The last episode of Fate/Zero didn’t see much get accomplished in terms of plot, but now the Rintermission is over, and we should be getting back to the hunt for Caster. Caster’s done a better job of surviving being hunted by all six other Servants at once than I expected, but his safehouse was raided by Rider and his supply of child sacrifices was set loose by Rin, and things are looking pretty grim for him. At this point his only hope is that the fragile truce breaks down – almost everyone has someone they’d rather kill than him. Kiritsugu is targeting Lancer, Kotomine is targeting Kiritsugu, Archer Gold is targeting Tohsaka, Assassin is targeting anybody who shows an opening and Berserker is targeting Tohsaka. I imagine that if they all track down Caster at the same time, episode 11 of Fate/Zero will look more like a battle royale than anything.
…thirty minutes pass…
Make Holy Grail Love not Holy Grail War. You can't hug a child with Noble Phantasms.
As pictured above, this episode was pretty devoid of people killing the shit out of each other. I guess technically a bunch of Assassins got killed, but that wasn’t a battle, it was a massacre. I hope it was worth it to Kotomine, wasting all those Assassins just to find out that Rider has a bigger army than he does. Maybe he needed to get rid of them anyway so he could divert his mana to Archer Gold instead? I dunno.
I didn’t mind that they spent the entire episode talking, though. This episode reminded me of the classic anime Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which I recommend everyone watch. In LoGH, there were dramatic fleet battles, but about half of the episodes just featured the characters sitting around and debating political philosophy, and their differences of opinion regarding the ideal form of government formed the justification for those fleet battles. The political-philosophy chat episodes were the best episodes in LoGH. Of course, animation techniques have improved in the 25 years since LoGH, and so you’re giving up more by taking time away from Fate/Zero’s pulsepounding combat scenes to debate the role of the king in society.
I noticed that Rider thinks he figured out Archer Gold’s true identity. What clues does Rider have? Well, Archer Gold seems to think the Holy Grail belongs to him, and when he’s dissatisfied with the drinks at a party he uses his amazing miraculous powers to provide wine. Clearly Archer Gold is Jesus of Nazareth!
It actually surprised how little I hated Archer Gold in this episode. Rider is a great foil for him, because all Archer Gold’s extreme arrogance just rolls off Rider like water off a duck’s back. It’s really hard to imagine anyone meeting Archer Gold on the street and inviting him for a drink, and actually having him accept. Rider’s a pretty impressive fellow. I hadn’t been taking him seriously because he was summoned by Waver, the weakling joke of a mage, but he can command some measure of respect from Archer Gold, he can destroy Saber in a debate about heroism, and he can summon a giant army of warriors. He may still take things a little too lightly, but based on this episode he seems like a serious contender for the Grail.
The point of this episode seems to have been that Saber’s lofty ideals are foolish and mistaken. It ends with Rider telling Saber he no longer recognizes her as a king, with Archer Gold telling her that he will enjoy watching her suffer on account of her ideals (he’s not a nice guy!), and with Saber herself wondering if she had pushed all her knights away by caring more about the ideals than the people. I can’t say that the episode is wrong – a major theme of Fate/Stay Night, too, was that trying to be a hero will only leave you broken and destroyed, and that message has stuck with me. But still, there is something romantic about a martyr. Rider was wrong about one thing – there are plenty of people who wish for the life of a martyr. To give themselves up for a greater cause, to give everything they have and more and receive nothing in return but their own destruction, is an appealing idea. It might not turn out too well in practice, especially if they have to keep sacrificing over and over again, as Saber has had to, rather than sacrificing once and being done with it. But there are certainly people out there who find it to be a beautiful thing, and who will respect Saber for it, not criticize her. I’m one of them.