Fate/Zero S2 TV #009: Silent Night, Holy Grail

Angra Mainyu, All the Evil in the World, the corrupting spirit that lives with in the Grail. As its name is invoked in the title of this episode it can only mean that the true essence of the Grail and the Holy Grail War itself begins to unfold in this episode. Kirei has had his awakening to the true darkness that dwells within him so he has no hesitation in bringing and end to the Holy Grail War. The questioning priest at the beginning of the war is gone. Only a monster who wishes the most cruel ending to the war remains in his place. And so the challenge to the remaining participants goes out. Kirei wishes for them to attend his banquet of blood. The Grail itself is only to eager to see his dream come to fruition.

There is a certain unbearable tension that comes with a prolonged silence. After several days of fighting a night where there is no combat breeds a certain uneasiness. Rider, Berserker, and Saber and their Masters are all running on empty as each of them has lost significant resources and made innumerable sacrifices. Their emotional and physical wounds are many and deep. So with this scenario in place Archer sends out a challenge to the remain Servants that signals the beginning of the end. All the while the darkness in the Grail looks on and awaits the remaining sacrifices.

Rider and Waver finally trudge back to their hideout for a quick breather after losing to Saber. Unexpectedly there is someone waiting for them. Glen Mackenzie asks to have a little chat over coffee with his “grandson” on the roof as the sun comes up. Glen admits that he has recently discovered that Waver is not in fact their grandson but since the boy means them no harm he has actually be glad he and Rider have been here to add some excitement to their lives. While they have been happy they have also been a bit lonely since they moved to Japan. A pretend grandson is better than none at all at their age. Glen then gives him a last bit of advice. He tries to convince Waver not to throw his life away. Surprisingly enough Waver seems to take these words to heart. Of all the Masters he has the least focus. Kirei maybe hollow but his drive is focused like a laser beam. Waver just wants to be respected. That is hardly something he needs the Grail for. In a way that becomes acutely clear to him here without that ever being said out loud. Like in the story of the bluebird of happiness he realizes that everything has had wanted was within himself the whole time.

Kiritsugu is clearly a man at the end of his rope. He is clearly mentally and psychically drained. He has never been extremely emotive so he is hardly one to break down crying but everything from his dialog to his animation shows a man who is only a shadow of his former self.  Everyone who was supporting to him is gone. Maiya is dead. Irisviel is captured and even if he saves her then he is only going to wind up sacrificing her to bring forth the grail. He is haunted by the women he sacrificed in the past and present. All he has left is Saber and they get along like oil and water. He is basically camping Ryuudouji Temple hoping that Kirei will come there since it is the optimal site for the ritual. Kiritsugu notes that if he had Maiya he would have her staking out the Fuyuki Citizens Building but he just find himself able to work with Saber even under the best of circumstances. So he waits and lets Saber do what she will. Now he is mostly fumbling toward a conclusion. He is still a strategist and committed to winning but his earlier drive has mostly evaporated. But it does not matter what his condition is. He is stuck playing the Thermodynamics game.

If you did not know the rules of the Thermodynamics game are:

Zeroth: You must play the game.
First: You can’t win.
Second: You can’t break even.
Third: You can’t quit the game.

So all he can do is march forward.

At the same time Kirei proves himself better at playing the “I know, that you know, that I know” game and is hiding Irisviel at one of the few places he knows no one is likely to look, Caster’s old hideout. Since it is not one of the nodes for the completion of Heaven’s Feel it seems an unlike place to store the vessel of the Grail. But Kiritsugu does not know this place exists and everyone else has no reason to come back here. So Kierei takes some time to talk to Irisviel. In a way he wishes to confirm his assessment of Kiritsugu. He wants Irisviel to tell him that Kiritsugu is a sadist like himself. Someone who just wants to watch the world burn. Kirei wants proof that both men are two sides of the same coin. Irisviel is only too happy to shatter his delusion. They are both men who have drifted though hellish existences soaking in the worst that life has to offer while living in the most morally dubious parts of the shadows. But where as Kirei has decided that he will revel in the pain of existence Kiritsugu dreams of ending that pain. Both lives despite being similar have created two men with polar opposite views with the universe in-between where they stand. They are in fact diametric opposites. This clearly infuriates him enough that he snaps Irisviel’s neck. With a rival who is no longer on the same path as him the only option left is to destroy his opponent’s dream. Especially when that dream would crush the new path he has chosen to walk down.

With Kirei’s path set in stone he issues a challenge. He declares victory and dares anyone to stop him. Everyone knows this is a trap but they just don’t have the ability to play cat and mouse games any more. When Rider gears up to enter the last night of battle Waver does something unexpected. He uses up all three command spells at once. When you order a Servant using a command spell they are given a stat boost in order to complete said task. The simpler the task the more powerful the boost is. But even a long-term and complex task gives a slight edge to the Servant. Normally with an extended battle this is not a casual decision but since tonight seems to be the last night there is no reason to hold back. Waver has effectively taken himself out of the war. Rider is an independent Servant with about a day’s worth of energy left. But he will be fighting at his peak with the time he has left. And so Waver tries to exit stage left. But Broskander is not having any of that. While Waver is no longer his Master he will not ride into his final battle without his friend. They started together and they will end this journey together side by side. So Rider, Waver, and Bucephalus ride off for the final battle. At the same time all the bara fans and fujoshi rejoice but know in their hearts that only tragedy await them ahead (which only makes some of them even happier).

As everyone gather for the final battle around the Fuyuki Citizens Building we see Gilgamesh and Kirei discuss what they have put into motion. Gilgamesh is most interested in how his student in the way of hedonism has grown. While Kirei’s ultimate wish is still unknown to him he has certainly galvanized himself philosophically. He now merely awaits the Grail to show him where his decisions have led him to. Why was he chosen for this battle? What was his soul crying out for that can only be provided by the Grail? Gilgamesh seems pleased that his Master has embraced the most selfish path. All Gilgamesh wishes now is to confront Saber who he considers the only prize worth having. So the puppet masters waits for the marionettes to arrive so the curtain can lift for the final act.

Speaking of the Grail we see that while Irisviel’s body is dead her spirit remains tied to the Grail. Inside the Grail is no pleasant sanctuary. It is merely a corrupt sea of fears, regrets, and sorrow. In the darkness Irisviel is trapped in dark dreams as she is merely reminded that the Einzbern family will sacrifice as many homunculi as are needed to win the Holy Grail. If she fails then Ilya will just be the next one offered up to be the Grail. But slowly the foul corruption of the Grail absorbs her and drenches her in the vileness of Angra Mainyu. The episode then ends on a disturbing note. The end is coming and the Grail hungers for it. A wish will be granted but not by a kindly or neutral force.

In a way this whole episode was everyone’s final chance to take a quick breath before the final push. But despite the almost sedate pace the episode still manages to kill someone off. But death is no escape. Irisviel still has a role to play even if she is no longer as a member of the land of the living. But even those who still draw breath are perilously close to death. Broken and battered they stumble towards the conclusion of the 4th Holy Grail War. But in the end there can only be one.

I know what you’re hoping but Saber and Kiritsugu to fight the Kurgan as the final secret boss. But that is only in your fanfics.

Plus that only encourages them to make Fate/The Source. And NO ONE wants that.

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