The Winter 2021 Preview Guide
Re:Zero Season 2 Part 2
How would you rate episode 1 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 3) ?
What is this?
After learning more behind the Death Loop and Witches of Sin, Subaru vows to save Emilia and his friends from further doom.
How was the first episode?
The first half of Re:Zero's 2nd season was, let's say, rough for Subaru. Actually it was a bit more like watching someone try to drill out a dental cavity with a dinner fork, as Subaru was driven by seemingly every force in the world towards an irreparable breaking point, only narrowly managing to pull back from the brink and avoid a horrific outcome even the hardest of timeline resets wouldn't be able to fix. It was compelling viewing, certainly, but after a while it felt like a misery waterfall that both protagonist and audience were doomed to drown in. So it's very, very cathartic to see this second half begin with what feels like a genuine step forward for Subaru in his quest to stop the evil clown man from turning him into his worst self.
The impetus for that step forward is a bit confusing to start, as it's Otto of all people who shows up to literally smack some sense into Subaru and convince the boy to just ask for help. That's a bit of an odd choice at first glance, especially since the first time we met Otto he threw our hero from a speeding wagon into the waiting maw of the White Whale to save himself, but to the show's credit this feels less like a change in character and more like a hint at there being more to even this dopey merchant than we previously thought. Hell, that's practically the thesis of this show by now – every person Subaru encounters is more complex than he first expects, for good and ill – and recognizing that as he tries to untangle Echidna and Roswaal's web of half-truths and traps is key to the progression he makes in this premiere.
Especially with Emilia who finally, at long last, after two full cours of either dying off screen or lying unconscious on the ground, gets some time to properly flesh out and advance her character. Firstly by allowing herself to open up to Subaru about why she's struggling so much with the Sanctuary's trials and the muddled past that burdens her even as she can't recall it. It's a supremely touching moment and the first time since their reconciliation where it's felt like these two have as strong a connection as the series insists they should, letting their guards down and trusting one another. The second part comes when Puck appears after his long absence to break the news that the only way to recover Emilia's memories is to break their contract. The exact implications of all these are a little lost on me – the overarching mystery of Emilia and Puck's relationship has always been an aspect I forget about easily – but the scene of his abrupt farewell still hits hard, and as much as it must hurt I'm excited to see how this will spur her forward in the coming season.
So this is more or less Re:Zero back to business as usual, but that's certainly not a bad thing. With some promising catharsis for Subaru and long-needed focus on Emilia, it has me really excited to see where the show will go next. My only complaint is there could have been more Echidna.
After taking a season off, Re:Zero resumes its second season by picking up exactly where it left off: with Otto manhandling Subaru into recognizing that Subaru does have a friend that he can call on for help, and damn it all, he'd better do it! I was not entirely convinced that the passion behind Otto's commitment was warranted in the first part, and that hasn't changed, but it absolutely, positively is what Subaru most needs: someone else to share the burden. So many moving pieces are involved here – Roswaal's schemes, where Garfiel stands, and Emilia's situation – that Subaru cannot possibly manage them all on his own and do it quick enough in order to achieve success, even after multiple Return by Death incidents. Getting the assistance of even one person could make all of the difference, and that sets this attempt off on a much more positive note than any of the previous ones.
(And as a side thought: man, Otto has some moves, doesn't he? Subaru – and the audience, too – have been woefully underestimating him.)
The bold, confident challenge to Roswaal – who has always been the mysterious manipulator to Subaru – starts things in the right direction. Though that encounter yields important information about the time frame involved, this part is more important, I think, for getting Roswaal on board for what's going to happen after this process is done. The next step is the conversation with Ryuzu, where he learns the rest of what's going on with her various copies and more about Garfiel's situation, including the crucial piece of information about Garfiel and Frederica's mother leaving Sanctuary. Based on the end of the episode, there was clearly something else planned between the two of them that has yet to be revealed.
The final and biggest piece involves Emilia. The key to everything working is her being able to stand and endure through the second trial. Dealing with her past emotionally has always been her stumbling block, but her conversation with Subaru clarifies the likely reason: because she cannot remember much from before the time she was frozen, she cannot deal with the emotions in play. (This is where the OVA Frozen Bond is most directly relevant, and the point where you will be lost if you haven't seen it.) Unfortunately, that means that the biggest barrier to her remembering – her contract with Puck – has to be removed, and Puck knows that himself. To a certain extent he's been a crutch for her, and now she has to be able to walk on her own to get through the trial. Unsurprisingly for such a sensitive person, she has a difficult time dealing with both that and her returning memories. Slightly more surprising is the revelation that she doesn't feel her motives are honest because of the offer Roswaal made her to get her to pursue the succession ritual.
Was Emilia running off like that a part of Subaru's plan? Based on comments Otto makes to Garfiel at the end of the episode, it would seem not, but nonetheless it sets up the opportunity Subaru needs to get Emilia to really talk about what she's had to confront in her trial, which is what she needs. But that will have to wait for next episode (as will showing how Otto can possibly deal with Garfiel), as by that point the episode had already covered an unusually-long 28 minutes and skipped both the opener and closer. In other words, Re:Zero is as loaded as ever for content, but that allows the episode to line everything up for a strong start to its second half.
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