Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Episode 21

by Gabriella Ekens,

Today marks the second week of Shirou/Archer's fight and the third week of Archer's lecture. This pacing is unacceptable. I've already spent a couple weeks panning it, and there's nothing more I can say. To make matters worse, they repeat last week's climax. Archer presents a mountain of evidence that Shirou's current goals will lead to misery and disaster. Shirou says “No, my goals are noble!”, referring back to his childish misconception of Kiritsugu and continuing his uphill assault. All this, for the second time. At least it only takes half an episode this time?

I know what they're going for (or should be) with this message. The show is trying to mark Shirou as noble in that he knows that his life will be ruined, but accepts the loss. The message doesn't come across because the show doesn't make it seem like his beliefs benefit anyone. At the same time, it downplays the benefits of Archer's actions. They say that he murdered millions to save billions, but all of the emphasis is on the dead and his misery. Those billions saved would be hard to argue with if they were factored into the show's presentation. There are no reminders of the people Shirou helps in his everyday life, like Rin, Taiga, or Ayako. In the first cour, the show established that Shirou is a generous, beloved person. They should be leaning on that now. There might be a decent argument somewhere in here, it's just so inadequately presented that I have to guess at what the intent was even meant to be. FSN:UBW is really crippled by its inability to make and support an argument.

It finally ends when Shirou lands a blow on Archer. Rin runs in, concerned about the man who left her to be raped, then Gilgamesh comes in and kills him with his glowing portals full of murder. I'm relieved, but everyone else is sad. Gilgamesh recites a speech about his origins and motivations. He was a servant from the previous Grail War who became corporeal when the Grail exploded. Saber, Gilgamesh's final opponent in that conflict, blew it up because it was evil. You shouldn't want the Grail because it's evil, and any wishes it grants will always bounce back in your face. Gilgamesh got caught in its remains (black goop), which gave him a real body for some reason. (The exact whys and hows of all this were eventually back-written into Fate/Zero.) He's spent the past ten years chilling at Kirei's place, neglecting his personal hygiene, and sitting on public stairwells in the middle of the night. You see, Gilgamesh isn't too fond of the modern world. People spend too much time enjoying life and far too little time worshiping Gilgamesh these days. So he plans to douse the world in cleansing fire. That'll wipe out most of the false idols, and any remaining survivors will be worthy subjects for Gilgamesh. Bring on Neo Babylon! Of course, our heroes are appalled. Fortunately, Gilgamesh decides to let them go for no good reason. He runs off to stick Ilya's heart into Shinji, turning him into an Akira-like fleshblob. That's the karmic justice that all his horrible actions were building up to, I guess.

Gilgamesh's character here is fairly contiguous to the Fate/Zero version of Gilgamesh. He isn't an evil person by his own standards. He's just been uprooted from a time when morality was less Judeo-Christian and more Nietzschean. Judeo-Christian morality is about protecting the weak while Nietzschean morality is about affirming the strong. When Gilgamesh was king, there were fewer people in the world. Almost everyone served a necessary role in maintaining society. They all worshiped Gilgamesh and contributed to his empire. He was a tyrant, but he didn't kill unnecessarily. By contrast, the modern world is filled with “superfluous” people. Gilgamesh hates superfluous things, and he's consistent about his likes and dislikes. He likes and will favor people who accept their roles as followers. He'll fight people who (in his opinion) try to exceed their stations, like Shinji and Archer. He's not just a cackling evil dude, and while the specifics of his ideology are irrelevant to this story of Shirou versus Shirou, I think they're still interesting. Some of it even shines through in this episode.

It's still mostly bad, but at least that fight is over.

(Y'know, it's funny that Kiritsugu and Kirei never ran into each other in the years after the Fourth Grail War. I mean, they lived in the same town. Shirou walks from his home to Kotomine Church at one point. Didn't they ever see each other at the grocery store?)

Grade: C-

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.

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