This episode intrigue is flicked at us in rapid fire, we learn how Caster came to contract with her stone-faced companion, Shirou and Rin set off to try and form a new allegiance, and teenagers are flung repeatedly through the air.
Ahem. We begin back in the Emiya house discussing ideals and battle plans over a cute family dinner as seems to have become custom. As uneasy as they feel about it, both Rin and Shirou decide that their best bet lies with Ilya and Berserker, whose true identity is Heracles. If Caster is really Medea, as Archer extrapolated earlier with this mysterious superpower of his that involves knowing who all the Servants are and not telling anyone until it would be dramatic to do so (though Rin, who was apparently told about Berserkules before and never brought it up, isn’t much better), he should be her natural enemy, because Greek mythology and junk.
The mythic heroine herself is still hanging out in the Church (Saber is still trussed up like a prized fan servicey turkey, though mercifully we only get one far-off shot of her and she’s sitting down) grumbling that she can’t find the catalyst for summoning the Grail. The nature of this still hasn’t been entirely explained, and the mystery of it only deepens with something said much later, but first, it’s time to slide back in time to Medea’s origins as a Servant. Souichirou was not the one who summoned her—that honour lies with a waistcoat-clad jackass who seems to be the mage equivalent of nouveau riche. Never trust a man whose opening shot is of him smirking and draped in women.
He’s in the Grail War for prestige, and has streamlined modern science and magic to achieve this. He gleefully shows Medea his mana factory, which seems to be some sort of high-tech human sacrifice laboratory that contains the latest and most stylish widescreen TVs as well as a bunch of small children huddled in jars. You know, all the latest digs. Said children appear to be vaporised and their body matter fused into a power-packed crystal, which Waistcoat Boy is very proud of until Medea makes one three times as big with just a flick of her hand.
She is from an era of gods and monsters, after all—sorcery was rife and rampant, and compared to her talents, modern magic looks pretty paltry in comparison. Waistcoat Boy displays how impressed he is with her skill by commanding her never to betray him, calling her a witch, and punching her in the face. Ever the charmer, he even appeals to Kirei to have her killed off so he can contract with a Servant that will undermine his ego less. It gets interesting when he mentions the as-yet-unidentified Master of Lancer, handing Kirei a letter to pass onto “her”, supposedly a fellow member of the Mage’s Association. Waistcoat Boy saunters out with a spring in his step, leaving Kirei to watch him go with an ominously curious and playful look on his face.
Waistcoat Boy’s sense of triumph is dashed a little when he returns to the workshop to find Medea in the process of burning the whole thing down. Decidedly unimpressed by this, Waistcoat Boy raises his Command Spell hand again and orders her to self-terminate. Medea just stands there, that plum-lipped smirk we’ve become so familiar with appearing for possibly the first time. Waistcoat Boy thought he was clever ordering her not to use Rule Breaker on him, but for all his modern savviness never considered she’d use it on herself to break their contract. He probably also never considered that he’d burn to death after being sent on a whirlwind journey through a hallucinogenic maze painted with snapshots of her legend, but life is full of surprises, isn’t it?
The cherry on the cake of this hot magical mess is Lancer, of all people, coming down the elevator and stepping into the burning scene. The next thing we know Medea’s lying on her back in the forest splattered with melancholy rain, so hopefully we’ll find out exactly what transpired there at some other point, because that’s not something you want to leave hanging, least of all when you’ve just alluded to solving the mystery of Lancer’s Master’s identity. This is all about Medea though—a weird mix of nasty and sympathetic, reaching for the sky lamenting that in this lifetime she just got passed around and screwed over by everyone again, and for all her royal wonder is going to die in a goddamn puddle.
Fortunately, Souichirou was wandering in the woods in the middle of the night for reasons that defy logic and sensibility, and brought her home to listen to her story. He also, for reasons that defy logic and sensibility, offers blankly to be her Master so she doesn’t fade away and die. What a… nice gentleman? Oddly enough, even after seeing all that, I don’t feel like I’m much closer to understanding their relationship or their motivations, though some of Medea’s power-grubbing tactics make a little more sense given that power has been sapped from her recurrently.
Strangely, I can feel some instinctive psychology kicking in, in that I feel like I won’t really understand or empathise with her properly until I’ve seen her whole face. There’s got to be a symbol in that hood, after all. Stripping it off, I can imagine, will be a big moment, even more than this explanatory flashback.
We learn a little about the other “princess” figure in the cast as well—Ilya, who’s content to let Rin and Shirou in (after zapping Rin backwards with her boundary and having a good giggle, mind you) for peace talks, even when her maids/advisors/bodyguards warn her off it. She has something she wants to ask Shirou, she reasons, and for a wrenching two seconds we’re treated to a stark shot of a shadowy figure, seen from far off, that has a suspiciously similar scruffy silhouette. Again, the connection with Kiritsugu comes up, another mystery that promises, perhaps, to be soon answered.
That is, until Shinji flies out of actual and literal nowhere and plummets down into the villa’s courtyard.
One of the many duties of the maids is to take out the trash, so they arrive to shoo him away with a giant battleaxe. Shinji is hilariously out of his depth and the viewer is caused to wonder, perhaps with a little bit of hope, that this is the end if not of Shinji but of his cockiness, when that mysterious golden Servant appears on the roof trailing flower petals like he’s stepped out of Ouran High School Host Club.
It becomes very clear very fast, though, that he is not the kind of pretty boy you’d want to end up working with, and would probably remove your head from the rest of you if you broke one of his vases. He deals with the battleaxe by slicing off the arm of the maid who’s wielding it, producing a battalion of swords from golden portals that ripple to life in the air around him. Ilya’s anticipation to see Shirou is cut short by her absolute horror of what’s going on in her manor, to the people who are, as far as I can see, her only companions.
She and Berserker crash through the wall, but the valiant gesture is too little too late—still scattered with petals, both the maids lie dead in pools of vibrant blood, pin-cushioned with swords. The battles we’ve seen so far have been flashy and destructive, and people have gotten hurt, but this is immediately different. There’s no shine of magic or slow-motion, no moonlit indigo colour scheme. This is glaring, blatant, daylight bloody murder, and it changes the atmosphere fast enough to make you motion sick (Shinji’s certainly not looking too healthy).
The maids weren’t major characters, nor really people, we’ve learned, but homunculi; nonetheless, it doesn’t make their deaths any less horrific. Ilya is certainly shaken, a rage we’ve never seen before taking over her entire figure. The blond Servant muses that she’s an odd thing, the mix between a human and a homunculus, and refers to her as the “doll that contains the Grail’s vessel”, but for now another mystery is going to have to be put on hold, because Berserker has some shining, murderous pretty-boy ass to kick.
- “El-Melloi didn’t take the last War seriously” Kayneth tried, Waistcoat Boy, he tried. I’d say it wasn’t his fault he got ruthlessly murdered by a wizard assassin, but that’s up for debate. How did this asshole get Waver’s approval, anyway? Isn’t that kid meant to be in charge by now?
- Really dig the Greek mosaic maze. Medea’s is going to be another case of understanding more if you know the legend, I suspect, so I shall have to do some research.
- Augh Einzbern-Emiya parent feelings
- It might not happen, but I’m psyched for any more hints or display of what actually happened with Lancer’s Master. It feels like an important thing to add to the story
- Sakura was not relevant in this episode