Golden Kamuy Season 3
by Grant Jones,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Golden Kamuy (TV 3) ?
Sugimoto and company are making their way through a rough snowstorm pulled by sled dogs. Having gotten separated, Ogata dismounts and fires shots into the air to signal for the others to regroup. Sadly, it is no use, and they are all forced to try and find shelter on their own. In fact, Sugimoto finds that they are near the coast – and that's not good.
The ground is frozen solid, making their attempts to dig a pit to protect themselves from the wind quite difficult. They burn a small fire and Tanigaki buries it, hoping that they can lay on top of it to keep it warm for longer. The sled dogs pile on top of them and they all hunker together for warmth.
Ogata's team finds shelter in a small building to wait out the storm. They occasionally venture out to fire shots and signal the others, but Sugimoto and Tanigaki can't tell if those are gunshots or thunder. Tanigaki further warns that they could easily get lost. Meanwhile, the owner of the small building is a Russian man; he finds Ogata and Koito and shows them a special object in his home that emits strange light.
In the pit, Sugimoto is fighting sleep against the cold. He begins to have flashbacks of the war again, of the friends he's lost and lives he's taken. In his vision Asirpa visits him… but then he is brought back to the present where he and the others see a light in the sky. It turns out the strange object the Russian had was a light for a lighthouse, which allows Sugimoto and co to find the shelter. As everyone takes time to warm up, they thank the Russians and enjoy a night's rest.
The next day, the storm has passed and they prepare to set out once again. After a brief pee-related adventure, they also enjoy some borscht and a meal with the Russian family who lives there. It turns out that the family's daughter ran away with a deserter during the war and they are waiting for her return. Sugimoto promises to look for her, and takes her photo while leaving a photo of Asirpa in return. The teams continue their search for Asirpa. At a break in the action, they discuss Ogata and the distrust others showed towards him in the regiment.
Meanwhile, the Ainu children discuss sightings of strange cats nearby – the meko. Asirpa and Kiroranke bring up the meko prints they see in the snow, noting where they are heading: Ako, a Russian prison. Their goal is to free the woman who committed crimes with the revolution and that Asirpa's father looked up to: Sofia.
A solid if not necessarily exemplary episode of Golden Kamuy this week.
I don't think there was anything necessarily wrong with the episode in terms of execution. It has all the hallmarks of a good entry for the series – themes of survival, war flashbacks, the reputations of these interesting characters, lessons about the environment, myths surrounding the animals who live there. All the standard elements that make up Golden Kamuy, really.
I think the primary issue was one of pacing. The initial threat of the snowstorm was intense but felt like it got resolved a little too quickly, and the lighthouse scene/Russian family feel important for future events but we did not spend enough time with them to get invested. The flashback for Sugimoto and the discussion of Ogata's reputation both suffer from the same issue of feeling a bit too quick, and I think they needed more time to have a greater impact. Even the dramatic reveal at the end of their true destination – Ako prison – was a little underwhelming, with a sense of “oh, we're just going to a… different prison?”.
Again, nothing here was done poorly. In fact, I think the imagery of Sugimoto in glaring white bloom with his arms covered in red blood was particularly striking. But I never quite felt like there was much room for these various ideas to breathe and be fully-realized. Let's hope the lead up to Ako is paced a bit more evenly.
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