The Triumphal Return of the Saint.
Is 'triumphal' even a word? It probably is. Probably is a word.
So, surprisingly, we have another episode in which stuff actually happens. I was shocked, because that's, what, three episodes now in which events have actually taken place, with some semblance of a story and, like, an arc that has a beginning, middle, and end? What on earth does it say about this series when basic storytelling gets me more excited than a furry at the Megaplex prom.
So, this episode sees Darnic commanding Vlad (Lancer of Black) to assume his vampiric form, and the two of them merging, preventing Vlad from killing him. As the Vlad-Darnic vampire rampages, Jeanne commands Achilles (Rider of Red), Chiron (Archer of Black), Karna (Lancer of Red), Avicebron (Caster of Black), and Atalanta (Archer of Red) to form an alliance to take it down. Fleeing, Vlad-Darnic encounters Shiro, who kills him and reveals his true identity to Jeanne: He is the Ruler of the previous Holy Grail War, who has chosen to subvert this one to his own ends.
So, quick question: Why did Darnic think this was a good idea, again? Because all we know about this character is that he's preserved his youth by fusing with the souls of babies, and that he wants the Holy Grail for some undisclosed glory of Yggdmillenia reason -- but it's made clear that fusing with Vlad turns him into a barely intelligent beast who would definitely use the Grail to wish for everyone to be vampires, and something tells me that wasn't Darnic's original wish.
If the show had made more of a big deal of Darnic's will and personality being subverted by his new vampiric nature, I would've bought it, but as it is, Darnic just looks like an idiot who did something stupid and then proceeded to have a total personality transplant for the sake of drama. And don't say it's Vlad's mind influencing his, because Vlad's wish was to eliminate the vampire legend entirely.
Apart from that, I actually didn't hate this episode. We got some actual status quo shifts -- the leader of the Black Faction is dead, leaving it under Fiore's control; and the most powerful Black Faction Servant is also dead. At the same time, we actually find out some of what Shirou's deal is, including that he's Amakusa Shiro Tokisada, an apocryphal saint.
All that means that not only is there a bit of a power vacuum in the Black Faction, but the numbers in the war has changed. The new count stands at four Black Servants, six Red, and three neutral Servants. That seems more equal than it is, because one of those Red Servants is Karna, the strongest character in the series by a long shot.
(Speaking of, what's Mordred doing right now? This episode is almost laser-like in its focus, to the point where I have no earthly idea what any of the characters not mentioned above are doing. Hell, what's Shakespeare doing? He's in the Hanging Gardens, after all, where Vlad-Darnic and everyone else also are. You'd think he'd at least show up to write a sonnet about Vlad-Darnic or something.)
The action is also surprisingly well-animated. Well, for this series, at least: It's not gorgeous, and it relies overmuch on having characters and objects move so fast that they're basically blurs, but it works out to something surprisingly effective when it comes to selling Vlad-Darnic as a threat -- which makes it all the more weirdly anticlimactic when Shirou unceremoniously murders him with magical wolverine claws.
This episode also gives us another flashback and, yet again, the flashbacks are the most interesting part of this show, with Shirou seeming to have some kind of love affair with a young woman, who then -- dies? Somehow? Darnic probably kills her? Darnic probably kills her.
Speaking of Shirou, though, this is a really odd situation where the show pulls a 'aha, plot twist' moment on us, but the plot twist is less interesting than what we all thought. Because 'Shirou Kotomine,' who looks like Shirou Emiya from Fate/stay night, but with Archer's hair and skin colour, seemed like he should be an AU version of Emiya, who was raised in the church and become a wrong'un. Instead, he's some apocryphal (yes, yes, it's in the title, well done) saint of little relevance to the story.
This brings us to the end of this story's third act, and also puts us at roughly the halfway point. Things we no doubt get to look forward to coming up: A new opening! More Hanging Gardens shenanigans! Many interminable episodes of people doing nothing! Sieg being a milksop! Mordred continuing to be one of the only interesting characters!