By way of recap, the last episode saw Caster emerge from the shadows and violently grab the attention of the rest via his insane ranting and merciless brutality. Risei and Tokiomi agreed that Caster was something of an eyesore – he was drawing far too much unnecessary and unwelcome attention to the ritual of the Holy Grail War – and as such, needed to be exterminated. I got the sense last week, though I don’t think I said so, that Risei and Tokiomi didn’t take Caster altogether too seriously. Sure, he sounds crazy and anyone inhuman enough to get off from torturing kids needs to be handled carefully, but they didn’t behave as though Caster was a real danger of any sort. We also saw the beginning of Kirei and Gilgamesh’s deliciously evil friendship though nothing particularly noteworthy happened between them at that point. We open this week in the aftermath of Kiritsugu’s attack on Kayneth and his team. Policemen on the scene find a curious mercury sphere. When a policeman touches it, the sphere pressures him to move it away from the disaster zone. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to assume that this sphere has something to do with Lord Archibald. I had speculated last week that we hadn’t seen the end of Kayneth and his companions just yet. Given what we have been told about his magical prowess, it doesn’t seem beyond the realm of possibility for him to have used his mercury ball to block the damage from the explosion, though we don’t see any more of the sphere for now.
Risei lays out the plan for his ceasefire and while much of it is pretty much what we expected after his discussion with Tokiomi last week, there are some key points of interest that we brings up. The foremost among them is the bounty he puts on Caster’s head: an additional Command Seal. Risei confirms Kayneth’s survival as well and notes that of all the Masters, Kayneth would have the most incentive to claim the extra Command Seal since he pretty much wasted his first one. I have somewhat mixed feelings about this turn of events. I liked the idea that a Master only has three seals, regardless of how he/she chooses to use them. While in this specific case, there is a substantial risk involved in going after that extra Seal, I do feel like it alters the nature of the contest somewhat. As with everything else he has done in this war so far, Risei’s announcement here benefits Tokiomi by allowing Gilgamesh to land the final blow on Caster and claim the Command Seal but really, the effect of all this underhanded conspiring is a little lost on me since I’m pretty sure Gilgamesh could pretty much just walk up to Caster right now and claim the Seal as his prize – he wouldn’t even need to risk anyone fortuitously getting the last hit in before him. All in all, it’s a cute little plan that they’ve hatched, but a largely unnecessary one. The scene also confirms that Kayneth is alive but really, there was never really any doubt.
We shift next to some slice of life with Rider and Waver. Rider seems to have pretty much pushed the Grail War out of his mind and has focused instead on experiencing the modern world and all its wonders. Waver, somewhat understandably, is a less distracted and while he doesn’t exactly rain on Rider’s parade, he makes it very clear that unless Rider starts taking the War a little more seriously, he will not be getting any pants. Despite their bickering, you definitely get the feeling that the two characters are more in sync with each other than all the other Master-Servant pairs. The whole scene is pretty funny too and free from the sadism and drama that the other factions seem so keen on drawing to themselves. I don’t know whether that makes Rider and Waver oddities in this setting but frankly, I don’t really care – at this point in the series, I enjoy Rider and Waver’s interactions far more than that of any other pair of characters.
The next scene is the opposite of Rider and Waver’s slice of life in every way. Where Rider and Waver were arguing with no real malice or tension between them, Saber sits in on Kiritsugu’s strategy meeting in stony silence. Things between them have not gotten better over the course of the last few episodes and it seems that this episode is just intent on making them worse. Kiritsugu highlights his next course of action; securing a base of operations from which the Grail can be summoned but also that he won’t be actively pursuing Caster. This gets the moral and just Saber’s hackles up and her appeal to be given permission to hunt Caster is just ignored. There is a good amount of sense in what Kiritsugu is suggesting really; if your enemy is looking for direct confrontation, it’s usually a terrible idea to give him one. Kiritsugu’s opinion that the bulls-eye painted on Caster’s back presents an opportunity is both spot on and deeply cynical; it is an opinion that Risei and Tokiomi share, in a sense, and one that will likely benefit Team Saber greatly. Unfortunately, it is also an opinion that is designed to rub Saber off on the most fundamental of levels. To the King of Knights, the whole idea of skirting around an issue and using deceit and deception in place of strength of arms must be utterly galling and a little embarrassing. Saber says something to exactly that effect and Kiritsugu gives her his reasoning; he suspects (rightly) that Risei and Tokiomi are in cahoots and that itself brings the intent behind the ceasefire into question. Saber doesn’t protest this very reasonable (in my opinion at least) line of thinking but it’s clear for anyone to see that she is not happy about it.
As it turns out, Kiritsugu isn’t too happy either. Irisviel finds him brooding in the moonlight, asking himself questions that he really ought to have considered before the War began: does he want this badly enough to sacrifice everything else in his life? Kiritsugu wants to get away from it all – snatch Irisviel and Ilya and run away from the world, despite the dangers involved and the enemies he would make. He can’t of course and not for any particularly practical reasons; rather, it is just because he would never be able to forgive himself for turning away from his chance at realizing his dream. The whole scene is really touching from Kiritsugu’s frustration at being torn in two directions, his desire to protect his loved ones and his pained misery at knowing he won’t be able to Irisviel standing by him and talking him off the figurative ledge and reminding him of just what kind of person he really is. We haven’t seen much of the relationship between them but it’s clear that Irisviel at least understands Kiritsugu very well and has an absolute trust in him that is both heart-warming but also, given the series’ tone, worrying. Kiritisugu admitting that he was afraid humanized in a way that his character really needed. It served as a good reminder that despite his competence and skill, even Kiritsugu doesn’t have it all figured out and under control. His character needed an angle beyond that of the hyper-competent hitman with a single minded focus on an objective and this particular scene helped establish the conflicts with the character. For Irisviel’s part, I winced a little when she mentioned Maiya’s name – she definitely knows and from the way she acts, I think she also understands, though the words doesn’t escape easily from her lips.
Their moment is brought to a harsh end when an enemy transmission (?) comes through. Everyone’s least favourite monster is at it again – Bluebeard has the small army of children he snatched from their beds assembled in a forest and once he knows he has Saber’s attention, proceeds to go full-Jigsaw on the little children. The game is as simple as it is disturbing: the kids run, Bluebeard catches them. If they are caught, they die – and just to show that it’s no joke, he proceeds to cave a kid’s head in on the spot. Saber must be chomping at the bit to go put this animal down but it’s up in the air if Kiritsugu will allow it. Of course, Saber knows as well as we do that she’s being baited but it’s incredibly hard to not take the bait when the consequences are so horrifying and despite my better judgement, I want Saber to go after them, to hell with the consequences. I don’t know what to make of Kiritsugu not being the one to give Saber the order to go after Caster at this point. Yes, he has a bigger strategic objective in mind here, but surely there’s a limit to that? I might be misinterpreting the look on his face but it felt to me that it was Irisviel who sort of just put her foot down and said that enough was enough and deployed Saber with implied permission from Kiritsugu. I would have preferred for Kiritsugu to be the one to give the command since it would have also shown Saber that Kiritsugu does care about morality to some extent at least but if I’m being honest I don’t even know that morality does matter to him at this point in the story. He is probably disgusted by Caster but he has probably chalked up Caster and his actions to the wrongs that he (Kiritsugu) will get the Holy Grail to right later on, which in turn justifies his decision not to send Saber out.
Given the Master’s (wife’s) blessing, Saber dashes off to take Caster out. Caster for his part, has been waiting for Saber to turn up and has a deliciously sadistic surprise in store for her. He pretends to free a hostage to Saber only for her to find that Caster’s tentacle creatures have infested the child and that she is now trapped by said tentacles. Throughout it all, we can infer through Caster’s running commentary that the dude has some serious issues with religion. From what I can put together, he seems sure that Jeanne has been blinded by her faith and can’t see things for what they really are. I have a feeling, without looking up the people and places that Bluebeard brought up, that he fell into his current state of disillusionment and insanity when Jeanne was captured, tortured and then burned. He probably blames God for it all because Jeanne was supposed to be God’s instrument but found only misery in exchange for her troubles. The situation is probably especially absurd to Saber since not only does she have to put up with Caster’s mad raving but even she was the kind of character to capitulate, there is literally no way for her to become who Caster thinks she is. Things go poorly for Saber who, without the full use of her left, cannot hold Caster’s legion of tentacle monsters back and just when it seems that Caster has her in a lethal bind, Lancer turns up and frees her. Lancer’s insistence on finishing his dual with Saber is starting to get a little ridiculous – you can’t injure someone in a war and then claim that everyone else who tried to exploit that injury is an asshole, that’s just not how it works. Still, with the ceasefire officially in effect, Lancer is under no pressure to kill Saber this time and the two can probably make short work of Caster.
Back at Team Saber’s HQ, there has been a small hiccup – Kayneth is paying a surprise visit to the Einzbern household but he lacks a certain neighbourly spirit. Kiritsugu evacuates Irisviel and Maiya and I think there’s some good strategic thinking from both sides here. It makes sense for Maiya, who is not exactly the best of mages from what we’ve seen, to protect Irisviel who is without Saber. Meanwhile, it makes sense for Kayneth to hedge his bets; by sending Lancer to kill Caster, he has a decent shot at claiming the new Command Seal and given Lancer’s late arrival at the scene, Kayneth probably waited until he confirmed Saber’s presence before making his own way to the seemingly unprotected Irisviel (who I think he still believes to be Saber’s Master). Even if he is up against potentially three people, Kayneth is a scary enough mage on his own terms that I wouldn’t blame or thinking those are pretty decent odds. Kayneth’s magic involves a metallic (likely mercury) ball that he can control but that also seems to have some level of intelligence of its own. The metallic sphere is pretty amazing – it has reaction times faster than Kayneth himself, can shield him from explosions and bullets and can even execute search and destroy orders. As Kiritsugu and Kayneth get warmed up with their various tricks, we learn that Kiritsugu is no slouch either – his magic involves a Reality Marble created within himself to manipulate time. Given how rare/taboo Reality Marbles are, I’d say this is a pretty big deal and one that I’m eager to see used to its full potential. Even in this episode itself, Kiritsugu has already shown that he can use it to speed himself up or to slow himself down to the point of appearing dead. He is able to trick Kayneth momentarily but bafflingly throws his advantage away by alerting Kayneth to his presence. The episode ends with him pulling his special handgun out with a knowing smirk on his face – it seems that there is a method to his madness but we’ll have to wait to see it.