Tales of Zestiria the X
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 17 of
Tales of Zestiria the X (TV 2) ?
This was a good episode to watch with a purring kitten on my lap, not because it was particularly dark (although it did have its moments), but because it felt just a tad heavy-handed, so petting a fluffy kitten made that less irritating. This is the episode where Rose has to come to terms with the fact that her “kill the bad guys” philosophy may not actually be helping the world as much as she'd like, which also means that she has to potentially disavow her adoptive father Brad's way of life. Through a series of late-episode flashbacks, we see that Rose was the sole survivor of a battle in her village, rescued from being a raider's sex object by Brad, who then handed her a knife and invited the terrified and bloodied child to join him. Rose is only alive because of Brad's actions, but the fact that he handed her a knife for self-defense before reconsidering and asking her to come with him, tells us that adopting her wasn't his first thought. In hindsight it doesn't matter, but it also gives us some idea of Brad's way of life: someone who hands a five-year-old a big knife rather than just taking care of her likely lives a life of violence. While Rose has taken his words to her as a kind of Robin Hood philosophy, it's now becoming clear to her that his altruism was still guided by death and violence.
She and Sorey have come to stand on opposing sides of the question of how to help the world, and it's becoming obvious to Rose that she may be on the wrong side. When Sergei's men come to help the Sparrowfeathers, Sorey, and the Seraphim avoid conflict on the road, Sorey and his mostly invisible buddies notice that the dark forest they're riding through is full of Malevolence. Since Rose just witnessed Konan turning into a Hellion and can feel (and likely hear) the keening cries of the Malevolent spirits as they swoop past the group, Sorey's statements about how Malevolence is a force inside all of us that must be stopped take on a new meaning. When she adds that to Dezel stopping her from seeking out Konan's corpse in the lake, it's suddenly driven home to her that her actions with the Scattered Bones are creating that very Malevolence now haunting the forest. It's not a great moment for her, and I suspect she's got at least one more conflicted episode before she even starts to come to terms with things.
Hopefully, that future episode won't put her in such unsubtle contrast to Sorey. He's basically given up all shreds of personality this week in order to illustrate Rose's internal realization, and between that and the sidelining of the Seraphim, it's felt like we're getting off track in the plot. Dezel seems to be the only one still moving us forward, especially as his conversations with Mikleo this episode seem to indicate that he's willing to take on the Malevolence for Rose's actions as part of his belief in Brad. When he stops Rose from entering the lake, he's quelling her killing drive, something no one ever did for Konan until Rose actually stuck some knives in him – and we all know what happened to him.
The Konan solution is actually another issue I have with this week's episode, as turning him into a Hellion in order to justify Rose's killing felt like an excuse to make her moral path smoother. Since he was changed by his own Malevolence, Sorey can have no problem with his death, and since Konan was clearly such an evil person, we viewers also get to feel good about his demise. Sure that's nice, but it doesn't help with Rose's storyline, instead just paving the way for a less nuanced emotional journey for her. I feel like the show could do better than this.
Fortunately, Zestiria's back to proving that it can provide scenery far superior to just about any other show this season. The scenery porn makes a welcome comeback this week with fantastic flowers, gorgeous water, and the slow collapse of a stone tower into the lake that feels powerful and inevitable – you can feel the building's weight as it goes down. The forest is also impressive with its ominous atmosphere; I kept expecting Baba Yaga's cottage to run by on its chicken feet. That's definitely something that I can say in Tales of Zestiria the X's favor – even when one part of the show is lacking, there's always another piece to pick up the slack, even if it's just the silliness of the next episode preview.
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