So here we are at the end of ‘Season 1’! We’ve seen a lot of build-up in this first season; we’ve been introduced to each of the seven Masters, their Servants and gotten a reasonable amount of detail about each of their circumstances. That detail, thus far, has been spread out a little unequally – we know less about Berserker than we do about Lancer for example, and less about Ryuunosuke than about Kirei but by and large, it doesn’t feel like there is a particularly big question mark hanging over any particular character, Berserker’s true identity aside. The effect that this narrative structure has had so far is that it has made Fate/Zero seem like more of an ensemble piece. In Fate/Stay Night, we focus almost entirely on Shirou, to the exclusion of everyone else and the net result was that we began to see the other Servants as the ‘others’, and exclude them from our sympathies. For instance, Fate/Stay Night Caster isn’t really a terrible person but you don’t really feel any sympathy for her since we don’t get her POV. In contrast, Fate/Zero jumps perspective enough that we begin to better appreciate the scope of the whole affair and the various machinations that make the Holy Grail War what it is. That breadth comes at a narrative cost however; our interactions with the characters feel much more superficial, thus far at least.
All of that brings us to the opening scene from this week’s episode. It is something of an established tradition for Masters to have dreams of their Servants’ past – we saw it in Fate/Stay Night with Rin and Shirou, and in Fate/Zero with Kayneth. The effect this has on the relationship between the Master and Servant ought to be largely beneficial since the Master can gain some insight into the Servant’s past without the Servant needing to come right out and say it but as Kayneth and his paranoia of being cuckolded demonstrated, it depends largely on the Master in question. Waver, has his dream of Alexander, standing at the edge of the ancient world, Okeanos. I believe this was Alexander the Great’s dream – he wanted to conquer everything between the two seas, but I might be confusing him with someone else. The dream seems to have the effect of humanizing Rider a little in Waver’s eyes and he finally acquiesces to taking Rider out shopping. You get the feeling that this isn’t the first dream Waver has had, based on his knowledge of Rider’s deeds. We don’t get any more elaboration for now, however, so we’ll leave it alone till we do though I do hope at some point the relationship between the two partners becomes more equal and less of Waver whining and Rider just doing as he pleases. They have the potential to accomplish a lot if they work together though we know that nothing will come of their ambitions.
Not far away, Ryuunosuke and Caster are devastated by the destruction of their hideout. This makes the timeline a little tricky because Rider torched their hideout a few episodes ago which means that everything since then has been happening in a very short amount of time. We get an extremely interesting bit of insight into both Ryuunosuke and Caster’s personal philosophies based on their reaction to this huge setback. Before I talk about that however, I should mention that Ryuunosuke’s reaction to the loss of his hideout is caused less by the strategic implications of the loss and more by the emotional attachment he had to the ‘art’ that had been lost. It’s extremely strange to say this but watching him break down and cry and seeing Caster trying in vain to console him, actually made me feel for him. It’s absurd that I feel anything at all for a monster like him but at the same time, seeing the genuine affection and loyalty that Caster has to his Master is almost enough to make me forget what monsters they are. I guess it’s a sign of the complexity of the characters that even though the duo is a pair of serial child killers, they are not incapable of some form of sympathetic human emotion.
The two men do differ in their exact response to this setback; Ryuunosuke blames the heavens, but Caster firmly correct him – there is no God, Caster reminds him, just as he did when he first laid eyes on Saber. The way Caster talks about his eight years of blasphemies gives me the impression that he almost wanted some kind of divine justice to judge him and his actions, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. We also get Caster’s reason for believing this – despite all the obscene atrocities that Bluebeard committed when he lived, it was human greed rather than any kind of morality (be it human or divine) that did him in. It seems to have soured him on the whole notion of divine retribution or karmic justice. Ryuunosuke, on the other hand, does believe in God in a Creationist sort of way, but his is not a benevolent God. Ryuunosuke’s notion of the divine is almost that of a director of a horror flick – he moves both sides of the board, both good and bad, in a manner to create the maximum drama and excitement. Think the good guys/bad guys are about to win? Oh look, here’s some bad luck/a miracle to mess it all up! In his worldview, both the good and the bad are equally important since you can’t have a good story without either – I’m sure there is a proper term for this line of thinking, since I can vaguely remember reading about it. Regardless, the end result is that Caster has his faith restored and both Master and Servant are reinvigorated. I feel quite sure that Caster has more than enough mana stored up after all his killing to do some real damage and now that they lost their hideout, there’s really no reason to hold back.
Rider and Waver continue goofing off; they are at a shopping mall where Waver insists on a hilarious ‘no conquering, no plundering’ rule. Waver finds a book on Alexander and begins to understand what he saw in his dream but is interrupted by a returning Rider. Rider has picked up a video game (and a console, to boot) but Waver isn’t interested. Waver is a little embarrassed when Rider realizes that Waver had been reading a book about him, but goes ahead and addresses the historical differences between Alexander and Rider, such as height. The whole scene isn’t really one of much consequence but it is reiterated, the Rider isn’t out for leaving a permanent legacy or anything but would rather just achieve as much as he can in his own lifetime. A little while later, Waver finally gives voice to his thoughts – he feels that even if he wins the Grail with a Servant like Rider, it wouldn’t be his (Waver’s) victory. It’s sort of like how if you finish a video game with a cheat code, it doesn’t really count as beating the game. It makes sense from Waver’s point of view though; he got involved in this whole mess in order to prove himself to the world and to show Kayneth in particular that Waver’s view of magic and magical society was not wrong or inferior. Waver is feeling dejected and down on himself because he feels he has nothing to contribute to Rider’s campaign and that his ineptitude is holding Rider back. Rider offers him solace in a rather touching scene; he tells Waver that his dream never did come true, implying that what Waver saw in his dream was nothing more than Rider’s own dream. The thrust of his point is that Rider is totally fine with having an idiot like Waver for a Master since Rider himself is the sort of idiot who would cling to a dream that’s more than two thousand years old. Since they’re both idiots in their own way, they’re perfect for each other. It’s very warm and fuzzy but I don’t know how well that sort of logic will hold up in battle though I think we are about to find out.
Earlier, Caster and Ryuunosuke had met at the river where Caster had begun performing a ritual of some sort and it seems that he finally caught the rest of the Servants’ attention. Sola-Ui, very clearly infatuated with Lancer is a little reluctant to let him go off to fight Caster by himself, but caves in when Lancer asks her directly. Saber and Iri show up on the scene not long after, but by then Caster has already pretty much completed his summoning. He has a monstrously large Cthulhu-esque creature summoned from wherever such things are summoned and he is safely encased in its centre. It’s an impressive looking scene to be sure and it looks like the remaining Servants really will need to gang up if there are to have any hope of taking this thing down. The situation, as described by Iri, seems fairly dire; for now, the monster is still unstable and being sustained by Caster himself but soon, it will become self-sufficient and defeating it will become much harder. Lancer, Rider and Saber form a temporary coalition, with the sole purpose of taking out Caster and thus we end season one! It’s a good spot to end the season on too, but I’m just surprised that the body count has been so low so far in the season. We haven’t lost any Servants except for Assassin, and no Masters either. There were some great high-points in the season – from Kiritsugu’s demolition of the hotel to his fight with Kayneth in the Einzbern mansion to Ionian Hetaroi – but it also feels as though some characters never really fully came into their own this season. Rider started out with a lot of promise and but apart from the occasional moment of actually doing something relevant, a lot of his time on screen has been inconsequential. Similarly, Kariya started out as a character that we had more a connection to, due to his links to the Tohsaka and Matou families, but he has largely faded into the background entirely. On the other hand though, I’ve loved the added emphasis on Kirei and Gilgamesh and can’t wait to see how all of that plays out next season. Thanks for reading, see you in two weeks’ time!