This week’s episode opens with a dream from the distant past – the life story of one Diarmund O Dyna. His story is a tragic one though, I must say, not soul-crushingly so. From the quick glimpses we see, Diarmund’s backstory involves a simple case of forbidden love and a good old fashioned love triangle. Diarmund seems like the simple soldier kind but when he falls in love with his King’s daughter, things get very complicated very fast. He is ultimately betrayed by his King though the exact circumstances aren’t shown. The key thing here is that Kayneth sees this dream but whether he will be clever enough to recognize the parallels between Lancer’s past and present remains to be seen. To be fair the parallels aren’t all that clear just yet but the set-up has been laid out; Sola Ui’s infatuation with Lancer and Kayneth’s resentment are both toxic elements that need to be sorted out if their team is to have a shot. It seems that their team’s fragile dynamic is set to be upset once again though; the last time we saw Kayneth, he wasn’t looking so good. Kiritsugu’s Bullet has probably done some irreparable damage to his magic circuits and it seems that Lancer will no longer be able to count on his Master for backup in the upcoming fights. Kayneth didn’t respond very well to Sola Ui’s mocking of his uselessness and cowardice previously – will he really be able to accept his role on the sidelines?
The first scene confirms most of these suspicions – Kayneth is effectively no longer a Mage and really, given the copious amounts of blood he was spewing at the end of the previous episode, he should be glad to be alive. Sola Ui, to her credit, does seem genuinely concerned about him and it’s pretty clear that he owes her his life. The news that Kayneth, born and raised a Mage, will no longer be able to practise magic is clearly devastating to him and for a few moments, you feel really sorry for him. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel, fortunately. The Holy Grail can accomplish what modern magical medicine cannot – it can restore Kayneth’s circuits to what they were. Sola Ui, who, if you recall, was Lancer’s co-Master (in the sense that she was the one supplying him with mana), has a plan – Kayneth can transfer his Command Seals to her and make her Lancer’s full Master and give their faction a fighting chance. Sola Ui has been almost uncharacteristically pleasant so far but all that goes out the window when Kayneth refuses to give her the Seals. Kayneth’s reasons aren’t particularly strong, to be honest, but there’s no doubt that his intuition is absolutely on point. He has a sneaking suspicion that Sola Ui’s reasons for wanting to become Lancer’s Master have less to do with the War, the Grail and Kayneth and more to do with getting all up in Lancer’s business. Sola Ui dismisses Kayneth’s concerns and turns the pressure up, revealing the full extent of her cruelty in the process. She breaks Kayneth’s finger as a display of power – Kayneth, no longer a Mage, with his broken body, is utterly at her mercy and if he doesn’t give her what she wants…well, let’s just say that Kayneth is seeing a whole new side of his loving wife. If you were feeling sorry for Kayneth before, by now you’d be willing to start a Twitter movement for him (#AllMagesMatter). The thing that gets me here is that while I never really got the impression that Sola Ui was especially taken in by Kayneth, his title, wealth and magical prowess notwithstanding, I did think that Kayneth had some measure of affection for his wife. I don’t know if he really loved her but even if he didn’t, all of her actions in this scene constitute a betrayal on one level or another. I realize that so far the Fate/Zero universe isn’t as big on karmic comeuppance as the Fate/Stay Night universe, but Sola Ui is one character that needs to get what’s coming to her before we’re done.
Back at the Einzbern mansion, we are told that Maiya will make a full recovery, but that her injuries will keep her out of action for the next few days. Saber asks Irisviel to ask Kiritsugu to give her permission to go after Caster. Iris makes the request but we begin to see the cold winter in Kiritsugu’s heart take over him. His first question when Iris walks into the room says it all: “When can we use Maiya again?” (emphasis mine). Of course, it could just be a translation quirk but even if the Japanese connotation is slightly different, the point remains; he is beginning to cut himself off from those he cares about and shut himself up in his own little frosty fortress of solitude. This is not going to be a Shounen-esque, let’s-work-together, power-of-friendship type of fight where Saber, Iris and Kiritsugu all settle their various issues and work as a functional team – this is going to be Kiritsugu handling business and moving his pawns as he sees fit. Kiritsugu is thinking like an assassin on a mission more than anything else, as opposed to Saber’s more soldier-like mentality. We’ve said it before, and will likely say it again before this is done, but Kiritsugu isn’t interested in honourable duels, he isn’t interested in fair fights and he sure as hell isn’t interested in taking prisoners. We need look no further than his ruthless decision to finish Kayneth off for confirmation of his priorities. Of course, as mean and pitiless as this seems, no rational person can tell me that this isn’t a strategically sound move. Team Lancer is reeling; it just makes sense to land the killing blow and free up Saber’s full power. Of course, I feel a little dirty for saying it like that especially after seeing how badly fucked up Kayneth is (both physically and emotionally) but honestly, it’s a fucking war; only the strong survive. Yet, supporting Kiritsugu’s decision to send Kayneth to meet his storied nine generations of Mage makers also indirectly means supporting his decision to let Caster continue his rampage. Again, I completely agree with Kiritsugu on a detached, rational level but I definitely feel very conflicted about him always picking the greater good over the smaller victories. I see the logic, but it feels like there’s a fatal flaw in it that he’s missing. Isn’t the greater good sometimes simply composed of those small things we do to make a difference? In an ideal world we would want Kiritsugu to be able to be honourable, compassionate, noble and still as effective as he is but the fact that is simply impossible is a testament to the depth of these characters. If you want victory, you have to give something up in exchange. Lastly, I want to touch on his firm rebuke of Saber’s actions; like I mentioned previously, Saber pretty much put the entire endeavour on Lancer’s shoulders – she put her honour at stake, yes, but she also actively prevented her Master from coming one step closer to winning the War. Kiritsugu is well within his rights to be upset at her actions and yet again it seems that the rift between these two characters has widened.
Sola-Ui successfully took the Command Seals from Kayneth but as Kayneth predicted, she faced stiff resistance from Lancer in getting him to accept her as his Master – and not the kind of stiff resistance she wanted, at that. Lancer is probably the least remarkable Servant in this War (apart from Assassin, of course) but say what you will, he is a stand-up guy. He doesn’t jump at the chance of getting rid of a difficult Master, unlike a certain golden-haired, wine-drinking floosy, but instead, forces Sola-Ui to promise him that her intentions are for Kayneth’s good and nothing else. She is lying through her teeth of course and it seems that Lancer knows it. The déjà vu must be killing him right now but at least this time he can be a little more careful in navigating these tricky, emotion filled waters. He reiterates that he just wants a Master that won’t betray him and honestly, that’s not a big ask but it seems he’s stuck with Sola-Ui instead. How many more times can Lancer reject her before she starts using Command Seals to get what she wants?
We get a short scene in which we learn that Iris has sort of broken her promise to Kiritsugu – she has told Saber about Kiritsugu’s plans. We get a great Saber moment (in my opinion, anyway), one of my favourites from her so far – she acknowledges that war isn’t a pleasant thing and that sometimes sacrifices have to be made. This is a big deal because so far, she’s come off as someone who’s unrealistically idealistic and that idealism clashes with what you would expect of a war-hardened veteran and a military ruler. Her acknowledgement tells us that she isn’t totally naïve to the way the world works and she follows that up with a few points of her own that make me think that she would be fine with some degree of subterfuge and backstabbing between Servants and Masters, she draws the lines at civilians and unrelated parties. Fair enough, I say. Next, we return to Team Rider, which was yet to accomplish anything of note almost one full season in. As their idyllic domestic life continues (the sweet old couple are still being brainwashed by Waver and it’s still kind of weird), Waver has a plan to find Caster in his lair and exterminate him. His plan is simple but clever and even impresses the great Iskander (or as he prefers to go by nowadays, Alexei). Waver blushing as Iskander-sempai finally acknowledges him is pretty adorable though. Caster, fittingly, is hiding in the sewers and next time we know, Rider and Waver are charging down the tentacle filled sewers, determined to find Caster. If they were trying to be sneaky, it’s not working.
Fortunately for them, Caster isn’t around. Waver decides to go take a look around only to realize just what Caster has been doing with all the children. It’s not as shocking for us as it is for him since we’ve already seen Caster butcher children by the dozen. I can’t help but think that this scene would have had a lot more impact if they hadn’t been so liberal with the gore and violence so far – we’ve had so many scenes where Ryuunosuke and Caster have been casually killing kids that now when there’s a scene that’s clearly meant to be climactic, it falls flat because the shock value’s gone. We see Rider really back Waver up though; Waver, understandably reacts poorly to see the corpses of dozens of children around him and Rider is able to snap him out of it, even if it is by pointing out that the Asssassins are alive and about to take Waver out. Rider is able to fight a few of them off but the rest back away inexplicably without putting up any real resistance at all. Rider and Waver torch the place and leave, relatively subdued. Elsewhere, Kirei bemoans the lost opportunity to kill Waver but Tokiomi seems happy enough with the outcome of learning that Waver is pretty much an untested rookie. He is totally unaware of Kirei’s growing dissatisfaction with his teacher and of Gilgamesh’s unhappiness with his current role in the war – both factors are going to come into play either by the season’s end or by the start of the next. It isn’t clear why exactly Assassin withdrew and I get the sneaking feeling from Kirei’s expression that it was not his idea to withdraw the Assassins. The episode’s title ‘Lord and Vassal’ was ostensibly about Lancer and Kayneth but we end thinking about the deteriorating relationship between Kirei and Tokiomi instead.