Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (Season 2)
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World- (TV 2) ?
This episode culminated in a fantastic showdown between Roswaal and Subaru, highlighting the parallels and differences between the two characters in a more visceral way than any of their previous confrontations. The character expression work was impeccable, especially when it came to depicting Roswaal's heavy frown, and the lighting was particularly striking as well. It was a great finisher to an episode that both intrigued and frustrated me, like much of this cour so far.
After four episodes of mostly backstory-driven content, I think I've worked out why I've had such mixed feelings about the flashbacks in this season. Earlier, I remarked that they slow the pacing of the story, and although that's part of it, the bigger issue is that it's actually relatively difficult to grasp where the narrative emphasis is being placed. These flashbacks try to establish so many characters and details at the same time that they struggle to feel grounded in the present. Emilia's trial might have shed light on her backstory, but there were large chunks of it that veered away from her emotional struggles to focus more on lore and building up the villains for later arcs. Looking back, it's no surprise that my favorite episode among them was the first one, which was entirely told through Emilia's perspective.
The backstory told in this episode faces a similar issue; it begins with Roswaal's perspective on Echidna, before abruptly switching to a story about Ryuzu Meyer and her feelings about Beatrice and the Sanctuary. I can understand why this particular issue came up, because Subaru heard the story of the Sanctuary from the Ryuzus. At the same time, the reason he's confronting Roswaal at this point isn't necessarily because he learned of the sad parting between Ryuzu and Beatrice, which took up a large chunk of this episode. No, it's because Subaru learned that Roswaal was a kind and genial sort once upon a time. Subaru was trying to appeal to Roswaal's humanity in this episode because he knew that the man had once cared about people beyond his obsession with Echidna. In Ryuzu's story, he saw a bit of himself in Roswaal.
It might be a bit controversial of me to say this, but I really do think that it would have been for the best to reframe these flashback episodes to focus on the most relevant takeaway. The series so far has been almost impeccable at delivering information in a way that's most pertinent to the immediate context, so the last few episodes have stood out by bogging themselves down in details. I get how they're relevant to the larger narrative: Beatrice's character in particular has gotten fleshed out and recontextualized thanks to Ryuzu's perspective on her. But I also think that this information could have been delivered at a time when Beatrice plays a more active role in the narrative.
Notably, this episode does still show some narrative restraint by leaving gaps that will presumably be filled in later. For example, the villain who shows up to interfere at the Sanctuary is a guy named Hector, who is apparently the "Devil of Melancholy." We don't get any context for him at all yet, other than he seems to have the power to weigh people down (a neat actualization of melancholy), and that he has a grudge against Echidna. He wears a similar outfit to the present Roswaal and has similar verbal quirks, so there's definitely going to be a connection between the two. Perhaps it may also explain why Roswaal has memories from 400 years ago, despite being a human. I like these mysteries because they get me thinking and speculating, but I really do hope that when the answers eventually come, they'll be presented in a compelling and cathartic manner.
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