Fate/Zero – 23

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Perhaps the greatest honor of all in a Urobuchi Gen series is to be allowed to die with dignity.

The good news and the bad news is plentiful here.  We had one of the very best episodes of either season, full of GAR and martial spirit and pathos.  But the bad news is, it was mostly because of the strong presence of Rider – who tends to be prominent in most of the best episodes of Fate/Zero.  With Rider finally gone, I have to wonder if we’re going to see this sort of epic quality again as the series settles on mopey Kiritsugu, villainous Kirei and omnipotent Gilgamesh.  And we mustn’t forget our Kariya, still insane and being tortured by his demons as Berserker does battle with Saber.  But it’s hard to really take him seriously as a character.

Yes, Berserker is after Saber again, only this time we know why.  The episode was so full of epic that the massive reveal that Berserker is in fact Sir Lancelot doesn’t even get top billing – it’s squarely in the backseat as Le Mort de Iskander takes the wheel.  Berserker’s identity certainly explains why he was so obsessed with Saber, although I’m not sure if there’s deeper meaning to his being the insane apparition that he is.  It’s safe to say the legend of Arthur and Lancelot didn’t end well for either, but I haven’t seen a version that lands Lancelot as an insane and raving gibbon (indeed, he lived out his days quietly as a Priest).  It’s really closer to Lancer’s Diurmuid tale than anything – betrayal through adultery, with tragic consequences.  Perhaps there will be more exposition on this in the final episodes.

As for their battle – the undercard happening concurrently with the main event (fittingly, in an underground parking garage as Rider and Archer duked it out gloriously on the bridge) it was certainly interesting to see Arthur confronting the same type of despair some of her castmates have faced in this series.  Yes, it’s sad but true – the rice rocket is no more.  Saber is left to confront the reality that Rider might have been right about her naïve little girl ideals all along, and that she might be the cause of Lancelot’s insanity.  Again, perhaps we’ll get a better grasp on the background next week – for now, their actual combat is inconclusive, with Saber’s heart clearly not in it – though Berserkers’ choice of weapons is certainly interesting.

I knew with moral certitude that Rider was going to die, and probably this week (as Kerry flashback #2 aired on Mother’s Day, this ep aired on the day Alexander the Great died) so there wasn’t too much emotional impact for me even though he was by far my favorite character.  I was steeled to it, in other words – and I must say, given the author, even satisfied with the result.  For Rider died as he lived, as a hero, the King of Conquerors – he deployed every weapon in his arsenal and went down swinging, quite literally.  He even used his final moments to force Waver into committing not to throw away his own life – quite cleverly so in fact – and that just shows how much his bond with Waver has grown.  This relationship towers so far above any other in the series as far as depth and progression that none of the others really bear comparison, in truth.  Iskander, ye shall be terribly missed.

The most astonishing element of all this was really Gilgamesh, for me.  I can’t recall another instance where we’ve seen this side of his character – not only does he show profound respect for Rider, but mercy to Waver as well (though this too is ultimately a question of respect).  The King of Heroes, the one who epitomizes the very definition of arrogance – but for Rider, it was nothing but respect.  He drank with him before their battle, he referred to him only as “King of Conquerors”, he brought forth his best weapons, including the fearsome Ea (for which Rider’s Ionian Hetairoi was no match).  While he rebuffed Iskander’s offer of alliance, stating that he has and shall only ever have one companion (Gilgamesh and Enkido at Uruk) he never shows the merest hint of disdain.  True, he shows the great dramatic flaw of omnipotent characters – his victory is never in doubt and he looks positively bored in achieving it – but he does it with a sobriety we’ve never seen from him before. 

Those last moments on the bridge were certainly some of the best in F/Z so far.  Gilgamesh even shows respect to Iskander as his foe’s life is draining from him, telling him that he’ll always be a King, and that the world will always be Gilgamesh’s garden until the end of time and that Iskander will never find it boring.  He gives Waver a chance to sacrifice himself in what he sees as a retainer’s duty – avenging his King – but when Waver reveals the final command Alexander gave him, Archer doesn’t press the issue – even praising Waver for his loyalty.  It’s nice to see Waver survive the battle – that was the great unknown – though I don’t know if he’ll survive the Grail War altogether.  In any case he ended him time with Rider with a lot of dignity and courage, riding into hopeless battle with him (complete with waver-ing war cry) and doesn’t flinch or turn from Archer, but faces him directly.  He was the other half of the best relationship in the show, and Waver will be missed too – one way or the other.

With two eps left, it appears the stage will be left to Kirei and Kiritsugu, as has seemed very likely all along.  With those parties as the main combatants, I don’t really have a lot of rooting interest in how this comes out one way or the other – I think it’s going to be much more interesting to see Gil’s role as the final act plays out.  I’m not as convinced as I was that he’s the worst possible being to be left standing at the end.  Saber has become increasingly irrelevant as the second season has progressed but there’s still the matter of her personal battle with Lancelot to sort out, though what her role is after she kills him I can’t quite see yet. 

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36 comments

  1. f

    Ridahhhh~~~~~~!!!

    okay, now that's out of the way. Isn't it unfair that Archer has all the cool toys?? Lemme see, he's got that weird convertible plane that flies like F-22 fighter jet, unlimited spears out of thin sky, AND he's got "Ea"? What the hell? Some other guys' got lousy weapons (2 spears for lancer, an army+floating chariot for rider, etc) compare to his. NOT FAIR. Other guys had no chance, except for Saber since well, she's the main protagonist, so it doesn't matter she's got weaker hands, she'll win anyway.

    Also I disliked that little Waver. I guess not so much with the character himself, but the behavior and all the crying. So annoying with constant nagging and crying. Okay, I get that he's supposed to be a weak boy, but must he nag like a 5-year-old spoilt girl all the way through the series? It was hard to listen to an obviously grown man voice-acting nagging & crying like a 5-year-old spoilt girl at every chance he got.

    Lastly, I don't believe this is a spoiler, but the way Rider died seems a little too carbon-copy of a death scene of a certain hero character in FSN to me. Couldn't they come up with a slightly different method here? Don't get me wrong, I think it was well-done, but couldn't help, but notice the similarities (I won't say any further on details of FSN).

  2. A

    This may not be accurate since I don't know the full details about gilgamesh but basically he has all the cool toys because during his time he owned all the treasures in the world. Every "weapon" or "item" type noble phantasm was owned by gilgamesh. For example Saber's excalibur was actually owned by gilgamesh or rather the original excalibur was owned by gilgamesh. Back in FSN anime discussion someone told me that saber's excalibur was actually just a copy of another weapon of gil. So yeah gil has everything and most of the time his stuff is superior than copies.

  3. A

    In fate/zero, the "good" lose and the "evil" win, and saber is not in the evil side…

  4. I

    The death of Broskander was epic, although I had hoped that the battle within Ionian Heitairoi would have lasted a little longer.

    After all that has happened between them the human half of the best overall good guys in the show survived. I hope he prospers if he survives the last few episodes, may be even come to Kiritsugu's aid and make Gil regret not killing him.

    On the Saber front I pretty much don't care. It's not that she's a character that's hard to like, it's she's become quite boring. Compared to Rider or Archer or even Caster she doesn't seem to be very charismatic. Guess that is what Rider pointed out.

    Battles were epic and hope they continue.

  5. f

    One more thing, ehh, isn't Gilgamesh supposed to be a legendary ancient Iraqi knight? What's with the beach blonde Scandinavian character design anyway? People who don't know or care about history may get some wrong ideas… I guess when they changed King Arthur to a blonde girl, factual accuracies are not what was aimed here… Come to think of Alexander didn't exactly look like an ancient Greek king, either, with ginger hair and all, but is passable compare to Gilgamesh and Arthur.

  6. I

    Just because Alexander is blonde in the movie doesn't mean he was actually blonde. On the Gil front did you know that there are Afghanis and Pakistanis with blonde hair so I think Iraq which is much closer to Europe can have blonde people as well.

    BTW your watching an anime where ancient heroes are brought back to life to fight for a holy grail. Historical accuracies were second priorities.

  7. A

    If you consider the whole of Europe, blond people don't amount to much http://mappery.com/maps/Europe-Blond-Hair-Map.mediumthumb.jpg As for Irak, well they amount to even less if they are any (I know there are some in Turkey and Atlas but not in Irak).
    For Arthuria the phenotype stereotype http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PhenotypeStereotype trope is clearly played straight, but when it comes to Gilgamesh I think his phenotype has more to do with his character concept, with him being the son of light (golden armor, golden hair, kinpika).

  8. M

    what r u talking about… my family is from irak and they do have many blond ppl (as much as dark) most have darker hair colour, but there are many. Well I've seen some with blond hair but not many, but there are many with light brown hair colour (most of my dad's family)
    But ur right that in here gilgamesh's colour comes more as what he represents.

  9. Seriously – they turn Arthur into a moemoe girl and you're complaining about Gilgamesh?

  10. t

    To be fair, Saber hasn't really been anything close to a "moemoe girl" character at all. She always wears her business suit showing almost no skin and is almost always serious and on task. The only time she's shown much affection is with Iri and Maiya, and respect with Lancer and Rider. Not exactly a what you picture when you think of a "moe" girl

  11. B

    Gilgamesh and Iskandar were both totally BAMF in this episode. From what I remember of F/SN, it seems like a lot more thought was put into making the servants (well, some of them) interesting in this season. Aside from Archer and Saber I can't hardly remember the servants from the original series at all. But I'll remember Gilgamesh, Iskandar, and even Gilles de Rais from this series for a long time, the characters were overall much better done, Assassin notwithstanding.

  12. E

    I don't know how early Sumerian people look like, but I expect them to be dark-skinned, and have lots of facial hair. And of course, not blonde~
    This Gilgamesh looks like a lead singer in a boys band. Especially in his casual clothes.
    :-)
    I don't know much about chivalry and such. I don't cry for Rider. Because I think "charging into your certain death" is a stupid thing to do, and there's no glory in that. That cover boy owns omnipotent chains and omnipotent sword!
    If I were him. I will buy time as long as possible. I will wait for Kirei and Kiritsugu's team to take out each other first.

  13. A

    This proves if Gilgamesh is serious, he will f**k you up.
    Was expecting the kamehame wave type Enuma Elish, but since he targeted Iskander's army, it might take on a different form of attack.

  14. A

    It's an anti-world weapon, so it destroyed the world. Specifically, the Reality Marble's artificial world where Rider's army lived. As an attack, it was "Super Effective".

  15. d

    I think it was stated before that Berserker's summoning was tweeked to make him more powerful or something. Or easier to control. At the price of his sanity. (If i remember season 1, that was long ago)

    And the reason why Waver was not killed was possibly due to not having any command seals left. Without command seals he cant take control of another servant (think how Gil switched alliance)

    And it is not all that astonshing that he showed respect for Iskandar. He takes things lightly and play a full cause he sees the world as his garden but when someone is more powerful than an ant, he takes notice.

  16. b

    Yeah, I also thought Berserker being crazy had simply to do with the Berserker class and not with what might have happened when he was still alive.

    For the moment I could care less about Kiritsugu, but that might change in the last two eps., who knows.
    Waver is lucky that Iskandar didn't have to fight Saber, because otherwise Kiritsugu might have sniped him, just to make sure that he isn't a threat anymore, no matter the fact that he doesn't have any command spells anymore.

  17. C

    In order to qualify into a Berserker class, the heroic spirit must have experience some form of insanity in his life.

  18. M

    Lancelot goes mad for a time in most of the King Arthur tales usually because of Guinevere.But with how fucked up Arthur is in the Fate world it could have been because of a love triangle between Guinevere and Saber over Lancelot.

    I can not help but think I would have liked the Fate franchise better if I had not been lover of the Arthurian stories since a young age.

  19. R

    the only time i'm surprised at Gilgamesh's action. i thought for sure that he was going to kill Waver, regardless of Rider's death or not.

  20. J

    Whoa, I was severely underwhelmed with this episode. Biggest letdown in…the whole F/Z. It's just as you said Enzo, actually. Build-up is what F/Z does best…Pity.

    Rider didn't even land a hit? He didn't make Gilgamesh flinch or despair…Welps, that was dissapointing. Sure he had his speech and Waver's tears all over the place, but boy, I was waiting for that glorious moment that never came.

  21. y

    I actually find this far more meaningful and glorious than a normal and predictable fight.

    Canon is not damaged, you get to see Gil "once in a lifetime serious mode" and Rider dies with an epic charge full of dignity fighting against something impossible to beat, even against the whole atmosphere of the series and the writer.

  22. J

    Me too Anon, me too…

  23. Well again, Gil gives the same problem all omnipotent characters present – it's basically boring to watch them fight. And now, in the event anyone were to best him it would be totally unbelievable based on what he's shown so far.

  24. t

    Thing is, Gil's overpowered arsenal is usually balanced out by his extreme arrogance. Its his fatal flaw, and what always gets him killed in the end. He could win any fight if he really wanted to… but he always plays around and lets his guard down. Just look what happened both times he fought Berserker. He acts arrogent and then gets shown up. Especially with the jets; playing around so much cost him his flying warship (its destroyed in that fight and never used again). So its not impossible for Gilgamesh to lose, its just that if he takes the fight seriously he can't lose.

    This fight with Rider is basically the one time that Gil is completly serious and not acting arrogant. Its extremely ironic for Rider that, because he is able to get Gil to acknowledge him as a worthy opponent, he loses any chance of winning.

  25. J

    Yeah, but surely you'll agree that even when you know loss is imminent, there's /always/ some time to shine before going out. Rider *did* have his glorious moment, but it came in the form of speech – much of what he has been doing throughout the series. It was…nothing new, far from amazing or emotional. I felt last week's episode had a much stronger impact with Waver's use of the Command Spells.

    In other words, Rider had to do rather than brag. Don't get me wrong, Rider was a badass and we all love the guy, but it's a shame he couldn't go out with a bang. I was waiting a glorious death, a King Kittan Giga Drill Breaker; a Hughes killing Lust at least once and dying because of his human emotions; a batshit insane sacrifice to protect someone…Nothing.

    ;_; Haters will hate.

  26. A

    It bears remembering that while it has a certain degree of freedom to play around, the story of Fate/Zero is bound to the 'result' of Fate/Stay Night (Am I making a Steins;Gate joke here? Totally). In this case, the fact that Gilgamesh is nigh untouchable is strong enough plot point of FSN's story that it would be truly contradictory for him to struggle in this battle. Iskander's battle and the result were ultimately pre-ordained by the way we know things are in the future, there simply wasn't any other way it could have been.

    I really don't see how Rider's death was any less satisfying than Kittan's, Hughes or even FSN Archer, the inventor of GAR. Was it because he failed to achieve a tangible result? I'd argue otherwise – he saved the life of his former master, now friend and subject. He earned the respect of the King of Heroes-something /no one/ gets-and remained true to his philosophy to the very end. I simply don't understand how you could stand there and call that nothing.

    Rider's time to shine wasn't in his speech, it was in his final charge, his relentless pursuit of reaching what lies beyond the horizon, reaching the end of the world (Represented by Gilgamesh, in this case) and embodying his ideal of a king to the fullest. Standing true against nihilistic futility is it's own kind of heroism, and while not everyone may find it satisfying I applaud Urobochi Gen's implementation of it here.

  27. b

    Of course Urobochi Gen could also have written a story, where Rider was about to defeat Gilgamesh in a fair fight, but lost due to Kirei meddling. See the Saber-Lancer fight for example, where the victor wasn't determined by the servants.

  28. J

    You do have valid points there Anon; and while I'll admit they lessened the pure dissapointment I felt towards this episode, I stand firm by what I said.

    I think they're opposing views actually: You say his glory was in his final charge, in what he said regarding the Oceanus and reaching the end of the world. But that's exactly what I disliked about it, really. I cannot help but feel like Urobuchi Gen /wanted/ to leave Archer unscathed, so that meant Rider wouldn't land a hit, but Urobochi still *wanted* him to have a noble, happy ending. His dream was a good one, but it's too sad that, just like Archer said, Rider apparently was indeed just another dreamer. He didn't accomplish anything.

    Don't get me wrong, I wasn't asking for a tangible result – but at least the hope that there could be one. They toned Rider down in this final episode. He kept roaring the man he was through the entire series, but now he kept relatively calm (do apply Rider's standards here) and saying on and on how this could be his final battle…I didn't get any feeling during that final charge that he stood a chance against Archer, did you?

    But then again, that may not have been the intention the director wanted for that scene, and it's cool. But please, just slap some 30 seconds of your most impressive OST song and have Rider outsmart Archer for brief seconds – hell, even Wader could surprise us with an effective use of his humble mage skills.

    Archer was of course going to win. This was all about the journey getting there (that applies to F/Z as a whole too…), but in the end, I don't feel like this episode added much to Rider's character after last week's.

    So yeah, not everyone will find it satisfying :/

  29. A

    Not really, very few servants /do/ stand a chance against Gilgamesh in any circumstances. He is the servant no servant can defeat (His defeats in FSN all concern some very specific exploits). Rider sought to beat him with brute force, which is a game no one can beat Gil at. But was there any other way he could have fought that would have seemed true to his character? I would argue Urobochi himself had little choice in how this event was going to play out, the egos of Gilgamesh and Iskander would allow nothing else.

    I personally felt a lot in Rider's charge, of struggling against an indomitable opponent, of relentlessly moving forward no matter what. Even if it was pointless, even if it was futile, I wanted to cheer him on anyways (Or would have, if I weren't a really big Gilgamesh fan). There is, however, one aspect of Iskander's death the anime failed to capture, and i'll lift it from the text of the novel here:

    " – Have you awoken from your dream, King of Conquerors?"

    "… Hm, yes. I suppose…"

    It could not be carried out this time, either. It had ended with the unfulfilled dream remaining as it was – unfulfilled.

    However, now that he thought about it, that was a one-time dream he had wagered his life for in the past.

    The fantastic dream he saw in Asia Minor in the remote past – now, in this Far East land, he was once again seeing the same dream.

    Thinking nostalgically on such checkered circumstances, Alexander smiled.

    If he could see the same dream for even a second time, then it would not be strange to have a third.

    Which would mean –

    It was nearly the right time to see the next dream.

    "This expedition has, been… exciting, in all respects as well…"

    Although beaten, Iskander's spirit never gives in. He has already received the miracle of a second life and, as he fades away, embraces the next dream. It's a weakness of the adaptation process that the anime couldn't find a way to implement this, because I think it would've help some people find a little more resolution.

  30. A

    To add a thing concerning Lancelot, he was a berserker in his legend. He often lost his sanity when Genievre was involved.

  31. J

    Lancelot is insane because, when he was being summoned, Zouken told Kariya to insert a line that would have him come back "shrouded in madness". Lancelot isn't insane, but the Berseker class is.

  32. A

    That's not how it works. Heroic Spirits can only qualify as Berserker if they had a period of insanity at any point in their life.

  33. A

    Rider vs. Gilgamesh couldn't have been done any other way, considering how Gil is among the top 5 strongest characters in Nasuverse (mostly cuz of his Ea) Still, would've been nice if Rider'd had even hurt Gil just a little bit.

  34. L

    The saving grace of foreknowledge from FSN is knowing that at least one decent character comes out wiser for the experience. Can't say I care that much about the resolution of the final couple of fights now that the only remaining sympathetic character is Saber and it's hard to see how she has any chance of beating Gilgamesh.

  35. A

    Yeah, I think people underplay Waver's change in character. I know it isn't as dramatic as something happening in a big, epic battle, but I do think it's important. Rider doesn't just save Waver's life; he teaches him how to live, which I think Rider would say is the more important thing. And in so doing, he teaches Waver how to save his own life.

    This, too, is easier to see in the novel, but it's perfectly clear that Gilgamesh would have killed Waver without thinking twice, had Waver acted in any way that he disapproved of (such as cowering in perfectly reasonable fear, etc.). While his respect for Rider may have given Waver a chance to live, it's Waver's own actions that keep him alive here.

    As for the whole embracing the next dream, I think that the ocean imagery coupled with Gil's lines about challenging it as many times as you like, make the point pretty well without an artificial line added about it. There's something of The Wizard of Oz ("if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again…") to Rider's realization that his mythical Oceanus/Okeanos was within him the whole time, but it is a warm realization, I think.

    And yes, Berserker himself does have the mad enhancement, which was why he could not transform into the person himself earlier (only take their form), which would be a normal class ability, I believe. However, as next week will, I am certain, clarify, Lancelot had reason to become what he now is.

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