We open with Rider who has busted his way out of a building. Waver is annoyed by this, asking why Rider can’t just materialize out. Turns out Rider needed to bring things back from the inside, and he can’t do that if he dematerializes. Accusations of being a thief are waved off by pointing out that thieves sneak around, whereas by taking what he wants and openly leaving, that makes Rider a conqueror. Turns out the stolen items are world atlases, and we find out Rider’s identity when he asks for where his former kingdom, Macedon and Persia, are, and laughing when he realizes all that territory that he fought so hard to acquire was actually such a small part of the world. Yup, Rider is Alexander the Great, referred to here as Iskander, the self-proclaimed King of Conquerors. Waver is somewhat fed up by all this getting sidetracked, and expresses his opinions, which starts the recurring gag of Rider flicking him in the forehead and knocking him on his ass whenever he gets too uppity/unmanly. Waver briefly debates using a Command Spell, but decides against it once Rider expresses that he doesn’t care about being granted a wish by the Grail, he just wants to conquer the world again. He does, however, get Rider to show us his Noble Phantasm, the ox-chariot of King Gordias.
Myth segue – Gordias was a poor Macedonian farmer who was driving his cart one day when he happened upon a prophecy that resulted in him becoming ruler of Phrygia. The cart was tied to oxen by means of a super-intricate knot, the Gordian knot (which we use today to mean an extremely difficult puzzle/conundrum). He proclaimed upon his ascension that whoever could unravel the knot would one day become “Master of All Asia”. Centuries later, a young Alexander happened across the knot that so many had failed to untie, drew his sword, and split it. Today we use the phrase “cut the Gordian knot” to mean solving a difficult problem in a highly unorthodox but effective way.
Anyways, Rider takes Waver and rides off into the night.
Yup, easy to tell who wears the pants in this relationship.
Cut to Kiritsugu, playing with his daughter Ilya, while Irisviel and Saber look on. Apparently Saber and Kiritsugu had a falling out on philosophy, and she is surprised to see Kiritsugu show a tender side. As they play, more call forwards Ilya’s tsundere-ness appear. Seeing this, Saber expresses an admiration for their goals. The die is cast.
Meanwhile in Japan, the police are on the scene investigating a series of murders. Turns out it’s a crazy hedge mage, trying to use the old blood magic for some wholesome demon summoning. The family who lived in the house are all dead, save for the young son, bound and gagged. As the mage begins his spell, however, Command Spells appear on his hands, and out of the summoning circle pops a strange man with goldfish eyes. The mage introduces himself as Uryu Rinnosuke, and the strange man acknowledges him as his Master. Rinnosuke, believing he’d summoned the demon he was looking for, allows his new Servant of the Caster class dibs on the boy, but to his surprise Caster unties the kid and lets him go. Kid makes his way to the door. He opens it. The glow of outside is so warm and inviting.
Into the light…
In this day and age, we’re very used to our onscreen villains having at least some amount of sympathy, usually conveyed by making them noble demons who just want a challenge from the heroes of giving them some kind of standard, some kind of villainous act that they consider crossing the line. Even in real life, pedophiles and those who kill their mothers are often singled out by other prisoners for abuse. That’s why this scene works so well. It starts off like that – we know that every Servant is some kind of legendary figure, and so we assume at least some nobility on their part. We see him lurch ominously towards the kid, and think, “is he gonna do it?” We see him cut the kid free, and think that’s our subversion of the day.
And then we get hit with another subversion, as Caster lectures Uryu that when you keep making someone afraid, eventually they become numb to fear, but if you offer them that hope spot before snatching it away, the fear and despair from that is truly exquisite. And the screaming. Oh God, it just keeps going and going forever until you the audience is like “make it stop just make it stop.”
Well played, sir.
Uryu asks Caster his name (not being aware of the Grail War, Uryu presumably is unaware that usually Servants don’t like to make their identities known to strangers, as knowing their identity exposes their historical/mythological weaknesses). Caster, however, recognizes Uryu as his Master, and informs him of his identity as Bluebeard, aka Gille de Rais (Servants tell their Masters who they are so their Masters can plan adequately).
Here is another major difference between this series and Fate/Stay Night. In FSN, we never found out the identities of the Servants until way late. It was supposed to be a mid-season revelation that Saber was actually King Arthur. I spent a long time thinking Rider was Arachne myself. The only ones to be revealed off the bat were Berserker (Ilya reveals him to be Hercules because she was arrogant like that) and Lancer (his Noble Phantasm has a low mana cost, so he spams it all the time, and anyone familiar with Irish mythology knows the wielder of Gae Bolg, the Hound of Ulster, Cu Chulainn).
We close with Kirei giving an assignment to Assassin. Apparently, Caster was the last to be summoned, even though we’ve never seen Lancer yet, and now it’s time to begin the Grail War in earnest. Assassin’s first task is…Tokiomi Tohsaka. Wait, aren’t they allies? Or is Kirei trying to knock out an eventual enemy while his guard is down?
Feathers fall and PEOPLE DIE
Assassin makes his way to Tohsaka Manor and pulls some serious Assassin’s Creed dodging and ducking in between the moving magical barriers. Tohsaka magic is based on keeping spells inside gems and crystals, and we are treated to Assassin demonstrating the power of a Servant over a normal human mage, bobbing and weaving while destroying the crystals via flicking pebbles from his fingers. Soon he’s reached the main power gem, when a flying blade spears through his hand.
A gem in the hand is worth two in the -STAB
A wild Gilgamesh appears! With a barrage of legendary weapons via his Gate of Babylon Phantasm (the idea is that Gilgamesh, being the archetypical monomyth, is the font of inspiration of every single other myth story, he has access to every single Noble Phantasm to ever exist, and as an Archer class, he launches them at enemies), Assassin is reduced to a pile of meat.
You come at the King, you best not miss.
So…the stage is still getting set, although the last part started getting shit real, real quick. Right when our main characters have found resolve, someone’s fired the opening shot already. But that can’t possibly be the last of Kirei, he has to last all the way until F/SN, and I don’t think it would be due to hiding out the rest of the war without a Servant. Iskander is all kinds of awesome though. Totally my favorite Servant so far.
Until next ep.