This is about nine-tenths of the climax of Fate/Zero. I was wondering if that was the case and it indeed was what happened. That did mean that at least one major battle and its aftermath looks like it has been cut down to the bare bones to fit within the episode. But we get the nitty-gritty on the showdown between the main protagonist and antagonist (hero and villain is stretching it quite a bit.) This is the episode where one pure dream dies and another horrible dream springs up in its place. You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes you just might find you get a twisted mockery of what you want instead.
The final battles have come to be. Kiritsugu and Kirei finally face each other as Irisviel feared would be the case. Each of them is a trained killer with their own highly deadly style and mystical aces up their sleeves. At the same time Saber wrestles with her inner demons as she fights Berserker. But even if she wins that fight Archer still awaits her by the Grail. But when the damn bursts with all the power within the mystical cup Kiritsugu and Kirei learn the true nature of the Holy Grail War. What will they do when they understand how the less than holy Fuyuki Grail makes dreams come true?
In a parking lot below the Fuyuki Citizens Building the two deadliest Masters finally meet face to face. Kiritsugu wisely tries to end the fight as quickly as possible. He sees Kirei run at him using magic and fires the Thompson Contender at his target’s enchanted Black Keys. It seems like a solid strategy. Kirei thinks he is blocking. The Origin Bullet scrambles Kirei’s magic circuits when it hits anything involving his magic. Then Kiritsugu merely executes the disabled church assassin. What he does not know it that Kirei is popping Command Spells like they were Tic Tacs since he has so many from his father. Since Kirei is not using his own magic the secret whammy effect of the bullets is not in play. Kiritsugu now has to hit the priest with the bullets directly. The only problem is that Kirei is a martial arts god.
Kiritsugu is an experienced solider but he really specializes in modern combat with modern weapons. Kirei is trained in Chinese martial arts with the insane demon hunting powers from the church. In hand to hand combat Kiritsugu is simply outclassed. Kiritsugu’s ability to manipulate time is great but once Kirei knows he has the ability he can just adjust his fighting style to deal with someone who can move that fast. If Ciel is even better than Kirei and she was still only barely holding her own it makes to appreciate the power of the monsters that dwell in Tsukihime.
Kiritsugu is good. But Kirei is even better. All of a sudden the priest has flash stepped around his opponent’s defenses and uses his version of the Five-Point-Palm Exploding-Heart-Technique. The Mage Killer slams into concrete wall of the parking garage as dead as a doornail. But the fight cannot end that simply.
An exploded heart merely causes a pause in the battle for Kiritsugu. Thanks to the healing power of Avalon the fatal injury is a heavy but recoverable injury. He is able to attack Kirei as he walks away. When Kirei tries to close the distance another Origin Bullet is fired but this time it connects. It completely takes out Kirei’s right arm. But since Kirei used a command spell (and is just a combat monster in general) he is in injured but not out of the fight. Kirei takes a massive amount of internal injuries but that merely cuts his power. Kirei now also realizes that his opponent has a Wolverine styled healing factor. The only way to kill him is either to completely destroy his body or liquefy his brain.But the creepy priest has just the right techniques to do something like that. One good strike to the head and even Avalon won’t save Kiritsugu.
So it is all about landing that prefect killing blow. Anything but a killing strike on Kiritsugu or Kirei is useless. But even with only one hand the priest clearly outmatches the mage. But Kiritsugu does not just have the ability to go twice as fast. He can now speed himself up three or four times faster. In the past that was not an option. Double acceleration wrecked his body. Triple or quadruple acceleration would normally instantly kill him. But Avalon heals him quickly enough to make those speeds a valid option.
But even then it only lets him hold his own. Kiritsugu is able to dodge any killing blows and even land some good hits but Kirei just keeps coming. Kiritsugu desperately tries to give himself enough space so he can reload. He thinks about just setting off a grenade to hit them both but Avalon cannot fix self-inflicted wounds. Purposely setting of an explosive like that would count as consciously hurting yourself. Kiritsugu has enough skill with a blade to sink his fighting knife into Kirei’s leg letting him reload. The priest launches a devastating attack with his own version of the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki. Kirei flies forward as his remaining Black Keys prevent Kiritsugu from dogging in any direction. It all comes down to who can strike first.
At the same time the Grail activates itself. Irisviel‘s corpse consumes itself if flames and the Lesser Grail springs from her ashes. As the power from the fights below intensify so does the power that bubbles forth from the chalice. The tainted mud soon springs forth soaking the stage with a vile putrescence. When it finally becomes too heavy its weight smashes through the floor flooding the levels below. All this sickly mud crashes down covering the two rivals in a sea of blood. That being one of the few distractions that could interrupt the fight below.
WOW! I knew they had a good deal to fit into this episode so I had a feeling they were going to have to cut the time somewhere. Apparently it was with the battle between Saber and Berserker. The episode starts with Saber taking a beating both internally and externally. As she wrestles with the identity of Berserker her swordplay suffers and she is tossed around like a rag doll. When we cut back to the fight Saber runs Berserker through and they exchange only a few words and the scene is over. All of that is far more complex in the books.
First off the bat in the books Kariya runs out of mana because Berserker is using power like it was going out of style. When Kariya’s gas tank of magic is finally empty it causes Berserker to stop as his power supply is cut off giving Saber the chance to land a killing blow. I’m not sure if they just plan to kill Kariya like they have implied happened. They might be saving his final moments for the next episode or as a cut scene for the box set. Either way Kariya and Berserker have been removed from the Holy Grail War.
But if explanation of what was going on with Kariya was cut short of brevity’s sake it is nothing compared to short shrift that Berserker got. In the novels we learn how Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere lead to the fall of Camelot. Saber was merely married to Guinevere to keep up appearances. So when Lancelot and Guinevere started a relationship Saber was just happy that the people around her had found happiness. But when Saber’s political enemies discovered the affair they tried to have Guinevere executed and Lancelot exiled. Lancelot moved in and saved her at the cost of the lives of several knights. Soon everything else came crashing down.
But Saber refused to blame anyone but herself. She was the King and therefore she took everything upon herself. Lancelot died cursed as a traitor by a nation. Never being given a chance for redemption nor forgiveness by the people he hurt he went mad in the end. We learn that this whole time he was not as much as obsessed with killing Saber as he was receiving his judgement by her hand. He wanted to die by her blade so he could finally rest.
In the book Saber and Berserker then speak while Berserker is finally sane enough to converse. She is able to give absolution to her friend which finally lets him rest in peace. Of all the things they cut this bit of resolution was the most vital thing to cut. Without it Lancelot does not really have a redemptive arc and Saber has even less catharsis. He merely dies after being defeated with a mostly meaningless exchange. A good deal was implied but little was actually said. That might make some people happy but that is hardly the Nasu way.
This scene does explain much of Saber in Fate/Stay Night. With her conflict settled with Lancelot it explains why she is seemingly unaffected by Rider’s speeches to her in the main game. She has come to terms with her ruling style by settling the bad blood between her and her first knight. But it also makes her double down on winning the Grail. If she can prevent herself from becoming King she can hopefully prevent Lancelot from suffering like he did. As she is not aware of the true nature of the prize she is going for it still seems like a valid option.
When the power of the Grail interrupts the fight below it transports Kiritsugu to a beach that Tay Zonday would sing about. It is a mind scape made up of Kiritsugu’s memories with a sinister presence that fills the world with a palpable corruption. But Kiritsugu is not alone in his mind with just his tainted memories.
He finds himself being welcomed by his wife who hopes that he will claim his prize so the Grail can come into the world. But Kiritsugu clearly sees that everything is wrong. The soul of the Grail is tainted and the thing who is taking Irisviel‘s form is no better. Since the mage has seen through his disguise Angra Mainyu, the spirit in the Grail, admits that while it is not actually Irisviel it has her wishes imprinted itself. The spirit insists that all of them all want the same thing. By granting Kiritsugu’s the three of them will be happy. But Kiritsugu is still not sold.
When asked about his wish Angra Mainyu lets Kiritsugu soul answer the question. Kiritsugu wants a world without fighting. But over the years he is found one way to stop conflicts permanently. When he murders one of the participants of a conflict then the fighting stops for a time. But there are always new conflicts. Brothers may fight together to drive out outsiders but when there is no external threat then siblings just turn on each other. The Grail confronts Kiritsugu with a series of ethical conundrums. Each time the grail explains to its host that they both believe that the good of the one is outweighed by the good of the many. The Grail tries to convince Kiritsugu that the only way to save the world is to destroy it. As long as there are humans there will be conflict. If the Grail kills everyone but Kiritsugu, his wife, and child then, and only then, will there be peace.
Kiritsugu begs the Grail for another way. He wanted the Grail to grant him a miracle to create a tranquil peace on Earth and not a bloody one. But the Grail insists that it can only grant wishes that the victor can understand and the only path to peace either of them knows is death. It is a very “We’re not so different, you and I” speech.
The Grail finally tries to temp him by showing him how easily he kills others. It reminds him that he killed his father, adopted mother, and partner to achieve his goals. After he is show to be able to easily kill all three of them again it gives him with the dream of just being alone with his family. But Kiritsugu can’t sacrifice the world just for his happiness. The Grail missed the fact that while he always chooses the good of the many of over the good of the few. But that mean he is just as easily able to use that mathematics on his own desires. He will crush his own happiness to save the happiness of the world.
So the only way out is to completely reject the fantasy of the Grail. He ruthlessly murders the images of his daughter and wife to escape the twisted dream before he is tricked into make a wish upon the Grail. It is a twisted scene but the Grail need to make it as hard as possible for its prey to escape. It Kiritsugu can awaken then the ceremony is in danger of being disrupted now that the truth has been exposed. But Angra Mainyu does not go without a fight. As Kiritsugu strangles his wife to awaken the grail curses him. It makes sure that its anger and corruption forever curse his soul. But no amount of damnation can crush Kiritsugu’s determination.
When Kiritsugu’s awakens he finds himself with the drop on Kirei. It seems that the priest bore witness to Kiritsugu’s conversation inside the Grail and is maddeningly perplexed by his decision. In Kirei’s opinion his rival has won everything just to throw it away. Kirei finally understand what he wants. He wishes to see the birth of the Angra Mainyu upon the Earth. That is why he was chosen to participate in the war. That is what he has been living for. Kiritsugu was offered everything he wanted and just throw it away. It is almost like Kiritsugu won the heart of the woman that Kirei loved and then rejected her affections.
Anyone who played through Heaven’s Feel will see all of this brought up again with even more detail as Kirei has more time to monolog as his philosophy is even more solidified. It also this makes it clear why Kirei has such a hatred for Shiro. Since Kirei never got proper revenge on the man who denied him his birthright his only choice was to wreak revenge on the only thing that was left of the legacy of his nemesis. Crushing Shiro was crushing Kiritsugu’s dreams. An almost symmetrical vengeance.
I am sure many people agreed with Kiritsugu’s final line to Kirei. Kiritsugu does not have time for philosophy. He needs to destroy the Grail before anyone else has a chance to make a wish and free the vile presence inside.
When Saber gets to the theater she is clearly no mater for Gilgamesh. She is not fighting a full power while the King of Heroes is haply holding her at bay without breaking a sweat. He could clearly kill her without much effort. But he does not wan to win the war. He wants to claim a much more important prize to him. He wants Saber’s pride. He wishes top slowly break her inch by inch. When she submits herself to him then he will have truly won. Gilgamesh assumes he has all the time in the world. No one can stop him and no one can defy him. The mountain is strong but the waves will always wear it away.
You can feel the frustration in Saber’s voice. Her dream in only a few meters away but this silly Golden Brat is just standing in her way. He is talking of submission and pleasure and she wishes redemption and peace. But there is nothing she can do. She cannot give in but she also cannot win. Unless a third party steps in she is trapped knowing that she cannot advance despite being a mere dozen steps from the end.
Then a presence appears before her. Kiritsugu’s final two Command Spells have the ability to completely alter this battle. But they do in a unexpected way. He throws them both into ordering Saber to use Excalibur to destroy the Grail. Saber is confused and betrayed. Her supposed salvation was an even greater betrayal. Gilgamesh is equally perplexed. Of all the strategies that could have been used that was one of the few that actually would throw him off guard. Everyone who does not know what is going on and is far too shocked to stop what happens next. But how that plays out is for next week.
You know Kiritsugu should have learned to communicate with humans a but more. A few words might have eased a good deal of later resentment. But I suppose that Kiritsugu assumed that surprise with his only weapon. The time to explain himself would have given Gilgamesh more than enough time to kill them both. Still a little warning would have been nice. But Kiritsugu is not that type of guy.
I have to wonder if next week will end on a full hour episode. There is a good deal of ground to cover if the want to after the climax. There is much that can be examined or dropped depending on how much they want to explore. The countdown clock during the ending still has 3 hours, 42 minutes, and 15 second on it. I have been assuming it is counting down to the Fuyuki City fire that in many ways starts Fate/Stay Night. But even after that Kiritsugu has to save Shiro. Plus there are people to resurrect with the power of darkness, Zouken has evil things to do, and I am sure people want to see what Waver is doing. I am fired up to see what we get next week. Everything that to show next week point determines the power of the ending. But as this episode proved there is an equal importance to what is left on the cutting room floor.