This post has spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Zero (up to episode 22). If you do not wish for certain information regarding plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.
Is there a word in the English language for a feeling where you both want and don’t want to know what happens next? This week’s episode of Fate/Zero left me with some mixed feelings; sadness at what I know is coming next and excitement at finally getting to see it. This episode, ‘All The World’s Evils’ brings us as close to the final showdown as possible without actually showing us any of it – an upcoming fight between Saber and Berserker is mentioned and a showdown between Kirei and Kiritsugu is looming on horizon as well. I face a weekly struggle to keep myself from binging through the remainder of this series, but this week that required an exceptionally Herculean effort for which I think I deserve several pats on the back. I have learned over the course of this series that my death flag sensor isn’t particularly refined, which is good in a way because all I saw in this episode were death flags. Waver gets an emotional farewell from family he never knew he had and gives Rider a final set of missions while Kirei is forced to accept that his read on Kiritsugu was totally wrong, though Iri pays a hefty price for teaching Kirei that particular lesson. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that this Grail War was Kirei’s to lose but since I do know better, I’m just going to remark on how startling it is that Kirei loses this despite the haggard state the rest of his competitors are in.
We will circle back to Kotomine Kirei in a while but first, the star of today’s show: Waver Velvet. It’s really remarkable how far his character has come from the whiny, bratty kid out to prove something we saw in the first episode. There were some key takeaways from the two big conversations he has in this episode. Waver’s grandfather, who’s all sorts of adorable, mentions that nothing is really worth risking your life over and I think that that’s a lesson that Waver needed to hear. One of the themes that hung over his character throughout the series has been his feelings of inadequacy, especially in the face of his Servant’s larger-than-life legend and over-the-top personality. I think it was important for Waver to realize that he had something other than the Grail War to live for, that his value as a person wasn’t only defined by his abilities as a Mage or whether or not he won the Grail. At first, I thought that Waver used his Seals up intentionally as a way of pulling himself out of the War because he realized it wasn’t worth risking his life over but that didn’t quite fit with the mood of the scene. Instead, I see his surrender of the Seals as more of a final recurrence of his chronic self-esteem issues, which brings us quite nicely to his conversation with Rider. This particular conversation, especially with his use of all three Command Seals, felt like a goodbye more than anything. Waver was acknowledged, in all seriousness, by Alexander the Great as an equal and although that acknowledgment wasn’t meant to be taken as a literal statement of fact, I sincerely hope that it gives Waver the boost he needs to believe in himself once and for all. As for the use of the Command Seals themselves, I don’t think Waver’s orders were direct enough to really provide Rider the kind of boost he needs in order to beat any of the remaining contestants, except Berserker, maybe. It was a nice sentiment though, for whatever that was worth and a fitting final chapter to Waver’s relationship with Rider. I do have one bit of criticism about the Waver part of this week’s episode however – I felt that they made his scene with Rider a little too silly and played the genuine emotion of the scene off as humour instead of leaving it as the heart-warming moment of acknowledgement that it was developing as. It didn’t ruin the scene, but the humour was unnecessary.
Next, we deal with Kirei and his inability to accept that he and Kiritsugu are not as alike as he once believed. I really liked the way that Irisviel, in what appears to be her final act as a ‘living’ being, basically laid an ideological smackdown on Kirei. The way I see it, Kiritsugu is in many ways everything that Kirei was taught to be and tried to be, but couldn’t be. Kiritsugu, as Iri put it, has faith in mankind – indeed, he wants peace and happiness for people in a way that the man of God, Kirei, has never been able to even understand. A lot of Iri’s comments really highlighted the differences between the two characters; for example, how Kiritsugu has seen his loved ones perish but that only made him struggle harder while Kirei sought to actively kill the people who loved him. She pays a hefty price for agitating Kirei and while it doesn’t come as a surprise that Kirei kills her but I’m a little surprised that he really killed with his bare hands; it seems like a very personal way of killing and Kirei didn’t strike as the sentimental sort. Iri’s death, surprisingly, has very little impact on me but I think that’s mostly a result of two things – the fact that her death has been a long time coming and the fact that we see her again by the end of the episode.
What exactly is going on with her at the end of the episode, however, is a question that I have no answer to at the moment, but I do know that the inside of the Grail is a trippier place than I expected. It was as heart-breaking, as always, to see Ilya and doubly so to hear her describe her prophetic nightmares to her helpless mother. Iri probably knows deep down that whatever hope she had of Ilya being spared her own fate was fast fading which made her false promises to Ilya all the sadder. It’s clear that the evil residue within the Grail is going to affect her in some way – already there hints of madness taking hold of her – but what effect that will have on Kiritsugu, if any, is unclear. Speaking of Kiritsugu, he is without his customary resources – Iri and Maiya are both dead – but even then he does not really think to make use of Saber. Saber, for her part, doesn’t really care – she just wants to find Iri and is willing to put up with Kiritsugu during that process. It seems that she will be running into Berserker soon, which means we will finally get to the bottom of who that Black Knight is and what he wants with Saber. I can’t imagine what possible reason the series would have to keep his identity hidden from us for so long but I really hope that the reveal is worth it.
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