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Monday, 9 March 2015

Kamen Rider Drive E21: What Can The Strange Victims Reveal?

Kamen Rider Drive
Episode 21
What Can The Strange Victims Reveal?

We left off last week after a slightly disappointing episode, looking forward (ish) to a plot relevant episode with a heavy focus on Medic and Chase. Before I talk about it, here's the bingo as it stood at the end of last week:

In this week's episode, Chase becomes a suspect in a string of homicides, forcing the question of whether or not he should be eliminated. Meanwhile, Medic continues to modify Chase and ingratiate herself with Heart, setting up an elaborate trap for Shinnosuke.

I - actually kind of hated this episode, unfortunately. 

I hated it from the very second scene, where it's revealed that five people have been murdered, only for the Chief to do an ostrich impression while squeaking in a loud voice. That four second section of the episode alone sums up one of Drive's biggest issues, which is that it can't seem to get a handle on its tone, instead snapping rapidly between drama and comedy. It's certainly not alone in having a mix of both, that's true of pretty much every Kamen Rider series, but it has no idea how to juxtapose them with each other.

This was one of the better moments of the episode, but it goes nowhere.

In this instance, the death of five people should be weighty - I'm pretty sure this is the first time in the series that the team has come up against out-and-out murder, and if you're going to have them chasing down murderers after twenty episodes of not doing that, then that has to be a watershed moment where you ramp up the drama.

Instead, the murders are hardly even talked about. A much more pressing concern, it seems, is whether Chase can be redeemed, and the idea that a bunch of people are dead only pokes its head in when the characters need to be reminded that said concern needs to be dealt with. The murder plot is, if anything, a B plot, and one that could have easily been replaced with something that has less of a distracting gravity to it.

It doesn't help that I hate Chase, at this point. Overexposure has pushed me from being bored with him to actively disliking him, and that's in no small part because he's such an ineffectual villain. I realise that this is to make his eventual redemption palatable, but if you're going to run a brainwashed-villain-becomes-a-hero subplot, then do that, and have your character actually be villainous so that it means something, don't sit on the fence tittering about how scary and effective he is while he goes around aggressively doing nothing.

Medic is also starting to get on my wick. Again, it's a problem of overexposure: She's been so prominent since her arrival that it makes how flat her character is really stand out. If you asked me what Chase and Medic's personalities are, I'm not certain I could tell you.

Which is a problem in an episode that has nothing else going for it. The conflict among the protagonists isn't really explored: Gou and Krim have one viewpoint, Kiriko and Shinnosuke have another, Rinna (whose opinion as their tech expert I would have liked to hear) never says anything, and beyond that we're pretty much never shown any kind of conflict. 

There were interesting directions that this could have been taken in: What if, for example, Shinnosuke attempted to stop Gou from attacking Chase? What if that prompted Krim to shut down his transformation? How would that affect both Gou's feelings about Shinnosuke, and Shinnosuke's feelings about Krim? How might the plot spiral out from there? 

While that would be one way of going about it, it's not the only one. What if, for example, Kiriko was the one pushing for Chase to be destroyed, because she felt that the murder thing made her desire to redeem him incompatible with her role as a public servant? What if that prompted Gou to do an about turn because he doesn't want his sister to suffer? 

I tried to think of a joke-y description, and I couldn't.

(Kiriko and Gou never talk in this episode, incidentally. Not in a 'their absence of communication is meant to be noteworthy' way, in a 'the writers simply didn't include these two siblings discussing something important to both of them.' In fact, Kiriko barely talks at all, instead mostly existing as a silent prop while the dudes fight over Chase.)

There was potential here, and it was squandered. 

The action was flat and lifeless, too, as is often a problem for Drive, and it dragged for too long. I don't care about Chase's upgrades. I am increasingly starting to not care about the risks of Dead Heat. The one shimmering light in that was that we got a brief, blurry glimpse at Type Formula, but as this form wasn't foreshadowed one bit, its appearance failed to evoke anything resembling an emotional reaction from me.

Ugh. Just a very poor episode all around, and I am extremely annoyed by that, because prior to this we'd had a prolonged run of pretty good episodes. 

Anyway, here's the updated bingo:

Bingo finished! I'll make a new one for next week.

Next week, we'll be finishing this second act of the series, presumably getting to see Type Formula in action, and hopefully, hopefully, see the end of this particular shade of the Chase subplot.

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