Fate/Stay Night #19: A One Knight Stand

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Shirou, Saber and Lancer arrive at the decidedly trashed Einzbern villa to confront Archer, who’s lingering in the shadows spouting poetic ideological discourse like he’s the Phantom of the Opera or something. It takes all episode for him to move into the light and he eventually he gets down the stairs, but somehow this frozen, dialogue-filled instalment is still riveting. Probably because it’s very obvious that we’re in the eye of the storm and one shift to the west will land us in chaos again. Somebody also gets stabbed, so it’s not like it was a total talking-head episode, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Cu scoots off into the ether, revealing that his objective all along has been to protect Rin. Lucky he’s there, since even as Rin’s new Servant, Saber feels obligated to remain by Shirou and see his confrontation with Archer to the end instead of rescuing her. I’m always a fan of ladies helping ladies, but alas such fun gets put to the wayside in favour of Saber remaining to argue with Archer, and Cu sending a little sniffer dog rune to find Rin. The important thing, though, is the outcome, which is that Shinji gets punched in the face.

Our slimy blue friend is clearly keen on making a head start on his ‘ownership’ of Rin from dawn onwards, happily slapping her in the face and feeling up her legs, gleefully rambling on about how he likes that kind of physique as if Rin doesn’t have the humanity to listen and object. She certainly objects, stubborn as always (though in this case it’s delightful, and sure as hell doesn’t stem from any repressed lovey-dovey feelings), and her lack of desire to be treated like a sex doll clearly annoys Shinji. He’s distracted from is detailed objectifying by the rune stone hitting him in the side of the head, and momentarily confused until a half-ethereal Servant fist comes rocketing out of thin air and knocks him sideways. Rin practically has stars in her eyes (as did I).

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Shining Knight and Damsel archetypes aside, you kind of have to give a little cheer that there’s someone in the War who’s not totally out to screw over, kill or steal Rin’s soul energy, and that there’s someone around with a scrap of heroism that isn’t Shirou and actually knows what he’s doing. Even if he does turn out to have been working for—wait for it—Kirei the entire time. Our mysterious exposition-spouting priest wanders out into the chamber essentially quoting “Surprise, bitch. Bet you thought you’d seen the last of me.” It’s spoiled a bit by Rin not being at all surprised, both that he’s alive and that he’s been cheating by playing in the War he was meant to be referee of. Kirei’s flair for the dramatic runs even deeper, however, and he just can’t resist warbling on about how much he’s betrayed her. It wasn’t just from the start of this Holy Grail War, oh no!

With almost the effect of a soap opera, Rin figures out and declares that it was YOU who murdered my father! “YES!” cackles Kirei, lightning flashing overhead and orchestral music swelling. “AND IT WAS ME WHO STOLE THE DIAMONDS TOO!” Well, not really, but the effect is the same. We even get a nice little flashback, the most we’ve seen of Rin’s father so far, smiling happily and looking dadly before he gets pinned to the ground by a dagger that a shockingly mullet-less Kirei has planted in his back. As Rin rages entirely in Biblical references from her prisoner’s chair and Shinji looks on in total bewilderment, Kirei decides it’s time to put an end to this silliness and orders Cu to kill her.

Rin’s purpose all along, apparently, has been to be the vessel for the Holy Grail. She does not need a heart, he mentions, so presumably this means that Ilya’s is going to get transplanted and whatever weird magic inside will latch onto Rin’s dead body as a host and… do whatever the Grail does. Cu is not so keen on the idea, his affection for Rin and his nude dislike for Kirei aligning nicely. Kirei doesn’t seem to mind, and unveils a forearm full of Command Spells… one of which he uses to tell Cu to kill himself.

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Looking startled, Cu spins his own spear around and lances himself through the chest. When I complained there were a lot of women getting impaled, I didn’t necessarily mean I wanted a man added to the pile, but… do what you will, I guess. Kirei’s motivations for this remain unclear since now he has no Servant (that we know of), but the main point is Rin’s little ray of sunshine has been horribly snuffed, and she’s left tied up in a room with a dead body and two of the most slimy characters in the show. Shirou and Saber are of no help, either, because they’re busy debating with Archer a few rooms down.

Archer is, if you hadn’t guessed, the future incarnation of Shirou, what he becomes after making a contract with the Counter Force and giving up his afterlife. He became, as far as I can see, a spirit warrior sent around time and space to take out Bad People who cause war and chaos. Though he does mention that the Counter Force makes no distinction between traditional perceptions of good and evil, so it doesn’t matter if they were terrorists or noble kings—if they were causing trouble and upsetting the balance, they got filled with arrows. We get a proper and really interesting fragmented flashback of Archer materialising everywhere from Ancient Greece to contemporary warzones, working tirelessly to dish out justice.

Except, of course, he got very tired, and quickly disillusioned with the process of surrounding himself with dead bodies for the purpose of saving people. Yes, many people are saved, but it doesn’t mean he felt less sick about creating death and destruction on a small scale to prevent it on a large one. Needs of the many over the few, and all that jazz—it makes logical sense, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to inflict. The only way to save himself from this cruel loop and the world from his violence is to destroy that Guardian before he becomes one, i.e. killing Shirou, conveniently summoned back in time to when he was just starting out by Rin’s pendant, which Archer carried with him since he was saved that night. Again, if it and its owner was that important to you, why did you leave her in a room with Shinji and Kirei?

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I suppose if nothing else it’s a symbol of how Archer and Shirou have diverged. Are you not horrified, Archer asks, that this tanned hunk of angsty muscle is what you’re destined to become? You might as well kill yourself right now (what is it with this episode and telling people to kill themselves? I will not have it. Though it’s the second concrete parallel between Archer and Kirei, and that is… unsettling and interesting, to say the least). Surely Saber relates, Archer points out when she butts in. Her wish was to change the past as well, to stop herself from becoming king so her people never had to suffer under her rule. We see more of her backstory, barely a whisper, but enough to make you sit up—a girl pulling a sword from a stone, then spearing someone on a battlefield and looking on in regret.

While you’re reeling that they’ve casually dropped the bomb that Saber is a genderbent King Arthur without so much as batting an eyelid, Archer is finally descending the stairs, and Shirou is looking him dead in the eye and telling him to shove his broken ideals where the sun doesn’t shine. Shirou will never regret anything, he declares, making he and Archer immediately different. They can never be the same as long as he holds that to his heart. Archer tuts that that’s exactly what he thought when he started out, but it looks like neither boy or man can be reasoned with at this point. Having refused to kill himself literally, Shirou is going to have to do it figuratively.

And so Saber stands aside, as promised, and watches as the two of them Trace On and clash with their iconic theme music quietly building energy in the background. Now that is how you generate hype for a coming episode.

Additional notes:

  • I will be the bigger person here and admit straight out that when ‘EMIYA’ started playing I started grinning like an idiot and bouncing in my seat
  • Finally, in a puff of smoke devoid of much foreshadowing, Kirei appears, shocking the pants off everyone. I feel like Kirei and Rin’s is a relationship we really should have seen more of, especially since, effectively, he’s her equivalent of Kiritsugu. Except Kiritsugu didn’t kill Shirou’s parents. Uh… not on purpose, anyway…
  • Another Lancer bites the dust via Command Spell suicide. I’m sorry, my friend. What exactly this recurring, very specific trend means I may poke at in the Fate/Zero reviews.
  • Sakura was not… you know what, at this point it’s just a continuity error. I know this is not her route and Fate/Stay Night acts as an onion of a story that you have to endure the whole tear-inducing three layers of to uncover and understand the whole story, and Unlimited Blade Works is not being broadcast as a standalone show but as part of a larger franchise which will eventually include a rendition of her story Heaven’s Feel, but the point remains that she was set up as an important character in the beginning and then disappeared off the face of the earth. You could argue that she’s busy running around being the Shadow or something but the Shadow is not a Thing in this storyline, so we have literally no idea where she is. She could be going tenpin bowling for all we know. Which is not really something you want to leave hanging, since it’s only going to confuse the heck out of new viewers who aren’t aware of the intricacies of the multiple routes, and even those who do. Why did you hang that Chekov’s Gun on the wall, with highly implied knowledge of and involvement in the War, if you were never going to fire it?
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8 Comments

Filed under Alex Watches

8 responses to “Fate/Stay Night #19: A One Knight Stand

  1. How has anyone ever implied Sakura is involved in the war? Poor girl has scars from her brother’s abuse, making their eventual reconciliation more poignant. Otherwise she’s doing what Ayako and Taiga are doing. Honestly, why would you pay this much attention to a completely average background character?

    • lgks

      Have you seen Fate/Zero? It was more than just implied that Sakura was going to be fighting in this war. Since this adaptation was set up as a sequel to Zero, it’s reasonable to assume they wouldn’t complete drop plot threads from Zero.

      • And yeah, I have seen Fate/Zero (I’ll be getting back to reviewing it when FSN is done in fact!) and frankly the fact that this is written to go hand-in-hand with it makes her irrelevance even weirder, since if you’ve seen that you KNOW that she’s involved with a magical family and is being set up to be a Master if not a carrier of their crest. I know it will all be given its own time in the Heaven’s Feel adaptations, but as basic continuity and for those who don’t know the intricacies of the other routes, it comes across quite odd.

    • Sakura was set up to be important–the ‘scars’ on her hand, initially thought to be bruises from Shinji, bore a startling and very focussed-on resemblance to Shirou’s budding Command Spells, which implies she was growing them too and was thus going to be a Master. The way she reacts when she meets and hears Saber’s name also implies she knows something she’s not letting on, and the way the camera lingered on her after that scene kind of told us, in cinematic language, that this implication is something very important.

      She can very easily be mistaken for an average, boring background character, which is a little weird to me given that she has her own entire storyline in an alternate route of the source material. Granted, there’s no ROOM for Sakura to appear right now since the climax is focussed on Shirou and Archer’s conflict, but overall her ominous spotlighting and then sudden disappearance feels a little strange, is all I was getting at.

      Also, I’d be interested to know what gives you the impression Sakura and Shinji are going to reconcile?

  2. Tuvarkz

    The thing about Sakura is, her route adaptation got announced pretty much simultaneously with the UBW adaptation. She works as a Chekhov’s Gun for the incoming HF route adaptation.(A single one wouldn’t do it justice, they’ll probably do something KnK-like).

    • I certainly hope they do more than one movie! The logistics of cramming a 24 hour long route into a 2-and-a-half hour long movie without cutting out any nuance that makes it good is… well, the 2010 UBW movie exists, doesn’t it? We must learn from this.

      It makes sense, since UBW essentially functions as foreshadowing to Heaven’s Feel, the same way a lot of the Fate route serves as set-up for UBW, but it does still feel a bit strange. And like I said, viewers who just jumped in to watch it with no outside knowledge of the franchise will be very confused by all of that, and you don’t necessarily want to alienate a large chunk of your audience by only appealing to die-hard fans.

  3. Pingback: Fate/Stay Night #20: T’is But A Scratch | The Afictionado

  4. Pingback: Fate/Stay Night #25: The Road Goes Ever On | The Afictionado

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