Anyone who has experienced Fate/Stay Night will know that certain people just have to die. Their destiny is written in stone. As I mentioned in a previous article this makes fights for people who played the original story a way of finding out what was only hinted at in the past. But for people who never saw any of that this might seem more like a race anyone could win. That said I felt like the battle in this episode had a certain gravity that could not be escaped. I also felt that conclusion was equally set in stone.
The King of Conquerors and the King of Heroes. Saber and the Berserker who wants her head. They were both inevitable clashes. Now that there are only 4 servants left these can finally be the one on one battles they were meant to be. Each participant has something that makes them seem invincible but at the same time in both cases one of them must fall. This time a tired hero falls to someone who has merely started to warm up. Subsequently the Black Knight’s identity is finally revealed and it is a blow more powerful that any sword strike.
As Rider and Waver try to approach the Fuyuki Citizens Building and encounter Gilgamesh waiting on the bridge into town. Waver is clearly frightened but we see that unlike before he is ready to march in alongside his Servant for better or for worse. Gilgamesh on the other hand seems as clam as can be and even offers to have a final drink with his opponent. So they meet in the middle of the bridge to share a cup of godly wine and say any last words. Gilgamesh for his part notes that his opponent has clearly has used up much of himself but at the same time he is distinctly powered up by the use of Command Spells. Rider merely throws out that he his only at his best when he has to work hard for his victory. Rider then brings up the question he offered the last time they drank together. If they both fought side by side even conquering the gaalxy would be a simple task. But Gilgamesh is far to proud to share such a stage with anyone but but his old friend Enkidu. So they must fight.
When Rider walks back over to Waver we see for the first time he is not 100% sure he can defeat Gilgamesh. He does not say it outright but everything from his demeanor to his words betray his fear. In a nice turn it is Waver he provides the speech to get his Servant’s head back in the game. And so Rider summons the Ionioi Hetairoi and proudly charges into battle. But Gilgamesh seems as shaken as a man who sees a small swarm of army ants coming his way. He seems more amused that worried.
The destruction of the bike makes it clear that Kariya has obtained some heavy firepower for his servant to power up with Knight of Honor. We see him wield a sniper rifle and when Saber cuts that in half Berserker merely switching to his heave machine gun. But we all know that these slow bullets will never defeat a servant. It takes a true knight’s weapon to dispatch such a foe. I will note that for a country with very strict fire arms laws these Master’s are easily able to get access to some heavy firepower.
While the battle rages on Kariya is clearly on his last legs. He his paralyzed with pain and is even beginning to hallucinate. He sees an image of Sakura asking him why he is in pain. As their conversation goes on he quickly becomes aware of how far he has fallen. Even if he can win the Holy Grail (assuming that Kirei does not use the Azoth sword to break another alliance) he has murdered Sakura and Rin’s mother. He has crushed the dreams of a happy family. All of a sudden he is then confronted by Aoi judging him for his sins. There is no happy ending for him.
As his Master cries out in pain Berseker cries out as well and is soon determined to end the fight with his enchanted machine gun. But the use of some cars in the parking lot as shields provide Saber with ability to get in close and land a blow. Unfortunately for her his armor easily deflects the solid hit. Even worse he is able to grasp her blade open-handed. Clearly he is someone she is familiar with as he knows her sword’s dimensions without ever seeing it uncovered by Invisible Air and being in an insanely enraged state. She demands to know the identity of her attacker as per the rule of chivalry.
Unfortunately she gets her answer. As he drops Knight of Honor and For Someone’s Glory Saber instantly recognizes his sword and armor. But when his helmet crumbles around his face she confirms that she is facing the owner of Arondight, her friend Sir Lancelot. You can see the will to fight drain out of Saber. She has no idea why her loyal friend would want her dead. At the same time Rider’s word about her inadequacies as a king echo in her head. To Saber this is proof positive that she has been a greater failure as a king than she could have ever imagined.
Saber is in a terrible state. She has been dealt a devastating blow by this reveal while her opponent has a sword that is not only tremendously powerful it has specific abilities that she is weak against. Her dragon’s blood makes the sword even deadlier. What can she do against someone like that she cannot fight at full strength?
Gilgamesh is good. But he cannot fight an army of heroes single handily. They may be weak individually but in numbers like that even Gilgamesh cannot win especially with Rider at the head of this force. But the Gate of Babylon has one special weapon for this occasion, Ea. The only sword he own that Gilgamesh considers his own. It is a devastating weapon that can destroy worlds. When he gets it charged up he easily smashes Rider’s army and crushes the Ionioi Hetairoi. Soon the Reality Marble collapses on itself talking all of the soldiers with it. Only Rider’s speed and skill with Bucephalus prevent them from being caught in the destruction cased by Ea (insert your own Electronic Arts joke here).
With his army gone Rider does something unexpected and asks Waver to be HIS Servant. Without any hesitation Waver agrees. Then we see the true point of his question. Rider demands that his servant live on and inspire others. Rider clearly knows that there is little chance for him to win. But since Waver is no longer a Master there is no reason for him to throw in life away with him. Rider sees the enormous potential in his boy who has only recently become a man. He will do the world so much more good if he can only survive this war.
Rider charges forth and looks pretty good for awhile. The projectiles from the Gate of Babylon are numerous but Rider casually deflects them. But the closer he gets the harder the rain of Noble Phantasms. Once Bucephalus goes down Rider cannot maneuver as quickly. He slowly gets tagged several times. But he runs on even with several swords stuck in him. Rider makes it with in an inch of landing a solid blow. But then then Enkidu comes out. The chain Archer loves in Fate/Stay Night and not the wild man I mentioned before.
Bound before he can finish his swing Rider has lost. Gilgamesh does him the honor of finishing him off with Ea as opposed to some lesser weapon. It is clear that unlike the many mongrels that Gilgamesh has faced in the past he actually considers Rider a worth foe deserving of some respect. Rider then has a vision of Okeanos as his leaves the dream called the Holy Grail War.
Gilgamesh slowly walks over to Waver and it might seem like the little wizard’s time is up. But once Gilgamesh sees that Waver is no longer a master he lets him go. Since he is no longer a threat there is no reason to disrespect the last wishes of a worthy opponent. I suppose Archer was not a total scumbag before the taint of the grail warped him. Color me surprised.
If you were curious Waver does go on to fulfill Rider’s last request. He goes on to be oddly enough a lecturer with the title Lord El-Melloi II through an unusual chain of events. Considering he came into the war to defeat the original Lord El-Melloi there is a certain irony to his later position. His greatest ability as a teacher is to detect the hidden abilities of others and then foster them. In that way he keeps Rider’s dream alive.
Despite the fact that it was inevitable the death of Rider was still a powerful blow. Just because you know a ton of brick is coming does not mean it hits with any less force. But it was still not as much of a shock at the fact that apparently the next episode is the climax. I assume the first half will be the conclusion of Saber vs. Berserker and the last half being Saber vs. Archer. And the final battle with Kirei and Kiritsugu throughout. the episode. I guess that means the last two episodes will be all falling action. I did not expect that much work put into connecting Fate/Zero and Fate/Stay Night. But I do not mind that. But it should be interesting to see what they explore in those episodes.