Kayneth is a weak master in the sense that he is an educator and academic who is not well suited to take part in a practical all-or-nothing war game like this. But he is also too proud a man to turn down such an offer to represent the Mage Association, and he is too proud to admit to himself that his knowledge and skills do not apply well to a situation like the Grail War.
Sola-Ui seems like a dutiful wife, who simply follows Kayneth's plan because she actually believes they cannot lose. She has a lot of faith in her husband, and sees this battle as a small extension of his job at the Mage Association. That is until Lancer's curse starts to make her drift from common sense.
Lancer is too noble a knight and too tragic a figure to be suitable for the sort of arrangement Kayneth tried to make. Serving two masters was never in his nature, and compromising his values when the chips are down isn't something he's capable of either. With the Servant unwilling to play dirty, and command of the Servant divided between two masters, the entire situation was a clusterfuck waiting to happen.
I think everyone saw this sort of climax happening way before this, but still, the way it was executed probably caught most people off guard. Kiritsugu and Maiya's mechanical ruthlessness in their operations is really hard to watch, especially since there are clearly no lingering emotions or deep reflections they have after their acts.
I found it very interesting that the episode opened by showing that Kayneth was in a way directly influenced mentally by his encounter with Kiritsugu. His underhanded maneuvering which got him the Command Spell, and the way he shot Rinsei in cold blood, both show that he is willing to do things that being a prideful mage would have prevented him from doing previously. After seeing how Kiritsugu totally destroyed him, he was influenced to try the same sort of strategies to get his way in the Grail War. But too little too late it seems.
The way the "main" acts of violence were presented in the episode were very effective because of how sudden and unexpected they were. The mix of the camera, sound design, and the mental state of each of the characters in these scenes lowers the guard of the viewer to surprise them with a shocking incident. It's very effective imo.
For example, we start with Sola-Ui looking through a fence, thinking about Lancer, and just having a personal moment. This scene automatically makes us think that the intention is to develop her character to show that she is no longer the person she used to be, and is completely under his spell. By doing this, it distracts the viewer from making the connection that there might be another person at the scene, in a way it puts the audience into her mind set, which is such that she is oblivious to her surroundings and hence does not realize that Maiya has come right behind her, until she sees her own hand hanging on the fence. Fantastic.
In the same way, the murder of Rinsei, and later Kayneth and Sola-Ui, are paced in a way where it happens very quickly, and you don't quite expect that the person would go that far immediately. By the time you make the connection that yes, that is logically what a person who is cold and calculating would do, the incident has already happened.
I think it was very effective to have Kiritsugu bring Kayneth and Sola-Ui out into the open, to basically announce to Saber what he has done, because in doing so the expectation is that Kayneth is "finished" with his plan, and that it is unlikely he would further harm his relationship with his Servant by doing something even more dishonorable and inhuman right in front of her in the open.
But he does just that. Why? Because I think that in reality this wasn't JUST about Kayneth and Lancer. That was one reason for Kiritsugu to do it, since it's practical. But there is also the fact that he wants to set a strong example for his Servant to make it clear to her that he has had enough of the games she and Lancer were playing. They might be knights in their past lives, but he isn't interested in that, and that has no place in the rest of his Grail War. It was a strong statement that he wants to see "the end of honor" as the subtitle says.
Regarding Lancer himself. I found myself very satisfied by how the show presented his exit. While it is true that the dishonorable way he was defeated leaves the actual combat between Saber and Lancer unsatisfying, the final scene of his really hammered home his bitterness and resentment for the entire Grail War, and for the first time I felt he let all his chivalry go and was truly honest to everyone watching. He is filled with hate and sadness, betrayed by fate over and over, and there is no more goodwill in his heart for the realms of men.
>Masters will summon servants that are like them in personality.
>Otherwise you'll get characters like Gilgamesh who was corrupted by Tohsaka's ambition.
Diarmuid being summoned by Kayneth makes absolutely no sense if we count out we wanted more suffering and history repeats itself. Fucking Urobuchi.
Also at least post the SJW ANN reviews Op.
>Masters will summon servants that are like them in personality.
That's only if they don't have a catalyst. Kayneth had a catalyst for Diarmuid, although what the relic was specifically is not elaborated on.
>Kayneth is a weak master in the sense that he is an educator and academic who is not well suited to take part in a practical all-or-nothing war game like this.
Uh, no. Every mage basically trains to be able to fight to the death.
Kayneth's problem is that he was an arrogant faggot who didn't do his homework on his enemy. Any other modern mage would get rekt by Mercury Moeblob.
So it finally happens. After building up the obvious conclusion of Kirei's character arc with Gilgamesh since episode 6, he finally decides to take the step to remove Tokiomi from the equation. I think everyone saw this coming, but what is more interesting is not that he has killed Tokiomi, or that Tokiomi is dead, but rather what this means for Kirei as a character. The change in Kirei's expressions and behavior is probably one of the more interesting and deliberate character development arcs I've seen in animation. Everything from script to character design to animation has been subtly changing since his first interaction with Gilgamesh. To finally see him break into moments of facial expression, and to see him take independant actions in the episodes leading up to this is very fascinating. The payoff for audiences here imo, is seeing Kirei's total release in emotions at the end of the episode, not so much a master being eliminated. Finally seeing him smile and feel "free" to express emotions of his own is both satisfying and also rather creepy. The pacing of the episode seems to also reflect Kirei's hesitation towards finally acting out his intentions, and as such, that could explain the deliberate nature of the slower second half of the episode.
As for Gilgamesh, I think it is also very intriguing to see what a seductive bastard he is. Out of all the Servants he is definitely the one with the most arrogance and deviousness, and he's not even afraid to let people know that. If only Tokiomi was more attentive and less trustworthy with regards to his grand plan, he would probably have caught on. It's hard to feel that there is a loss of a character here today, since Tokiomi was hardly a participant as far as the narrative was concerned. So caught up was he in his own world that he was really oblivious to all around him, and it reflected him as a boring and uninterested individual. He will not be missed. I do have to question though, why Gilgamesh would feel so confident and willing to form a contract with Kirei knowing that he has also inherited all his father's Command Spells. That seems to be the one weakness that Gilgamesh has. Does he really feel that Kirei is interesting enough a person to risk this contract? Their relationship should get even more exciting from here on out.
This episode far surpassed my expectations. I was pretty excited for a Kiritsugu flashback to learn more about his character, but the way Ufotable handles these "stand alone" stories in Fate/Zero is really, really impressive. Like with episode 10, this felt like a very complete self contained story. It also had a distinctive unique style which is unlike the regular show, allowing the director and the animators to really flex their creative muscles to make something cool and different.
While episodes like these don't continue the on-going story, they are very important to the overall pace of such a series. For such a show to take breathers after week upon week of major events, and to instead dive deeper into the characters and setting instead is a bold move, but to bother doing it well and putting strong effort into it is even bolder.
I loved the color scheme in this episode most of all, and it really felt like a powerful contrast to the series at large. The story was both expected and yet surprising. It is effective how the show expands on themes we are already familiar with previously. We know about the Executors and the Mage Association. We know what they do and we know that there are cover ups. These are things we have all heard about in the previous 17 episodes. But here we see them in action, and we now know first hand the sort of "average" situation they deal with from day to day when there is no Grail War.
By showing these events through Kiritsugu's eyes, we also know that these are things he knows first hand since he was a child, and this shapes his character development without the show having to specifically say it. We now know the first encounter he had with the larger "magical world" and that is the first hint as to why he has no disregard for their ways and their rules - because they have no regards for the lives of normal people who are not part of their closed society.
He probably didn't have access to a relic that would summon Cu.
For some reason people really like to deny that Kayneth is a formidable threat and a genius at magecraft even though this is stressed in Fate/Zero's text. Kiritsugu rekt him so thoroughly because Kiritsugu has specifically built his methods around the killing and disabling of magi, not because Kayneth is some failure of a magus. It's like claiming that fire can't do big damage to anything because water puts it out just fine.
Kiritsugu's relationship with his father is also interesting, because the closest contrast we have to his father by the end of the episode is Tohsaka Tokiomi. I think it is no coincidence that the show chose to place this episode after the one where Tokiomi is also stabbed and killed by someone he did not expect. In fact, there is a strong unspoken parallel here about traditional mages who are so lost in their own ways of seeking the Root that they are oblivious to the feelings and rational of those around them. While Kiritsugu killed his father because he felt a sense of outrage and injustice in the research being done, Kirei killed Tokiomi for much more personal and psychopathic reasons. Yet both mages died simply because of the fact that they didn't take the time to understand those around them. They didn't feel the need to because they felt what they were doing was completely natural as long as they were seeking the Root.
Would Zero have been better if Urobutcher hadn't written it?
Unlike the more reserved and methodical style of Suhara's direction in ep18, Miura's take on ep19 is a much more mature form of direction in terms of visual narrative. By doing this, it also creates a different sort of pace. Young Kiritsugu's life was more relaxed and formulaic, while the teenage Kiritsugu is in a less predictable world and living an unorthodox life. The direction in ep19 is much less relaxed and uses more creative forms of narrative direction.
The way that flashbacks of the younger Kiritsugu is often referenced and contrasted with the teenager Kiritsugu throughout the episode is pretty interesting, because this is already essentially a flashback episode. By using this technique, the director is giving the audience the benefit of the doubt that they are smart enough to be able to understand the connection between the scenes, even though they are non-linear. Instead of showing a linear sequence of Kiritsugu "growing up", he is instead showing that specific Kiritsugu experienced or said in the past do have an impact on him as he grows up.
I also like how Miura handled the dialogue overlay scene, where Kiritsugu is talking to Natalia about how he was also up all night, but while they are talking about it, the visuals actually depict what he was doing that night. Again it is an example of a more experienced form of direction, where the audience is expected to be able to understand that the audio and the visuals are not linear, but rather the visuals are what the dialogue is referencing, up until the point where they sync up.
Which leads us to the climax of the episode. Based on the groundwork the rest of the episode laid out, it is extremely obvious what Kiritsugu plans to do. It cannot be considered a plot twist since the episode is deliberately written and directed to give clear cues that after he realized the plane was filled with zombies, that he had to shoot it down.
Kirei gives Lancer the green light to fight Archer in the UBW route.
Instead, what we are witnessing is Kiritsugu getting into his element for the first time in his life. This is the Kiritsugu who shot a random bystander along the pier simply because he had good enough reason to suspect he was Caster's master. This is the Kiritsugu who lied to Kayneth just to ensure that he could take out Lancer and both his masters. This is the Kiritsugu who will continue to talk to Natalia just to make sure the plane continues on the expected flight course so he shoot it down over the ocean. Even to the only living person in the world he cared about at the time, he would deceive and kill, simply if his instincts told him that was what he had to do. The difference between this time and all the subsequent times he would do this, is that we see him break down for the first time ever. Here we see the real Kiritsugu, the man filled with emotion, conflicts, doubts, anger, and lost to himself and the world. The face he hides from everyone because he has to, including himself.
After two episodes showing how Kiritsugu became the person he is, it is hard to really sympathize with him. Instead it is so much easier to pity him. A man who feels that he is nothing more than a tool the world needs, and who has so little respect for his own emotions and needs. It really drives home why he was the way he is in the very first scene the series started with. A man who feels he has no right to enjoy the rights of a normal person or be a father.
I don't think Deermud is that bad a Servant. His main downside is that he doesn't have a sure-kill NP, but what he does have at his disposal is workable so long as you're strategic about it.
It's just an anime man, don't try to read deeply into it.
I hope we get to see him have a small skirmish with Berserker but that's being greedy.
I missed that small detail.
Sure, this is a CG background, but that's not really a bad thing. The way these aerial view shots of backgrounds are used throughout the series add a good sense of dimension to the overall perspective of the setting. Here, it is notable because it is the first time we get a sort of constructed view of Waver's neighborhood. I like the colors here, because it makes the entire setting feel like a sort of scale model. There is quite a bit of detail and effort in making the houses look unique and creating a believable feel of the district. It's a short establishing shot, but combined with the scenes which follow immediately after, it does a good job of making the area feel like it could be a real place.
This shot here is another example of how natural and detailed casual background shots are in the series. It's a short and relatively unimportant scene of Waver shopping in a supermarket. Such a setting will never be used again, and there is no specific importance for the story to make it look great or realistic. But the set designers have enough pride in their work to put in the effort to arrange a layout which is organized, yet not perfectly aligned, and shows a great diversity in the products on the shelves - even those which are out of focus on the corner of the shot. Such scenes are appealing to watch because to feel comfortable and natural, but aren't the type of scene that asks anyone to really take notice. It works because there is nothing out of place to be noticed. A thankless job.
This is probably the most interesting shot in the episode for me personally. The shot before this showed the goods packed and aligned tightly inside the fridge. So why does this shot deliberately show a more displaced arrangement from inside the fridge? And yet why does it look right anyway? The explanation is that this is a natural camera shot, and audiences are familiar and trained to see something like this. If you were to take a camera and put it inside such a container to fight such a scene of a person reaching in, you would need the space for the camera, and you would also need the gaps to make the shot work (otherwise the angle would not look as interesting as it does). It shows that even in animation, having a good understanding of film techniques pays off.
I think there are several interesting narrative techniques applied. Kiritsugu attacking the Tohsaka mansion only to find it abandoned, and then investigating the mansion for signs of the murder was something which we haven't really seen him do that much. It calls to mind the scene in the first season with him in a hotel room with photos and info on the various masters, trying to figure out what move to make next. Clearly it has been established that aside from being a killer, he is also relatively skilled in investigative work and gathering information through hands-on research.
By showing us this scene, it further builds on that and adds to his character, reaffirming that the Kiritsugu of today has a much wider spectrum of experience compared to the one from the previous flashback episodes, and concluding the evolution of Kiritsugu as the man he is. The scene also serves a dual purpose though. For the audience, we know what occurred there, and there is no mystery waiting to be solved. Instead, there is unease because while we know what happened, we do not know why it is now abandoned. What happened to the body? Where did Kirei and Gilgamesh go? Why didn't they stay behind and wait for an unsuspecting intruder? Clearly they have larger plans and this makes the entire situation more disturbing, because that is one detail which is an unknown to both the viewers and Kiritsugu.
As for the scenes with Maiya and Iri, I can't say there is much effective development there. In fact, this episode makes it painfully obvious that Maiya's only purpose in the narrative is to play off both Kiritsugu and Iri, with no real role of her own. I guess that fits with her backstory, but it also doesn't make for an interesting character. It also felt a bit convenient that she basically gets her "final development moment" before biting the dust. Definitely not one of the show's stronger story points.
But what is effective about Maiya's death is not so much that she dies but rather the two elements the show used her death to illustrate. Having Rider break into the safe haven of Team Saber without warning and killing a character while taking Iri away hammers home the point that when it comes down to it, this is a fight to the death and Rider is not some silly idealistic knight like Lancer was. He is a king and a conqueror, and while he might be one of the friendlier characters in the show and rather lovable, he has a violent streak and has the determination to put aside courtesy and honor when he needs to.
I liked the brief scene before the opening credits because Irisviel's words are completely unremarkable but for the audience they remind us that, even though we've seen Kiritsugu numerous times throughout the show this is the first time that we understand who he is, and this really allows to look at him in a new light. It's like we're being introduced to the 'real' him for the first time.
Kirei is a man notable for absence and Kiritsugu's uncertainty about the events that unfolded earlier demonstrates that for the most important characters in the show, Kirei is still a mysterious black box. Of course, for the audience Kirei and Kiritsugu have finally been 'revealed' to us.
This really wasn't supposed to happen. Everything that we've been told in the episode really led us in the wrong direction. For starters, Rider and Waver are supposed to be resting and recovering, with Rider specifically saying that he will need till nightfall to recover completely. They don't appear to readying any kind of attack. In fact, we actually fear that they're going to be attacked while they're resting by Saber, who we know is looking for them at the behest of Kiritsugu. That's why it's even more amazing when the REVERSE happens and Iri is the one caught unawareness, our expectations have been completely turned on their head.
I really like how Rider appears in this scene, or rather, how he doesn't. He attacks like some off-screen move monster and they make sure never to show him in shot fully to make his appearance and action more frightening to those who have been attacked. Also, this makes us question why Rider is operating on his own at this point because this doesn't seem like the kind of thing that Waver would plot. As has been mentioned above Rider's appearance and actions really aren't in line with what we've seen so far and so coercion makes a lot of sense..
I really like how they got straight into the "action" this week, and for the audience they really cleared up the Rider thing very quickly. Once I saw "Rider" jumping from rooftops, it became immediately obvious that they were duped. Obviously only the dumbest Servant of them all would not realize this immediate. Saber probably has D- in Intelligence. Sucks 2 b her.
The entire race against the real Rider was really awesome though. GREAT camera work as always, and really solid effects and motion. I loved how kept most of the action framed in a very steady and subdued manner, because it really lends well to the overall "live action" feel of how the show is directed.
Unfortunately, the conclusion of the race is where the writing gets really puzzling for me. Saber seemed to have no issues with announcing her challenge after flying off the cliff, by shouting Rider's name, and right after that it seems before they even clashed she realized something was wrong and sort of hesitated. Yet when she lands on the ground, knowing that Irisviel is not at the scene, she doesn't seem to actually talk to Rider or try to clear anything up.
Instead the scene breaks off, and when we return, both sides are already ready to fight it out without saying anything to each other at all. This leads me to wonder if there is a scene missing on the broadcast version where Saber tries to reason with Rider, but he wants to defeat her so badly he won't let her leave even though she knows they're not involved. If there is such a scene, it would also explain why after failing to kill both Rider and Waver with the attack, she chooses to leave instead of attacking them further. But right now as it is, it just seems kinda odd and poorly set up.
That quirk aside though, the rest of the drama in this episode was really intense and really well engineered. The scenes with Kirei were great, especially with him showing more and more emotion as he realizes his sadistic plans are unfolding as he planned. There are really nice touches to the facial animation, which shows how much he has changed from his previous self. Details like these are totally visually, and can't be executed with dialogue alone. It's stuff like this which is really impressive about this show.
The scene where Kariya snaps and kills Aoi is probably one of the best directed scenes in the entire series so far. The timing and tone of the entire scene was really disturbing and harsh. As Kariya starts blacking out, there is a strong sense of unease, and it is clear he is going to do something really horrible, but even with an extended period of heavy lead-in, the act itself is still incredibly unpleasant to watch.
There is probably no coincidence that it had strong allusions to a rape scene, from the camera angles, to the positions of their bodies and the thrusting motions. Kariya's carnal desire for Aoi mixed with his despair at realizing that he will never have a place in her heart the way he wants created a raw monster more frightening than Berserker himself. The scene was extremely uncomfortable, but totally effective, and really hammered home the reality of what sort of person Kariya is deep inside.
After watching such a horrifying act, it's even more fitting that they would show how much pleasure something like this gives to both Gilgamesh and Kirei, further cementing that this amoral duo are the true face of evil in this conflict. Something that the preview serves to remind us again, when the title of next week's episode is revealed - All the Evil in this World.
So it has finally come down to this. The final battle. The last goodbyes. This is probably the final Fate/Zero episode which will feature the sort of leisurely character driven drama which many of the episodes in the series have. I really appreciate that sort of pace mixed with the more intensive action driven episodes. The Waver scenes were really well done here, and I really liked the Grail dream sequences at the end of the episode. Everything about the Kirei scenes were just hammered home that this is the very end. He has played all his cards, and now the final call to battle has been made.
Waver going into the final battle without any Command Spells is probably dumb of him, but to be honest, he never seemed the sort who would have a good "order" to give Rider anyway. He knows Rider is smarter and wiser than him in all ways in terms of combat strategy, and he is always by his side, so there's no need for that. Still, I really hope they somehow pull through this. Please?
They really deliver with the character moments. Even though nothing "happens" to Waver this week, you get a real sense that there's a chance in his conviction and his mindset. He takes everything that has happened into consideration, and I think he no longer wants to throw his life away. He also wants Rider to be free, but yet having staked so much on this battle, they both can't walk away now. There's really a sense of dread there, and a touch of finality to their relationship. Yet I'm so proud of Waver for growing just a little bit as a person!
>Having Rider break into the safe haven of Team Saber without warning and killing a character while taking Iri away hammers home the point that when it comes down to it, this is a fight to the death and Rider is not some silly idealistic knight like Lancer was. He is a king and a conqueror, and while he might be one of the friendlier characters in the show and rather lovable, he has a violent streak and has the determination to put aside courtesy and honor when he needs to.
I really liked the way this episode played out. While it was mostly Rider vs Archer, there were some other elements mixed in which continued to build up the climatic events. There isn't really a ton of intelligent stuff to say about this episode on a whole other than how well realized it was, because it was mostly action. But I think one area of discussion which is interesting is the contrast they played between the conflicts in this episode.
There are two central battles in this episode - Rider vs Archer, and Saber vs Berserker. In these two battles, I think this episode more than ever shows the definitive difference between "kings" and "knights" as established by the series up to now. All the development of the Servants comes full circle here as we see the true meaning behind what it means to truly be a king.
A king is a leader, one who holds within himself the ultimate authority of his rule, and his pride commands that he treats all others as subjects or rivals, without compromise. A king is not just one of the guys. You cannot lead if you are trying to be equal to your subjects. You must stand above them and be seen and respected like a god.
Gilgamesh is a king, even as a Servant he is the king of kings. He takes no shit from Tokiomi, and never treated him as someone he respected or followed. He treats Kirei as a curious partner, but expects to be respected as he should be. The partnership works because Kirei recognizes what his Servant is, and treats him accordingly.
Iskandar is a king, and this is a point which took Waver a while to realize. At first he treated him as a mere Servant, and was annoyed by how they were not giving each other the full attention required to move forward in the Grail War. With time and experience he started to learn who Iskandar really is, and how he thinks. With newfound respect for his king, their relationship changed into one of true friendship and loyalty.
The fight between the two kings is the only battle in the entire series which is carried out on the exact terms and wishes of the Servants, not the masters. This is fitting because as kings they would have the right to pick their own battles, and decide how to carry them out. No one else is to interfere or to question it.
This is a direct contrast to the sort of petty fights of honor fought between Saber and Lancer. It is no coincidence that in all those battles, they could never complete the battles on their own terms, because of interference from their Masters. This shows that they have the mindsets of mere knights, and will always be simply cogs in the larger machinery they are part of. Thus Saber is not a true king at all, but a knight who happened to be given the title of one. She will always want to be just one of the other guys.
This is also contrasted again in the episode itself, where Saber's battle with Berserker is that of two knights with differences, battling it out. The combat is more visceral, with much more dynamic camera work, and is very exciting to watch. But yet it is always clear that they are both fighting for the sake of their Masters here, and that is the only reason they are "allowed" to face each other. In any other situation previously, Berserker was always withdrawn because his Master doesn't actually want him fighting Saber.
The battle between Rider and Archer in comparison is less "exciting" to watch because it is not a melee battle between fighters, but instead pre-planned series of attacks with the conclusion long decided before the actions even began. Such is how kings operate. They plan strategies and carry them out, almost in a turn-based manner, and the one who has the ultimate advantage wins. Instead of being exciting to watch moment to moment, the overall battle felt more like a tapestry - a single beautiful large scale moment in time.
One other thing I would like to add is that the application of art form by Ufotable in the Saber/Berserker battle is really worthy of respect. The consistency of Berserker throughout the series as an alien CG form when his aura is on, makes the transition when it turns off much more striking. As the aura dissipates, and the armor becomes a hand-drawn form, it visually sells the idea that the character goes from a creature from beyond this world into an actual person. The reveal was delivered in a very convincing way.
This episode also has a GREAT use of a hand drawn vehicle in a fight scene. Saber using the car as cover as she charges Berserker was fantastic, and it was also a great choice not to use a CG vehicle there because it would have undermined the intention of Berserker's CG standing out as being other-worldly.
A final point, there's an interesting detail in the way the episode was constructed. While the entire episode was about showcasing the two fights between the various Servants, the episode starts and ends with Kiritsugu and Kirei getting closer to their eventual confrontation. This serves to highlight that while everything else is cool, the true climax is the battle between these two men, and that is where we are headed towards.
Kayneth is an idiot who thinks rules and traditions matter in a war.
The room where Kiritsugu and Kirei have their battle is a very interesting design choice. Setting such a battle in a large open hall lit entirely by white florescent ceiling lights is a pretty brilliant decision because it makes the setting completely unique from anything in the series before. From a visual stand point, these are the sort of conscious choices you want to make when creating a series like this.
Unlike any other battle in the series thus far, this is an indoors but open area, with no place to hide or run, and the entire room is brightly lit with white light. The distinct look it gives the battle makes it much more memorable and also presents a fair environment where there are no hidden tricks or advantages to either side. I really liked the set design for those reasons, even though it was clearly inspired by the test chamber in The Dark Knight. I didn't really find it out of place or strange.
I also really enjoyed how the fight was designed, and how well animated it was. One thing I disliked was the "flashback" moment when they explained the Origin Bullet again, in case audiences forgot about it. It felt poorly tacked on, and would probably have been better if they just handled it naturally instead.
The fight that clearly suffered was the encounter between Saber and Berserker. Clearly Saber had more to say during the fight, and I would assume there is a bit more to Kariya's scenes, since he very likely died in the conflict as well. An expanded battle sequence along with more closure for Kariya and Berserker would improve the flow tremendously.
Regarding the entire Grail vision sequence, I think it is pretty effective how they had call backs to all the set pieces throughout the series. The Grail was basically using Kiritsugu's memories and consciousness against him, and it was fitting that most of the visions are based on locations he was familiar with - scenes from throughout the series, including the flashback episodes, and generally locations where major events occurred.
These are places he is familiar with, and they are places the audience is also familiar with. Hence the argument the Grail makes against Kiritsugu is one which the audience can also make against him, which makes it a natural and valid challenge. It also justifies the development his character has undergone in the series, because he is judged based on actions and decisions he made which the audience are familiar with.
The way he ultimately rejects the Grail is a very chilling scene, and plain uncomfortable to watch. It does show that he is one who does not hesitate to put an end to a charade when he has had enough of it, but it was still rather disturbing. What he had to go through with the Grail puts him in a rather justified position to do what he has to do at the end of the episode, even though Saber would probably never understand.
I really wonder what will happen in the final episode. There are still over three hours left in the countdown clock, and right now the only opposing character left is Gilgamesh. It doesn't seem particularly hard for Kiritsugu and Saber to survive this one, since Kirei is already dead, but that doesn't seem like the sort of conclusion we're headed towards. Instead with all purpose lost in the battle, surviving this battle doesn't really seem like a victory at all.
The climax holds true to the tone of the series in general, even though it leaves a bitter after taste in some ways. The Grail was always viewed with suspicion by several characters, and there was always a question about what sort of genie-in-a-bottle it was, or possibly even a monkey's paw. All these concerns turned out to be accurate in the previous episode, but it is only here that we finally see what that means in practical terms.
Seeing Kiritsugu watch his dreams and hopes turn into a total nightmare collapsing all around him is pretty haunting, and it becomes clear that there would be no real salvation for him, or his wife, or his daughter, or Saber, or anyone who actually put all their faith into a miracle cup which should not even exist. Their miseries filled the cup, and now they are forced to watch as the cup overfloweth.
It is somewhat fitting that the only people who did not really suffer were those who never wanted the Grail or any wish to begin with. Ryuunosuke found demented pleasure even in his own death. He had no desires or knowledge of the Grail War, nor did he care. Hence he lost nothing, except his own life - which had no value to him to begin with.
Kirei comes out of this a happier man, fully embracing his sadistic nature. He wanted to know what the truth of the world was - his answer was that it is suffering. As someone with no personal agenda other than watching the world burn, he and the Grail seem to see eye-to-eye.
Neither expected the Grail War to change their lives. They had no expectations of miracles making an impact on the world. Perhaps that is the ultimate "lesson" here, that man should be content with the world, and not expect the impossible to fix what is broken or flawed with humanity. It seems that after paying too heavy a price, even Kiritsugu himself realized that what he really wanted was not something practical for the world itself.
I'm glad that it pays off with a satisfying conclusion for me. I knew going in that the overall story doesn't "end", but I approach it like anything which has an expanded universe - I don't have to like the majority of the universe to enjoy pieces of it which appeal to me. Fate/Zero is Kiritsugu's story, and the tale of his encounters during the 4th Grail War. It is about the people in this conflict, and the consequences of their decisions. To that end, the finale was extremely satisfying, especially since it took the time to provide closure for characters after the war.
Isn't it wonderful how Kiritsugu's adoptive relationship with Shirou, and his finding a new happiness after the war, perfectly meshes with his origin of "cutting and retying"?