Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Ep 9

Flashback from Lancer – ooh, myth time!


I’ve watched enough soap operas to know where this is going…

Fionn mac Cumhaill, the legendary warrior hero, leader of the Fianna, is betrothed to the lady Grainne, but at the wedding party she sees Diarmuid’s love spot and falls for him. A series of cutscenes of Diarmuid in a battle appears, interspersed with their eloping, Fionn being angry, Fionn outwardly saying he accepts their love, and Fionn inwardly saying he’ll never forgive Diarmuid. The two threads converge on Diarmuid falling on a battlefield.

And then Kayneth wakes up, realizing he has for whatever reason just had a very vivid dream in which he experienced Diarmuid’s legend.

Wiki-supplement – in legend, Fionn mac Cumhaill led a band of warriors called the Fianna as they ran around adventuring. Diarmuid was the first and foremost of the Fianna, Fionn’s number two as it were. One day while hunting he met a woman who was the personification of youth, and they slept together, and in the morning she left a spot on his head such that any woman looking upon it would fall in love with him. Cut to later – Grainne was the daughter of the high king Cormac mac Airt, who promised her to Fionn, but by this time Fionn was an old man and so she fell in love with Diarmuid who was still youthful and was entranced by his love spot. She laid a geis on him to compel him to elope with her, and they were pursued by the rest of the Fianna until the god Aengus who was Diarmuid’s foster father got Fionn to make peace with the couple. Years later, however, Fionn invited Diarmuid to a boar hunt. The boar gored Diarmuid fatally. Water drunk from Fionn’s hands had the ability to heal, but Fionn found himself unable to truly forgive Diarmuid. Thrice he carried the water from the river to where Diarmuid lay, but thrice he allowed it to spill out before it reached him, until his own sons threatened him at swordpoint to play fair.


But by then it was too late.

On a side note, I feel like Irish heroes are always at a disadvantage in these things, because Irish mythology has this thing called a “geis” (no, not that one) which is a compunction spell that seemingly anyone can lay on people, and breaking the geis results in bad mojo. Diarmuid got a geis put on him to make him elope with Grainne. The Lancer of Fate/Stay Night, Cu Chulainn, died because he had mutually conflicting geis put on him, one that said he couldn’t refuse food offered to him and one that forbade him from eating dog. Guy died because he rejected the affections of the war goddess Morrigan, who transformed herself into an old woman, placed herself in his path on his way to a major battle, and offered him a pot of dog stew, and the breaking of geis weakens him enough that he died there. So any time you summon someone like Diarmuid or Cu Chulainn, they’re always going to be weak to their original geis, whereas if you summon someone like Heracles or Hou Yi, they don’t really have any myth weaknesses to take advantage of.

Lancer’s memories are a little different from the orthodox interpretation of the myth, since here it looks like Fionn just put Diarmuid in a position to die easy in a normal battle and didn’t do anything to help him, but hey, maybe those historians were the ones who got it wrong, hmm? Kayneth tries to get up, and he finds himself strapped to a cot as Sola arrives. She explains that every magic circuit in his body was shorted out, and he’ll never cast a spell again.


Isn’t it sad, Kayneth?

She continues to comfort him, saying that they haven’t been defeated yet, they’re still in the game, and the Holy Grail can surely grant his abilities back. Alright, this is totally going in the direction I thought –

She then asks him to give her his command spells, so they’ll win.

Never mind, not the direction I thought.

Kayneth is like, “WHAT NO”. Oh Malfoy, still trying to hold on to your pride, but for some reason I’m feeling bad for making fun of him now that he’s all bedridden and stuff. And Sola’s all like, “don’t you trust me?” Kayneth questions whether Lancer will be loyal to her, but she shrugs it off. He continues to warn that Lancer isn’t as admirable as she thinks, flashing back to the Love Spot and Sola’s reactions, and argues that when he first summoned Lancer, Lancer said he has no interest in the Grail, and what kind of Servant answers the call for a Grail War without wanting anything from the Grail?

Segue – okay, now I’m somewhat confused. Saber seems to insinuate that all heroes who are summonable for the Grail Wars are here because they want something from the Grail, and generally they think that they’re able to get the Grail to grant their wish instead of their Master’s somehow. But what if you tried summoning a hero who didn’t have any regrets upon death? Or is it there’s a pool of heroes who are summonable, and the Grail War participants generally know who is available and so only summon those guys? Anyways…Sola grabs his hand, caresses it…


OH GAWD FINGERS DON’T BEND THAT WAY

In an incredibly sweet and calm voice which just heightens the creepy factor, she informs him that he has no choice. Her healing powers has limits, and if she can’t get his his fingers one by one, then the only option left to her is to remove his entire arm.


Damn bitch that’s cold.

Cut to Einzbern mansion. Maiya’s still hurt as Iri heals. Saber approaches, asking her to ask Kiritsugu to authorize prioritizing Caster. Saber’s concern is stopping the childmurder, even though she’s still wounded. Iri nods as she opens the door to meet Kiritsugu, who asks how long before they can use Maiya (those exact words). He goes to finish Kayneth off, predicts that she is going to ask to prioritize Caster. And we get our first real “long game vs short term”/”honor vs pragmatism” conflict, as he cuts off Irisviel by saying that Saber might have trusted Lancer not to kill him, but she could not have known whether Lancer would have kept his word so it was still a bad idea, and saving a few dozen children is highly meaningless when the goal is the win the Grail War.

So, right now, there is starting to be a problem with Kiritsugu and Kirei’s motives being too vague. All we know is that Kiritsugu has “ideals” and that he wants to “save the world” – but what does that mean exactly? Is he going to ask the Grail for world peace? Stop the internecine Grail Wars altogether? What does that even mean? I’m a very big-picture guy, and I’m starting to find it hard to sympathize with Kiritsugu because they’ve been giving him some moments intended to be kick-the-dog (blowing up the hotel, letting Saber hang back to ambush the Masters going after Caster, and now this “a couple dead kids ain’t nothing but a thing” moment), and they’re not really showing us what exactly was given up. Kirei gets somewhat of a pass because he himself doesn’t even know what he wants. And really, if it was something like Saber’s wounds still aren’t healed which means the job isn’t finished which is why Kiritsugu needs to take care of Kayneth once and for all, then that would be ok, but as it is, we need to see what exactly the opportunity cost of not saving the children is supposed to be before we can feel at least some measure of justification for Kiritsugu’s actions here.

Cut to Sola, beckoning Lancer over. Lancer is concerned about his Master, so Sola’s attempts to get Lancer to take her as his Master aren’t very successful, even when she then shows her new command spells to Lancer. But, Lancer says he’s sworn fealty to Kayneth already, and he can’t serve two lords.

Oh God, he’s here because he just wants to serve someone loyally for once isn’t he.

Lancer is about to walk away, but then Sola tries a different tack, pointing out that the Grail is their only shot of healing Kayneth. Faced with this, he agrees.

See, now I really feel bad for them. The fact that F/SN happened means they’re not going to get their wish, at all.

But Lancer’s still somewhat suspicious (which you should be if the woman who just two episodes prior was busting hubby’s balls in front of you now says she’s only doing something for hubby), so he asks her to swear that this is only for helping Kayneth, and she does.

Oh Lancer, it’s about time you realize that not everyone takes their word as seriously as they did in your time. You get imprinted with knowledge of the modern era when you get summoned for the Grail War (specifically to avoid stuff like ancient people getting freaked out by these “metal horseless chariots” or protectors of some ancient kingdom suffering a BSOD upon realizing their kingdom doesn’t exist any more), it really shouldn’t come at a surprise to you.

Sola departs, and Lancer realizes she had the same look as Grainne. We get introspection, and we learn that Lancer feels fate has been unkind. He just wants to be loyal in this era to make up for his biggest error, but now it looks like the same thing is happening, with him supposed to be loyal to Fionn/Kayneth, but their woman Grainne/Sola fell in love with them, and laying a geis/using a command spell to make him loyal to them instead.

Called it!


congratu-fackin-lations

Oh.

Ah.

Poor Lancer. I feel so bad for this guy. Not only is he mistrusted by the guy who he swore loyalty to, but now he’s put in this situation…and because Gilgamesh and Kirei survived into Fate/Stay Night, I know he’s not going to have the happiest of endings.

Lancer, when you go, I will shed a manly tear for you.

Mood whiplash time!


A very appropriate image considering I watched this ep on Thanksgiving

Cut to RIder, who is laughing with some…old dude? And they’re getting drunk together? Ah, Waver’s fake parents are back! They’re all like “Waver, I didn’t know you were bringing a guest, or we would have prepared more food!” But Rider is all like “no worries, home-cooked hospitality is best hospitality!”

YAY ANCIENT GREECE REFERENCE

(Ancient Greeks were like the ur-example of the concept of hospitality being sacred. Once you admit a man into your home and break bread with him/are accepted into someone’s home and break bread with them, you are honor bound to be on your best behavior. Causing any sort of harm, be it stealing stuff/wives/murdering them, earns you a lifetime of accursedness and an afterlifetime in Tartarus.)


Rider is happy because fake!dad also gave him some pants! Although togas allow for more airflow.

Waver is annoyed, however, and breaks open a briefcase and goes to work. He’s broken out a map and vials containing water collected from the river running through the city, and does some alchemy to detect traces of magic in the water. Rider wonders why he’s doing that, and Waver replies that since the river runs through the city, each vial contains water from a certain point, and by following the flow, he can isolate where the magic residue is strongest, which is at least a start in giving them a lead on where Caster might be.


One vial from each location


test the magic content from each

Starting from downstream where the river empties and moving up, magic content will steadily increase until you hit the location where Caster is hiding, at which point it will be zero because there’s no one dumping magic into the water.

YAY SMART PEOPLE FIGHTING SMART


Hermione approves.

And so does Iskander, who is taken aback and thinks that maybe his Master is actually a talented mage after all. Waver replies that nope, a real master mage would do something completely different. This is just the simplest way to do stuff.

This turns out to impress Iskander even more, because as any real strategist will tell you, this thing that fiction does where someone is supposed to be a supersmart guy because he has these intricate complicated strategies that go off without a hitch is utter bullshit. They will also tell you that “no plan survives contact with the enemy”, and what you need to do is give a couple of big-picture  mission statements for your field officers to determine how to carry them out to achieve the desired results so you can actually have the flexibility to respond to changing conditions. Amon the Equalist a magnificent bastard? Heath Ledger Joker a chessmaster? HA. Call me when they fight someone who’s not artificially dumbed down and can actually throw some wrenches in their plans, and then we’ll talk. The KISS principle applies to many things, most notably the business world, but also warfare.

So fuck yeah Iskander being a tactician. And he’s excited because his Master did something useful – the method worked, and now they’ve zeroed in on Caster’s location. So excited that he’s now taking Waver on a ride through the sewers and running over tentacle monsters. They break through the walls and find Caster’s lair, but then Rider suddenly stops. Waver wonders why, but Rider simply says it’s better if Waver doesn’t see. His massive sexily-muscled back provides gory discretion shot. I guess it’s dead babies? Anyway, Waver ignores, throwing magic pills that double as flares. He continues forward, when he suddenly stops upon realizing he’s been stepping not in water, but in blood.


Isn’t it sad, Waver?

Waver falls to his knees and vomits as he starts to realize just what he got himself into. Iskander comforts him, saying he’d pummel anyone who can look at it without flinching. Yay acknowledgement of ancient Greek mores! Back then, it was actually considered manly to cry – you can look at pretty much every single epic poem and find some instance of the hero crying when appropriate. Tears meant you weren’t psycho, that you actually gave a shit, that you were confident enough in your manliness to show emotion. Waver calls him out for being so calm, but Rider is clearly seething on the inside as he steps off…and deflects an attack from Assassin, catching blade and throwing it into its head.

Waver now knows that Assassin isn’t quite dead, and a bunch of them appear, but then they retreat. Alex, knowing that a dark underground place filled with cover is where Assassin-class Servants have the advantage, advocates a tactical withdrawal as well. But before they go, they destroy the place instead. Thunder erupts from the chariot, a fitting power for a Noble Phantasm supposedly granted by Zeus himself, and sets the place ablaze. They go, knowing that in destroying the lair, at least they set Caster back.


The Bro-Rider is a little higher

Tokiomi reassures Kirei that it’s okay that Team Rider knows that Assassin is around. Just be more careful, and keep more eyes on them, but don’t be too overt – after all, battles still need to be fought with dignity, while Kirei flashes back to Gil complaining about how Tokiomi is insufferable.

Tokiomi you are so screwed.


You know nothing, Tokiomi Tohsaka.

Thoughts:

So this is another breather/post-battle aftermath episode. It’s far superior to the previous one, because in addition to licking wounds and settling down, stuff actually happens. In episode 6, the only thing really moving the plot forward was Kiritsugu bombing Kayneth’s hotel, with everything else setting stuff up several episodes down the road – Saber knowing that Caster thinks she’s Jeanne d’Arc which ultimately didn’t pan out into anything happens there, the rocky nature of Kayneth and Sola’s relationship is set up a little bit there, and the inevitable end that leads to Kirei and Gilgamesh surviving until Fate/Zero is alluded there – but aside from the last one the other two don’t really impact the plot.

Here, however, they set up point of future conflict between Kiritsugu and Saber with K’s incessant pursuit of Kayneth and Saber’s desire to stop the childmurder. The cooling action with Team Lancer lets you know that future actions from them are going to be a tad bit rocky as Sola’s desire to assert control and tap that hot Irish ass clash with Diarmuid’s desire to be loyal to someone for once, which works as parallelism with Kiritsugu’s unflagging pragmatism against Saber’s desire for honorable combat and chivalry and whatnot. In addition, stuff is accomplished with Team Rider destroying Caster’s lair, and Waver getting success at his simple solution also works in parallel with Kiritsugu’s dismantling of traditional magi using muggle methods.

This episode truly gave me the feels for…all the characters, really. There’s this sense of tragic fatalism as the series go on, because by its very nature, 6/7ths of all the characters are going to meet a violent end, yet they fight on so unflaggingly (except Caster) is just so…sad.

Until next ep.

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