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Code Geass: Rozé of the Recapture
Episode 2

by Caitlin Moore,

How would you rate episode 2 of
Code Geass: Rozé of the Recapture ?
Community score: 3.9

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For the past week, I've been wondering: have I been looking at Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion through rose-tinted glasses? After much reflection, I'm pretty sure I'm not. For all it gets meme'd on a lot for its melodrama and pizza product placement, it was thoughtfully structured and well-paced with character writing that managed to keep characters likable even as they were morally grey in their actions and motivations. Well, the first season did. R2 had some questionable narrative choices of its own. Either way, the second episode of Rozé of the Recapture has done little to assuage my doubts it can recapture the magic, no matter how hard it tries to remix it.

Okay, there is one bit of magic it manages to get back, which once was sadly lost when the Knightmare Frames developed the ability to fly. Knightmare battles make up a sizable chunk of the episode, and they are, to use some poetic language, really cool. I'm not the kind of mecha fan who pays close attention to specs and technicalities and other details; the robots are really only important to me insofar as they inform the characters and plot. Despite this, Knightmare Frames have always held a special place in my heart. They skate instead of walking or running, which, combined with the Slash Harken grappling hooks, means their fights are uniquely fast-paced and driven by agility and momentum. When the Float System was introduced, my heart broke because the fundamentally unique action became genericized.

I don't know why exactly the Knightmares don't have Float Systems—maybe the new production team correctly determined that gravity and physics make for more thrilling battles rather than any in-universe explanation—but I'm certainly not about to argue. Sadly, I don't think we're getting hand-drawn mechs back when the series has already moved to the 3DCG approach, but I do commend the animators for giving them that crucial sense of weight, which is even harder to do with computer modeling than traditional methods.

The plot, however, was not quite up to snuff. After the end of last week's episode, I assumed breaking into Abashiri Prison would be a lengthy, difficult process requiring weeks of intel-gathering and several failed attempts. Nope! Despite the conversation between baddie-of-the-week, a man with really unflattering blue hair named Arnold, and the warden, it's quite easy for Rozé and Ash. Sure, they have the help of some reconnaissance handed over in a rather unfunny scene where the Tamaki clone gets pissy and instantly forgives Rozé, and then a woman with huge tits named Yoko gets horny over seeing Ash in his underwear. But less than ten minutes after we learned that was Rozé/Sakuya's goal, the Seven Shining Stars launch her and Ash at the prison in their Knightmare clinging to a comically huge missile. Rozé appears in the control room and tells them to release the prisoners while Ash goes to make an opening for the Seven Shining Stars to break in and save their general. And that's that.

Now, the way Sakuya turned off her voice changer to issue the order does raise some questions. Her geass apparently works through her speaking rather than eye contact like Lelouche's, which is simpler. However, this indicates that it has to be her own voice, not filtered through the changer, which does add some interesting wrinkles. Presumably, it's imperative that she keep her identity as a princess secret; revealing her true voice would seriously compromise her disguise. The voice changer also somehow changes her eye color, possibly to make it easier to pass as fully Britannian rather than mixed-race, which would make it much harder to convince the world that she and Ash are brothers. Even if she weren't recognized as Sakuya Sumeragi, being seen without her voice changer would raise a lot of questions that would be hard to answer while keeping her cover.

Sakuya and Sakura have their touching reunion, which feels completely unearned because I repeat, we just found out who these two are and their situation. It does turn out that Sakura is Sakuya's body double and not her twin, at least. I have zero emotional investment in these two and their relationship. The scene cuts mercifully short when the warden, whom Sakuya geassed off-screen, comes in to warn them that the Weiss Queen is coming. Meanwhile, the not-Black Knights find a bunch of generic Knightmares to fight in to rescue their captured General Kuroto. Wow! How convenient!

But you know what's not convenient? A gal-coded Indian-Britannian by the name of Catherine Sabathra in an impossibly fast pink Knightmare snatches Sakura up before she can get into the escape vessel and whisks her away. Oops. Maybe you should have changed out of the heavy kimono and hurried a little more instead of taking those dainty little steps, Sakura!

Catherine wants to leave, but Arnold wants to stay and fight the Nameless Mercenary who has killed so many of his men. Sakuya frees Kuroto. The Heather Gray Knights cry a little. I don't care.

Arnold and Ash fight. Arnold's Knightmare has big shields that he thinks are impenetrable, but Ash zips around and hits him really hard, so he explodes. It's a good battle but I have to wonder why the prison has this HUGE space that's really great for Knightmares to fight unencumbered. Plus, where are all the other prisoners? Weren't there any guards that weren't affected by Sakuya's geass? Everyone seemed to be able to find exactly what they needed with no issue in a very short time frame, even though the prison was enormous. It's all just so frictionless

As the Black Knights Except Not Nearly As Likable Or Interesting celebrate the liberation of their general, Rozé/Sakuya lies on the roof and reflects on their accomplishments. I'm feeling pretty checked out at this point; like Sakuya, I am ruminating, but instead of their accomplishments on the show's failure to deliver anything except some admittedly high-tier mecha battles. But then Ash comes out, and the episode's ending twist drops: years ago, Sakuya geassed Ash into being her ally. Once the Neo-Britannian Empire has been expelled, she intends to kill him.

I imagine this twist will drive some people off since it is, like so many elements of the show, far too similar to some of Lelouch's own relationships. But me? I loved it. Sakuya has, up to this point, been far too virtuous to be a proper Code Geass protagonist. But the level of mind-control she's pulling on Ash? It's pretty messed up, even if it's to survive, and based on the way he squirms when she asks if she's the most important person to him, he's experienced some pain and confusion over it. This goes double since she's planning to murder him when everything is over. Finally, some moral ambiguity! It doesn't make up for the show's shortcomings in terms of pacing and character writing, but I'm glad to finally have some texture to the proceedings.

Rating:

Code Geass: Rozé of the Recapture is currently streaming on Hulu and Disney+, depending on your region.


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