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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Fate/Apocrypha E10: Scattered Flower

Episode 10:
Scattered Flower.

Oh, man, could it be that things are actually going to happen that change the status quo and move the plot forward? What a lovely surprise! I should note that not a great deal happens in this episode, though: It really comes down to two things -- Frankenstein dying, and Sieg discovering the ability to transform into Siegfried. That's it, those are our only two plot developments of note.

Picking up after the end of the last episode, Mordred's (Saber of Red) attempt to kill Astolfo (Rider of Black) and Sieg is interrupted when Frankenstein (Berserker of Black) arrives. While Mordred easily defeats Frankenstein, Frankenstein attempts to use her Noble Phantasm to take Mordred down in a suicide attack -- only to fail to even really injure her. With Sieg stabbed and Astolfo in danger, Sieg transforms into Siegfried (Saber of Black) to face Mordred in battle.

This is a surprisingly focused episode. Usually, episodes of Fate/Apocrypha are all over the place, with a smattering of plot points that never really go anywhere or amount to anything, the definition of style over substance while still somehow managing to lack any style. This episode, however, single-mindedly focuses on Mordred, Astolfo, Sieg, and Frankenstein as they battle it out, with Mordred squarely in the antagonist role.

That isn't to say it's good, but it could have been, were it not all undone by the show's own prologue: Since so much time at the beginning was spent focusing on Mordred and Siegfried battling, there's absolutely no tension here. We know that Mordred won't be killed by Frankenstein, so we know in advance that Frankenstein's suicide attack will fail; we know that Mordred will battle Siegfried, so with Sieg carrying on Siegfried's mantle already, we know that Sieg isn't actually dead when Mordred stabs him.

For the matter, the prologue even manages to rob tension from scenes we aren't seeing: We know Atalanta (Archer of Red), Achilles (Rider of Red), Chiron (Archer of Black), Spartacus (Berserker of -- I don't know, Maroon?), Darnic, Vlad (Lancer of Black), and Karna (Lancer of Red) are all fine, because we saw them all at this point in the prologue. I praised that prologue at the time, as a much needed injection of action into an otherwise slow episode (oh, if I'd but known how the rest of the series would be), but now it's coming back to rather bite the show on the arse, so to speak.

Bizarrely, though, this episode plays out as if the writers expect there to be an edgy, anyone-can-die tension. We're clearly meant to hope that Frankenstein will kill Mordred, and we're clearly meant to be shocked when she doesn't, and even more shocked when Sieg is stabbed. Everything about the tone of the writing and how it plays out suggests a Game of Thrones esque commitment to shocking us, blithely unaware that the show itself spoiled its own darn plot twists nine weeks ago.

The only real surprise -- and it's a small surprise, given that we're told outright that Frankenstein's Noble Phantasm is a suicide attack -- is that Frankenstein actually dies, because this series is so committed to ignoring its own rules that I half expected Frankenstein to pop up again, alive and will. Indeed, she may well do exactly that next episode.

The show also attempts to tug at your heartstrings somewhat, but it does so in the most cloying, creepy way. The little montage of Frankenstein clips seem to have less to do with actually making the viewers sad for a character, and more to do with going "Look, fanboys, look what a good waifu Frankenstein was! She couldn't speak!" This show has layers of creepy misogyny built into it -- and thank you so much, episode, for reminding me that thong-wearing twelve year old Jack the Ripper is a thing in this show -- and it pervades everything. Every plot beat, every emotional moment, every action scene is built with this obvious and calculated goal of flattering and brown-nosing a teenage male audience.

Ah, well, at least it's one less lightning user. We were up to, what, four? That's a lot of electricity flying about the place.

That brings us to the end of Act Two, and covers up to the end of the prologue, as well. I fully expect that the show will avoid showing us anything interesting by having the start of the next episode reveal that the battle had to end because of that huge explosion Mordred and Sieg caused, so let's all look forward to another however-many-episodes of nothing happened.

On the bright side, though, the loss of a Servant in the Black Faction, and the acquisition of another neutral Servant means that the current Black count stands at five-point-five (the point five is Spartacus), the current Red count stands at six, and the current netural count stands at two. So that's a sort of status quo shift.

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