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 — Shinn Is Still An Idiot
Athrun faces Shinn in the Justice, where he takes the time to land Shinn yet another reality check. Essentially, “Shinn, hi, I’m alive. Can you please stop and think? Is attacking Orb really what you want to do? Can you, like... just not?” But no. No, Shinn cannot just not. Shinn still decides he should kick Athrun’s ass.
Luckily, the Minerva signals a retreat, so Shinn leaves instead of killing Athrun for real this time. But Athrun still ends up blood-covered and back in his hospital bed for his trouble.
Reaction as a fan: You tried, Athrun, baby. You tried. You’ve done such a good job from the very beginning attempting to knock some sense into this kid, even despite your own struggles. You tried.
Reaction as a writer: Athrun tried, but I’m getting sick of having to watch him try. Here was yet another opportunity for the writers to have Shinn come around at last... but he doesn’t. Every single time, and despite Shinn’s occasional bouts of uncertainty, Shinn shuts down and becomes a single-minded, angry dumbass. Good characters have to change, but Shinn hasn’t... and worse, his resistance to reason has become tiresome and repetitive. How many scenes have we watched now that boil down to Athrun saying, “Shinn, smarten up, please!” and Shinn saying, “Rarrgh, NO?” In good writing, there is no need for such redundancy; even if you include scenes or events that are similar to something that happened before, something still has to be different somehow, each time. Progress has to be made, forward story movement still needs to happen.
There is zero movement here; each of these “Rarrgh, NO” Shinn scenes is the same. It turns out the same exact way. And Destiny is wasting our time by making us have to watch the same thing happen over and over with no progress. If Shinn isn’t going to come around, at least commit to turning him into a villain! He’d serve more use that way at this point. But right now, the writers are still trying to keep us sympathizing with him, still wanting us to think he’s good... not realizing that our sympathy for Shinn — or at least mine — has already run out.
I was able to forgive Shinn for a few stupid battles and arguments with Athrun previously, because the show had built up my understanding for Shinn’s perspective. But my sympathy can only last so long. If I keep having to watch Shinn be an idiot over and over again without no changes, then no matter how many times you remind me that his family died, I’m not going to care what his reasons are for being an idiot any more. My patience as a viewer has a threshold, and Destiny has passed it. They’ve blown it. I have officially stopped giving a shit about Shinn’s character — in fact, I think it would help the story more at this point if someone simply killed him off. Please do... as dying is probably the only event that will make Shinn learn a single damn thing.
Take 2 — The Slow Return Of La Flaga
Neo is finally realizing that he might not be “Neo” after all. He chooses to stay with the Archangel and Murrue, mostly because he senses how close he must have been to Murrue once.
Reaction as a fan: Awww. At least somebody is making some progress here. (Said as I glance furiously at Shinn.)
Reaction as a writer: This is cute. And I’d been waiting for it pretty much since the show started. But now that we basically have Mu La Flaga back on the Archangel... I gotta ask. What was the point of bringing him back in the first place, never mind the point of bringing him back as Neo?
All three Extended kids are dead now, and Phantom Pain is basically no more; if Neo and the Extendeds were just a temporary plot device to add to Shinn’s anger with the Stella thing, but weren’t important enough to the longterm plot to keep around... then why did Neo have to be Mu, again? Why couldn’t he have just been Neo — an actual new, separate character — and then gone and died off, too, once his role was over? Was this whole “Neo Roanoke Is Actually Mu” idea cooked up just to torture poor Murrue, just to give us some good Mu/Murrue drama? I might have accepted that as a reason... if Mu and Murrue had gotten any serious screen time to deal with said drama. They haven’t (not until now, and you could argue that now, since they hugged, the drama is basically over). Since Mu boarded the Archangel, we’ve seen Murrue cry and gotten hints that she truly struggled with his presence... but it hasn’t been a focus. Rightly so, as there is a lot else going on to worry about with other characters. But that still leaves me questioning why they brought Mu back. If it wasn’t to torture Murrue... then does the show have some other reason for bringing Mu back that we haven’t touched upon yet?
I hope so. I hope his presence ties in to Rey’s story somehow, whenever Rey’s whole backstory becomes clear. Otherwise, there doesn’t feel like enough reason to have brought Mu back from the dead. Maybe Destiny wanted to bring him back simply to please fans of his who were mad when Mu died in the first show? But if so, seriously, that’s a shitty reason by itself. There needs to be something else; catering too much to your fanbase and giving them whatever they want risks compromising the sensibility of your story.
Take 1 — Multiple PLANTs Destroyed
Djibril makes it to the moon, where he pulls the trigger on a massive hidden weapon, intending its beam to take it out Aprilius City (the Capital of the PLANTs). As a reminder, each PLANT “city” (of which there are 12, named after months on the Roman calendar) consists of about 10 separate colonies (hence we have Junius Seven, Januarius One, etc.). It’s not clear whether Djibril is aiming for just one Aprilius colony (say, Aprilius One, where the PLANT Supreme Council meets), or all ten of them. It doesn’t really matter — the point is the beam he shoots fires from around the back side of the moon, deflects and curves using special technology, then destroys a Januarius colony instead, thanks to an aiming issue. The Januarius colony gets ripped to shreds, then crashes into a December colony, takes that out, too.... Multiple PLANTs end up destroyed.
Reaction as a fan: I am mortified. And I ultimately had to close my eyes when they started showing homes, vehicles, and people getting sucked out into space to die. There can’t be anything more terrible than dying like that. Screw you, Djibril.
Reaction as a writer: Admittedly, I was caught off guard by the fact that this show took out multiple PLANTs. But I shouldn’t have been. The original SEED’s story began after Junius Seven was annihilated; destroyed PLANTs are the gun on the mantel that has been sitting there since the beginning of the first series. When no more PLANTs got destroyed at the end of the first SEED, and all we dealt with at the beginning of Destiny was an already-annihilated one posing a threat by falling, I got comfortable. I assumed the writers wouldn’t dare. But just like they had to top one Destroy Gundam with five in order to progress the story, well... what else were they going to do in order to raise the stakes at SEED Destiny’s climax? Obviously take out more PLANTs. It was horrible to watch, but I have to commend the writers for doing it.
Take 2 — Durandal’s Destiny Plan
Before I recap, I want to explain that my wife has a nickname for the Archangel crew in SEED Destiny. She calls them “the Archangel Book Club,” because so frequently when we see characters on the ship’s bridge, they’re all discussing and debating the war’s events as intently and philosophically as a book club examines books. I’m going to use the nickname from now on to refer to Murrue, Kira, Athrun & Co, since now everyone is together in one place (except for Shinn, who’s still on the Minerva).
So. The Archangel Book Club discusses — and thus reveals to viewers — Durandal’s “Destiny Plan.” The plan outlines a united world with no war or strife. How does it eliminate war and strife? It assigns every human a “destiny,” a purpose in life, based on the traits and abilities their genes signify they have. If everyone has a purpose, a role to fulfill, something they’re good at doing, Durandal posits that people wouldn’t question anything, wouldn’t struggle... and therefore wouldn’t want to fight. They wouldn’t feel any need to because they would be happy.
Reaction as a fan: That is great in theory, Gilbert, but how about in practice? You think all humans would just be OKAY having their lives decided for them based on their genetics? I mean, maybe you’ve planned a really amazing genetics-analysis program. You are a DNA analysis expert. But do you not see what’s wrong with your ideals in principal? They eliminate choice. If people want to choose to have their lives decided for them, fine. But some won’t want to choose that route. Here you have the Book Club who really, really would prefer to keep their autonomy and freedom, thanks — even if it means they have to keep struggling and keep making mistakes, and then keep having to fix them. You can’t dictate for everyone. Does that mean there will still be war, then? Probably. I don’t know how the Book Club intends to account for that — but the point is, figuring that out is still preferable to a world with no choices at all.
Reaction as a writer: The proposed utopia is actually a dystopia. In sci-fi, the utopia is almost always actually a dystopia. (Why? Because true utopias are perfect. And if everything is perfect with no conflict, then there’s no story. Because story is about conflict.) If nothing else, SEED Destiny knows its genre. It also never hurts a story to pit your heroes against a force that wants to eliminate the essence of humanity itself, human choice. I mean, what an ultimate villain, right? Something that will control people’s destinies for them? Fighting back against a horror like that is a battle everyone can get behind, viewers and characters alike.
Oh. Oh, wait. Except for Shinn. Shinn still wants to support the Chairman who has this insane little plan.
Shinn doesn’t know about the Chairman’s plan, though. So... if he learns it, will he finally come around? Is this what you’ve been waiting for, Destiny writers? You had to make Shinn stubborn and annoying until the right final plot point when he could discover the Destiny Plan? COULDN’T YOU HAVE FOUND A BETTER WAY TO DO IT SO I DIDN’T LOSE MY PATIENCE WITH YOUR LOUSY PROTAGONIST FIRST?