Well, this is one of those episodes where I don’t suppose there’s much point in talking about anything that happened before the ending. I don’t think there’s much chance anything else will be getting a lot of discussion anyway.
Did we see this coming? Well, yes and no. Certainly, there have been death flags hoisted for Biscuit over the past few episodes, and that sort of kicked into high gear this week – stuff like the cutaway to his sisters, and all his moonlit musings over what he’s going to do in the future. Once he came to terms with his fight with Orga and smiled wistfully the die was probably cast – and all the false “all clear” signals Tekketsu no Orphans was sending out as the battle with Carta’s forces drew to a seeming close were the final nail.
First things first: is this a head-fake, like what happened with Takaki and Ein? It’s possible, but this one passes the sniff test – I mean, we actually saw what sure seemed like the body, and the theme of the episode itself seems to have been built around Biscuit actually being dead. The next question I’d ask is whether this is the start of a march of tragedy for the rest of the series – is this the kind of story where all the orphans are sacrificed one by one to prove a narrative point, until none remain? I wouldn’t be shocked to see that fate befall the older boys like Orga, Mika and Akihiro, but I’ll be surprised if the true children like Takaki and Ride aren’t left to pick up the pieces at the end of the journey.
I liked Biscuit more than most of the characters in Iron-Blooded Orphans, and I do think he was quite important – as I said last week, if Orga is the father figure of the Tekkadan than Biscuit is certainly the mother. But it was probably a good thing for the story’s credibility to have one of the main Tekkadan boys die at this point. Orga’s skated by on luck and adult help up to now, but the truth is that he’s led a gang of kids into an incredibly dangerous existence. He was certainly pushed into it by circumstances, but while his instinct for boldness has worked for him so far, it comes with a cost. This was really the essence of the final argument between he and Biscuit – which makes the circumstances of Biscuit’s death rather ironic.
If there’s a recurring theme to Gundam series (and obviously there are several) it’s the innocent being caught up in the ambitions and prejudices of those in power – these are the true victims of war in the Gundam mythology (and not just there). The young and innocent fight the battles of the old and corrupt. I’d rather it not be portrayed as broadly as it often has in Tekketsu no Orphans, with its grotesquerie of villains, but this series could hardly be more traditional in that sense, and the reality more stark.
Fundamentally I think what Orga is trying to do is a losing battle – in this franchise, I don’t think poor and outcast kids who try and seize control of their lives are often (ever?) successful. Tekkadan has made a splash, but at every step along the way they’ve been manipulated by somebody, and that’s certainly the case now with McGillis and Makanai pulling the strings. It’s hard not to see the last four episodes of Orphans as the likely final act of a tragedy, with the Tekkadan being ground in the gears of power the way most like them have been over the decades of Gundam storytelling. I hope not because that would be pretty fucking depressing, but it’s hard to read much optimism into the tea leaves if you know your history.