What can I say about Unlimited Blade Works episode 7? Hoooo-boy. I suppose in the name of being diplomatic, I should probably start with something positive.
The good: This episode had a lot of things that I loved. I loved that it centered around Saber and Archer battling their way into a magic Shrine as part of a daring moonlight rescue mission to try and save Shirou from the clutches of an evil kidnapper. I loved Saber locking blades in a devastating do-or-die supernatural swordfight with the mystical servant Assassin. And I loved Archer facing off in a truly dazzling duel with Caster (who I respect as a villain and who, as far as I can tell may be the most diabolically clever antagonist the series has produced thus far).
The bad: DESPITE the fact that this episode had a lot of things that I loved, it still PISSED ME OFF and had me gnashing my teeth an apoplectic fury by the time the end credits began to roll. Why? Because the characters spent more or less the entire length of this episode doing something that characters in a supernatural story SHOULD NEVER DO. Something that INFURIATES me whenever I see it: They broke the show’s own rules. Again. And again. And again.
What do I mean when I say this? Allow me to list just two examples of what I’m talking about. In the past, Archer has specifically stated that mystical servants are irrevocably bound to the will of their masters, and they CANNOT disobey an order given by their masters, and they CANNOT engage in independent actions without their master’s consent. (In fact, JUST LAST EPISODE, Archer mentioned that this was the precise reason why he cannot kill Shirou, even though Archer might personally wish to. Archer may despise Shirou and view Shirou’s honorable and idealistic style of combat as suicidally naïve, but as long as Archer’s master, Rin, has ordered that there be a truce and an alliance between herself and Shirou, Archer CANNOT violate that standing order, and CANNOT cause Shirou direct physical harm, no matter what Archer’s personal feelings toward Shirou may be.)
So of course, with all that in mind, it makes perfect sense that when Shirou has a disagreement with Archer in this episode, and refuses go along with Archer’s strategy for dealing with Caster (which is essentially to leave the Shrine and LET CASTER FREELY CONTINUE her evil scheme of attacking innocent civilians all over the city and draining their life energy in the hope that doing so will eventually allow Caster to become so powerful that she’ll be able to kill the strongest servant in the Holy Grail War, BERSERKER, and…save Archer the trouble of having to kill Berserker himself) Archer settles the dispute by letting Shirou walk away. AND THEN STABBING SHIROU IN THE BACK!! WITH A REALLY BIG BLADE THAT CAUSES TREMENDOUS BLOOD LOSS!! EVEN THOUGH ARCHER IS STILL UNDER STRICT ORDERS FROM RIN NOT TO HURT SHIROU! Orders which, ACCORDING TO THE SHOW’S OWN ESTABLISHED MYTHOLOGY, Archer SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO DISOBEY!!
What really took the cake for me though was what happened next. When Saber (who has been established as the most honorable character in this series, and who has been shown to be extremely protective of Shirou, both because protecting her master is part of her mystical servant’s oath and because she cares for Shirou personally) discovers that Archer has broken the terms of their alliance, and as a result Shirou is now BLEEDING TO DEATH, her response is to…basically let Archer get away with it.
At first I thought Saber was choosing not to kill Archer right then and there because she saw that Shirou was DYING and decided that rescuing Shirou from the shrine and getting him medical attention was more important that getting revenge. But then, back at Shirou’s home, when she’s bandaging his wounds, they have a discussion which ultimately boils down to: “Oh, that wacky Archer. Stabbing people and what not. Whaddaya gonna do? Oh well. Even though he betrayed us this time, I’m sure he and Rin are still mostly trustworthy allies. So let’s just try and sleep off these knife wounds and try our best not to get killed tomorrow.”
Don’t believe me? Think I’m oversimplifying things? Watch the episode and draw your own conclusions.
Don’t get me wrong. Even though there were a lot of things in this particular episode that made me very angry (again, these were just two examples of characters breaking the show’s established mythology, or acting wildly out of character. There were several others.) I DO still like the series as a whole. I fully intend to keep watching. And I’m still highly fascinated to see things play out. I’ll tell you one thing I DON’T like though: Archer. As of now, he is officially my least favorite character on the show. I shall now turn my back on him and walk away…actually, on second thought, considering what happens when people do that around him, maybe I’ll just stay facing him, and back away very slowly. Hopefully he’ll do something to redeem himself next week.
Kaita Mpambara works every day to try and create shows, stories, and characters that are as exciting, energizing, and entertaining as the very best works that have been given to the world by both the western and eastern animation industries. Keep up with his musings on life, the universe and everything by following him on Facebook.