With some of the back story explored a little bit in the previous episode in regards to what happened between Pain and Naruto awhile back that Konan was involved with, the arrival of Madara to deal with her in the present and what she did after Pain's death has them going at it pretty hard. While Konan has had interesting moments earlier in this series run, she has gotten quite a notch up in the visual realm this time around with her Sacred Paper jutsu as it's very impressive in its design and expression here as the two go toe to toe with Madara even admitting that things were close to getting really nasty between them. But as intense as she is, she'sfighting with passion and is blinded to things, going more for belief in what happened than the truth with what happened in the fight. And that turns deadly for her.
The fight between the two is definitely impressive overall as it goes on, giving it the right kind of scale and intensity that shows both of them just how much they can accomplish. But there are some wonderful quiet moments in between that deals with Madara more specifically as he deals with the things from his own past and what happened to them. It's a certain kind of quiet beauty to it as he deals with the bodies of the dead as they lay surrounded by the white flowers, and it's almost something that you don't quite expect of Madara. So much of what we've seen of him has either been skulking around as he works his various plans or more direct action. Giving him the chance to show some slivers of emotion like this that you wouldn't quite expect humanizes him in an interesting way.
Unfortunately, while it may be cute and fun in its own way, the flashback material that goes back to when Konan was younger and undergoing training with a few other shinobi just feels very out of place. It's not a surprise to get some story elements thrown in that deals with her past now that thing are going towards the end game for her, but it's the kind of method that's used almost awkwardly here since it has all of them dressed up in frog suits to make the point. You can get it as it was done and why, both in the past and why to bring it in now, but it really felt like it through of the dynamic here. It's good to see her when she was working in her training with Jiraiya along with Nagato and Yahiko, and to have some lightness to it, but it's like they took it to a more than comical length than it needed to be.
Naruto has some good material here as it deals with one of the background stories that has been going on for awhile with it focusing on Madara. Often you don't get subplots like this or background material showing up on its own without the leads of the series being involved, such as the usual villain going on about how awesome they are. Shippuden knows it has to spend time letting the other side tell its tale so that they're less cardboard constructs and more real players in the game and episodes like this works it well. Konan was a character that I only really got to know during the attacked on the Hidden Leaf Village with Nagato so getting to see more of her here, seeing her fleshed out more as well, really went a long way to not only make this arc a good one but also to enhance my view of what has come before. Good stuff and definitely solid building for more of what's to come.