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 — Athrun Zala’s Angsty Angst
The ZAFT ship Minerva gets caught in battle while Athrun and Cagalli are aboard. The situation turns dire, and it’s Athrun who raises his voice with the orders that ultimately free the ship from danger. Afterward, it’s clear Athrun feels conflicted about having participated in battle to any extent. He belongs to Orb now, after all. He is neutral, and is no longer a soldier.
Reaction as a fan: I WAS WAITING FOR YOUR ANGST, ATHRUN ZALA! Thank you for not disappointing me! THERE ARE FEW THINGS I ENJOY MORE THAN SEEING PRETTY BOYS IN TORTURED CONFLICT WITH THEMSELVES — unless it’s pretty boys in tortured conflict in showers. (My true personality comes out; whoops.) You might not be a soldier any more, but you’re Cagalli’s dang-good bodyguard, and you have already jumped into a ZAKU. Face it, Zala — you might not want to fight, but you are HELLA good at it. LET ME SEE YOU PILOT SOMETHING SOON.
Reaction as a writer: One of our major characters is showing potential for growth through struggle. Athrun’s conflict with himself also seems like it will blossom into overall plot-driving conflict; if war veteran Athrun Zala does get back into a mobile suit for real... you know something's gotta happen.
Take 2 — All Right, Who The Hell Is Rey
He’s already had a few subtle interactions with Chairman Durandal — mostly nods, salutes of acknowledgement, glances. But in this episode, Rey gets out on the battlefield and expresses what seems like personal/emotional concern for the Chairman’s safety.
Reaction as a fan: Did... did this kid just refer to the PLANT Supreme Council Chairman Gilbert Durandal as “Gil?” Pfffft — GAY! (No but actually. What on earth is their relationship?)
Reaction as a writer: Okay. Hints that Rey has something complicated going on, beyond (or in addition to?) his zingy lightning bolts. It seems like there's a lot to take in regarding his character and overall role, but I don’t hate it. I’ll wait to see how the situation is handled and how Destiny plays out this area of its narrative. It’s not bad right now to set up more drama or character relationships/connections.
This episode exploded with events that deserve more detailed recap.
Junius Seven has fallen out of safe orbit and is headed on a collision course for Earth. Worse, we learn that vengeful Coordinator terrorists have caused it to do so deliberately. (Ironically, they’re committing a hate crime akin to the Bloody Valentine Tragedy that took out Junius Seven in the first place.) We find out Blue Cosmos is moving on the Natural side, getting ready to use Junius Seven’s fall as an excuse to rile up Coordinator hate. Shinn gets angry at Cagalli and yells more, which launches Cagalli into an episode of tears and frustration. Cagalli’s upset has already been building; now she is irritated more by Shinn’s resentment and the mounting military tensions around her when she only wants to stick to her “no fighting” guns. Athrun gets back into a mobile suit (another ZAKU) — to help the other pilots on the Minerva break up the remains of Junius Seven in the hopes that doing so will prevent damage to the Earth. Too bad the Coordinator terrorists get in the way and start firing, creating another battle.
Big Take — Now We’re Getting Somewhere
Reaction as a fan: JUNIUS SEVEN?! How can they do that to such hallowed grou—IS THAT YZAK JOULE AND DEARKA ELSMAN? Look how adult they are! Is COMMANDER Joule’s scar from his battle with the Strike gone, too?! (And can I sleep with him? Please? BECAUSE I’VE ALWAYS LIKED HIM.) Things are finally getting intense…. I’m for some reason uncomfortable knowing Durandal is now or has been banging Talia Gladys, Captain of the Minerva... BUT WHO CARES WHAT THAT’S ABOUT; ATHRUN JUST LAUNCHED IN A MOBILE SUIT! YAAASS.
Reaction as a writer: I have stopped worrying about where Kira and Lacus could be. That’s good; that means this is an engaging episode. Stakes are high, because countless people could die if this goes wrong — which means viewers are more invested in the outcomes. Also, Athrun is back in action AND the other members of the former Le Creuset team are present. WHO ISN’T PLEASED BY THAT? COME ON. The writers are catering well to their fans’ desires. There’s momentum in this. Momentum is good. So is inducing excitement. SEED Destiny is beginning to deliver on its promises — most notably the promise of forcing original SEED characters to face their past decisions (Cagalli faced hers here when she took Shinn's anger, then cried and questioned herself while trying to digest his viewpoints versus her own). That’s great because now the old characters will have to make new decisions based heavily on their feelings and opinions about what happened in the first war. In general, good writing is about putting characters in tough spots and forcing them to make choices they must act on, so Destiny's on the right track.
My only beef with this episode was tied to the resurgence of the Blue Cosmos. In the scene where we meet Djibril (as he plays pool and smokes cigars with a bunch of racists at a country club... wow Japan, leaning into the old white Republican male trope much?) the exposition/information we get hit with feels like it needs smoothing out or paring down. Too much is going on and getting thrown too fast, without enough context. It’s always hard to balance groups and factions and convey who’s with whom working for what and why when you’re building a world as big as the Cosmic Era’s while trying to create realistic war to boot... but I still think it could have been handled better. How big of a role are the Cosmos going to play here, anyway? How many main players/influencers do we actually need, Destiny? I wasn’t able to take Djibril seriously thanks to the tangled and quick way he was introduced... and that’s not good if he’s supposed to play a pivotal role.
I guess we'll see at the start of next week.