The Last Master.
So, I initially thought that there was no Fate/Apocrypha episode this week, but it turns out fate isn't so kind: There is, and so I'm stuck here reviewing it. A regrettable turn of events, to be sure.
On the bright side, though, we have a new OP, and it's -- fine, I guess. A generic song, competently put together but not at all memorable or striking visuals, neither terrible nor in any way remarkable.
Picking up from last week, this week's episode sees Shirou reveal that he is now the Master of all the Red Servants bar Mordred (Saber of Red), much to Achilles' (Rider of Red) and Atalanta's (Archer of Red) consternation. He offers surrender to Avicebron (Caster of Black) and Chiron (Archer of Black), with Avicebron accepting while Chiron refuses, fleeing with Jeanne when Mordred and Sisigou create a distraction. Meanwhile, Celenike orders Astolfo (Rider of Black) to kill Sieg (Saber of Black), but when she dies, Astolfo forms a contract with Sieg instead -- which Sieg promptly uses as leverage to convince Fiore and the rest of the Black Faction to negotiate on the subject of homunculus rights.
So, let's start with the good stuff: We actually get changes in the story and plot this time around, in the form of Shirou revealing that he controls all the Red Servants, and there being a significant sea change in the factions, with them functionally being reclassified into Shirou and Jeanne factions. With a few betrayals on our hands, we end up with a Shirou Faction of Shirou, Semiramis (Assassin of Red), Shakespeare (Caster of Red), Karna (Lancer of Red), Achilles, Atalanta, and Avicebron; and a Jeanne Faction of Jeanne, Sieg, Mordred, Chiron, and Astolfo; with Jack being neutral.
That's an interesting enough shift partly because it reframes the entire war (this is no longer a battle for the Holy Grail but a battle to stop Shirou getting the Holy Grail -- instead of two morally grey sides we now have clearly defined good guys and bad guys, although mileage may vary on whether you think that actually enriches the plot at all, and honestly I think it does purely because twelve episodes of that purported moral greyness were dull as dishwater), but also because it establishes, for perhaps the first time in the series, a clear unbalance of power: Shirou is in possession of a flying fortress, two of the strongest Servants in the show, an army of golems, and superior numbers; whereas the best Jeanne can say is that she has two decently powerful Servants, one weak Servant, and Sieg, who seems to only be able to become Siegfried three times.
That immediately creates a certain amount of tension, because now we're not just killing time until all the Servants meet on a big field -- now, Jeanne and co have to figure out some way to strike at Shirou. A main antagonist has emerged, and that should hopefully give the series a bit of momentum.
None of which changes that this isn't a very good episode.
Things happen, yes, but a lot of those things feel meaningless: Why do we care that Celenike, who hasn't done anything in this series except engage in dubious sexual acts with Astolfo, is dead? She wasn't really a character, she was a cliche shoved in to fill out the numbers, so her death has literally no impact on the show. Similarly, Astolfo becoming Sieg's Servant feels pointless: Astolfo was already unambiguously on Sieg's side, and Sieg, who is functionally a Servant himself, already had leverage to argue for homunculus rights.
(Not that it matters, since Avicebron was the homunculus imprisoner du jour, and he's gone now.)
In truth, this episode could have been condensed down to about ten minutes, and ultimately you wouldn't have lost much -- and even its bigger plot moments feel oddly unearned, principally when Mordred exclaims that Shirou and Semiramis tried to kill Sisigou, even though I'm ninety percent certain that that literally never happened.
Still, I'll take what I can get with this series, and mostly I'm just happy that we are finally, finally in the second half of the series (and the fourth act!), meaning that we're halfway out of the living nightmare that is watching and reviewing this boring, boring show.