Well, I definitely wasn’t expecting the plot to go into such a METABARONS-like direction. At all. Keep the verbs the same and swap out the relevant verbs and, sure, all this intrigue with the emperor’s myriad clones isn’t all too different from him siring a slew of semi-illegitimate heirs in some bizarre and ambitious social experiment to create the most worthy liege. But c'mon - - it’s just so much more interesting this way. All these virile, potential replacements all have the exact same genetic make-up as the old, feeble wretch who’s currently in charge? That's nuts!
This might be the best single episode of the series, so far. Here's exactly the sort of surprising, out-of-the-box direction I was hoping the show would go into without necessarily having a clear idea of what that could be. I’ll immediately take back everything I said last episode about Prince Ukyo’s bratty unworthiness making him an ironically-fitting villain for these heroes. His character arc just took two jack-knife turns (well, three if you count the assassination - - but that’s too obvious) that have already made him a thoroughly-intriguing villain.
First, there’s tactical and ruthless mind he suddenly unveils - - as if he had this supreme cunning, all along, but wasn’t employing due to mere laziness. “Nature vs. nurture” is a reliable source of debate for any theme, and my imagination’s really captured by how Ukyo might’ve been born with this innate capability that he’s simply never opted to realize until now.
Then, there’s the notion that Ukyo’s varied upbringing has imbued with a kind’s conqueror’s tolerance - - like some Qin-era warlord who’s reconciled the dark and light sides of his aggression. He’ll take power by force, but then show compassion to all his conquered subjects. That's not a villain you see to often in adventure fiction.
Unless... all of those answers were just lip service he was paying to pseudo-Confucian ideals and he’s just the same smarmy schmuck I identified last episode. That’s still a possibility, and it'd be too bad if it was true. Let's hope this really is the direction the show's moving to.