Welcome to another Gundam SEED Destiny Doubletake! If you missed the introduction to this content, check it out HERE or read the recap below.
For each post in this series, I dive into an episode or two of SEED Destiny and present two “takes” from it — two commentaries on plot or character points that stood out to me. As a bonus, I react to and explore each point from two different perspectives — from a fan’s perspective, and from a fiction writer’s perspective.
Got it? Awesome. Here we go.
Frongi, Gundam DEE CORe... LAUNCHING!
Take 1 — A Mysterious Masked Man
An Earth Forces battleship shows up to cause trouble, and captaining it is a mysterious masked man. He has Mu La Flaga’s voice and hair color.
Reaction as a fan: I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD?! WHY IS THIS A THING? IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE, INDEED?!
Reaction as a writer: This is the Gundam franchise; it has a thing for the trope of the Char Clone, whether the trope makes for good writing or not. But since Rau Le Creuset fulfilled the trope in the first SEED series, I am skeptical seeing it again. Why are we repeating the cliché?
On the other hand, if this new masked guy is actually Mu... that creates dramatic potential. It promises us that at some point, Mr. Mask will run into Murrue Ramius (because if he never did, that would be plain dumb writing, and I don’t think many writers are that dumb). A reunion scene is something it’s safe to assume viewers would be excited to watch, so it’s not a bad decision to include this masked Mu... but that said, here’s my caveat: the execution of the reunion moment when it comes needs to be INCREDIBLE to truly justify Mu’s inclusion as a revived character. And the story better give him a decent role/purpose in the meantime, while we wait for it. If not, then what narrative purpose is he serving?
Take 2 — Zingy Lightning Bolts Of Recognition
We see a young soldier with blond hair piloting for the ZAFT side... who has a sudden, instinctual response or tingle of awareness to... something... as he’s fighting, the same way Mu La Flaga always used to recognize Rau Le Creuset’s presence on the battlefield.
Reaction as a fan: Did... that just...? Now I am squinting and frowning. Is this simply the Newtype trope, because Gundam likes making pilots like Jedi? Is this related to Mu/Rau specifically? If more the latter, I had figured Le Creuset’s demise at the end of SEED would mark the end of the Mendel Colony/Dr. Hibiki/Mu’s father’s cloning business. GUESS I WAS WRONG.
Reaction as a writer: This says to me that Destiny intends to continue exploring a corner of the Cosmic Era history/lore I had already thought served its purpose. (That or Destiny is just enjoying its tropes.) Unearthing the subject again could be good, because it could add interesting texture to Destiny’s storyline... or it could start to feel repetitive. Is there a good plot reason behind bringing back the zingy lightning and a kid who looks like a young Rau Le Creuset, or is Destiny just trying to recreate the cool “Oooh, I can SENSE you on the battlefield, rival mine!” dynamic for the sake of familiarity? I’m skeptical all around.
Take 1 — Pilots Asleep In Recovery Pods
Sting, Stella, and Auel — the three who busted into ZAFT territory and stole ZAFT’s three new mobile suits the Chaos, Gaia, and Abyss — have returned to their Earth Forces mothership and been put to sleep in recovery... bubble-pod… chamber... things. Mr. Mask talks about them to his subordinate, referring to them as trial stage experiments who are troublesome, but “better than the last batch.”
Reaction as a fan: “Last batch” being Orga, Shani, and Clotho (of Calamity, Forbidden, and Raider)?! THE DRUGGIES? DO WE HAVE MORE DRUGGIES, NOW? Oh boy, more Natural children being experimented upon and traumatized so that they can compete with the genetically-enhanced Coordinator pilots! (I’m actually horrified.)
Reaction as a writer: It’s good to see how solutions to the differences in ability between Naturals and Coordinators have evolved on the Earth Alliance side since the last war — even if their treatment of pilots is still mortifying. It’s a sign of solid and believable world building — something the original SEED set a preface for excelling at. I’m pleased. Plus, an unstable pilot (or three) brings in potential for drama and conflict. Conflict propels plots forward and drama gets viewers emotionally invested.
Take 2 — Chairman Durandal’s Personality
The Chairman has presented himself incredibly well thus far. He is brilliantly diplomatic and calm, but also not afraid to take initiative. He is delicate about handling confrontations; he deflects all tension so masterfully it seems awing. He is well spoken. Heck, he’s even good-looking. But at the end of this episode, he finally strikes someone below the belt.
He takes a dig at Athrun Zala’s “Alex Dino” persona and calls Athrun out for hiding his true identity and nature. The event could be interpreted as a clever power move/manipulative maneuver on Durandal’s end... or just a dick move at this point. I’m not sure.
Reaction as a fan: THANK CHRIST HE IS NOW DOING SOMETHING QUESTIONABLE. DURANDAL WAS TOO PERFECT BEFORE THIS. TOO PERFECT. So perfect I was impressed, but uncomfortable. I KNEW he must have something else going on under the surface!
Reaction as a writer: No character should ever be perfect if they’re going to be prominent like Durandal is. Perfect characters with all their shit together are boring and do nothing for a story. Engaging characters have flaws; they need weaknesses and things to learn and struggle with or there isn’t any conflict. Conflict is what drives story forward. (Do I sound like a broken record on this yet?) Now that I’ve seen that Durandal can stoop low and get crafty, I have more faith in his potential as a character. He strikes me now as a plot influencer. I don’t know yet if I’m supposed to sympathize with him or see him as the bad guy, but it doesn’t matter. He’s not a flat or bland character anymore, and that is great.
Bonus take — Shinn’s Angry Outburst
Once Shinn learns Cagalli Yula Athha of Orb is on his ship, he gets angry and speaks out of turn to her — in a manner that makes it clear he does not respect her. He’s holding a grudge for his family's demise.
Reaction as a fan: YESSS, GET ANGRY, SHINN; GET SO ANGRY. You’re kind of hot when you’re angry.
Reaction as a writer: Shinn was seeming reasonably-tempered until now, and I was worried his anger from the opening scene had disappeared. That it hasn’t is excellent. His outburst reminds us that the original SEED cast is going to have to confront its past decisions at some point. Perfect. Also, since Shinn’s anger does seem so righteous (at least at this point), it helps us dig our feet in more to stand behind him as a character. It’s good to like your protagonist and think his reactions are justified. (If we hate or can’t relate to our protagonist, the writer has done something wrong.)
That said, it’s rare to see a furious character endure without running into or causing trouble somewhere. I think Destiny must be setting up for yet more conflict; if Shinn’s anger lasts and festers, it might start to destroy him from the inside, or it might turn him into a villain.... The point is, it’ll do something. If it’s not something dramatic or traumatic, we still have potential for a Shinn who eventually learns to forgive and calm down — and that’s good character development, too.
BONUS bonus take — Locations Of Other Main Characters?
We have not yet seen or heard a peep regarding the whereabouts of Kira or Lacus.
Reaction as a fan: BUT WHERE ARE THEY?!
Reaction as a writer: There has been enough else happening to engage me so far. I’m not hugely concerned yet that we don’t know where Kira and Lacus are or what they’re doing... but I feel the reveal should come soon. If it doesn’t, something else amazing better happen that takes up screen time and invests me instead. There is only so long information about established, beloved, imperative characters can be withheld before viewers start to get frustrated... and then distracted from everything else as they grind their teeth over what they want to be learning but aren’t allowed to. You don’t want your audience doing that — so engage me deeply, Destiny, or cut to the Ultimate Coordinator and our songstress!