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 — Durandal Presents Legend, Destiny, And Way Too Much Philosophy
Durandal talks to Athrun and Shinn for a long time in the hangar. He spews ideals, justifies his order to shoot down the Archangel, and laments that “unfortunate” Kira Yamato never reached his full potential before he was killed. Oh, and he mentions that the Legend has a DRAGOON system and asks Athrun whether he’s “up for” piloting such a thing.
Reaction as a fan: Durandal. You know I love you. But you are talking for too long. I am starting to lose the point of your monologuing. Also, you can say the Legend’s DRAGOON system has been modified so that any shmuck can pilot it, including Athrun, but I’m sorry... that’s still really weird. It’s really weird to give a protagonist-type that sort of Gundam, right? That’s not normal. A DRAGOON system doesn’t suit Athrun at all. AM I READING INTO THIS TOO MUCH?
Reaction as a writer: They might as well give it away. “Athrun probably won’t be piloting the Legend after all.” Because... we... have another character... with zingy lightning bolts like Mu La Flaga and Rau Le Creuset (who both used DRAGOON systems — see Mu’s Moebius Zero and Rau’s Providence). We have someone who might be better inside the Legend than Athrun. Gasp — is Rey going to pilot the Legend? IS HE? (Spoiler: he is.)
Moving on to commentary about Durandal’s yakking, I like his wartime philosophy and his ideals and opinions. I do. But I think his yammering went on for too long, covering too many topics, while on screen we had too many flashback scenes to fill the space while the characters literally just stood there. Durandal’s monologuing got too dense to follow and I wasn’t sure what key points I was supposed to take from his thoughts. His bit about Kira Yamato was fascinating but felt unnecessary to the overall plot.
Take 2 — Meer’s Chosen Role
Meer realizes Durandal is being fishy; she overhears Durandal talking to Rey about Athrun’s general disposition and suitability for participation in any evil master plans. She begins to realize Durandal will cast Athrun aside — because Athrun has a mind of his own, has too strong a bromance with Kira, and thus ultimately isn’t the pawn Durandal wants. She goes to warn Athrun of it; she tells Athrun to try harder to please Durandal — or he’ll be in trouble.
Athrun doesn’t want to be a pawn. When Durandal sends security to arrest him, Athrun escapes... and offers to take Meer with him. Athrun is convinced Durandal will throw Meer away too, once he’s finished with her, or once it seems Meer can’t play Lacus’s role well enough. Athrun wants to save Meer — but Meer chooses not to get saved. She reveals she has no problem playing the role of Lacus, because it’s better than the life she had before. Athrun, frustrated, leaves her behind.
Reaction as a fan: MEER, WTF — JUST ESCAPE WITH ATHRUN! ATHRUN, WTF — JUST KIDNAP THE LADY IF YOU MUST, LIKE KIRA KIDNAPPED HIS SISTER! (But actually, don’t. I’m actually glad you didn’t, as frustrated as I am.)
Reaction as a writer: While I’m frustrated with Meer and the whole situation as a fan, I love this to bits from the writing side. Meer is sharp, and she has always actively, knowingly chosen her own paths with her eyes wide open to the truth. Even if I don’t agree with the decisions she makes, I have to respect that she’s a strongly written character. Now I also seriously pity Meer, though. She has nowhere to go with Durandal but down. Look how tragic a character they’ve made her. Durandal is probably going to kill her or get her killed, and we’re all going to be really sad about it when it happens. To me, this is good writing — making me feel visceral pity for a character.
Bonus (& Incredibly Angry) Take — But Seriously, Why Meyrin?
When Durandal’s goons are after Athrun, it’s Meyrin Hawke who hides Athrun, lies to authorities, hacks military computer systems, and drives Athrun to a mobile suit he can escape in.
Reaction as a fan: Wait... what the hell? Why is this chick suddenly stepping up from literally NOWHERE for this escape scene? It took me more than half the show to even remember her name; she’s not even a side character, she’s a SIDE-side character. Why her? Because she has freaking pigtails? Because I do not see any other better reasons!
Reaction as a writer: This is the crappiest decision I have yet to see Gundam SEED Destiny make. I’m furious. Do I have guesses to hazard about why they picked Meyrin? Sure. Perhaps they picked her for this scene specifically because she’s NOT one of the regular, more featured pilot-soldiers. She’s the Minerva’s CIC; she doesn’t fight directly — doesn’t kill people. Maybe the Destiny team decided they wanted to make a point with that information. “Oh no, look at the most guileless and non-violent of all the ZAFT soldiers get roped into Durandal’s terrible plots! Durandal is a real bad guy, and this is how you can tell! And Athrun is a real nice one for helping Meyrin. See?” Yeah, okay, Destiny writers. I see. I especially see how hard you tried to foreshadow that Meyrin would end up important, that Meyrin has always been attuned enough to Athrun that it should justify her making the choices she does to help him in this scene. But guess what? IT DIDN’T. You tried way TOO hard at it... and it still didn’t work because you still didn’t foreshadow enough! It still felt forced and completely out of left field!
The person helping Athrun here should have been Lunamaria! The show spent all this time acquainting Luna with Athrun’s angst, beliefs, and tendencies, then showing us her reflection and indecision regarding the conversation she eavesdropped on and Gladys’s orders about it, etc. The show was gearing up to have Luna make some cool choices, to develop her, to get her more involved... and the moment there is THE PERFECT CHANCE TO MAKE USE OF THAT SET-UP and do some cool Lunamaria character shit, instead they... bring in her sister, Meyrin?! Who has nowhere near as much development or REASON to be casting in her lot with Zala as Luna would?! THIS IS SUCH A FREAKING FAIL. This is the writers forcing plot points that make no sense from a character standpoint and that just piss off viewers (or at least, this viewer). All the set-up was there for this escape scene to be Luna’s! If not Luna’s, then this Meyrin thing totally didn’t even need to be here; just let Athrun get in a firefight with Rey and eventually escape by himself. Athrun already had Meer help him out; why did he need to go back inside and have yet another person help him escape, after he already did so once? What was the point of such redundancy? Just to include MEYRIN? It’s forced!
I have never seen a ball dropped so hard. Excuse me, I can’t write anymore, I need to go be annoyed at this ridiculously pointless writing decision. I will be pissed about this FOREVER.
Take 1 — Shinn Shoots Down Athrun And Meyrin
Durandal and Rey are both gung-ho about shooting down Athrun and Meyrin — no qualms. But Shinn has qualms. Shinn has a lot of qualms. He starts to doubt Rey and Durandal, seems concerned for Athrun and Meyrin, grows conflicted and confused about what to do... but then apparently cracks.
He goes SEED mode and shoots Athrun and Meyrin down after all.
Reaction as a fan: Wh... WHAT THE HELL?! I literally cannot even focus on how stunning the Destiny Gundam is in action now — I can’t even take time to drool about it — because I am too TAKEN ABACK over Shinn deciding to shoot Athrun down after all, after all his damn debate. WAS THIS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE SHINN’S MOMENT TO COME AROUND AT LAST? Because I, uh... thought it was.
Reaction as a writer: Uh... okay. There was a great opportunity here to allow Shinn to start waking up, start suspecting the Chairman and Rey, start — you know — being the good-guy protagonist that protagonists in Gundam are supposed to be. But I guess that’s not what the Destiny writers were going for. They’ve just put Shinn squarely in the “I have terrible judgment and am brainwashed by the Chairman” category. And I’m not sure Shinn will ever get out, now. It seems like the writers are set on dooming him, on making him a tragic casualty of Durandal’s plots. After all, this scene makes it very clear that we aren’t supposed to hate or blame Shinn for his decision. After his berserker-SEED-mode moment is over and Athrun and Meyrin have fallen, Shinn immediately swaps back to a conflicted mindset. That indicates we are supposed to say, “Aww, poor Shinn; he had no choice but to do what he did!”
So Shinn is officially Tragic now, meant to arouse our sympathies. Also, I am pretty sure this demotes him from status of typical protagonist. If Shinn is Durandal’s puppet from here on out, then he won’t be making many heroic decisions on his own. Also, if he’s tragic, either he’s a goner or someone else has to save him (from himself, in his case). And if someone else has to save him, he’s not very much like a protagonist, is he? So... is Destiny setting up to put Kira or Athrun back into the main protagonist spotlight? Is this the writers’ way of casting Shinn aside for now as officially hopeless? Seems like it’s either that... or they’re saving up for Shinn to come around much later, in a gigantically epic fashion. Let’s all hope for the latter. Because otherwise I have no idea what this show is trying to do with or to their main character.
Take 2 — Lunamaria Is Tragic Now Too
The Chairman ensures that Lunamaria is fed lies about the demise of her sister; Lunamaria ends up believing Meyrin was a spy, and she’s devastated. She’s also probably devastated because, you know, as far as she knows now, Meyrin is dead. Because Shinn shot her down.
Then Shinn apologizes to Luna. It’s not clear if the apology is for killing Meyrin, or just to express sympathy for Luna who is now having to cope with the issue of her sister having been a traitor to ZAFT. But Luna cries, and then Shinn starts to cry, and Shinn hugs Luna, and they cry some more.
Reaction as a fan: Shinn is adorable when he hugs people. And... poor Luna. This whole scene is pretty sad, but... dang it, Luna — you know better than to let this get you down, don’t you? FIGURE IT OUT. FIGURE OUT THAT DURANDAL IS TELLING FILTHY, EVIL LIES! Don’t just be a victim, here, or I’ll end up really annoyed.
Reaction as a writer: So this is what Lunamaria’s character has come to? Tragedy and little else. She’s a mess, Shinn’s a mess, Durandal is a bad, bad man... and two previously potential-filled characters on the ZAFT side are reduced to serving as pity-inducers. As a viewer, yes, I pity Luna and Shinn. But I’m also very concerned now about the role they’ll serve going forward, if any. Is this the end of their use as plot-driving characters? Are they going to be Tragic And Little Else (TM) from now on, while the old SEED cast takes over? If so, if they ultimately aren’t going to serve much use — because they’ve been rendered helpless, caught as Durandal’s puppets — if they aren’t going to escape being victims of their horrible circumstances — then why did the writers cast them in such prominent roles in the first place?! Good stories are about characters who rise up to change their own fates. If a character is Tragic And Little Else, they don’t have the power to drive a story for long without getting boring.
That’s why I’m kind of hoping Luna and Shinn are only stuck seeming tragic and helpless for now. I’d like to think the Destiny writers still plan to empower them, by having them figure out the truth and doing something epic as the end of the series draws near.