(From MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck. Click for full-sized diamond ring.)
Is it possible that the Condesce/Betty Crocker is actually, or at least about to become, a sympathetic figure?
She wouldn’t be the first post-Scratch troll to have doubts about her race’s culture, or even the first to do so while gleefully embodying it (let me introduce you to a little someone named Vriska). Even if it were merely an “enemy-of-my-enemy” situation, the very notion of allying with her against anything, even the specter of Lord English, would be a pretty substantial change from most of the bits and pieces we’ve gotten from Dirk and Roxy (and to some extent, Doc Scratch), which have portrayed her as nothing less than the absolutely ruthless, genocidal ruler of Earth.
The first sign of this came in the intermission, when Rose suggested that “the forces opposing these players are clandestinely working toward the same goal as we are”, embodied by the Courtyard Droll destroying the post-Scratch Battlefield, a move which on its face, suggests that the Condesce would be trying to completely screw over the post-Scratch kids while inadvertently helping the pre-Scratch ones. Even then, though, I wondered whether the Condesce knew that the pre-Scratch kids would be arriving and was intentionally setting the stage for their arrival. Rose’s dialogue seems to suggest this as well, while also suggesting she might have nefarious motives, perhaps trying to turn the pre-Scratch kids against the post-Scratch ones.
But then there’s the information we’ve gotten about her pre-Scratch counterpart from Aranea, the spider-troll Jake met in the previous sub-act who has since been confirmed to be the pre-Scratch version of Mindfang. Although Meenah has come off as a complete asshole in her interactions with Roxy and John, Aranea paints a more nuanced picture, especially in her conversation with Jake. Apparently she had no interest in becoming the ruler of pre-Alternia, mostly out of not wanting the responsibility associated with it, and it was fleeing that responsibility that led her to discover the game. As Aranea tells Terezi, it was her plotting that allowed the others to survive in dream bubbles, as opposed to facing complete oblivion, upon the Scratch, and she rejoices when she realizes she’s in a dream bubble, since “it means my plan worked”. It’s apparently the first dream bubble she’s ever been in, and Aranea is “gather[ing] a small group of travellers for a meeting” to “orient [her] to the afterlife” (presumably including Jake, Terezi, and possibly Dave, Karkat, and maybe even dream-Roxy), telling Jake: “She’s not all that 8ad though. Well…….. When you really get to know her. And when she’s unarmed. Which is…….. pretty much never, now that I think a8out it.”
Now there are obviously some substantial differences between the pre- and post-Scratch trolls, as evidenced by Aranea herself, who’s very much unlike Mindfang (let alone Vriska), though she does tell Terezi she fantasized about being someone like Mindfang. What’s more, even the bits and pieces we’ve gotten haven’t painted the most flattering picture of Meenah; in fact, one could argue part of the reason she may have abdicated the throne was because she felt the planet was too nice (which might also explain her willingness to play the game). But the reason Aranea cites is one you would expect to hold up across the Scratch, especially considering she (and possibly Feferi) probably had the most unchanged upbringing of any of the trolls. It’s entirely possible our Condesce once had little interest in ruling and the responsibilities that go along with it – maybe even less, given how much more stressful it must have been in the world Scratch molded. Perhaps Meenah’s plan was little more than to allow the pre-Scratch trolls to survive in ghost form after the Scratch, even if it involved (as seems most likely) killing them all first – an approach that seems to be in keeping with the Condesce destroying the battlefield, disguising assistance, even altruism, as opposition.
If the Condesce was always a reluctant ruler, you can imagine how she might have reacted to being pressed into a few more centuries of rule, right when she thought she didn’t have anyone to rule anymore, and you can also see why, as evidenced by the most recent comics, she’s apparently surrendered her ring to the Draconian Dignitary, the significance of which isn’t quite clear (it has no prototyping orbs so it grants DD no physical power), but could be seen as her performing her own abdication in an odd shadow of pre-Scratch Noir killing his Black Queen. If her pre-Scratch counterpart wanted, as seems apparent, autonomy without responsibility, you can see how she might still chafe over having to follow Lord English’s orders, and how Jake’s grandma might have seen taking the English name and imagery as a good way to piss her off. (It’s also worth recalling Scratch’s explanation that “[t]he Condesce will be rewarded with the power and immortality her new service entails, and punished by the grueling slavery for which it is synonymous.”) Perhaps she would love nothing more than to gain some sort of revenge over Lord English, something his nigh-unlimited power makes seemingly impossible, but which the new session may give her an opportunity for.
Aranea has suggested that Jake is destined to, not quite destroy, but at least defeat Lord English; if this is intended to refer to Jake in particular it’s an odd choice that it would be anyone from the post-Scratch kids’ session, given how little we’ve been with them compared to the others, but I’m getting the sense that the final battle that is starting to take shape is going to take several groups to bring English (who’s fast becoming the face of the enemy) down. I wonder if we might see Jake being approached for the Condesce’s more direct assistance against English, with Dirk and Roxy being vehemently opposed and Jane in favor, with the others potentially split as well.
This doesn’t quite explain the Condesce’s behavior in relation to Earth, and it’s worth wondering how much of her behavior has been to keep English off her back. Perhaps there was some aspect of conquering worlds that she did enjoy, an aspect English gave her the capacity to continue to engage in. But it’s also worth wondering if there are more elements to her rule not unlike the destruction of the Battlefield – namely, recalling Roxy’s claims that she wants everyone to play the game, even if only to further her nefarious whims. That would explain why the game files were left completely unprotected on Crockercorp servers, and it might even explain the drone attacks against Roxy and Dirk, to goad them into playing the game. It doesn’t quite explain the assassination attempts on Jane, as she’s quite enthusiastic to play the game already and the attempts might run the risk of succeeding (depending on how much the Condesce knows), but it’s possible that it’s an attempt to present a face to English of working against them… or some other force we haven’t become acquainted with yet. (Or maybe it’s Roxy, but given what we now know that would just make causality crawl into a corner and die.)
And given what we’ve also learned about the Condesce’s power, it’s also worth wondering if we should look back at Act 6-2 and determining how many of God Cat’s actions were made as the Condesce’s proxy…