91 Days Episode 8
by Gabriella Ekens, Sep 3rd 2016
How would you rate episode 8 of
91 Days ?
Alas, poor Fango. You absolutely had this coming, but I'm still sad to see you go. And by Corteo's hand, of all people! In the competition for least threatening character in this story, Avilio's mild-mannered childhood friend was #1 by a large margin. Maybe that's why Fango lowered his guard around him. The crazy bastard must regret that, if he isn't having the time of his life in hell.
Appropriately, this episode was rooted in Corteo's POV. It begins with him overhearing Avilio's final line from the end of the previous episode – that he's Nero's brother now, having manipulated the unwitting elder Vanetti into committing fratricide – and Corteo connects that to his own childhood promise to Avilio all those years ago. But other than using his help, Avilio hasn't been behaving all that brotherly towards Corteo, and now that he's risen to the role of Nero's lieutenant, the last leg in his vengeful trilogy has been delayed, so he's started acting like a real mobster. Corteo is profoundly uncomfortable with this, especially since there's no foreseeable end to his own involvement. Plus, as the only other person privy to Avilio's secret agenda, he's a significant weak point for the fledgling mafioso. If Angelo Lagusa as Corteo knew him is all gone, what's to keep Avilio from fully erasing his past? Corteo's selfless desire to help an old friend has dragged him deep into the waters of human depravity, far past the possibility of a clean way out.
Still, he doesn't bail on the situation when Avilio gives him an opportunity, instead choosing to stick around out of either despairing paralysis or some misguided sense of responsibility for the situation. But once Avilio attempts to kill a police inspector's family, Corteo decides to assist Fango as a way to curtail the Vanettis. Of course, this is a terrible idea, since it sets him on the path to getting whacked by either Fango or the Vanettis. The latter family soon senses a spy in their inner circle, so it's only a matter of time before Corteo gets sniffed out. Meanwhile, Fango wants Corteo to produce Lawless Heaven for him, so his life is ensured there – at least for a little while. Caught between two terrible options, Corteo chooses to continue aiding Fango – but this is a grave error. One evening, Fango is acting up even more than normal, which causes Corteo to be seized by a more gripping sense of terror than usual. With his usual showmanship, Fango reveals that he is no longer in need of Corteo's services, having obtained the recipe from a corrupt cop who came over to bribe him (whose corpse is now lying in the corner). Corteo is toast, whether by Fango's own hand (gripping a bloodied golf club) or the Vanettis, should he let him go. For once, Fango chooses the emotionally cruel option over the physically sadistic one, sending Corteo away as he turns his back to dial up the Vanettis.
This was his fatal miscalculation. Rather than shuffling off to face his end as per Fango's instructions, Corteo seizes all his rage and frustration in an instant, grabbing a bottle and clocking Fango over the head with it. The madman stumbles in shock, and the next blow finds his throat. While he's already thoroughly on the path to death by blood loss, Corteo resolves to finish the job by repeatedly bashing Fango through the skull with the telephone, with the Vanettis apparently still on the line. The episode ends with Corteo still going to town on Fango's skull, with ambient music still playing on the gramophone, as the record skips in time with his lunges.
Well, as an exercise in tension alone, this episode tops the rest of 91 Days. Following a one week break, the show is once again in top form, telling its story of human brutality with meticulous artistic delicacy. In particular, I had to watch that final scene a few times to get my fill of it. On a directorial level, it's perfectly constructed. (I'll admit that the musical choice is a little hokey, but it works.) The violence hits so hard because it's so sparingly used (two or three real money shots) and realistic. While it's overshadowed by the conclusion, second place goes to the car bomb sequence. At least 91 Days is restraining itself enough not to kill a freshly introduced child character – for now. The production is still troubled, but they manage to animate what matters most. There's a great cut of Corteo rejecting Avilio's money that absolutely clinches the emotion of that scene.
The lack of clarity surrounding Avilio's immediate emotional state – a recurring problem throughout this series – actually serves as a boon in this episode. Since we're seeing this through Corteo's eyes, it makes sense that Avilio's current intentions are an enigma. It makes us empathize with the terror that Corteo feels throughout, not just because of Fango, but also due to his uncertain status within the Vanettis. It also retroactively fixes this ongoing narrative flaw – given this episode, it's most likely deliberate that Avilio's intensions have been left ambiguous. I feel reassured now.
The one extraneous scene is a conversation between Nero and Avilio. It turns out that Nero is going a little cuckoo from having murdered most of his remaining family and being put in charge of the business. What a shock. He has permanent dark circles beneath his eyes, which signal that he's either gotten into drugs like Frate or just never sleeps. I'd buy either. Avilio tries to cheer him up with a friendly chat, which works surprisingly well, considering Avilio's personality. They reaffirm their bond to both each other and the Vanetti family. My question here is what Avilio wants. He's probably still pushing Nero to break, just not yet – his hubris hasn't quite peaked. Or maybe Avilio has changed his mind, likes this new life, and wants to preserve it with Nero. That's a potential final conflict – if Avilio starts wanting to be a Vanetti, but Nero finds out about his machinations. Either way, Fango is gone, so 91 Days has to invent a new immediate threat. Whatever they come up with will probably last until the endgame, since there should only be four or five episodes remaining.
I wonder whether this story has anything left for Corteo to do. They let Fango linger a lot longer than I think anyone expected, but there aren't that many characters left to kill off. He still has to get out of the mansion, where I'm sure Fango's cronies will be none too pleased to learn that he killed their boss. (Or maybe they'll give him a medal.)
It's been a bumpy ride, but 91 Days strides confidently into its final third. It's been a long fall for these characters, and I'm confident that it's only going to get worse from here.
91 Days is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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