Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Episode 24

The Final Command Spell

We open with Kiritsugu arriving in a blank white room, and Kirei is there to greet him with his knives. And just like that, they’re off, Kirei charging forth and using his magic to make his knives bigger, all while ominous Latin chanting happens and cutting to Berzerker’s Mad Enhancement allowing him to bash Saber into a wall.

A shot from Kiritsugu’s anti-magic Contender shatters Kirei’s knives, but it doesn’t stop Kirei, and Kiritsugu has to use his Time Alter magic to dodge Kirei’s kick and disengage.


This is not the result you are looking for.

What follows is something I like and will continue to show up again this episode – both Kiri and Kirei try something, they note what works and doesn’t work, take stock of what they have left up in their sleeves, and try that. In other words, the Luminosity Bella OODA loop. In this case, Kiritsugu notes that since the Origin bullets work by being in contact with the enemy mage’s mana, which is why Kayneth got totally fucked up when he tried to block it with Volumen Hydrangeum, Kirei’s use of Command Spells instead of his own mana to power his magic basically means he’s insulated from the effects. So Kiritsugu has to put a bullet through his body to destroy his magic circuits. Meanwhile, Kirei knows that Kiritsugu is using time magic to go double speed, so he’s now adjusting his own defensive timing to be twice as fast.

Yay smart people fighting smart!


I know kung fu (bajiquan, to be specific)

Kirei now charges in, covering an entire room in a single bound, and BAJI PUNCH.


Okay, Kiritsugu, don’t just stand there like a retard…


Huh?


Too late. FALCON PAWNCH


SHOW ME YA MOVES

Meanwhile, Lancelot falcon kicks Saber in the head, but since I don’t have a picture for that you’ll just have to take my word for it. But since Servants are super tough things made out of mana and hopes and dreams, he ends up bouncing back, and Saber gets up, picks up her sword, and continues to ask the obvious – “were you driven mad because of me?”

Meanwhile, Irisviel’s body is burnt up as the Grail materializes from her. Cut to Saber continuing to get pushed back, and while bajiquan punch seems to be super effective on mage…but suddenly Kiritsugu gets back up and shoots bursts of SMG at Kirei, who can block bullets with his arms?

Aside: so, wiki says that Kirei’s priest vest is actually lined with kevlar, which is why he can block bullets. Would have been nice if that was clearer in the anime though.

Kiritsugu alters time again to give him double acceleration, drawing his Contender and blasting another round at Kirei. It gets him in the hand, but Kirei moves it so the round overpenetrates through his arm instead of piercing his torso.


That awkward moment when you realizes the full implications of being a priest sworn to celibacy with a crippled hand.

They do it again, Kiritsugu realizing that he can’t win in close quarters, but fortunately he’s got Avalon to heal him (conveniently explaining how he was able to get up from the baji punch that shattered his heart). Since it works on self-inflicted wounds, he figures that he can draw his knife, get into close quarters, and then set off the two grenades he still has on him, and Avvy can piece him back together. Meanwhile, Kirei figures he’ll just punch Kiritsugu until he dies. Not a bad plan, since even one-handed and being attacked from his blind side, Kirei is bitchslapping the hell out of knife-armed Kiritsugu.


Have I mentioned how awesome bajiquan is?

But an opening appears, and Kiritsugu does a pistol whip, which Kirei tanks with his already damaged arm.


Works as well in real life as it does in MechWarrior.

They disengage, and the Holy Grail starts spilling blood all over the place as they charge for each other again…and holy crap are the animators abusing the hell out of the camera.

Meanwhile, Sad Kariya collapses, and Saber gets a thrust of wrath through Berserker’s chest. She apologizes to Lancelot, promising that she’ll win the Grail for him, so he won’t ever have to suffer like he is now. It’s the only thing she can offer him as compensation.


Wait, that’s it?

Lancelot, meanwhile, accuses her of being intractable as ever – that she would presume that her way was the right way, and that her winning the Grail would somehow make things okay, when maybe all he wants is to just kill her. And then he dies.

No, seriously, was that it? No reluctant Saber getting pushed around until enough is enough and she remembers what she’s fighting for? No painful discussion of personal philosophy? No soul-searching? Just dead-stab-dead? God dammit show.

Cut to starscape. Kiritsugu is standing on a beach. Suddenly a voice behind him says she knew he would come – OMG it’s Iri! This is where his wish would come true, she tells him – so they’re inside the Grail.


Look up, there’s a hole.

Just offer your prayer, she tells Kiritsugu, and then it will leave the Grail and enter the real world. Only he can give it a form. Kiri draws back – who are you, he asks. She can’t be Irisviel, because Irisviel is dead. The Iri-but-not-Iri agrees – she’s not really Irisviel, just a form that the Grail is taking, but she does have Iri’s personality, and thus she knows about Iri’s final wish. She’s the Grail’s Will, see, and all she wants is to be born into the world, so she needs him to wish her out. Kiritsugu shakes his head – if he uses his wish to let her out, how will his wish be granted?

Fake!Iri smiles. “You should know,” she tells him. Kiri’s known how to save the world for a long time. So she’ll just do as Kiritsugu would to answer your prayer. Kiritsugu is still confused, so she tells him to ask his inner self and transports him to a mental world…


Hmm. Strangely familiar.

Kiritsugu is now in the hotel he stayed out back when Maiya was delivering his toys. The TV turns on, presenting him with one of those moral dilemma litmus tests: there are two ships, one with 200 passengers, one with 300 passengers. Both have sprung a leak that will soon sink them at the same time. You know how to fix the ships, but there’s only enough time to fix one. Which do you fix?

Kiritsugu shrugs. 300. Duh.

But there’s A TWEEST! Suddenly, the 200 capture you, drag you on their boat, and insist you fix theirs first. Now what? Kiritsugu isn’t sure, but the TV answers for him.


WWKD

Kiritsugu is startled, but accepts this. Since the 200 would have died anyway, it makes no difference whether it’s because they drowned or whether because he shot them. Now he’s being taken to the dock where the first fight between Saber and Lancer went down, and there’s another rub – the 300 do not take the lesson to heart and instead continue to get on two ships, 200 on one, 100 on the other, and sure enough they sprung the same leak at the same time again. What next?

Kaboom.

Kiritsugu argues it’s not fair, that he wouldn’t do that, because he just killed 300 people to save 200, but the Grail continues to filibuster, saying that he’s always sacrificed the few to save the many, and that the logical conclusion to Kiritsugu’s philosophy is that this would be a recursive loop until there’s only 1 and 2 left.

OK, Grail…your accounting sucks. I’ll get to why in a second, but Kiritsugu apparently lacks the logical reasoning ability to call OBJECTION, so the Grail continues to explain that you can’t wish for something you yourself don’t know. It can only gives you a solution in a way you know how. Kiritsugu now objects, retorting that how’s that a miracle? The Grail responds that it’s because he’s only one man, so killing everybody except for him is not doable, but the Grail has the power to commit genocide.


No man does it all by himself, so young man, put your pride on the shelf!

Cut to his dad…and he’s now dead. Cut to Natalia, and now she’s dead. The Grail says that he’s the embodiment of Angra Mainyu, the embodiment of all the evils in the world, that which will take on all evil into himself to save the world. Now there are only three people left, Maiya on one side, Iri and Ilya on the other. Do you save two or one?


As Commander Shepard would say, “can’t I have you both?”

As expected, he shanked Maiya. Cut to Einzbern Mansion. Ilya says “Welcome home daddy!” as she leaps into his arms. We can’t go look for walnuts anymore, he tells her. That’s okay, she replies. “Ilya just needs mommy and daddy to be happy!”


Such casual disregard for gun safety, Kiritsugu! What if someone’s behind the target? Get yourself a backstop, at least!

Yup, he just shot blew Ilya’s brains out. Now Iri is despondent – why, she asks. Why do you reject the Grail and us? Tired of her jibber-jabber, he reaches out and chokes her. Because you’re right, he says. I do always sacrifice the few to save the many, and right now it’s six billion versus three.

Man, this series just loves necksnaps

Kirei wakes up in a fountain of blood, and hears a pistol behind him.

Why did you refuse the Grail, he asks Kiritsugu. You sacrificed everything to make it this far. How can you toss it aside? Dude, Kirei, do you seriously not understand the concept of “I changed my mind”? Anyways, Kiritsugu replies that it’s not an omnipotent wish granter. Kirei responds that Kiritsugu should just give the Grail to him, then. If you don’t have a use for it, let me have it! It can answer my questions about who I am and what I really want! It longs for life, it wants to be born, please don’t kill it!

“And you are so stupid I can’t understand you,” Kiritsugu replies, speaking for a good chunk of the audience as he puts a bullet through Kirei’s brainpan.


Well. That’s certainly a new twist on the pro-life vs pro-choice debate.

Yeah Kirei’s kind of an idiot.

Saber finds the Grail and the crater where Iri’s body used to by. Suddenly, it’s Gilgamesh! “You’re late, Saber! How could you keep me waiting?” She challenges him to step aside, and gets a sword to the leg for her trouble. Gilgamesh then, delivers his ultimatum: why obsess over a fantasy like some magic cup that grants miracles? Be his wife instead, and know all the pleasures of the world and more!


“Soon there’ll be more than one sword sticking into you…if you know what I mean…”

She blocks the next strike, some kind of shield, but it knocks her back. Another refusal gets her an ax. Gil is indifferent. Fine, then, he says. Before you understand joy, understand pain.


In all its fifty shades…

But wait! Suddenly, Kiritsugu appears from behind, and Gil doesn’t see him. He lifts up his hand and uses a Command Spell, ordering Saber to use Excalibur to destroy the Grail. Excalibur begins to glow with power, much to Saber’s horror. Again, awesome voice acting as she tries to refuse, her voice and arm quivering as she slowly loses the fight to put down her sword.

Again, it must be said, Command Spells provide power bonuses for following the order and intense debilitating pain for disobeying. The more specific the order, the stronger the effect; an order of “obey everything I say” just gives them a dull headache if they do something you don’t like, but something specific like “kill yourself” is almost instantaneous and causes stat drops and all kinds of horribleness for disobeying. Seeing that one spell is not enough, Kiritsugu uses his final Command Spell to repeat the order. Why, Saber asks. Why now?

Meanwhile, Gil is also pissed that Kiritsugu is interrupting his wedding ceremony.


Hey man, when I said “speak now or forever hold your peace,” I meant that rhetorically! But now that you’re here, what color tablecloth do you think we should have? Blue? Or Yellow?

Try as Saber might, she can’t fight the two Command Spells, especially not when she’s already spent and wounded to her current extent. All she can do is scream out a horrified “STOP!” as her sword goes up, and then down.


Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Final Thoughts:

Good riddance, Kirei. And heartbreaking betrayal for Saber, who’s come so far only to have her dreams crushed. Granted, the Grail’s corruption meant it probably would have granted her wish in the way that gets most people killed anyway, but she didn’t know that at the time, all she knew is that apparently Kiritsugu was trying to save the world with the Grail even if it meant becoming evil, and now not only does he not want even that, but he’s using his Command Spells to make her into an accomplice in the destruction of her own dream.

Also, Grail…you seriously suck at accounting. And Kiritsugu, thank Buddha you had the presence of mind to at least detect something wrong with the Grail’s reasoning, although it is seriously unforgivable that it took you so long.

See, I consider myself a utilitarian. I’m the guy who always says “yes” in all variants of the “there’s a train hurtling to the tracks where there are 5 people walking on the tracks, you can [perform action that results in only 1 person being killed instead], do you do it?” And it’s easy to pick apart the Grail’s deconstruction of utilitarian ethics when you realize that its basic premise is flawed.

First off, we must start with the premise that since human lifespan is finite, the definition of “saving” someone really needs to be “they would have died within a reasonably short timeframe had you not intervened.” Conversely, killing someone really needs to be “they would have lived were it not for an action you did having less than or equal to one degree of separation, barring actions to save your own life” (because nothing pisses me off in fiction more than playing straight of the attitude that leaving someone in a position to die easy is morally superior to killing them outright; I consider the reverse, in fact, since killing outright is usually quick and relatively clean, while leaving them to die usually means they get to drown or starve or excessive blood loss or whatnot). Any other form of accounting leads you to absurd conclusions like fire departments don’t save anyone because everyone they pull out of a fire die of something else eventually, or that stopping Hitler meant nothing because everybody we saved died of old age eventually.

Second, we can treat each iteration of the ships as a discrete event or as one singular event. If discrete, then combining this with the above definition of “saving, Kiritsugu’s kill-saved tally should go 200-300 for the first iteration of the ships, then 300-400 for the second iteration (100 killed for 200 saved), and so on and so forth. No matter how you calculate it, it always results in a net of 100 saved, because 100 had their lives extended when it would have ended without Kiritsugu’s intervention. Only accounting by how many people eventually live is basically a combination of reductio ad absurdum (see above: it means you can’t ever save anyone because everyone dies of old age) and perfect solution fallacy (it means you can’t ever save anyone unless we as a species become immortal, invulnerable, eternally young, and requiring no resources to survive).

And if we make it one singular event, then only Kiritsugu, Irisviel, and Ilya surviving is the only possible outcome, since it would mean everyone in the world are so suicidal that they would continue to take boat trips on the exact same type of boat, and do nothing to try to improve the safety features said boats, and oh yeah without Kiritsugu’s intervention they would all die in short order anyway. So, again, reductio ad absurdum, combined with sharpshooter’s fallacy – I have carefully constructed this one exact scenario which makes your philosophy fall apart (but not really), therefore this invalidates your philosophy in all scenarios. It’s the exact same reasoning that makes people say, because a gun was used in a mass shooting that killed 20+ people within the past two years, we should discount the tens of thousands if not millions of times saved by a gun’s presence every year. Or that because a mass shooter played violent video games, we should discount the millions of people who play violent video games and don’t go be violent to each other.

You can make anything seem stupid by a sufficiently far-out hypothetical situation. Suffice to say that if Eliezer Yudkowsky/LessWrong of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fame were writing this, the only possible response from a supposed smart guy utilitarian like Kiritsugu to the Grail would simply be “congratulations on creating this highly limited scenario which I am almost certain to not encounter the whole purpose of which is to create a fallacious deconstruction of my ideals which fail upon any application of proper rational thinking and critical reasoning.”

But, again, at least Kiritsugu is able to kind of see the problem with the Grail’s reasoning at the very end. Since if he lets it out and it kills everyone, that counts as “they would have lived but for my letting the grail out” – thus, killing six billion.

On a side note, my mouse passed over the “Rider” tag and didn’t click it. And I was sad.

One more episode after this.

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2 Responses to “Let’s Watch Fate/Zero, Episode 24”

  1. Marc Says:

    Wait, why have I never read your blog before? You have an excellent train of logic (which unfortunately can’t be said for all) and comedic commentary. This is what reviews should aspire to be! This is the first and probably only blog I will favorite. Nice job.

  2. taby69 Says:

    So much yes. I’ve only just recently started watching the series and this episode’s logic was very frustrating to me. As you say, Kiristugu’s philosophy wasn’t “mistaken” or even shown to be so. These hypothetical situations of life or death are treated as somehow inevitable by the Grail. If such consecutive hypothetical situations (where death is inevitable) were to arise, even then he’d be extending the resultant population’s lives at least every time.

    But if he’d realised its flaw in its logic and had stricter definitions of his own concepts of ‘killing’ and ‘saving’ would he have been able to achieve his goal to acceptable standards?

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