This is an episode the brings home the true nature of some of the major players in Fate/Zero. It will solidify your opinion of some characters. If you thought certain people were horrible, cruel, naive, and/or noble than all doubts will be cleared away. Other people who you maybe have been sympathetic towards or felt conflicted about their motives will no longer give you a feeling that is quite so on the fence. And other people you admired might not have you looking at them the same way after this episode. But no matter what your opinion you see what happens when push comes to shove, and all the chips are on the line, what these characters have inside of them. No matter what you will find that you will have an opinion about the members of Team Lancer and Team Saber.
Can some one give Sola-Ui a hand because she sure needs one? OK. Bad puns aside we see that Sola-Ui is clearly a bit unhinged. As she revels in Lancer’s victory the obsessive nature of her twisted love for Diarmuid is all too clear. Her love is a sickly green flame that burns bright but is toxic. But she is so wrapped up in her bliss that she does not see that Maiya has found an unprotected Master. And so Maiya proceeded to lob off her arm and takes an extremely valuable prisoner. Maiya is careful to obliterate Sola-Ui‘s remaining command seals and uses the arm as a message, “We have your woman now Kayneth.” If nothing else you have to admire the ruthless efficiency of Kiritsugu and Maiya. My only question is how did Maiya get a woman with one arm recently chopped off out of the building while she herself is covered in blood. But I suppose that is a question that we mainly ignore for story convenience. I am sure you could come up with an answer but is it really worth going into?
This is a rather short scene but one that provided a major revelation for me (but not necessarily anyone else). Kirei simply drops off Kariya, who he just healed, and heads of into the night with nothing but questions in his head. That in itself is simple enough. Kirei is curious as to why he has helped someone who is more than likely to be a major nuance later in the war when up until now everything he has done has been ruthlessly efficient. Up until this point I always assumed that Kirei was the ruthless monster we see in Fate/Stay Night with his true ambitions laying in wait to be revealed. But this incident clearly shows that he is still not that man yet. He is ACTUALLY someone who thinks he is on the side of the angels but wonders deep down what is wrong with himself. The seeds of the monster that would be the true villain of Fate/Stay Night are all here but that have not yet matured as he still keeps many internal restrictions on himself. The Holy Grail War is the trigger that sent him into a larval state that will let him transform himself into a corrupted butterfly by the end.
It might have been possible to have some amount of sympathy for Kayneth before this point. Sure he was full of pride, arrogance, ruthlessness, and even some sickening prejudices but there were things that made him have flaws you might be able to relate to. His unrequited love for Sola-Ui or his recent gilgul and permanent paralyzation might engender people to feel sorry for him. But any points of sympathy me might have earned quickly disappear in this episode. After he gets his new command symbol for Lancer’s role in defeating Caster he murders Risei in cold blood so the priest cannot give out any more Command Seals. He then returns to his base and tears into Lancer blaming anything and everything on his servant. He is clearly taking out his feelings as a worthless lover and Master out on his only remaining ally but this rationalization does not mean it is any less pathetic. But his tirade is ended by an unexpected intruder. As a side note: In the novel it is mentioned that an unnamed master of puppetry magic was hired to get Kayneth moving around. Hardcore Type-Moon fans will recognize this as a subtle reference to Kara no Kyoukai’s Touko Aozaki. I assume they will mention that in an extra scene when they release the season two box set. I do wonder if we will get a quick glimpse of owner of the Garan no Dou if they add that scene.
Saber and Irisviel arrive to challenge Lancer. At first Lancer is perplexed. Saber should be spent with her power is mostly drained from using Excalibur. But as Saber explains this is exactly why she came. Everyone is drained after the fight with Caster. Lancer is equally drained so they are on a level playing field and anyone who would normally interfere is resting up so they can finally truly fight one on one. And so they fight with almost a gleefully joy. When Lancer notices that Saber is not using her left hand to honor Lancer’s sacrifice during the battle with Caster he is moved by her chivalry. Though they are fighting to the death they are both fighting a person they respect and admire. They are honorable souls engaged in a glorious duel. The type of story that epics are made of. That is what makes what happens next even more heartbreaking. I suppose the upcoming tragedy is also what epics are made of.
As we saw from the last episode more than any other Kiritsugu is a master plotter and expert schemer. And so his real plan in unveiled. While Lancer is distracted he offers Kayneth a deal. If he commands Lancer to kill himself he will promise to allow his opponent and his fiancée safe passage. He even adds in the safety net of a magical pledge to not harm them on top of everything. Kayneth is clearly conflicted but in the end a mixture of cowardice and concern for Sola-Ui win out. He is trapped and no matter how painful it seems to take the dishonorable way out it is his only remaining option. Kiritsugu devil’s deal has a sinister sweetness to its horrible betrayal. But it also has all the tragedy you associate with a deal with the devil as well.
Lancer’s death is clearly one of the most tragic events that has occurred so far. Lancer was the most poplar character in recent polls. His charm, honor, and class won him a legion of fans. And that is what makes his betrayal all the more heartbreaking. He participated in the war for a chance to regain his honor but all he was given was betrayal. Betrayed by his Master, his Master’s fiancée, and seemingly by his one boon companion. He dies like a dog with a mixture of madness and misery engulfing his soul. And so he dies cursing everyone around him. Then the final betrayal comes. While Kiritsugu can do nothing against Lancer’s Masters that does not mean that anyone else is not free to act. And so a sniper rifle quickly finishes off the two injured Masters. Kiritsugu proves that he does what needs to be done no matter what the cost. I do have to wonder what this impact will have on a meta level. Will Lancer’s tragic end cement his place in fandom? Will this throw either fuel or sand on the fires of Lancer/Saber shipping? How many people will love Kiritsugu for his ruthless efficiency and how many people will not forgive him? How many people will see Saber as justified and how many will see her as childishly naive? This sort of reaction for fandom always interests me (although it often also perplexes or infuriates me as well).
Saber and Kiritsugu hardly got along at the best of times but at least they had a crude but dysfunctional working relationship with Irisviel playing peacemaker. But Kiritsugu plan has turned a bad situation to one in critical meltdown. Kiritsugu is clearly a pragmatist that clearly believes that the end justifies the means and that the good of the one is outweighed by the good of the many. Saber clearly believes in honor and compassion above all else. The problem is both of them have so encased themselves in their ideals to protect their hearts that they can no longer understand anything else. But Kiritsugu is clearly playing the long game and has long since decided that any and all sacrifices are acceptable. Everyone is a tool for his ideal (and what Saber does not realize is that includes himself). All Saber knows is that her Master is a ruthless man who crushed the honor of a brave man and slaughtered a pair of despicable but helpless dupes. Neither of them is really listening to the other. They are just shouting their philosophies at the uncaring world hoping that something makes sense. And so the gap between their hearts only grows wider. I will mention this does mark one of the three times he talks to Saber not using Irisviel as a note passing service.
Once Kiritsugu leaves we see that Irisviel did not play mediator as much in the argument not because she had nothing to say but because she was barely standing. It seems that the death of two more Servants in one night has hit her hard. If the energy of one servant greatly weakened her than two more has surely torn her asunder. The beast known as tragedy ate well this night but it has only whet his appetite as opposed to satiating it.
The most interesting thing about the philosophical battle at the end of this episode is how much it will go on to influence Fate/Stay Night. The few glimpses of Kiritsugu we see from Fate/Stay Night show that he clearly regrets his emotionless ruthlessness from his battle here. In many way he spends the short amount of time he has after the events of Fate/Zero trying to repent for the cold calculus he enacts here. In fact Shiro only seems to embrace the most fanatically idealistic parts of his adoptive father’s search for redemption. At the same time Saber seems to embrace much of Kiritsugu pragmatic stone hearted nature when she returns in the 5th Holy Grail War. The conclusion of this argument and the lessons learned are highly dependent of the path chosen in the Visual Novel. But it is clear not matter which path you choose that both Saber and Kiritsugu are both too fanatical as they are here. The paths they currently embrace dogmatically cling to ways of thinking that crush their options and their dreams. As they cling to these paths Lancer’s final curse only creeps closer and closer to fruition.