Angels of Death
by Steve Jones,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Angels of Death ?
Cathy's judgment reaches its climax as Rachel and Zack race their way through to the control room of her floor. This time, however, Rachel finds herself racing away from Zack, as Cathy's drug cocktail has reduced him from a begrudging companion to a mindlessly maniacal murderer once more. Their only hope of escape lies in working together, but that isn't going to be easy.
Cathy's whole shtick is the conflation of criminal justice with entertainment. She laughs and writhes with pleasure at the thought of meting out her twisted punishments, which are no different from the torturous trials the other floor masters have already thrown at Rachel. They can be wrapped up in the illusion of justice, but it makes them no less sadistic. Her code therefore requires a complete dehumanization of her victims, i.e. because they're criminals, they deserve anything that comes to them. Reality is not so black-and-white, and Zack is a great example. He's a serial killer, but as a result of an abusive youth spent with criminally cruel parents. He deserves punishment, but certainly not the self-serving kind from Cathy. Now, I don't think Angels of Death is particularly interested in solving the innumerable problems of the modern criminal justice system, but it's a nice angle that deepens this final confrontation between a trio of weirdos stuck in a mystery basement. It's also interesting that, while Cathy thrives on dehumanizing her victims, Zack's M.O. revolves around seeing his victims as humans.
It's this exact M.O. that Zack uses to hold himself back from killing Rachel. Their strange relationship remains my favorite part of the show. At the start, Ray isn't running away to protect herself; she's doing it to protect Zack. She's fine with him killing her, but he's not fine with killing her before he escapes or before he sees her real smile, and Rachel cares about Zack enough to put his needs before hers. It warps an act of self-preservation into a gesture of kindness for a friend, which sounds sweet out of context before you remember that this is all about murder. Meanwhile, Zack knows he's going to feel awful if he kills Rachel with that dead smile on her face, so he flips his M.O. around and uses his own smiling reflection in his scythe to justify killing himself. This is a totally bonkers moment that caught me completely off guard, so naturally I loved it. It looks and feels like a noble act of sacrifice to protect Rachel, but it's twisted by the circumstances into something more sinister, and that's what Angels of Death does best.
None of this goes according to Cathy's plan, so she storms out of her observation room pissed off. Unlike the other floor masters we've met, she enjoys punishment and torture purely for its own sake, so she's arguably the worst person out of all of them. But as an antagonist, she's been wonderfully entertaining all the way through, and the way she immediately stepped on Zack's head once she realized he was still alive cemented how much I liked her. Sometimes a villain just needs to be as over-the-top as possible, and Mariya Ise's performance certainly proves that she understands this. All good things must come to an end, however, and her sadistic ambitions are cut short by the loaded gun Rachel has been carrying in her bag this whole time. Between that and Zack's resurgence of strength, Cathy finds herself crawling in a pool of her own blood, failing to dish out one last punishment before she collapses permanently.
With Zack's flashback to killing his foster parents, getting shot multiple times before slicing open his own stomach, Rachel shooting Cathy, and Zack slicing off Cathy's hand, this is the bloodiest and most grim episode of Angels of Death yet. There isn't much of the macabre comedy that's been helping the show along, although I did appreciate Zack's flat delivery of “I wanna kill her! ….Oh. I guess we already did.” Zack's apparent death in the middle of the episode did make me realize that I wasn't ready to say goodbye to him yet, which is a strange thing to say about a murderer who only speaks in shouting. But he and Rachel continue to be an excellent study in contrasts and a compelling set of deuteragonists. Rachel is still largely a mystery, and we're no closer to learning who she saw killing someone else (I'm guessing her father), but now that she's unequivocally got blood on her hands, I'm interested in seeing where her character goes. She seems to have accepted the title of “sinner,” which is sure to affect how she sees her relationship with God.
In the grand scheme of the plot, not much happens this episode. Rachel and Zack make their way to the boss room, they manage to kill Cathy, and they open the elevator to the next floor. I point this out not to begrudge the show's pacing, but to commend the show for how brisk it feels in the moment. A lesser team could have easily made this show boring, but these episodes have been going by in a flash. And I'm still invested in the central relationship, especially after that post-credits stinger. It's a cheap move to cliffhang us with Zack's apparent death after already faking us out earlier in the episode, but it sure did punch me in the gut. While I don't believe for a second that he's actually dead, I can't wait to see how Rachel is going to handle the situation. Zack's been talking about her smile for the whole show, but he has a pretty great smile himself, and now it's up to her to protect it.
Angels of Death is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Steve is a longtime anime fan who can be found making bad posts about anime on his Twitter.
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