Episode 20 would have been hard to top, and I suppose 21 doesn’t necessarily try. Sure, there’s still some measure of ridiculous sword-slinging, and a longer snippet of the Emiya remix (a more pensive piece this time, it seems) but for the most part the pendulum has swung back to exposition and introspection. With Shirou having found his determination last week, this week’s ‘answer’ is for Archer‘s benefit (and by extension, Saber, who has comparable circumstances and has been standing around doing nothing but reflect for three episodes). Hence, internal monologue. And because Archer is Shirou’s archetype and Shirou is Archer’s prototype, Shirou finds determination from Archer and Archer finds resolution from Shirou. Archer had forgotten his roots. Yes, trying to save everyone is unrealistic, but the ideal is beautiful. For too long has Archer obsessed about results, which is why his inner world is filled with gears, while Shirou’s is a purer vision, one that may eventually redeem Archer’s.
So often is the case that redemption equals death, and Archer, having just found satisfaction, must immediately step aside. Because enter Gilgamesh (who really deserves to get shot in the face at least once, but alas) to be the Archer-replacement to antagonise Shirou. Since Shirou wants to essentially be a superhero, he needs a supervillain to fight. In true supervillain style, Gilgamesh explains his evil plan, along with what he had been doing since Fate/Zero (while… providing fanservice, I guess). Apparently, the world is too idyllic, the Grail is corrupt, and Gil wants to kill everyone. Standard megalomania, and there is none to stop him but our hero, Shirou! But sure, while Shirou and Gilgamesh are natural foils—one was the king of ancient Mesopotamia and owns an endless vault of treasures, and the other is a nobody who must project all his weapons from nothing—why did Archer entrust Shirou with Gil’s defeat? Even Saber failed to defeat him in the previous Grail War. Who can stand up to the King of Heroes?
For now, what does stand up to the King of Heroes is soot. Gil leaves our protagonists be for now rather than let his clothes get dirty. Even from beyond the grave, Lancer (or at least the fire he started, which has spread out plenty since episode twenty) manages to score another point by soiling Gil’s outfit and saving the day. What a man.
Shinji, however, is not so fortunate. Even though he’s hardly a magus at all, even though he’s completely clueless, even though he’s a pathetic spot of slime, he’s been chosen for the dubious honour of being the faulty vessel of the grail. No matter how much one disliked Shinji, one must admit that his fate is most horrific. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.
We needn’t worry about it too much for now, though, because next week there will presumably be dolphins. Look forward(?) to it.
Full-length images: 34.