Some minor changes to the OP this week, including the above shots.
Arque and Chris are in the cockpit of the Hraesvelg, which is parked in the middle of a field of sunflowers. Arque thinks about how strange it is that they are afraid of death yet they are already dead. Chris says it isn’t strange because, if they listen to Kyo, then they’re still alive and are human. Arque comments that Kyo is always so positive. Meanwhile, in a mountainous region somewhere, the female Gards-orm called Shin breaks out of her tube and goes to lick the tube of her male counterpart Abyss. At school, Shizuno tells Kyo about how Arque has suffered a lot of damage. Kyo thinks that she’s acting a bit cold to the subject, but Shizuno reveals that Arque was her only friend. Later on the Oceanus, Shima has decided to send Arque out for a small reconnaissance mission, despite May-Yu and May-Yen’s objections. In addition, he asks Kyou and Shizuno to keep Arque and Chris company when they return to Maihama.
Kyo ends up also calling in Ryoko, asking her to bring her camera so that they can take some pictures. Ryoko shows up after the weather clears and gets shots of Arque and Shizuno, both of whom she considers beautiful. The group goes to a pet shop and Chris surprises Arque with a puppy, something that she’s always wanted. Chris gives it the name Pieta, which is apparently the pub where Chris proposed to Arque. They then head to a cafe, and while the others are sitting inside, Shizuno and Arque are talking about old times outside. When Arque changes the topic to Kyo, Shizuno admits that Kyo saved her from the darkness and she loves him, but then he was reborn. Now for his sake, she plays the part of the unhappy witch. As the topic switches back to herself, Arque reassures Shizuno that it’s ok – she can still fight and she still wants to fight to regain their lives and happiness from the Gards-orm.
Chris and Ryoko are chatting happily inside, but Kyo can’t stand the fact that Chris and Arque are acting unnatural, their smiles looking painful. Chris says that when he and Arque aren’t doing something, they become uneasy; when they worry about someone else, they don’t have to think about themselves. He reveals that they became freelance mercenaries after the Paris server was destroyed, wandering from crisis to crisis. They wouldn’t regret throwing their lives away, but the question is where and for whom they do it for. However, all that’s just Chris’ own attitude, and not Arque’s views. Ryoko, who was listening in to this conversation and is now really confused, finally asks what they’re talking about. Chris doesn’t answer her directly, instead advising her and Kyo that if there’s someone they like, they should love that person so that they don’t have any regrets later. Ryoko becomes embarrassed upon hearing this and making eye contact with Kyo.
After all five of them fit into a group picture, Arque hands Pieta to Ryoko and asks her to take care of the dog until that evening. It is because the four of them now have a mission to embark on. Kyo swears to himself that all four of them will return. Their goal this time is to make a pre-emptive strike at a transport carrying a main core. The Altair and the Hraesvelg arrive on the scene to relieve the Garuda who has already started the attack. Kyo tries to coordinate with Chris, but the Hraesvelg floats silently, taking hits from the enemy cargo ship. Chris tells that that he and Arque can’t fight any more. Behind him sits Arque, half of whom is now glowing green after having been damaged by the transport here. Chris won’t let Arque die alone and has activated the Banishment mode (self-destruct) of the Hraesvelg. Kyo and Shizuno try to convince him to stop, but Chris refuses to listen to them. To him, he and Arque will live on in the photographs they took today.
Suddenly, the two enemy vessels piloted by Abyss and Shin burst onto the scene. Kyo had thought that Chris had defeated them before, but Shizuno reveals that the Gards-orm can reproduce them from preserved data. Chris’ hatred for the Gards-orm pair kicks in and he starts fighting them. He gets right up to Abyss, prepared to self-destruct and take the enemy with him. However, the Hraesvelg’s self-destruct suddenly powers down, courtesy of Arque hitting the kill switch. She tells Chris to feed Pieta every day in her place. If he forgets, she won’t forgive him. In tears, Chris asks her if she wants him to walk the thorny path alone. Kyo butts in and frees the Hraesvelg from Abyss, yelling that Chris isn’t alone. In a rage, Chris fires on and blows up the enemy cargo ship. The resulting explosion kills Abyss, and then a missile volley from Arque cripples Shin and sends her into retreat. Arque’s last words in the real world express her desire to drink café au lait.
Back in Maihama, Chris kisses Arque as Kyo and Shizuno watch from nearby. Arque asks Chris the name of the dog, and he tells her it’s Pieta. She comments that it’s a lovely name right before her eyes blank out and she disappears in green sparkles. Shizuno thinks to herself that Arque’s fight has ended. On the Oceanus, Lemures reports to Shima that Arque’s data cluster can’t be restored. Shima says that Arque acted like a professional until the end, referring to the missile volley Arque had sent and how the Oceanus is now tracking the Zega weapon residue on Shin’s ship. Lemures comments on how calm Shima is, to which Shima replies by saying that he’d cry if Arque were revived. At home, Kyo breaks the news to Ryoko, telling her that Arque was sick. While comforting her, Kyo affirms to himself that he likes Ryoko. He then looks up and notices the symbol on her head – she is awakening.
No ED this episode, they went straight through the credits.
They did a fantastic job with Arque’s death, from both a dramatic and an animation standpoint. It was pretty apparent from the beginning of this episode that Arque wouldn’t survive until the end (the photos, the puppy given to Ryoko), but they really succeed in showing how much she meant to everyone, especially Chris. The scene was more sad for me because they brought Arque back to the Maihama server world so that Arque and Chris could say their last words to each other. And I thought the animation was wonderful for the end of this episode (and this ep in general).
We see at the very end that Kyo now knows that Ryoko is awakening. Given his experiences, I would imagine that Kyo would make sure her transition into the real world isn’t nearly as turbulent as his was. We’ll have to see how it turns out in the next episode.
On a final note, it’s kind of interesting that you see Shizuno with cats all the time and now Ryoko is taking care of a dog. Another subtle contrast it seems…