Fairy Tail: Final Season
Episode 281

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 281 of
Fairy Tail (TV 3/2018) ?

Although this episode covers the usual decent amount of manga chapters, I have to admit that I'm glad the Evil Gray storyline doesn't drag on past this episode, because it gets dark. The Avatar cult is a particularly vicious group of foes, made up of so-called black wizards (magicians who use black magic) who aren't kidding around when it comes to fighting dirty. Gomon's specific magic is manipulating torture devices, and even without Mary's pain magic or Abel's use of Mr. Cursey (from the debacle on Tenrou Island), that's dangerous enough. Poor Lucy takes the brunt of it this week as Gomon pinpoints her as the weak link, not necessarily magic-wise, but certainly on the emotional front. This leads to some very upsetting imagery as he prepares Lucy for torment – specifically the moment when he strings her up by her wrists and spreads her legs. It really shouldn't be such a relief that he's “only” planning to chop her in half with an axe. (The fact that he doesn't need her legs apart to do so still makes for some worrisome motivations on his part.)

Of course, what Gomon isn't counting on is that Lucy is Gray's weakness as well. Our favorite ice mage has, as it turns out, been undercover in the cult in order to help put a stop to them from the inside, and it's strongly implied that he and Levy were working together on this at Erza's behest. He's not willing to break his cover to keep Natsu from being pounded, because he knows that Natsu can take it. But Lucy is another story; she doesn't have the physical strength to make up for the sealstone depriving her of her magic and she's frankly at risk for something much worse than just a punch to the nose. We could argue, really, that the jig was up the minute Lucy slapped Gray before Mary hit her with stomach pain (or cramps) – Gray is visibly taken aback and not quite sure how to handle the situation once she's involved. Him being shown with his eyes closed from that point on until he leaves the scene is really very telling.

The kicker here is that if Natsu understood what the word “sneak” meant, none of this would have happened. (Probably. This is still Fairy Tail after all, so something would probably have gone wrong.) The minute Virgo tunnels them into the cult's stronghold, Natsu starts bellowing for Gray at ear-destroying volume, ensuring that every single person in the building knows that someone has managed to infiltrate their stronghold. It's very Natsu, and in his defense, it never once occurred to him that Gray might not jump at the chance to rejoin Fairy Tail. After all, Gray isn't Wendy; he's been around much longer and a part of Team Natsu from the start. He, Natsu, and Erza are effectively siblings, orphaned a second time when Makarov disbanded the guild, so why wouldn't he want the chance to come home?

That doesn't mean that it isn't still a relief when we find out that he's able to manipulate the black markings on his body at will and had only done so to cover up his old guild mark. The moment when Gray freezes Gomon in his icky, icky tracks is like letting out a breath you didn't know you were holding. For poor Lucy, Natsu, and Happy, it may be a little late for true comfort, but the important thing here is that it happened.

That's really the highlight of this week's episode – the swift end to the brutality Lucy is about to suffer with a helpless Natsu looking on. The moment poking fun of people who get tattoos in Japanese or Chinese without knowing what they really say is also pretty great, but it's really that release of tension that makes this episode worthwhile. Not only does it reassure us that Gray's still who he always was, it also gives us hope for the eventually recreation of the Fairy Tail guild. That's not worth some of crap Lucy, Natsu, and Happy went through, but it does go a way to making it better.

Rating: B

Fairy Tail: Final Season is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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