Dragon Ball Super
by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 95 of
Dragon Ball Super ?
I'm honestly surprised at how invested I am in seeing this Universe 7/Frieza team-up through to the end. For the last few weeks, there's been a lot of discussion around certain leaks that said Frieza would be betraying Goku and fighting for another universe in the tournament, and while that presumed twist appears to have been false, this episode gets dangerously close enough to it that my palms were getting sweaty. I want Frieza to be a good guy!
Last week ended with Frieza turning gold as he prepared to fight off the army of assassins who've shown to stop him and Goku. The first chunk of this episode centers around Frieza showing off his new strength, thanks to the mental training he had been doing in hell, to murder the onslaught of enemies. He straight up kills them too, which wouldn't have been that shocking in the original Dragon Ball days, but Super is a much softer show in general. The body count is abnormally high this week. Goku isn't in love with this development, and he swears to Frieza later that he won't be so lenient if he continues to kill more people.
So the big question of "Can we trust Frieza?" is the star of the show this week, and the aptitude with which this episode handles that mystery is pretty astounding. My heart sunk once Frieza used the enemy's "Energy of Destruction" to trap Goku long enough to talk to the offending universe through a communicator, trying to bargain for a place on their team. The focus at this point is all on Frieza's deviousness. He knows Goku's idiocy well enough not to make any mistakes. What on earth could stop Frieza from going back on his word at this point?
The bargain falls through just as Beerus and Whis arrive and help Goku out. The group ultimately decides on a "friendly" sparring match between Goku and Frieza, with the winner getting to do things on their terms. As of this moment, we're inside Frieza's internal monologue enough that we know A.) he's confident enough in his strength and familiarity with Goku's moves to believe he'll win (the match is over when someone lands the first punch) and B.) he seems so determined to be evil that even if he loses he probably won't entertain Goku's terms anyway. What follows is a beautifully animated and fast-paced match that ends with them exploding each other's faces with simultaneous punches. When they both knock each other out, our understanding of Frieza's position of power evaporates on the spot. It's hard to think Frieza's ego will remain intact after we see him and Goku passed out together with mutually swollen faces.
As slimy and underhanded as Frieza can be, it's incredibly satisfying to see this problem solved with the classic shonen values of machismo and honor. It's hard to say for sure what kind of role Frieza will hold during the Tournament of Power, but I'm impressed that Super was able to lean so far into "Frieza ain't helping nobody" and still manage to pull back in the opposite direction within the same episode. Frieza's fundamental characterization remains intact, but if you had to make his cooperation believable, tying it into a stubborn rivalry with Goku is not a bad way of doing it.
The first half of fighting nameless goons was entertaining enough, but that last scene really clinches it. I honestly didn't think this show was capable of a scene that interesting and cathartic. I'm not even thinking about how impatient I am for the tournament to start now, because Super is finally delivering stuff that's fun beyond goofy half-jokes. Drama can be fun too, and I'm having quite the ride at the moment.
Dragon Ball Super is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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