by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Steins;Gate 0 ?
With episode 13 of Steins;Gate 0, it finally feels like the story is getting somewhere. The Maho/Amadeus arc contained some interesting tidbits of characterization and a couple hints at a larger plot, but it didn't end up going anywhere, and regardless of where the series may lead in its second half, it remains a failing on S;G 0's part to go through an entire cour of episodes that still feel so inert. This week, Kagari has at last regained some memories of her life as a child with Future Mayuri, Suzuha, and the rest. This allows the episode to do two important things. For one, Kagari actually feels like a character now. Secondly, with Okabe putting in some elbow grease to investigate Kagari's strange circumstances, we're seeing how she, the Amadeus system, and Makise Kurisu will finally connect as the series progresses.
This episode isn't a completely smooth ride, unfortunately; scenes of Kagari showering Mayuri with affection leaned a little too hard into cliché comedy, and while I admittedly prefer her regression into a childlike state to the blank cipher she was before, Kagari's infantilized characterization threatened to become grating very quickly. I was also disappointed to see that Mayuri's entire approach to being a mother to an amnesiac woman from the future seems to be to grin and toss bananas at the issue, instead of actually having to deal with the complex implications of their relationship. It isn't necessarily surprising, but I'm still sad to see the series fail to capitalize on such a perfect opportunity to flesh out Mayuri's character, at least so far.
Things take a much better turn when Suzuha gets tossed into the mix, though. Her confrontation with Kagari is one of the best conversations we've seen yet from Steins;Gate 0, allowing both women more room to breathe as characters than they've gotten in a dozen episodes. Suzuha's frustration and resentment over Kagari's (apparently forgotten) betrayal is being given more context, and Kagari's simple anger at being denied her own childhood is both appropriate and well-timed. While the girl's emotional development may be a bit stunted, given the years of time travel and brainwashing that we see hints of later, she isn't just a little girl trapped in a woman's body. She feels anger at her circumstances, hurt at the friend she believes left her behind, and confusion over living in a world so different from what she used to know. This is the kind of stuff I've been wanting to see from Steins;Gate 0 for weeks now, and while the show would have been better off without employing such an obtuse storytelling style, I'm happy that we're at least getting something.
Okabe even gets more to do this time around than just be mopey about Makise. His team-up with Yuugo and Moeka does smack too much of plot convenience, but given the characters' history in espionage, I'm willing to go with it. Their exploration of the abandoned facility where Kagari was held is the first time in weeks that S;G0's gloomy, subdued aesthetic has actually felt appropriate for the story. Kagari's sleeper-cell activation and disappearance at the episode's end is another element that feels quite sudden, as if two episodes' worth of material was crammed into one, but with Okabe on the case and Suzuha chasing down leads, it finally feels like we're getting plot developments that the show can't ignore any longer. It's refreshing to say that I'm legitimately looking forward to seeing where this goes next episode.
Steins;Gate 0 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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