REVIEWER’S SECRET #1: I actually watched this episode a few days ago. Big surprise, but it’s sometimes easier to just watch and review in bulk.
REVIEWER’S SECRET #2: Whenever I get to the end of a series - - especially one that’s built up such expectations - - it’s always difficult to decide where to start with my write-up. I’m not just talking about one episode, now; I’m trying to summate an entire series! So there’s pressure to say something significant.
Since a discussion of deconstruction has been the overarching theme of these reviews, it’s probably best to just focus on that…
I figure that one of the biggest conceits in any story about enormously powerful do-gooders fighting against evil is the notion that they’re going to be locked in perpetual battle against bad guys without making any lasting progress. You’d figure that if Goku kept leveling up to cosmos-shaking power, for instance, then he’d realize that his god-like abilities would allow him to proactively eradicate all potential threats to peace.
We know why that never happens, of course. This stuff is all about conflict, and a conflict-less show would be utterly boring. Also, the more all-encompassing the morality play gets, the more it starts seeming more like a New Age, philosophical treatise and less like entertainment. But still - - it doesn’t make much sense in the logic of the imaginary world. And that’s why the further I get away from this episode, the more impressive it looks.
So yeah - - it turns out that my predication about a tragic conclusion where Madoka becomes Walpurgisnacht was off the mark. The ending we get instead - - where Madoka ascends to a higher, omnipresent state of being that quite nearly solves all problems, at all times - - sounds on paper like the sort of pretentiously-vague finish that has made me roll my eyes for too many other shows. Honestly, it’s almost an anime cliché.
However, I think MADOKA MAGICA turns that cliché into a clever win because it keeps its cosmos-shaking solution centered on grounded character concerns. Indeed, continuing the analogy about essays I made last time, this was a tight conclusion paragraph focused on tying up its argument - - hinting at larger issues without getting carried about making a paper that applies to everything.
I realize that the wording here is ironic, considering that Madoka actually does make her heroic efforts apply to everything in her world, but again, I’d say it works because it’s zeroed-in on something specific. Madoka finally does something here that I’ve wanted to see a character do in every story about magical wishes - - she treats Kyubey's offer like a binding business agreement and makes sure to cover her ass with all the provisos you’d see in an actual contract.
Watching her turn the Magical Girls’ vicious cycle of sacrifice and damnation into an ever-rolling wheel of encouragement and affirmation - - essentially rewriting this universe’s rules of physics - - doesn’t feel like a cop-out; it feels like watching a “chosen one” finally live up to her supposed qualifications by applying original, creative thinking to a problem.
As you can see, the onus of a final write-up has already put me in danger of getting too big with this write-up. All I’ll say, in summation, is that this show executed stupendously and it did many things which I’ve really been wanting to see in action-adventures fantasies for a long time. And that’s the most significant stroke for this deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre, because I’ve never been a Magical Girl fan.