Tuturu! Finale season is upon us, and it begins with one of the most highly anticipated endings in many a year as Steins;Gate finally concludes its epic journey through time. The obvious question on everyone’s mind – did it live up to the hype?
For the most part, I would have to say yes. Finales are hard – damn hard. And in many ways the better the series the harder it is to meet expectations (I could point to countless examples of this). White Fox chose a safe route for this ending, delivering up a satisfying 22 minutes that was short on surprises but long on audience gratification. I would judge this episode to be a couple of notches below the very best this series has had to offer, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a really good series whose final episode was among the very strongest.
In a sense it seems as if the suspense was sucked out of this episode by the epic blockbuster last week, which effectively spoiled the ending in almost every way. Thus, the drama this time wasn’t so much about wondering what was going to happen as in anticipating it. Okabe’s plan went off more or less as expected, with only one real surprise – but it was a shocker. Covering all his bases, he poached the metal oopa before his other self could snag it for Mayuri, ensuring that Professor Nakabachi’s paper (really Kurisu’s paper) would burn on the plane. The meat of his plan was exactly as he laid out from the future – con his younger self into believing Kurisu was stabbed when in reality, she was only unconscious. The tools of the trade: a Taser and the “Cyalume Saber” – a future gadget full of a sticky red liquid that would obviously come in very useful.
Here’s where the episode took its one real shocking turn. With the blood inside the light sabre dried up, Okabe had to think quickly, and an already GAR character established his place in the GAR Hall of Fame. With no fake blood to fool himself, Okabe used the most obvious source of real blood around – himself – and goaded Kurisu’s father into stabbing him. When he stuck those four fingers into the wound to generate the volume he needed – wow. That was definitely the most intense moment of the finale. There was a part of me that wondered just for a moment if we were going to get equivalent exchange after all, but I never really believed that – so it came as no surprise that when he returned three weeks into the future with Suzuha, he made it to the hospital in time. Suzuha herself disappeared, her future self now never having needed to travel back in time.
Was I surprised to see Kurisu cross paths with Okabe during the epilogue? No, I pretty much expected it. But then, it was artfully done – I enjoyed watching Mayuri chase Okabe from lab member to lab member, giving us one last chance (or was it?) to see old friends. What I especially enjoyed was the subtle irony written into the script – if Okabe’s Cyalume Saber had worked, it seems to me that Kurisu would never have come looking for him. It was the act of taking a knife wound for her than impressed her enough to do that, which I suppose was the choice of Steins;Gate. El Psy Congroo. That was definitely a clever and poetic cherry on top of the story.
So in the end, we got a lot of vamping (Mayrui’s “Okae-Rin!” – how cute was that?) by the major characters and an almost totally happy ending. Daru mugged for the camera and asked about his future wife, Okabe gave us several full-on mad scientist moments, and Moeka even got a job at Braun’s Shop. I’m actually a fan of the happy ending, and we don’t really see them all that often. I was a little conflicted, since part of me felt like there had to be a lasting price paid for all the time meddling that happened here, but no one could make the case that Okabe didn’t suffer plenty – Mayuri and Kurisu too, to a lesser degree. So I have no complaints. This was a character driven series in spite of all the time travel and pseudo-science, and I was thrilled to see these characters end the story happy and in a good place. If it wasn’t a thrilling and mind-blowing finale, it was certainly a satisfying one – and that’s good enough for me.