dagney starts to get heavy with things is when she starts spitting out the rhetoric that we’ve discussed here in Study Hall: that despite all the horrible things the students perceive as happening, this is necessary, and that Isabel — not Casey — was right. While Casey doesn’t buy this explanation, Dagney’s reaction is certainly interesting: she gives her the same knife Ike used to kill Abraham, and then implores Casey to do kill the Headmaster.
Dagney’s speech here about holding the blade to the throat of a child should seem familiar, as she gave the same to Ike. This only strengthens the presumed relationship between Abraham and the Headmaster, as Abraham’s death was about as symbolic within the book as anything, both in a literal reversal of the classic Biblical story to which Genesis 22:8-13 refers, but also in that this is a book about children and their parents and that relationship. While the Headmaster is not Casey’s father (I assume — I suppose that twist is coming as much as any other potential twist could be), her taking this knife and potentially killing him with it does imply that there is a very specific and direct between the two of them, which is why she could conceivably do it.
We’ve long theorized the importance of Abraham in relation to the Headmaster, how they’re likely two sides of the same coin and all of that. That they should be killed with the same inherently ritualistic knife implies, well, a ritual to their deaths. We can tie in the cycles of death and rebirth here, but more to the point is that I think their destruction and dethroning plays a very specific and key symbolic value, one that has to be done in a way that ties to whatever more unholy or religious machinations lay under the pages of this book. So if Abraham had to die with the use of this knife, it stands to reason that his death is as important or equal to in some way the death of the Headmaster.
All this said, I do have to briefly wonder: if the events of this book happen in cycles, certainly someone has been at this precipice before, no? In fact, what did Isabel think or do when she first met the Headmaster? I’m not saying I have any form of answer to that; I’m just legitimately curious — especially when Future Jade talks about a certain someone who will “try to get you to play by the rules.” But we’ll get there in a minute.Continued below
I suppose we should talk about the elephant in the room as well, in that Dagney’s speech seemingly implies that she is the Headmaster’s mother. Afterall, she held him as a child and immediately loved him, as one would with a child. If Dagney is his mother and knew that she was destined to give birth to someone as horrible as the Headmaster, it would certainly be understandable why she couldn’t do it. Similarly, however, it’s just as reasonable that she’s not his mother, but perhaps his mother’s doctor, nurse or even midwife. We’ve seen Dagney related to a birth previously with #20, she clearly knows how to do it; it’s just as plausible to me that she was simply there at the time of his birth, and that when she was given the challenge of killing him she couldn’t go through with it. Good ol’ Dagney and her not being a baby murderer; gotta love her for that.
Still, this would tell us that Dagney has been with this story perhaps longer than anyone else. We know that a younger Dagney was important in terms of the foundation of the school and the raising of Daramount and Georgina; she was perhaps the first official teacher at the school, even if they were not the first official students. But with her role that involves the baby Headmaster, this puts her in perhaps the most important role in the school as the single constant guiding everyone — which only goes to prove that I’ve always been right and Dagney is the best character in this comic. Lets bring back this:
And you can all feel free to acknowledge that yes, I totally called it. Boom.
And with that, the ground rumbles at 8:13, and Casey goes through time.
Revisiting #13 and #28
As we get our time travel sequence for the issue, it’s worth noting that we are once again seeing some of the moments that Casey saw when she traveled through time in issues #13 and #28. As I did in Study Hall #28, I’m going to put all the pieces together to give us a better idea of what we’re seeing — but, I do want to note upfront that these events happen in a different order than they have previously, and that there is new material as well. My guess is that the reason for this is to indicate the chaotic nature through which Casey is currently traveling through time, as opposed to before when there was some order involved.
|Slaves building a pyramid||A slave wandering through a cave||A Priest standing atop a Pyramid, ostensibly delivering a speech||The sequences from #13 and #28 originally appeared sixth|
|N/A||N/A||Men in suits arguing||N/A|
|Men going off to war||The same men being bombed||Soldiers in revolutionary garb laying dead||The sequences from #13 and #28 originally appeared first, and are wearing different outfits than those that appear in this issue|
|A waitress in a diner||A cool lookin’ dude about to put on some jams||An unknown man eating at the diner||The sequences from #13 and #28 originally appeared eighth. Additionally, while I originally believed this man could be Jade’s brother, it has been confirmed to me that it is not, and that the scene in the diner is supposed to be in the 50’s (hence the Fonzie-esque dude in #28)|
|N/A||N/A||A Native American hunting||N/A|
|N/A||N/A||A woman running through the streets||N/A|
|N/A||N/A||A destroyed ship||N/A||Men, assumedly Greek, conversing in a bathhouseContinued below||Someone rushing in shouting||A Caesar of sorts beholding a lion mauling||The sequences from #13 and #28 originally appeared third[/row]|
|Darkness||Further darkness||More darkness|
As some of you may notice, there are a few missing sequences. We don’t see the man who stabbed another man, we do not see the girl in the closet, we do not see the city burning or the stoning. That, and Jade’s Doctor from issue #10 doesn’t make an appearance. But, I suppose we all know why now, right?
For the missing sequences, I can only assume the primary reason we do not see these is in relation to Casey traveling through a different timestream. While there are familiar events, there are also new ones, which would indicate to me she’s moving in a different direction. Previously she was traveling back to the past and then foreword again to a specific time at a specific place; given the different location she’s traveling through time at here, it’s possible that this would be the reason as to why what she sees is similar but different.
One Last Chance
Here we are, in the dystopian future where everything is future. Future Jade awaits Casey, telling her that she’s not ready for this confrontation yet and that it’s a trap. The whole thing seems very Empire Strikes Back, Luke about to confront Vader while Leia screams for him to turn away. Jade seeing the two streaks in the sky also seems to be an indication that someone else is traveling, looking for her (according to her), which adds up as we know that the streaks are in relation to people traveling through time. Jade runs away, promising that only death awaits inside these walls.
A lot of Jade’s dialogue in this issue seem to echo sentiments of the past, particularly when Irina met the Headmaster. She claimed that he lies and that he dwells in the dark, but that he’s more powerful than she anticipated. What Jade says that is seemingly new is that Casey needs to believe everything is a lie; there is power held within belief, which is a key element in cults, let alone religion, and with Headmaster at the top of all the weirdness in this book and with people referring to him as Father (even when he may not be biologically related to any of them) would imply that he gets his power from people believing in what he says is true. Therefore, if Casey believes anything the Headmaster says, regardless of it being truth or a lie, he gains power — power over her, and power in general. It’s the same belief structure that would allow something like “The Blue Team will never win” to result in a catastrophic event, for example.
To that point, with all of the other elements in the issue — the cheating on the election, the Blue Team winning, Vanessa making contact with the outside world — what we see is directly taking away from the power of belief in the Headmaster. Enough people see his word (otherwise known as the Law of this book) being proven as fallible and everything falls apart as a result. Presumably, if it’s the Headmaster holding all of this world together, him losing power would match directly with everything falling apart; he literally can’t hold it together anymore, and so the school’s walls crumble and result in the destruction we saw earlier in the season. This could be the moment that that happens: all the rumbling at 8:13 could indicate the school is falling apart and everyone being crushed within, while Casey survives on the outside. That would explain Dagney and Hodge’s inherent sadness, wouldn’t it?
However, then there’s the idea that this is all a trap. If I’m reading it correctly, Jade seems to be implying that the Headmaster needs Casey in the Greenhouse so that outside everything else can be destroyed. Maybe the Headmaster wants it all to break. Why? I’m not quite sure. It doesn’t seem likely he’d want to give away his power, but why else would he allow Hodge to manipulate Casey into defying him so openly as to cause all his work to become ruin?Continued below
All that and: how the heck did Jade say all that without the other person in the Greenhouse responding in any way? Though, I suppose that doesn’t really matter; reality is a shifting landscape after all.
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:
The Headmaster Revealed
Oh, shit. It’s that guy.
Congrats to everyone who called it, even if we still don’t know who he is (I’ll be consistent and say it could still be Hunter in the future with a beard).
Look: the first thing I did when I read this is try and find every issue he appeared in. I know it’s what you’re wondering about too. So I’m going to do you all a solid, and collect it here for your enjoyment.
From issue #10, where Jade meets him in her dream:
From issue #13, where he seems concerned:
From issue #28, where he seems sad:
From issue #32, a repeat of the face from #13:
From issue #37, where he seems disconerting and Akiko fears him:
And from issue #37, the only time where we see him menacing in any fashion:
We’ve discussed a lot this issue already, and we don’t really know anything about the man present on the final page that hasn’t been theorized already, either earlier in this particular column or in this series of columns in general.
Here’s what we do know, though: he is the Devil and a liar, and he’s more powerful than anyone else we’ve dealt with in the in the series before. However, everything he’s doing is necessary, benefits Casey and her friends and is working towards a better future. He is Good to some, Evil to others — ying and yang together in one nefarious, mysterious being.
Central to every story is conflict, often in the fashion of polar opposites (good vs. evil, light vs. dark, etc). What I would argue is that really, while the conflict is a story driver, it’s more about the balance — the two elements existing together in a unified front. Perhaps that’s the role that the Headmaster truly fills more than anything else. It’s possible, after all, to be a villain to some and a hero to others; it’s all about the proper context. There’s the destroyed school, and there’s the beach.
Then again: this is exactly what I was talking about in the last section. If you believe that he is in any way a hero, or “right”, then this is what would ostensibly give him power in the first place. Heck, belief could inherently give him power in order to be a villain as well; it’s simply believing that he is powerful in any form of context that inherently makes it so. And believing in him could in turn overthrow whatever balance there might be that exist, which is what is throwing things off in the first place and causing these endless cycles of conflict, life and death.
Either way: the wait for #50 is going to be a bit rough, isn’t it?
As I’ve mentioned before, the Morning Glories Wikipedia is now live, featuring copious notes and annotations. While I’ve not written anything particular for it, I’ve contributed a few inklings here and there, and some notes are sourced for this very column in a cleaner database friendly fashion — so I guess think of it like this column, but with less “me” and more straight-up presentation of materials. Should be good for every time we get a name and are wondering if it has been mentioned before. (I particularly like this entry, myself.)
In further things you should be following, the Morning Glory Academy Study Hall podcast is live and updated with tons of episodes for you to listen to, including commentary for the fourth arc ‘Truants.’ You can find them streaming here on Multiversity Comics (see below for links) or on Podomatic and on iTunes. For those unaware of its purpose, this is a podcast that I do with Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma in which we discuss each individual issue at length, offering up commentary tracks to go alongside your reads. It’s pretty much the best.Continued below
And, oh, I suppose while linking to rival website isn’t good for Multiversity business, I will note that all-around good guy Kiel Phegley does a column called Morning Glory Days about “Morning Glories” where he interviews Nick that is a pretty interesting read for fans of the series. I won’t actively say you should visit other websites besides Multiversity, but I do like Kiel. It’s worth a read.
If you’d like to contact myself directly with thoughts or comments, shoot me an e-mail at the very specific firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a real e-mail that you can find at the bottom as well, should you prefer that.
I’ll see you in the backmatter!!
Previous Issues: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19,#20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32, #33, #34, #35, #36, #37, #38, #39, #40, #41, #42, #43, #44, #45, #46, #47, #48
Previous audio podcasts: second arc interviews, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, second arc wrap-up, NSRFQR, third arc interviews, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17, #18, #19, third arc wrap-up, all of the fourth arc, Live at NYCC 2014, Live at NYCC 2015