Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Episode 23

The Ocean at the End of the World

This episode title…oh no, Rider is gonna die isn’t he. Readying the tissues.

Open to everyone saddling up, getting their gear, and readying themselves for the final battle. Kiritsugu locks and loads as he walks down the steps of the temple. Kirei awaits everyone on the civic center’s roof. Rider and Waver galloping down the highway…but suddenly a wild Archer appears!


Clash of Kings, Part II: Electric Boogaloo

Rider asks if Waver is scared, and Waver replies of course he’s scared, but now he’s ready to face it. As Rider always says, his “heart is dancing.”


I always get the shakes before every drop…

Cut to Saber, who rolls up to the Civic Center on her bike when suddenly KA-BOOM. It’s Berzerker! And he’s holding guns? I guess he must have a shotty or something because that one seriously made a big boom.


Sup bro, long time no see. How are the wives and kids?

Cut to Alex and Gil, having one final drink from the Gate of Babylon’s stores. It’s pretty cool to see them act civil to each other. See, I don’t like honor before reason when Saber does it, where she purposefully handicaps herself in the interest of “fairness”. I don’t mind it from Rider and Archer here, though, mainly because you know from their characterizations that they’re not going to pull any punches once they actually start fighting. Before that happens, though, there’s no reason not to be polite. Gil’s a little miffed that Iskander no longer has his chariot, as he wanted to defeat him at full strength. Iskander shrugs. He may not be fully equipped, but now he’s beyond perfection.


Come at me, bro

Yeah, I respect you, bro

Before they go though, Iskander wants to ask Gil one last thing – see, Iskander has a massive army, while Gil has every single legendary weapon from every legend to ever exist. Now imagine if they joined forces, arming the Ionioi Hetairoi with the Gate of Babylon – how much ass would that kick? Won’t you ally with me? We could rule everything!


But wait, there’s more! Join now, and for 29.99 drachmas more, I’ll throw in a shiny new Australia!

Gilgamesh is taken aback, then throws his head back in amusement. Sorry, bro, but I must decline. There was only ever room for one manfriend in his heart, he explains. See, initially Gilgamesh was a tyrant who did as he pleased. The people prayed to the gods for succour, so they created the wildman Enkidu who could match Gilgamesh’s power and sent him on a quest to challenge Gil and thus teach him humility. Gil and Enki, however, became best buds, going on adventures together. One day, however, the goddess Ishtar desired Gilgamesh, only to be rejected as Gil listed all the misfortunes that have befallen every single one of her lovers, and she created the Bull of Heaven to come down and wreak havoc on the mortal realm. Gilgamesh and Enkidu slew the bull, but the gods were displeased and struck Enkidu with an illness. Upon being forced to bury his only friend, Gilgamesh went on a quest to discover eternal life and eternal youth. Supposedly, he found it, but dropped the potion and it was devoured by a snake instead, which is why snakes shed their skin, why the ouroboros is an alchemical symbol, and why a fossil of the first snake to shed its skin is an acceptable catalyst to summon Gilgamesh as a Servant. Nice bit of characterization for Gil though, to see that behind the arrogant demeanor, there are some things he cares about.


Oh yeah, that Enkidu, he was a real cool guy. This one time in Baghdad…

Oh, he also says that he’s already king of the world, and there’s no room for two kings (clearly you’ve never been to Sparta). But if Iskander believes he can conquer Gilgamesh’s kingdom, then by all means try. After all, to Gil, Iskander is a worthy opponent. They drain their cups and return to their respective sides, readying for battle.


OPAH! (no, not that one)

Waver is a little incredulous at this, but Rider explains that if anything, now is the time to be nice – this might be the last opponent he’ll ever face. Waver, channeling his newfound inner Patton, admonishes Rider that he doesn’t want to hear that kind of defeatist talk! I gave you an order backed by my Command Spells, dammit, now forth and conquer! Rider nods, then calls up Ionioi Hetairoi.


Harooh! Harooh! Harooh!

As the armies of Macedonia gathers, Rider gives a rousing speech to them, telling them that having conquered their way through so many kingdoms, now lies the ultimate test, and that if they find themselves strolling along a fine meadow, fear not, for they are in Elysium and are already dead! Mounting Bucephalus, Iskander begins his charge.


Wedge formation FTW!

Meanwhile, Gil awaits the charge. Come, Lord of Conquest, he says, and I’ll show you a true king.


Bitch please, you want the keys to my kingdom? How do you say… molon labe, mothafucka.

Also, Waver fails at giving an intimidating war cry.


Gimme your war face, son! Your war face!

Cut back to Saber and Berserker, who is continuing to shoot at her with a rifle that seems to give all the boom and kick of a shotgun. And now he’s adding an SMG to the mix. Where does he get these fancy toys?


Sucks to your gun control, Japan!

Kariya, meanwhile, is in pain somewhere due to the strain of providing Berserker with mana. He sees a hallucination of Sakura, asking him questions. Why are you in pain? Because Berserker has to fight. Why does he have to fight? Because the priest said so. Why do we have to listen to the priest? Because he promised he’ll give me the Grail if we win, and I need the Grail to save you. Then when you save me, I can see mommy again?


FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-

Dakka fills the air, forcing Saber on the run and preventing her from closing in. She hides behind a car, using it as cover…but wait, cars aren’t good cover against bullets. In fact, it’s pretty much only the engine block that has a chance to stand up to normal bullets, much less the Noble Phantasm bullets that get buffs to their stats due to Knight of Honor: A Knight Does Not Die With Empty Hands. I guess it’s an armored car? Anyway, Saber lifts it up using Invisible Air and uses it as a mobile ballstic shield…and she just shoulder barged a car at him, creating an opening to let her get in a headshot…but his helm blocks the stab, and he catches her follow-up swing. And now he’s setting it on fire.


Pictured: one of the few times I will let a lapse in realism slide for this show because hitting people with cars while not being the driver is AWESOME.

Saber is shocked that he knew the length of Excalibur, which leads her to conclude that he is a knight she once knew. She immediately identifies herself as Arturia Pendragon, Queen of the Britons, and asks Berzerker do the same upon his pride as a knight.


Name yourself! You’re Berzerker class, so you can’t possibly be Sir Robin. And it’s just a hunch, but I don’t think you’re Sir-Not-Appearing-In-This-Anime…

Berzerker draws his sword, which seals away the identity-obscuring haze, and Saber gasps because she recognizes the weapon. It’s Arondight, sister sword to Caliburn, wielded by Sir Lancelot of the Lake! As recognition hits her, rage cracks his helmet in half, revealing that while he was quite the bishounen in life, pent-up anger has not been kind to him.


Well hello beautif-


Whooooaaaaaa. Disco Stu is peacing out.

“Why?” Saber asks, but all he can answer is a RAGEful cry of “AAAARRRRTTTTHHHHHUUUURRRR!” as he presses his attack, forcing her on the defensive.


NONE SHALL PASS

Rider’s words echo back at Saber. How she saved her people, but never led them – they only saw her as a shield, but were never inspired by her. How she only existed as an ideal, but as such a paragon that no one was able to identify with her. A king like her could only be alone, and so Lancelot left.


Isn’t it sad, Saber?

Kudos to the voice acting though. You really hear the hurt in Saber’s voice as she realizes firsthand that even one of the first and foremost of her knights was so disgruntled with her rule that not only would he run away, but his rage made him eligible to be summoned as a Berzerker class. And the show doesn’t really go into this, but I think it’s supposed to be that since King Arthur was a (straight) woman, her marriage to Queen Guinevere was purely political and prevented Guinevere from being with Lancelot, her actual love. Arturia at the time didn’t think much of it – after all, to her it was merely a case of closing her eyes and thinking of England – but to Lancelot, this was the final straw of him seeing Arturia be this emotionless robot for “the realm”, which caused him to elope with Guinevere, which in turn kickstarted the war that led to Camelot’s fall.


Also because fucking Galahad, telling everyone I was gay ever since we left Castle Anthrax!

Meanwhile, inside Ionioi Hetairoi, Team Iskander continues their charge, but Gil is ready for them. “I applaud your zeal and the audacity of your dream of conquest…but all dreams end when the dreamer wakes.” Gil says, pulling out some…computer key thing? It generates a pink crystal lattice that collapses into a ball, that then becomes a sword.


Awaken, Ea! Enuma Elish!

So Enuma Elish is the title of the ancient Babylonian creation myth. In background materials, this is meshed with Gilgamesh’s status as the first epic mythological hero to be, literally, the “first sword”. The sword that existed before the concept of “sword” came into being. It is the only treasure in the Gate of Babylon that Gilgamesh sees fit to wield himself with his own hands.


Edged swords? Please, those are too mainstream for me.

Anyway, the Hipster Sword works its magic, opening up a chasm in the ground. Bucephalus leaps over it, but all around him the Marble disintegrates. Waver provides the much needed analysis that there are classes of Noble Phantasms – Lancer’s spears are anti-unit, Rider’s Ionian Hetairoi is anti-army, Saber’s Excalibur is anti-fortress, and Archer’s Enuma Elish is friggin’ anti-WORLD. Because it is the first creation myth, that gives it the ability to literally tear reality a new one and force Rider’s Ionian Hetairoi to collapse in on itself.


Entropy to the left of them, entropy to the right of them, entropy in front of them, into the jaws of oblivion rode the thirty-two thousand

Entire phalanxes crumble as the land beneath them turns into nothing, and their bodies in turn dissipate into mana as they return to the Throne of Heroes. It’s pretty hard to watch, especially since I’m going in with the expectation that this fight was going to be Gate of Babylon weapon-spam vs surging tide of hoplites, like the Pickett’s Charge sequence from the Gettysburg movie where you have the attackers massing up for one desperate final effort to take the objective against the defenders throwing everything they have in defense of the objective, resulting in a massive clash of wills that only ends when one side is one side is destroyed and the other horribly bled and wounded. Instead you have this total wipeout of Iskander’s army against something they literally are not able to fight. After all, the best spear and shield in the world does absolutely nothing against the ground swallowing you up into a bottomless pit.


h4x and OP. just…h4x and OP.

And judging from Iskander’s expression, it’s hard for him as well, since even though he’s not watching, he’s fully aware that his entire army, every single soldier of which are hardened badasses so tough that they are fully eligible to be summoned as Heroic Spirits themselves, got utterly destroyed without the chance to strike a single blow in anger…and soon they are dragged back into the real world.


Isn’t it sad, Rider?

Rider halts Bucephalus, having now been reduced to being a general with no army. He turns to Waver, saying that before he forgets, he needs to ask Waver something – boy, will you be my retainer? Waver says yes, of course, I will follow and serve you and share your dream! Rider is pleased at this, then picks Waver up and puts him on the ground. As king, Rider explains, it’s his duty to inspire others, so his last order to Waver is to live and tell others of Iskander’s charge so that he may continue to inspire. Rider then spurs Bucephalus on, sword drawn, facing the full Gate of Babylon. As he charges one last time, he notes internally he’s always told himself that glory is always beyond the horizon. That’s the beauty of his philosophy – since it’s always over the horizon, he can never reach it, thus spurring him to always improve. Legendary weapons rain down all around him.


NOOOO! BUCY!!!!

Soon, Bucephalus is downed, but Iskander rolls off and continues charging, making it closer and closer even as more and more weapons find their mark. Soon he makes it to cutting range, and begins a swing…


Zeus Nike Brontopheros!


Anunna. Enki. Marduk. Tiamat. Ishtar. Tammuz. Your point?

Oh yeah, among the other weapons in Gil’s treasury, the chain that he used to bind the Bull of Heaven before killing it, named after his manfriend Enkidu who participated in the quest with him and was eventually struck down by divine illness for it. They hold Iskander’s limbs tight, preventing him from completing the downstroke. Iskander is impressed – Gil’s always got something up his sleeve.


So this is what defeat feels like…

Gil nods…and stabs him through with Enuma Elish.

NOOOO BROSKANDER.

“Have you awoken from your dream?” Gil asks. Iskander says yeah, he’s had enough. His heart danced quite a bit on this campaign, and it was a fun ride. As Iskander’s body disintegrates, Gil tells him to come back for a rematch anytime he wishes. So long as the world remains King Gilgamesh’s garden (that is, forever, duh), Iskander will never grow tired of it.


Go tell the Macedonians, passerby, that here, chasing the ocean, we lie.

In his last moments, Iskander hears the ocean, and realizes the sound of Oceanos’s waves was the beating of his own heart. That is, it wasn’t so important that he didn’t actually get to literally see the ocean, simply that the journey happened and it was a good and fulfilling one, such that he may die with no regrets.


Return to the Throne of Heroes, Iskander, King of Conquerors. Truly you have earned your place there.

Gil now begins walking towards Waver, sword in hand. “Are you his Master?” He asks. Waver, attempting to muster up as much balls as he can, replies that no, he is Iskander’s servant. Gil’s now intrigued. If that is the case, Gil says, then he has just struck down Waver’s lord. Does he not have a duty to avenge Iskander? Waver says no, because if he fights Gil, he will die, and he was ordered to live.


OMG WAVER please don’t be banking on Gil not striking down a helpless kid. He’s from thousands BC the age of majority was puberty back then!

Turns out that again, there are some things that Gil cares about. He turns away, commending Waver’s loyalty at not letting the words of others goad him into disobeying orders. So Gil has it in him to do secret tests of characters.


Hmm. Impressive.

Meanwhile, Kirei recites Psalm 23 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (no, not that one), I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over. Rather appropriate, as this is interspersed with Waver mourning for his lost friend, Kariya crying out in agony from mana overuse, Arturia and Lancelot continuing their duel to the death, Kiritsugu finally arriving at the civic center for his final showdown, and golden light surrounding Irisviel as her body lays on a table.

Final Thoughts:

Holy crap, MANLY TEARS for Rider.

Rider is an…interesting character. He appeals to the blue/white-collar worker in all of us, the one who might have a pretty good petty bourgeoisie life but would seriously love the hell out of the idea of becoming the warlord of some place. Even if realistically our army of bros would probably get quashed by the local street gang of the first territory we try to conquer. Or if realistically it’s because there’s no more people like Rider that we can have our petty bourgeoisie life in the first place. But damn if it isn’t fun to dream sometimes, and Rider gives us that dream. We know from Fate/Stay Night that Rider has to die because Gil survived. But damn if the last charge of Alexander the Great wasn’t as awe-inspiring in this era as it was back in his lifetime.

Rider’s death episode segues nicely into the other parts of this ep, mainly Saber’s mistakes finally catching up with her as she realizes she failed so hard that one of her most trusted knights was driven away, as well as giving us a nice little bit of character development for Gilgamesh as we see that no, he’s not completely 100% the arrogant jerkass who just happens to be able to back up his talk. Much like Alexander was totally bros with his army, Gilgamesh had Enkidu, whose place in his heart no one would ever take again.

And in the end, both Rider and Waver’s development comes full circle, as both become individuals that even Gilgamesh, King of Heroes, will deign to respect.

Alexander the Great, King of Conquerors, this one is for you.

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