Welcome to another Gundam SEED Destiny Doubletake! Each post, 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. I then explore each point from two perspectives — a fan’s perspective and a fiction writer’s perspective.
Frongi, Gundam DEE CORe... LAUNCHING!
Take 1 — "Come Back To Us, Athrun"
Yzak and Dearka get pulled from the front lines to be Athrun’s bodyguards while Athrun visits the gravesites of his old ZAFT comrades in the PLANTs. Yzak asks Athrun what Orb’s plans are now that they’re in another war. When Athrun says he doesn’t know, Yzak asks Athrun to come back to the PLANTs. He says he will take care of any obstacles in Athrun’s way if Athrun will only rejoin them.
Reaction as a fan: Yzak Joule, brat extraordinaire who has always seen Athrun as a rival and has loved to hate him and/or verbally and physically attack him.... Yzak just implored Athrun to come back to the PLANTs, heartfelt. MY, SOMEBODY HAS GROWN. How cute is that? Also, I teared up seeing the cemetery and the flowers on Nicol’s grave.
Reaction as a writer: Destiny seems to be making it clear that Athrun will probably end up in the PLANTs. And since earlier in this episode we saw Cagalli in Orb feeling pressured to join the Earth Alliance side, I am further convinced their engagement is doomed.
Take 2 — "Let’s Get Married"
Yuna reveals himself to be a manipulative bastard as well as a creeper who touches Cagalli too much without her consent; it becomes clear he wants to make Cagalli his political puppet... and he’s decided to do it by wifing her. He springs a marriage proposal on her — and when she’s feeling the most conflicted we have ever seen her.
Reaction as a fan: ASSHOLE. Cagalli, please kick his ass!
Reaction as a writer: If Cagalli can figure out her issues and beliefs and put this guy in his place, I’ll be happy. If she can’t... I might begin to question the writers. This is the weakest we have ever seen Cagalli. There’s nothing wrong with weakness, angst, or inner struggle; lord knows we’ve seen Athrun and Kira go through enough of it. It makes for great character development. But since Cagalli is a woman, the writers need to be extra careful with her. Weakness is okay, but turning Cagalli into, say, a damsel in distress is not (we’re all sick of that sexist trope). If they end up making her too weak to shut down this guy’s advances, too weak to stand up for herself, viewers might lose respect for her, the writers, or both.
Take 1 — Kira’s Presence Has Served Little Purpose
We get to see Kira, standing on a beach in a daze yet again, staring at the lights of a distant battle... but otherwise doing nothing.
Reaction as a fan: All right, I’ve lost my patience. WHY AREN’T YOU DOING ANYTHING, KIRA? How many more panning shots of poor Lacus sleeping without you must I watch?! Can’t you even be there for your girlfriend, if you can’t be there for your best friend or sister?!
Reaction as a writer: Kira has made multiple appearances now without contributing to the plot. (The only solid thing his dazed quiet has done, perhaps, is serve as a sounding board so Athrun could deliver his intense “I still don’t know what we’re fighting for” car speech.) If a character is going to be present on screen, then he needs to be doing something, or he’s serving no purpose. When the writers brought Kira in at last, I thought it was because they were ready to involve him. That would have been great, considering how antsy I was to see him. But now they’ve brought him in, and he’s been doing zip. That’s not the payoff I wanted for waiting to see him. That’s ANNOYING. Good characters are active characters who make choices and contribute to events. Could we argue that doing nothing is still something, because maybe Kira actively, specifically chose not to act? Yes, we could argue that. But that would still be irksome — because in the last series, Kira was adamant that "doing nothing" was a terrible decision, because it meant not putting the skills one possessed to good use. Is Destiny trying to change Kira's character? If so, show us how and why Kira has changed and reversed his thinking!
In any case, the writers are making their own jobs harder, because now (if they even DO still plan to bring Kira back into action at all, and not just dangle him to entice us) they REALLY have to make his return amazing. Like, mind-blowingly amazing — or it won’t make up for how boring the rest of this has gotten. I get that this series isn’t supposed to be Kira’s story anymore. SEED was Kira’s story; I understand that Athrun and Shinn are the main characters now in SEED Destiny. But that’s still no excuse for handling Kira’s character so poorly! Uggh.
Take 2 — Shinn Goes SEED Mode
The mode kicks in just outside Orb, when both the Impulse and the Minerva are in dire straits.
Reaction as a fan: Wh—? Oh my god, YAAAASSS! But holy crap, I actually almost forgot that SEED mode was a thing with all this new stuff happening. Wow.
Reaction as a writer: I think the writers picked a good time to engage Shinn’s SEED mode — otherwise I wasn’t sure how the Minerva was going to escape its situation. Other than that, my only other comment is that this development screams, “In case you didn’t know it yet, or you got distracted by Kira Yamato, Shinn Asuka is SEED Destiny’s protagonist.”
Bonus take — Athrun’s FAITH Pin
Durandal grants Athrun the ability to act above and beyond normal ZAFT chain of command. According to Durandal, to earn this right, a soldier usually must swear loyalty first (presumably to the Chairman and the Supreme Council, the only authorities FAITH members have to answer to). But Durandal doesn’t even ask this of Athrun; in a show of trust in Athrun’s personality, abilities, and objectives, he just tells Athrun to do whatever he pleases, to answer only to himself.
Reaction as a fan: ...PRESSURE, PUSHING DOWN ON ME, PRESSING DOWN ON YOU, NO MAN ASK FOR. UNDER PRESSURE, THAT BURNS A BUILDING DOWN...
Reaction as a writer: I have zero idea what the writers are planning, but Durandal’s ideals and actions are all so ridiculously bold and striking that I can’t not enjoy watching this unfold. Also, I assume that Athrun having so much agency will eventually lead him to answers about what he’s fighting for...? That or just more angst and strife. Either would be good for story movement.