Irisviel is in the forest, Maiya watching over her (since the plan was for her to take Irisviel away while Kiritsugu fights Kayneth). Irisviel’s mage senses tingle and find someone…right in front of them. it’s Kirei! Maiya notes that Kiritsugu told her to protect Irisviel, but also that they can’t let Kirei find him, since Kiritsugu is the real Master. Irisviel kind of sort of hints that maybe Maiya’s saying this because she too has feelings for Kiritsugu, while to her Iri is the third wheel…huh, does she know about the kiss? But then Iri agrees that they have to keep Kirei from Kiritsugu.
Attagirl Iri. Your feels can wait until after the Grail War. If either or both of you go down, the Einzberns still have a Master in the Game, but if Kiritsugu goes down, it’s game over man, game over. Girl’s got her on the prize, which already puts her above like 90% of all fiction protags..
Iri is simultaneously concerned about, amused at, and rolling with your sudden but inevitable betrayal.
Back in the house, it’s a recap of the last episode’s ending. Volumen Hydragyrum used Barrier, defense rose; M950 Calico used Bullet Spam, it’s not very effective. Kiritsugu recalls M950 Calico; Kiritsugu sends out Thompson Contender. Thompson Contender used .308 Winchester, and BAM CRITICAL HIT and SUPER EFFECTIVE!
SHOT THROUGH THE HEART AND YOU’RE TO BLAME / YOU GIVE MAGES A BAD NAME
According to Type-MOON wikia, Volumen Hydragyrum’s default setting for the barrier mode only uses the optimum amount of defense for any given attack, so if you make it think that it’s only getting hit by attacks of X strength and suddenly hit it with an attack of 2X strength, it will go through. Hence the SMG barrage to keep Volumen Hydragyrum’s defense rating at a certain level so that it couldn’t react in time against an attack with a higher armor-piercing rating. Kayneth is super pissed while Kiritsugu runs away.
YAY SMART PEOPLE FIGHTING SMART
Alright, so the “anti-magic bullet” prediction wasn’t really the case, but I was half right.
Cut to the forest. Kirei is in the forest when he detects weapon fire. He dodges and throws a set of knives at the direction, and the shooting stops. Suddenly, it comes from another direction, and he does the same. Third time’s the charm, however, and he realizes it’s an illusion. Soon he finds the real Maiya, however, and rushes her with his swords as she pulls out a knife and prepares to melee.
Unfortunately for Maiya, Kirei’s kung fu is superior.
So…since when did the Church train their priests in bajiquan?
Irisviel summons up threads of light that she weaves into a hard light construct of an eagle. It attacks Kirei, who punches it, but it simply dissolves into a mass of string that first ties up his arms, then binds him to a tree. The girls get a breather, but Kirei then starts one-inch punching the tree, eventually breaking it as well as the threads.
Nice “not impressed” face…oh, you and Gil are going to get along just swimmingly.
Cut to Saber and Lancer, surrounded by the tentacle monsters, who keep replenishing as they’re cut down. Caster’s managed to revert to Episode 6 levels of insanity, seemingly adopting the attitude of “if you won’t admit you’re my beloved Jeanne d’Arc, then DIE”. Saber IDs the problem – Caster’s grimoire. As long as he holds it, the monsters will keep summoning. Lancer wonders how they’ll cut through and get to Caster when they’ve been failing so far, but Saber gets an idea. Taking advantage of both Saber’s offensive power and wind magic, and Lancer speed and Noble Phantasm, she first shoots a blast of cutting wind at Caster, clearing a brief path for Lancer to run towards Caster and stab him right in the book with Gae Dearg. As the anti-magic spear hits the grimoire, the tentacle monsters disappear.
Right in the weak point for massive damage
Malfoy Mad! He goes on a rampage through the Einzbern house, destroying everything he can see while demanding that Kiritsugu come out and fights like a mage. Kiritsugu obliges (sort of), stepping out and shooting at Kayneth with his SMG. Kayneth laughs, saying the same tactic won’t work twice. He’s maxed out the defense on his shield, see, but Kiritsugu’s grin as he pulls out the Contender, however, indicates that 1. it wasn’t the same tactic and 2. it will. He pulls the trigger and the shield retracts as it takes the bullet.
Caster retreats now that he has no access to his Noble Phantasm, and Saber curses his cowardice, but as things wind down, she and Lancer are melancholic as they realize they must now finish their duel. Suddenly, Lancer’s Servant-senses tingle as he realizes that his Master’s in trouble and that Kayneth must have gone to fight Kiritsugu. Saber wants to finish their duel honorably, so she lets him go.
Cut to flashback!
Strange women smoking in alleys distributing bullets are also no basis for a system of government.
Some smoking green-haired mage lady (that is, a lady who is partaking in tobacco, not an exceedingly sexy one, though she does look like she has a decent body from the angle shown) explains some magical theory, and then notes that she has created special bullets for Kiritsugu, created by taking his own ribs and grinding them up, thus imbuing them with his “Origin” (whatever that is) of “severing and binding”. 66 (lolnumber) of these were created in return for taking his “Mystic Code” (whatever that is) as payment. If he shoots someone with it, and they try to block it with magic, it’ll kill their magic circuits, and the stronger the mage and magic, the worse the damage. The results when Kayneth is shot with it are…suitably horrific, as his veins bulge, he vomits blood, his face becomes a rictus of pain, and he collapses to the ground, writhing for better part of a minute before laying still.
…wait, so it’s an anti-magic bullet?
FUCKING CALLED THAT SHIT
Lancer shows up before Kiritsugu can finish Kayneth off with his SMG, however, deflecting the bullets with his spear. They leave, Lancer warning that the only reason he didn’t just spear Kiritsugu right then and there is on the honor of the King of Knights.
Lancer…if that was supposed to shame Kiritsugu into fighting honorably, you clearly know nothing about how people like that work. Guys like that, they don’t care about themselves. They’re willing to be the monster in the shadows so everyone else can live in the sun. Personal shame? What’s another sin on one’s own back if others may live in paradise for it? At least your Master did that thing where Sola-Ui is an alternate mana supply, or else you’d totally be fading right now.
Kiritsugu looks outside and sees Kirei choking a bitch. Specifically, his. Kirei figured out that Iri isn’t the Master and that she’s a homunculus created by the Einzberns to protect the grail or something. Assassin informs Kirei that Saber’s about to show up, so he retreats, but not before stomping Maiya and stabbing Iri.
Irisviel, you have now earned your place among the strong female characters of my mind. Going head to head against the guy who punched out the designated Fighter when you’re the Healer Chick? This is krogan-worthy.
As he goes, he wonders why they’d fight him on his own free will despite knowing they’d probably die. Irisviel faints, then wakes up to the sight of Saber applying pressure to her stab wound.
Excalibur’s sheath, the artifact that was used to summon Saber
Kiritsugu gave Irisviel Avalon (which is what they’re calling Excalibur’s scabbard. The original myth has it where Excalibur’s scabbard heals wounds, while Avalon was Arthur’s final resting place, but here they’ve combined the two along with the implication that it was lost to her at some point) to implant inside her. Here, the properties are that it will heal wounds as long as Saber is close by to provide mana to the Noble Phantasm. Since the strategy was for everyone to think Irisviel is the Master while Kiritsugu snipes from afar, Avalon isn’t really useful to him, so it’s meant to increase Irisviel’s livability as well as keep up the pretense. As soon as Saber touched her, she became strong enough to heal Maiya. As both women come to, they reaffirm their will to fight – they will win next time!
Also, they’ve kept the fact that they had one of Saber’s Noble Phantasms all along a secret from her. Hmm, there’s no way this could come back to bite them in the ass.
So..we have a Love Triangle. I have to admit, Legend of Korra and Hunger Games has pretty much turned me off on the entire concept due to how utterly shallow and undeveloping the love triangles there are, but this one is actually not making me hate it upon first sight. Probably because the love here are given exactly the amount of screentime they need to remind you of them, show you just enough to make you want to know more, and hint at character motivations more complex than “you had me at hello”. We are shown initially that Kiritsugu is generally a stoic and taciturn man not given to emotion, but we find out he does love Irisviel, enough to marry her and have a daughter with her and consider just quitting the Grail War and living a peaceful life with them. This little romance bit tells you that there’s more to Kiritsugu than his initial appearance. We are later shown that Maiya also has feelings for Kiritsugu, enough that a kiss from her to calm his nerves is considered a reasonable thing, which tells makes us wonder what that history was and whether Iri knows. Basically, every little tidbit we found out about the various legs of the triangle added a little something to the characters. We learned that Kiritsugu is not so stoic as to feel nothing for the women in his life, that Maiya is not so slavishly devoted to Kiritsugu as to not creatively interpret orders and changing battlefield conditions to suit her needs, and that Irisviel, while the most stereotypically feminine of everyone we’ve seen so far, is just as mission focused as anybody.
Contrast Korra’s triangle, which more or less existed as an extraneous tumor that told you close to nothing about the characters involved and did not advance the A-plot in any way at all. Bolin likes Korra based on love-at-first-sight and exactly one date where they discover personality compatibility. Korra likes Mako because love-at-first-sight at the cool handsome hard-to-get probender. Mako likes Asami because love-at-first-sight at the pretty lady (it’d have added some nuance if it was also because she was rich and while he might have liked Korra more he feels like he has a responsibility to pull him and his brother out of poverty, but oh wait we did this for the shippers anyway so who cares if there’s layers right?). Asami likes Mako because love-at-first-sight at the guy who plays the sport that she likes. And it never evolves beyond initial infatuation love. Bolin was the goofy jokes guy, Korra was the awkward tomboy main char, Mako was the sexy brother, and Asami was the somewhat well-adjusted lady before the shipping episode. Nothing changed after the episode, and it didn’t reveal anything new about them other than Mako is a scumbag who will forget about Asami because thirteen episodes ran out and we have to give Korra someone to kiss at the end.
In addition, Fate/Zero knows when to the love triangle needs to make way for awesome stuff. Really, in an underground war magic series, who gives a shit about love triangles when you have King Arthur fighting Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Alexander the Great and then Gilgamesh and some mystery knight who I’m going to milk for as many Monty Python and the Holy Grail references as I can? If you cut the romantic conflict out of Fate/Zero, you lose a little bit of relatively minor characterization (at least, from what I’ve seen so far) from characters who’ve been pretty well developed already. If you cut the romantic conflict out of Korra, you not only lose absolutely nothing, but now you gain screentime that could have been devoted to developing the characters, or worldbuilding, or advancing the plot, or a host of other actual meaningful things.
The other takeaway is a continuation of smart people fighting smart. So now we have a sorting algorithm of smartness which apparently goes Saber – Kayneth – Kiritsugu. In episode 4, Kayneth and Lancer were completely controlling the flow of battle by doing a gradual escalation of their powers to repeatedly stay one step ahead of Saber – first fighting normally to probe her out, then using only one Noble Phantasm to injure Saber and make her ditch her magic armor, then using the second one to inflict real damage. Here you see Kiritsugu doing the exact same thing that Kayneth did, but with guns – probing and testing with normal firearms, making Kayneth think he’s only capable of so much damage with the Calico, then suddenly switching to the Contender to land that first hit. When Kayneth thinks he has the counter to the Contender, he then switches to the Origin bullet and completely fucks Kayneth up. Really, we’re seeing parallelism here – both Kiritsugu and Kayneth are smart people, with Kiritsugu’s dismantling of Kayneth mapping almost exactly to Kayneth/Lancer’s dismantling of Saber.
Through it all, I must stress that Kayneth’s not a dumb guy, he’s only hampered by a general disdain for muggle methods which is completely understandable when you consider that it was only a few decades ago when tech could actually catch up to magic, and only in terms of combat – magic healing is far superior to modern medical tech, and if you’ve ever been about to leave the house but could not find your keys or your wallet and have to spend like 10 minutes looking for them, well, just remember that for all our advances in technology we still don’t have accio down pat. And now, Kayneth’s not even out of the game because of the modification he made to the summoning contract.
One final thing – a criticism I’ve held for works I otherwise like, such as Korra, Dark Knight trilogy, Mass Effect 3, and more recently Skyfall is that they fall into the trap of making their villains too effective usually coming at the cost of making the hero and their allies artificially incompetent. Cerberus, for example, is only able to effect the plot to the extent it does because, among other things, Thane Krios fought like a moron and Kai Leng’s gunship is invulnerable to anti-materiel rifles (which brought down gunships enough in the previous game, mind). The Equalists only enjoy as many successes as they do because people in the Avatarverse forget that their bending is literally the exact same as real-life martial arts with an added bonus of being able to throw their attacks and because metalbenders forgot that they had to have known how to earthbend normally before they could metalbend in the first place. Writers could stand to learn from the Beast Wars cartoon – that Megatron was a threat not because he always succeeded, but because every time he failed, he was constantly searching for some new opening in the situation that could be exploited, controlling the flow of battle by constantly seeking new opportunities. Or from Fate/Zero, where if people have the edge, it’s because they prepared extensively using only what knowledge they had at their disposal, such as someone deciding they want a second mana supply because you can’t ever have too much mana, or they want to specialize in mage-killing and thus purposefully create Origin bullets for that purpose. Kayneth was not anticipating getting his magic circuits severed. Kiritsugu was not anticipating fighting a Holy Grail War for some other magic family. Yet both preparations now served an additional unforeseen purpose, thus making both characters seem intelligently prepared instead of crazy prepared.
The former is good pretty much anywhere. The latter is bad if a work is supposed to be “gritty” or “realistic” or “grounded”, because since when were crazy people grounded?
Until next ep.