Grand Finale: Fate/Zero
Aha! A title drop!
Excalibur cuts down as Saber looks in horror, and she has an epiphany – the sense of betrayal she’s feeling now, that’s why her men betrayed her. Just like Kiritsugu never bothered to get to know her, simply proclaiming a righteous goal and ordering her to act in pursuit of that goal, so did she do the same, never truly leading others the way Iskander did. In her last moments in the real world, she ponders whether this is her punishment.
That resignation…it’s just so sad.
Excalibur’s light is visible from like super far…and when the smoke clears, there’s a hole in the sky, just like the Kiritsugu saw inside the Grail. The blast manages to, among other things, knock Gil on his ass, and he gets up just in time for a massive torrent of blood to fall from the hole and engulf everything, blowing things up and eating up the city like it was Zerg creep.
Not impressed. Just surprised, is all.
Meanwhile, Ilya wakes up in Einzbern mansion, having the bad dream that she was a cup with seven lumps inside her that Iri saw in her vision.
Cut to Kiritsugu, who sees all this and is horrified. So…I guess destroying the Grail actually released Angra Mainyu who was inside?
Ya done goofed, Kiri.
Aside: since the rest of this episode didn’t clear it up at all, another explanation is in order. The Grail War was initially a ritual thought up by the three mage families of Einzbern, Matou, and Tohsaka to reach Akasha/the Root, which is the source of all magic. Only Tohsaka is still trying to do this; Matou is just after eternal life, and we don’t really know what Einzbern is after. In the previous Grail War, the Einzberns attempted the game the system by summoning Angra Mainyu, the Zoroastorian spirit of all the evils in the world, as an eighth class “Avenger” in place of Berzerker. Since a Servant’s power is a function of both age and notability (the more well-known the legend, the stronger it is, but to counter it, the older the legend, the stronger it is – thus more obscure Servants aren’t necessarily at a disadvantage), they figured that Zoroastorianism being super ancient and Angra Mainyu being literally the first scapegoat would make Avenger super-powerful. However, they didn’t realize that the original Angra Mainyu was just the victim of troll logic – his tribe figured that if they arbitrarily designated someone as the vessel for all their sins, then they would be guaranteed for salvation. Since if that someone has 100% of all evil, then that means everyone else cannot possibly have any evil, in dazzling display of a logically correct premise driven by an absurd premise. Thus, they picked a random guy, tied him up, beat him and mistreated him and tortured him and cursed him and all, until he died cursing the society that created him. But, because scapegoating became a thing afterwards, and because his “sacrifice” did lead to a certain measure of “salvation” for his tribe, he became eligible to become a Heroic Spirit and thus summonable by the Grail. Anyway, Avenger turned out to be a super weak Servant that died way early – scapegoats pretty much only get to be scapegoats if they are victimized already – but the sheer amount of hate he had for the world that summoned him again ended up corrupting the Grail as it absorbed his energies. Thus why it responds to Kiritsugu’s wish with a marvelous display of troll logic. And why childmurderer Gilles de Rais could be summoned for the current Grail War despite not being actually heroic. And why it’s leaking Zerg creep and blowing stuff up.
Cut to Kiritsugu, who’s digging around for survivors. He finds a dead little boy and cries in despair that not only did he not save the world, but he failed so utterly hard in doing so.
Cut to Kariya, who walks towards Sakura in Matou manor. He returns her to the Tohsaka residence, where Rin is happy to be reunited with her sister. Wait, Aoi is there too and not all deadified? And now the kids thank are him…and call him dad. Well that’s not weird at all. Oh, he was just hallucinating. He’s actually falling down into the pit of worms, to be quickly consumed, while a way-too-calm Sakura looks on, noting that this is what happens to those who defy Zouken Matou. After perusing some forums, the conclusion you are supposed to take is that she is literally so broken from all the wormrape and mana drains that she doesn’t know what to think – she’s so mentally broken that she barely recognizes the man who entered the Grail War with barely a hope of winning so she can be free, and instead the only idea that comes to her mind is that this must be another “lesson”, meant to teach her that resistance is futile. Only work brings freedom.
You have ten more years of this to look forward to, Sakura. Good luck.
Cut to Kirei who wonders where he is – wait, how is he not dead? He’s being dug out of the rubble by a naked Gil. It soon becomes apparent that we are missing some vital information that the show left out – again. Gil says they were all consumed by the black mud of the Grail, but then it spat him out, and he’s taking it to mean that the gods wish for him to return to rule the world. Gil then laughs at how they all thought the Grail would grant their wish, but it turns out everyone involved in the 4th Grail War were played.
Repairing vital missing information, part II: So, remember in the previous episode, how Kiritsugu was communicating with Angra Mainyu who’s taken the form of Irisviel? Same thing happened to Gil. Angra Mainyu confronted him and raged at him and stuff, but thanks to Gil’s MASSIVE ego and pride, he manages to out-troll Angra Mainyu enough to make it retreat back.
Scapegoat? Please. The world, and everything in it is mine. All its goods, and and all its evil. What need have we for a scapegoat? If there is evil in the world, then I will bear it on my shoulders alone, because I’m Gilgamesh, King of Heroes, bitch! Now scoot!
Kirei remembers getting shot in the head. He asks why he’s still alive. Gil doesn’t know either. All he knows is that when the Grail spat him out, it also gave him a new body to go with it, and since his and Kirei’s souls are bound by the Master-Servant contract, it probably is also why Kirei is alive again. Maybe. Possibly.
Shit dude, I’m just the King of Heroes. Read how the world works? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Kirei looks around and realizes that the destruction around him is what he wanted, taking a full on leap into the realm of crazy as he realizes his holier-than-thou father gave birth and raised a son who only derives joy from the pain of others. But he’s happy now, because he’s finally found the answer to his life of questions – what does he want? Schadenfreude! Although now he’s looking for how to replicate the same feeling, and resolves to see Angra Mainyu born into this world.
Kirei would survive into Fate/Stay Night, overseeing the Grail War there and being an integral part of the endgame.
Yes my teeth and ambition are bared, be prepared!
Meanwhile, across from Kirei, Kiritsugu wanders in a daze. Kirei sees this and immediately prepares to throw down some more, but Kiri turns away to dig for survivors.
People live when they are saved.
Cut to new narration, by someone looking up through hazy vision at Kiri. Is it a young Emiya Shirou? I think it’s Shirou! It is Shirou! Shirou internally monologues that he didn’t know what was happening, just that when he first looked up, he saw a man who seemed happier about finding someone alive than Shirou himself was about being saved. Kiritsugu, meanwhile, is relieved, being thankful that he saved at least one person.
“He who saves one life, saves the whole world.”
Cut to TV, which airs a report about a fire that consumed much of downtown Fuyuki. It is being watched by the MacKenzies and Waver. Martha MacKenzie walks over and wonders if “Mr. Alexei” made it to England, and Waver responds that he did, and called without regard for the time zones and woke him up and everything, the big dunderhead.
Then they rode back…but not the six hundred.
With the Grail War over, Waver decides that he should leave and return to his life of magery. But he’s got some things he needs to do first. So he talks to Glen and Martha Mackenzie, telling them that he’s thinking of doing some travelling, but he should find a job first to fund this expedition, so if they don’t mind, he’d like to stay with them a little longer. Martha is happy that her grandson is growing up and talking like “Mr. Alexei” (ugh, my feels), while Glen just winks approvingly. As Waver goes up to clean his room, he notices that Rider left a mess and expresses regret that Rider couldn’t have taken Waver with him. Ah well. He’s just not there yet, so he’ll have to work harder. Yes, that’s the way, Waver. Don’t worship your heroes. Become them.
On a side note, a popular theory is that due to the bond that this version of Iskander shared with Waver Velvet, the long dark-haired guy you saw back when Ionian Hetairoi was summoned the first time was not one of the diodochii, but actually an adult Waver, taking his place as one of Iskander’s retainers. I personally believe it’s meant to be one of the diodochii, but it is a rather heartwarming conclusion to Team Rider’s development arc.
In the meantime, Waver’s eyes falls on a package that Rider ordered, but never opened. Turns out it’s the original edition of the “Admirable Grand Strategist” game, which comes with a bonus t-shirt.
Everything can wait. I’ll play it for you, my friend.
On a side note, they put hella lot of detail into this series look at this shot of everything Iskander left on his desk. Not only can you make out just barely that it’s a conquerant (lol) wine of grande-cru-classe-tier that he’s drinking, but behind the wine bottles is a DVD (or I guess it’s VHS, being the 90s and all) set of “Land Armies of the World”, and you can make out that he has a bunch of Shakespeare volumes, as well as some books about the Air Force and what appears to be a book on Che Guevara (at least, I can see a “Che G-” in there).
That’s dedication right there.
Cut to a funeral service, with Kirei reading Job 19:25, “For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day on the earth:And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God…” So… it’s a service for everyone who died in the Grail Wars?
This, audience, is the cost of your amusement. Go feel bad.
Rin is there, so maybe it’s just for Tokiomi, but I’m gonna say it’s for everyone who died in the Grail Wars since the Church is the referee after all. As Rin leaves, Kirei approaches her and strikes up conversation. He tells her that that as the new head of House Tohsaka, she handled the situation stoically and with poise, and that Tokiomi would be proud, and she will clearly inherit House Tohsaka well. He then asks why Rin didn’t bring her mom. Oh, so Aoi isn’t dead? She’s wheeled out…and we discover that Kariya choked her so hard he gave her Alzheimer’s. Aoi doesn’t realize her husband is dead, and that the funeral is actually for him, and seems to be seeing things because she’s also not aware that Sakura isn’t with them any more.
Well…now I see why Rin is so Tsundere.
Kirei leaves, but not before giving the Azoth dagger to Rin first, the dagger that Tokiomi gave him as a sign of his trust. Holding the last thing that belonged to her father finally cracks Rin’s hard exterior, and she breaks down in tears.
Man, this is like that scene in the Land Before Time when Littlefoot sees his shadow on a cliff wall and thinks it’s his mom who died in the earthquake…
You know, this scene would be heartwarming if it wasn’t obvious from Kirei’s shit-eating grin that he’s doing this just to troll her emotions.
Kirei. Such a dick.
Arturia finds herself back where she was, upon a hill of of broken swords at Camlann. She cries because she’s failed, and she had to put down another knight again, and this time she knows what those who turned against her felt, just what made them do it.
Isn’t it sad, Saber?
Flashback to Lancelot telling her that he was driven to madness, not because of anything she did, but because he couldn’t forgive himself. Because she was so righteous and above it all, she never passed judgement on him or Guinevere. If she’d punished him, then his heart would have been at peace, and he wouldn’t have fallen into madness in his quest for atonement, leading back to Iskander’s condemnation of Arturia as a woman who only knew how to be a paragon but didn’t know how to inspire others.
Saber, realizing this, has a breakdown, feeling that she is truly unworthy of being king. She promises to the corpses and empty armors strewn about her that one day, she will get the Grail and use it to fix her mistakes. Saddeningly, this is juxtaposed with Lancelot’s last words, that still, Lancelot has to acknowledge she as the greatest of kings. By result, if not by personality. Everyone she followed believed this. Which puts another element of sadness in this – it truly wasn’t her fault, and she was being too hard on herself, and both the people who tried to save her from that, Lancelot and Iskander, ultimately failed in that regard.
You were the best of us, Arturia. One such as you, none of us could match.
Cut to Kiritsugu, narrating the epilogue. He tried to contact the Einzberns, but they wouldn’t let him in, and put up a magic barrier around their mansion that prevented him from getting close to him. That whole mess with the grail blew out his magic circuits, so he couldn’t have done anything to get around it, and he never saw Ilya again.
But he moved on. After Ilya, no one was ever taken from him again.
He built a new life for himself. He adopted Shirou. And he took in “Taiga” Fujimura, a young woman who reminded him of Shirley and would go on to become a teacher at the school Shirou would eventually go to.
Five years later, Kiritsugu and Shirou have a talk on the nature of heroism on their porch steps. Kiritsugu tells him that five years ago, he was a hero. At least, he tried to be. But he gave it up, because it was way too taxing. A person can make the kill/let die X number of people to save Y number of people where X < Y decisions for only so long. When someone becomes an adult, it gets hard.
Sorry kiddo, but I’m too old for this [stuff. he said stuff.]
Shirou replies that well, since Kiritsugu couldn’t be a hero, he’ll do it. If it’s too hard for an adult like Kiritsugu to do, then just leave it to a kid like Shirou to chase his dream.
Oh, Shirou, you poor child of summer.
The light shines on Saber at the hill of swords, as if to tell her that things will eventually be okay.
It’s gonna be alright, this is love and this is life.
Cut to Kiritsugu feeling relieved, as Shirou’s words remind him that yes, even though it was hard, he did want to be a hero once, and that was a good feeling.
Emiya Kiritsugu would die after this conversation, after deciding this was his most treasured memory.
Five years after that, the Fifth Holy Grail War would start, forty years ahead of schedule because this one did not end with a wish being granted.
Rin Tohsaka would be chosen as a Master to compete. She would intend to summon a Saber-class Servant, but get an Archer instead. She would get into a fight with the Lancer, which would eventually spill over into the Emiya residence. And there, a teenage Shirou would find himself drawn into the Grail War, and using the magic circle drawn to heal Irisviel about ten-or-so episodes earlier, summon a Saber-class Servant, a blond woman clad in an armored dress, wielding a European broadsword made invisible by the wind magic surrounding it, whose first words to him would be the very same words she spoke to his adoptive father ten years ago:
“Art thou my Master?”
This series…man, this series.
Any and all issues with philosophy were discussed in previous entries.
Kiritsugu was, indeed, a man who lived for his ideals and were driven by them to despair.
Everything about this series mirrored that.
In the beginning, we were introduced to a cast of characters, who for the most part had an ideal, some positive goal that we’d approve of. Well, maybe not Team Caster, but for the most part this was the case. In the beginning, everything was awesome, especially that giant five-servant-melee near the docks. The first Servant casualty was Assassin, which no one cared about because no one wants to see sneak killing of Masters when they can see Lancelot drive an F-15 to dogfight Gilgamesh in an ancient Indian UFO, and then it was Caster, who again no one cared about because he was fuckbeans crazy.
And then the likeable combatants start dying off, and manly tears ensue, until those tears finally drown the world, and I think that metaphor just ran away from me faster than Ionian Hetairoi got curbstomped by Ea (too soon?).
All the battles, no matter how badass, resulted in some kind of sadness, some kind of tragedy. And in the end, pretty much no one other than the bad guys got what they wanted. Saber didn’t save her kingdom. Kiritsugu wasn’t able to save the world because the Grail got corrupted. Lancer didn’t get to redeem himself for being forced to betray his lord. Kayneth and Sola died like dogs. Tokiomi was backstabbed (literally) and never reached The Root. Berserker’s rage was spent, and in the end his final words went unheeded and only contributed to Saber’s despair. Kariya…was fate’s chew toy. Rider ultimately lost, though he gets the consolation prize of at least enjoying the ride, and also failed to save Saber from her ideals. And Assassin went out like a little bitch after getting out-tactic’ed by Alexander the Great. The only people who really got what they want were Team Caster (yay childmurder duo!), Kirei who got to finally indulge in his dark side, and Gil who managed to turn Kirei to the dark side. Short of that, Waver gets the consolation prize of maturing.
Like Gil said, turns out they were all played for fools.
But just as Kiritsugu found solace in saving just one person, we the audience do so as well with the knowledge that ten years after the events of Fate/Zero, Fate/Stay Night will happen, and will fix all the problems caused by the Grail Wars once and for all, and it will be none other that Kiritsugu’s successor, Emiya Shirou, who will lead this transformation. And later, after that, Waver Velvet will eventually become Lord El-Melloi II after helping the heirs of Kayneth’s family deal with the loss of their leader, and dismantle the Grail War system altogether.
This series was full of tragedy, but eventually it all gets better.
And it’s all because Kiritsugu’s last act was to save this guy: