We ended last week’s episode just as shit was about to pop off – Kiritsugu was bringing the big (or small, if we’re being literal) guns out on Kayneth while elsewhere, the honourable tag team of Saber and Lancer ganged up on poor, psychotic Caster. One thing I failed to mention last week was the irony of the Masters of Saber and Lancer taking each other on while the Servants happily unite against their despicable foe. There might be a point in there somewhere about the kind of good that the Servants could accomplish if their Masters weren’t all in the War for their own selfish ends but I don’t think we ought to dwell too much on that. Instead, let’s move on to this week’s episode. The usual pre-OP cold open this week picks up where we left off last week – Kiritsugu has had Maiya rush Irisviel out of the Einzbern estate. She seems worried about Kiritsugu and that was even before she realized that Kirei is about crash this violent all-Master fight. Are we going to get a 1v1v1 type battle royale in the Einzbern mansion or will Kirei do the smart thing and just stroll in to clean up the spoils?
Before Kirei gets to Kiritsugu, however, he will have to get past Maiya and Irisviel. Now, I get that when you actually say that out loud, it really isn’t as intimidating as you might wish, but I guess with these things, it’s the thought that counts. The dynamic between Maiya and Irisviel feels a little strained to me but I don’t know if I’m letting my reading of the scene overwhelm what the scene itself is telling me. It seems that Irisviel is very much aware of Maiya’s feelings for Kiritsugu – that much was established in the previous episode itself, in fact – but I can’t decide if she seriously, sincerely doesn’t have an issue with it or if she is doing an excellent job of stomping down on those feelings because of the extremely unusual circumstances they are all in (the Holy Grail War, Irisviel’s impending Grail-ification, to name a couple). Maiya’s side is a little clearer; she seems a little awkward around Irisviel because she seems to realize that Irisviel knows but also that she has an implied obligation to Irisviel. What I liked about this scene – and I know I’m spending far too long on this tiny little conversation – is that Irisviel is able to make use of Maiya’s feelings to get her to what both of them want to do – help Kiritsugu by stopping Kirei. It’ll be both tragic and hilarious if Kirei just gives both of them the slip and heads straight into the manor.
Inside said manor, Kiritsugu and Kayneth are both going balls to the wall. Kayneth, as the token smug snake, sets himself up for his inevitable fall by just laughing at Kiritsugu’s inability to pierce his mercury ball creature – until that is, Kiritsugu pierces his mercury ball creature. Kiritsugu, having got a single shot in, coolly backflips away as Kayneth gives himself a little pep-talk – literally explaining it away as a lucky shot. Was it though? Kiritsugu’s mini-explanation seems to imply that he knew full well just how strong Kayneth’s defences were and that his special handgun was designed to penetrate Kayneth’s mercury. Was this part of Kiritsugu’s extensive, borderline creepy research on everyone? It seems that Kiritsugu’s tactics in this fight are remarkably similar to those adopted by a featherweight boxer going up against a heavyweight – run around until he’s tired and hope to hit him with a sucker punch. It’s going to have to be one hell of a sucker punch though; Kayneth’s winded but he’s hardly even on the ropes yet.
Outside, Kirei calmly walks into Maiya’s trap. He does an impressive job of avoiding most of them before realizing that the best way to play this game is to trick his opponents into thinking they got him. He drops down, plays dead and sure enough, when Maiya walks up to examine her handiwork, she gets a knife to the shin for her trouble. Now, I don’t blame her at all for assuming that Kirei went down for real because in her position that would be a fairly reasonable assumption but the second Kirei got the drop on her, you knew it was all over. Maiya fire bullets that for some reason just ricochet off of Kirei’s steely forearms and even though she acquits herself rather well in the following melee, it’s no good – Kirei smacks her around some and turns his attention to Irisviel. Irisviel tries her best, using a summoned familiar to tie Kirei up good but once again, she is completely outclassed. Kirei snaps the strings with ease and nonchalantly kicks Maiya around a bit more. Kirei isn’t holding back either; the sounds the blows make are just tiny bit too real and give you the impression that Kirei isn’t messing around.
We switch over to the other, other fight – Saber and Lancer are stuck in tentacle hell as Caster smugly watches on. It seems his plan is to simply overwhelm them with numbers – even though Saber and Lancer are far stronger than any single minion, they are being bogged down by the sheer volume of rapey tentacles around them. Saber tells Lancer that it’s time for a gambit and Lancer, who you know is just enjoying himself thoroughly, is all for it. Saber unleashes the invisible air around her sword and Lancer uses the opening in the minion wall it creates to disable Caster’s Necronomicon. With no minions to shield him from the combined wrath of Saber and Lancer, Caster is left with little else but curses. It seems he will be the first Servant to fall though the scene cuts back to the mansion where Kiritsugu is continues to give Kayneth the slip. The traps and the constant hide-and-seek is wearing Kayneth down, both mentally and physically. He is getting increasingly agitated and frustrated, and on top of that, he’s losing blood too. He finds Kiritsugu who calmly lets him rant a little before trying the same tactic again – he shoots his lower calibre bullets first before switching to the handgun. Kayneth is well prepared for this, of course, but something goes wrong because back in Caster’s formerly haunted forest, Lancer stops short and Caster gets away. There’s an awkward tension in the air now; Lancer’s Master has technically attacked Saber’s Master while the two were cooperating and the pair are technically enemies again now that Caster is gone. Yet, Saber lets Lancer go help his Master despite his Kayneth being the aggressor in this case. I’m not really sure what the rationale here is; Kiritsugu, despite his intentions and everything, was pretty much just sitting in his house, chilling when Kayneth pops up looking for a fight. Isn’t Kayneth getting what he deserves for breaking the ceasefire rules? And regardless of whether Kiritsugu is guilty or not, isn’t it still Saber’s duty to look out for her Master? I guess the idea here is that Saber is going all in on Lancer’s honour as a knight – which, to be fair, isn’t the worst gamble but the problem here was never Lancer himself was it? If Kayneth finds himself in a bad spot, really there’s no reason he wouldn’t sic Lancer on Kiritsugu and as awesome as Kiritsugu’s backflips are, there is no way he’s going toe to toe with Lancer. Before we find out how everything shakes out though, there is a single line from Saber that I thought was interesting: she notes that Kiritsugu was right about what happened but the scene cuts right there. She was unhappy about Kiritsugu being right and it’s not hard to see why; the accuracy of Kiritsugu’s predictions undermines Saber’s moral perspective on things. The fact that slimy, shady Kiritsugu was right about how dishonourably the other Masters are acting is a mild slap in the face to Saber’s righteousness. Yet, it doesn’t seem to cross Saber’s mind that Kiritsugu might just have a better understanding of human nature than she does. Saber tends to believe the best in people while Kiritsugu sort of believes the worst and in the universe of Fate/Zero, it seems Kiritsugu is more right than Saber is. However, that doesn’t seem to get Saber thinking at all – instead, her attitude seems like grudging acceptance of reality at best and petulant sulking at worst.
We get a short interlude next, a flashback of sorts, from the looks of it. The scene centres on Kiritsugu’s Origin; the ability to cut and re-tie. If that doesn’t seem too impressive at first, recall that Shirou’s Origin was simply ‘Swords’ and as bland as that Origin was, it did lead to UBW. Kiritsugu’s Origin, specifically its applications, seems promising – the ideas of chaotic disruption and irreversible change sound like something you decidedly would not want to go up against, especially as a mage casting complicated magic. I spent some time thinking about how Kiritsugu’s Origin ties into the greater story, thematically. To be fully honest, nothing really comes to mind right away; again, I’m a little wary of forcing an interpretation. To some extent I guess the idea of breaking something down and then rebuilding it sort of describes Kiritsugu’s approach to his grand ideal – he will cause as much pain and misery as he deems necessary as long as in the end he change things for the greater good. It seems that he’s realized that if he does it his way, the society he recreates afterwards, that very greater good, will be flawed and imperfect. Hence, he looked to miracle of the Holy Grail to solve that particular roadblock, not realising that the problem was the method itself – you simply can’t be a terrorist on one hand and still fight for world peace. Yes, I’m sure that in the real world, many activists we today consider heroes were once terrorists, but I don’t think anyone will consider the world they created to be one without misery. In any case, Kiritsugu’s unnamed friend’s remarks about the effect of the Origin Bullets on a mage’s internal circuitry are just a little too timely for me not to know what happens next – Kayneth’s in for a bad, bad time.
The Bullet’s effect is instantaneous. Kayneth’s body spasms and contorts and it seems the victory is Kiritsugu’s but Lancer arrives in the nick of time to save his Master. Lancer makes it clear that the only reason Kiritsugu isn’t a dead man is because of Saber but you have to wonder what Kiritsugu makes of Saber giving away crucial information to the enemy. As far as I know, no one knew that Irisviel was not Saber’s Master until Saber mentioned it to Lancer. Now, it isn’t the biggest of deals since it was going to get out anyway and honestly, I didn’t even realize that Saber had told Lancer until this exact moment but still it seems Saber’s honour is making a mess of her priorities. Kiritsugu doesn’t seem to realize just how close he was to dying; instead, he just seems put off that an enemy Master survived.
Not far away, Kirei tries to choke some answers out of Irisviel, who stays impressively resilient throughout it. Kirei wants to know why both the women are fighting so hard, against obviously poor odds, to protect Kiritsugu but Irisviel gives him pretty much nothing. I have to say, Irisviel is making an impression on me here – for a while, I had pretty much dismissed her as a naïve woman-child who existed pretty much to act as the mediator between Kiritsugu and Saber but she’s showing more spine here than any other character – hopefully, Kiritsugu doesn’t snap it. Kirei also concludes that she is not the Einzbern Master since she doesn’t have the Command Seals; I guess the secret is out and Saber is off the hook for now. Assassin, as useful and relevant as ever, pops up to remind Kirei that the episode’s other two battles have concluded and that Saber will appear on the scene shortly. Irisviel and Maiya’s determination has apparently made some mark on Kirei but not enough that he doesn’t and stab Irisviel in the stomach with his wolverine claws. I forgot just how very hateable Kirei can be. I really hope Irisviel doesn’t die here but given how I just mentioned that she was starting to grow on me, I can’t say it would come as a surprise if she does. The annoying thing about all this is that Kirei didn’t even learn anything from it. He flat out refuses to acknowledge that Irisviel and Maiya could be acting on their own accord to protect Kiritsugu’s interests because Kirei’s mind cannot wrap itself around a concept as positive and pleasant as selflessness. Still, instead of reconsidering his assumptions about Kiritsugu, he just dismisses the whole incident with a ‘Nah, I’m right’. It’s like he saw a soul-mate in Kiritsugu but now can’t bring himself to accept that he is wrong. That Kirei is incapable of coming up with any other options seems to say a lot about his character though, doesn’t it?
On the plus side though, Irisviel is alive! Deus-ex-Avalon strikes again! It turns out, Kiritsugu had Irisviel implant Avalon within herself as a final precaution, which either makes Kiritsugu prescient or Batman. Either way, Irisviel is back on her feet in moments – not surprising given the absolutely absurd amount of damage Shirou is able to recover from in Fate/Stay Night – and reflects on the difficulty of dealing with Kirei. I think this is the second time that Irisviel has ended an episode in this matter. A few episodes ago, after Gilgamesh and Berserker had their throw-down and Rider had to break the subsequent three-way fight, Irisviel’s final remarks in that episode had the same tone and served the same purpose as they do here: wrap up the episode’s key takeaways in a sentence or two. She notes that they have a long way to go and that she is glad to have help – which is honestly a really meh way of ending an otherwise exciting episode. You can’t have it all, I guess. With that, I’ll see every again next week as we head (already) towards the final quarter of the first season of Fate/Zero.