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 — Just Go Die Already, Shinn
Both Lunamaria and Shinn persist in stubbornly fighting Athrun. As we have seen countless times already, Athrun tries to wake Shinn up by yelling a well-worded reality check. Yet again, Shinn seems to consider, and viewers hold their breaths. Holy shit, will Shinn actually, FINALLY come around? In the last episode? Will he?
No. Not a bit.
So Athrun Zala takes him out. Without killing him.
Reaction as a fan: I QUIT.
Reaction as a writer: We can’t rage quit. The show hasn’t ended yet and we agreed to write these articles.
As a fan: You said we would stop writing these articles, though, if Kira Yamato didn’t join ZAFT. He didn’t.
As a writer: Can you please not remind me of that travesty at present, and maybe stop snickering? I thought I had a good hunch going there!
Take 2 — Floating, Sparkly Visit From Stella
Stella’s spirit comes to visit Shinn, and she insists that Shinn must... see? do something about? “tomorrow.”
Reaction as a fan: Well, great. That was cryptic.
Reaction as a writer. WHAT IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE?! Shinn is defeated now, and he’s... what, close to death? Is that was his floating form means? But this is Stella telling him he has to live? You mean we aren’t done having to deal with Shinn, yet? If Shinn wakes back up and lives, then will he at last become redeemed? STOP JERKING ME AROUND, DESTINY.
Take 3 — Shinn Wakes Up And Cries
Luna cries, too. She and Shinn see the destruction everywhere that means Kira and Athrun have succeeded in shutting down all the weapons of mass destruction and have saved Orb.
Reaction as a fan: I QUIT.
Reaction as a writer. So they’re... sobbing in relief that the war is over? They’re both free from their puppet strings now and don’t have to fight anymore, and are happy? Okay, Destiny has succeeded at illustrating what it set out to illustrate with Shinn. Being a victim to the circumstances of a war torn world sucks. How thematic, much wow.
Congratulations, Destiny. You did something different for sure. You proved all your points admirably. But YOUR ENDING FOR SHINN IS NOT SATISFYING. He has still not changed, now he’s not even DOING anything in the rest of the battle, and so I am disgusted. Uggh. What’s the good of proving your cool points with Shinn if you have to WRECK Shinn’s character by making him an idiot and pissing off all your viewers to do it?!
The jury is in. Shinn Asuka would have, could have been a terrific character. There was a lot to like about him. A LOT. But because the writers prioritized their pulpit speech above paying attention to how storytelling works, their perfectly good character got ruined and fell victim to poor writing. I am sad.
Take 4 — Rey Kills Gilbert Durandal, And Then They Die
Kira Yamato goes alone, on foot, to see to it once and for all that Durandal is defeated. He finds Durandal waiting for him in a big chair, all calm just like a classic villain. Kira points a gun at him, they verbally spar, and then Durandal gets shot — but it’s Rey who pulls his trigger to shoot Durandal, not Kira.
Afterward, Rey goes into shock, a crying mess, apologizing to Gil for having shot him. His reason for doing it? The reality check Kira gave him in combat apparently hit home; Rey has decided he doesn’t want to be part of Durandal’s Destiny Plan any more, where he’s forced to be like Rau Le Creuset. Rey Za Burrel prefers Kira’s idea of the future, where Rau’s “tomorrow” doesn’t have to be his.
Kira leaves the scene, and Durandal dies in the fortress wreckage — together with Talia Gladys (who has gone to find him, assumedly to die beside him) and Rey, like one big messed up, not-quite-happy family.
Reaction as a fan: Wow. So many things just happened. Talia Gladys is a boss, I guess?
Reaction as a writer. While I’m not opposed to the idea of giving Rey’s character some redemption by having him shoot Gil down, and while I like the drama behind that option (considering how much we know Rey loved Gil), I think execution in this scene happened poorly. Rey’s emotional turnaround feels like it occurred too fast, or in an almost forced fashion. I think it can be blamed on how the writers handled Kira Yamato.
What were the Destiny writers thinking, having Kira show up to point a gun at Durandal? Kira has played Jesus this whole series and has made it a point not to kill anyone (except for Stella, but we could argue that wasn’t exactly deliberate murder; Kira didn’t go for the cockpit). Did the Destiny writers want us to assume Kira would have only shot Durandal in the arms and legs, and then dragged him before a court? Believable, yes, but that would have felt lame; everybody knows Durandal’s fate should be to die. But viewers can’t be allowed to think Kira would kill Durandal, either, can they? Because then viewers might be mad that Kira compromised his own morals. But Durandal couldn’t just randomly die, either, or that would have been lame. I feel like the writers reached this scene with Kira, realized all that... and then went, “Shit.” I feel like they chose to cop out. “We knew Kira had to be here in this scene, because the main character is always in the last showdown with the villain, but we don’t know what is the right choice for Kira to make with his gun pointed at Durandal, really, so... let’s just have REY shoot him! Oh man, oh yeah, that would be great!”
I mean, okay... but you could have had Talia shoot him. Rey’s role here just seems so awkward and convoluted. Why have Rey come around, change his mind about Durandal’s Destiny Plan, decide he would rather have his own tomorrow... but then get sad about shooting Durandal and crawl over to die with him — die in the end just like Rau anyway?! I just.
And by the way — yes, Kira should be present during the final showdown with the main villain... but what about Athrun? Athrun could have shot Durandal, no problem, and solved all this scene’s awkwardness. And of everyone, I feel like Athrun should have been the one to face down Durandal in the end, or at least be present while Kira did it; even if Durandal’s focus seemed to be on Kira and Lacus as his greatest nemeses, Athrun had a bigger bone to pick with Durandal. Yet where was Athrun after taking care of Shinn? Why doesn’t he get to feature in Durandal’s demise somehow?!
And again. Again, cool, give Rey some redemption. But how can you give one of the show’s major baddies redemption and not your hero Shinn Asuka?! *BLEEP* you, Destiny!
Take 5 — The End Credits Roll
Durandal’s fortress explodes, and the show is over.
Reaction as a fan: What? WHAT?! That’s it? THAT’S ALL I GET?!
Reaction as a writer. Actually, no. I just looked it up because I felt so pissed, and there should be about five minutes more somewhere. It’s just not on these first edition discs.
As a fan: WHAT IN THE ACTUAL *BLEEP*
As a writer: It’s probably like “Between The Stars.” Let’s go find it and hope it clears up more than thi— wait. What in the heck is this, now?
As a fan: Seriously? What? WHAT NOW?!
As a writer: Well, normally I’d rant about how a show isn’t written well if it can’t wrap up without a bunch of tacked-on, post-show bits of crap, but… I found this extra part, right? “Final Plus” or something, from some special edition or whatever. The “Special Edition” in general is the movie compilation versions — and this thing is... tacked on to the end in those? Unclear. But I’m fast-forwarding through the last part of the special edition now to see if I can get to it, and... other things are extremely different, too.
As a fan: WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
As a writer: They ret-conned shit. But I think it’s better? For starters, in this version... Athrun DOES go with Kira into the fortress to face down Durandal, and is present too when Rey shoots him.
As a fan: I mean, I’m glad? But HOW CAN THEY GO AND RET-CON EVERYTHING?! In the first SEED’s special edition movies, things weren’t that different! We just got Azrael’s backstory, and extra shots of Flay and Kira having sex...
As a writer: ...I guess I’m writing another group of takes.
BONUS: FINAL PLUS (OVA...The Last 5 and 1/2 minutes of it, anyway...)
Take 1 — Shinn’s Redemption, Finally
Everyone from the final battle meets at the memorial to Shinn’s dead family. Athrun tries to introduce Shinn to Kira. At first, Shinn isn’t having any of it and hesitates in shaking Kira’s hand. But eventually, and after Kira makes an adorable speech about regrowing flowers or some shit and cutely imploring Shinn to join their fight on their side.
Shinn gets all emotional and agrees to join (and hopefully become) one of the actual good characters. Everyone walks away in pairs into the sunset.
Reaction as a fan: This is adorable. I’m glad it’s here. And yet, emotionally, while I am touched, it doesn’t feel like it’s satisfying me as much as I wanted to be satisfied.
Reaction as a writer: Something is better than nothing, but the fact remains that this scene is too little, too late. Does Shinn finally get to redeem himself with this? Does he finally get to grow and change some? Yes, and that is excellent. We do finally see Shinn come around and change his viewpoints for the better. And break free of his puppet strings. But... like I said. It’s too little, too late. This is sweet, but not sweet enough to kill the bitter taste in my mouth that the main series left by giving Shinn no good development before this… this afterthought of a scene. The writers really dropped the ball.
Take 2 — Kira Yamato Joins ZAFT
We see him greeting Lacus in the PLANTs in one of the white commander’s uniforms.
Reaction as a fan: HAH! HAAAA HA HA! It actually happened, albeit at the last second! I KNEW IT. AND I HAVE SAVED FACE NOW THANKS TO THIS. Hey, Commander Joule, what do you think of the Strike pilot having the same rank as you now? I WOULD PAY TO SEE THAT SHIT.
Reaction as a writer. It didn’t happen exactly how we thought it would happen, but it still did. I mean, where else can the Ultimate Coordinator go that he hasn’t yet but to the PLANTs?