by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 3 of
How would you rate episode 4 of
Episodes 3 and 4 firm up something which was suggested by episodes 1 and 2: this is not a fast-moving series. Plot and character development are normally good, but there is such a thing as being too meticulous about it, and that is the major early flaw of this series. It even goes as far as affecting the action component.
Episode 3 largely comes down to one major point: Assassin's attack on Tokiomi and subsequent destruction by Archer was, indeed, part of a grander strategy. It was all just a diversionary tactic to dissuade other Masters from believing that Tokiomi and Kirei were working together, and also to make everyone believe that Assassin has actually been destroyed. That also allows the concealment of Assassin's real nature: Assassin is Legion. No one assassin is all that strong individually, but Kirei has many of them at his disposal, and apparently only killing all of them truly eliminates the Heroic Servant. Pairing a master stealth and reconnaissance force with what looks to be one of the stronger offensive Servants makes for a nasty combo indeed. The one problem with this gambit is that Tokiomi has not out-strategized Kiritsugu, who covertly discovers in episode 4 that Assassin is still alive.
Speaking of Archer, he is revealed to be Gilgamesh, King of Kings, and he has an arrogance to match his title. Those familiar with Fate/stay night may find him working for Tokiomi to be curious, given how things go in the later stages of that series, but all will be explained in due time. Rider and Waver get more attention, and the first steps in building what has long been a fan-favorite relationship can be seen here; Iskandar represents everything that Waver is not. This could easily devolve into another case of a Servant with a dominating personality running roughshod over a Master, but the scenes of them together between episodes 3 and 4 more suggest that Iskandar is pushing Waver to be stronger in his own way; Iskandar's genuine satisfaction when Waver reluctantly agree to go with him to the battlefront in episode 4 is the surest sign of that.
The other key relationship being built here is between Saber and Irisviel. In a continuation of scenes from episode 2, Saber is becoming Irisviel's escort and personal knight as much as she is a Servant, and Saber doesn't seem to mind that role, especially once she learns how isolated Irisviel's life has been. Still no scenes with Kiritsugu, but now we see why: making everyone think that Irisviel is the actual Master of Saber is part of the Kiritsugu's subterfuge. Meanwhile, he's going to focus on assassinating Masters. Looks like he might have an alternate romantic option, too, though the scene where his subordinate kisses him didn't seem like mutual affection.
With episode 4 the real action finally begins, as Irisviel and Saber go to confront a Master and Servant who seemed to be practically calling each other out, while Iskandar initially watches from a distance. From the sound of his voice, the Master in hiding is likely Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald, Waver's teacher, and the Servant is Lancer. Over the course of the battle, this Lancer turns out to be Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, a demigod of Irish mythology who was known for a mole beneath his eye which made him irresistible to women and for the special weapons he used – though unlike in episode 4, he historically did not fight with both spears together. (He typically wielded sword and spear.) He is as much a knight as Saber is, so they strive to have an honorable – if also deadly – battle and get in several good exchanges. However, the battle is allowed to stretch out with too many honorable exchanges; honestly, I can understand why Kayneth was getting on Lancer's case about it. The battle choreography is good, but the breaks and emphasis on understanding every little move disrupt its flow, and then Iskandar plops down in the middle at the end. Hence this battle will extend into next episode.
As a further additional observation, I reiterate one comment I made about the first two episodes, concerning how much the soundtrack sounds like the one for Sword Art Online. It goes beyond them both sharing Yuki Kajiura's signature sound, too. Since it's been quite a while since I rewatched this series, I plan to keep an ear on that going forward. In general, the action is finally starting to heat up and we're getting the first samples of what this series can really do.
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