by Paul Jensen,
How would you rate episode 14 of
If last week's episode started a fire in Rumble Town, this one adds enough fuel to burn down the whole darn city. With Seth, Melie, and Taj captured, Konrad moves on to the next stage of his plan, which involves trapping a bunch of people in a particular area of Rumble Town and shooting cannons at them indiscriminately. The barrage is halted by Grimm, who unexpectedly shows up to lend Seth a hand. Things only escalate further when the Domitor appears at the top of the clock tower and unleashes a Nemesis horde on the city. As Dragunov rallies his Inquisition troops to help the sorcerers fend off the Nemesis, Seth and Konrad face off in a head-to-head battle.
With each passing week, Konrad's plan devolves further and further from a political power grab into a nonsensical attempt at mass murder. At this point, he's abandoned any pretense of specifically targeting the immigrants in favor of just blasting the biggest crowd he can find. While this certainly cements his position at the top of the villain list, it requires some major suspension of disbelief to buy into the idea that anyone, even his Inquisition flunkies, would still be following his orders. Of course, he's not the only one stretching the limits of narrative logic; Grimm's switch from antagonist to ally is so sudden that it apparently requires a revision to his on-screen introductory text. While his initial appearance cast Grimm as a potential antihero, it's much harder to roll with this twist after seeing the guy feed human beings into a zombie death coffin. I hope Radiant knows what it wants to do with Grimm in the long term, because right now his moral alignment seems to be in a constant state of flux.
What makes Grimm's situation particularly strange is the fact that there's a much better example of an antagonist taking on a heroic role in this same episode. Where Grimm's timely rescue feels like an act of narrative necessity, Dragunov's temporary truce with Melie is far more convincing. The key difference between the two comes down to consistent writing; Radiant has always portrayed Dragunov as being pretty reasonable by Inquisition standards, and his distrust of Konrad was set up in previous episodes. That makes for a natural progression leading up to his decision to prioritize the Nemesis over the sorcerers, whereas Grimm abruptly switches from evil to good depending on what the show needs him to do in any given scene. That's the problem with cramming so many characters into one plot arc: there's just not enough time to properly establish everyone's motivations.
Of course, most of this is just a supporting act to Seth's big fight with Konrad. As the centerpiece of the episode, this faceoff is decent but not great. On the upside, Konrad is tough enough to be a worthwhile opponent for Seth, and he even appears to have the upper hand for most of the fight. For his part, Seth manages to add a couple moments of levity to all the punching and smashing, and his theft of Konrad's mustache is a particularly amusing touch. Unfortunately, the animation isn't always able to keep up with the demands this episode places on it. There are a couple of nice shots here and there, but they're overshadowed by a heavy reliance on visual shortcuts, and there are quite a few moments where it looks like the characters could have used another layer of polish. Couple that with some clunky expository dialogue and you have enough flaws to keep this battle in mediocre territory.
Aside from the increasingly shaky logic of Konrad's plan, most of this episode's narrative issues are minor enough that they can be fixed from one week to the next. As long as Radiant can settle on a consistent role for Grimm to play, his portion of the story should sort itself out naturally. The escalation from civil unrest to all-out battle has been handled well enough to keep the ball rolling, and it looks like we'll finally be getting some backstory for the Domitor next week. I wouldn't be opposed to a slight uptick in animation quality, but what we really need now is some personal drama to draw more emotion out of the action. Radiant has plenty of ingredients to work with, now it just has to find the right way to present them.
Radiant is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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