So – after all that’s happened – after all the Faust references and “Monkey’s Paw” allusions and Bokurano homages – this show apparently ends up being closer to Higurashi than anything else. It’s not entirely unexpected but still an interesting twist. So very much happened in that episode, it would be foolish to try and recap it – interpreting it is going to be hard enough. But that’s what everyone is going to be doing for the next week, I suppose, so why not make a start of it?
To begin with – are we still having that “Is Kyuube evil?” argument? Ah – I thought not. “Oh, she’ll probably destroy the planet but that’s not my problem – I’ve already exceeded my energy quota so go F*$k yourselves, Ants.” Helluva creature, isn’t it?
Some things we saw were more or less telegraphed, namely the fact that Homura is a timebender. There was no other scenario that fit so it’s no surprise, though there were some pretty wild theories that went along with that. No, she’s isn’t a future Madoka or Madoka’s daughter or anything so exotic – it’s rather mundane, in fact. She’s Homura – no more and no less. A shy, glasses-wearing sickly girl who happened to fall in with the wrong crowd and lost her soul. When she succumbed to Incubator’s temptations the superpower she was granted was perhaps the most powerful of all the Puella Magi we’ve seen – she can stop time or even go backwards and forwards. But the poor girl paid a terrible price for that power. She had to watch her friends die over and over (Higurashi, again) – and sometimes even be the one to kill them out of a sense of mercy. But for all of these girls, it was Madoka who was her closest friend – the one who took her under her wing when she was nothing more than the sickly girl who’d been in bed for six months.
So the fulcrum moment for the entire series comes when a dying Madoka asks Homura to go back in time and save her from being fooled by Incubator. Then of course she asks Homura to kill her, which would be the headline story most of the time – but not with this series. The second request an anguished Homura can grant right away but the first is a challenge, to say the least. And she finds herself trapped in an endless loop that always seems to end the same way – with the others dead and Madoka succumbing to Incubator, dooming herself to becoming a witch and dooming the planet in the process. These scenes are heartbreaking – my God, but this show knows no punches. Homura’s flat-line personality was nothing more than a defense mechanism – if she’s allowed herself to feel she couldn’t possibly dealt with all of the pain and death she’d lived over and over again.
This was certainly artfully done – right down to the OP playing 22 minutes into the episode and no ED. In a series as grim as this one it must be asked – is there hope? Well – in a sense, it appears that Homura is at least a wild card – her timebending ability makes her the one element Incubator can’t totally control. And as of now, there appear to be no limits to the number of attempts she can make the change history. But Gen-san might change the rules on us at any time, so that can’t be assumed. And Inky is the master of the board – it’s manipulated the pieces so well that by the time of the endgame, Homura has already lost every time. The crux is the Walpurgisnacht – there appears to be no way to defeat it without Madoka’s awesome power. What hope there is for Homura must be in finding a way to defeat it without Puella Magi Madoka, because persuasion appears to be useless any other way. Incubator is a master manipulator and Madoka’s conscience is a powerful foe.
With two episodes left, I’m still somewhat unclear about where this is all going to end up. What gives me hope for a good ending is that for all the twists and turns what’s happened on screen has at least been internally consistent, as far as I can tell. I don’t expect a reset button and I hope we don’t get a deux ex machina. It’s hard to see a happy ending here, but at the very least I hope for one that fits with the overall tone of the show. Based on the first 10 eps I think the creators have earned enough faith that I expect them to deliver it.