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 — Rey’s A Clone (Of Mu La Flaga’s Dad, like Rau Le Creuset)
Yes, thank you Destiny. We knew.
Reaction as a fan: I’ve only been waiting THE ENTIRE SHOW to see Rey finally dive for those blue and white pills.
Reaction as a writer: All right, fine — I’ll hand it to SEED Destiny. Their use of Rey Za Burrel has actually been pretty good. It’s been fascinating to watch him go from a stoic and silent side character to a featuring character with a Gundam, who spurts philosophy and ideals as well as Durandal can. It’s been interesting watching how he brainwashes Shinn. But the best thing about Rey’s character is that he is the perfect advocate for Durandal’s insane Destiny Plan — and we can sympathize with him for it.
Crazy as Durandal’s plan is, Rey helps us to see the potential good in it. Because we know what became of Rau Le Creuset, because we know it’s tragic to be a clone, we can understand why it might be positive for someone like Rey to participate in the Destiny Plan. Under it, Rey wouldn’t necessarily need to devolve into the mess Rau Le Creuset did. Rau practically got driven nuts by the idea that all the world could manage was war. (“No matter what we learn, no matter what we obtain, nothing ever changes! People are amazing that way! They become envious, hate each other, and destroy each other! If that's what they truly desire, why don't they simply exterminate each other?!” Or how about, “This is a world where people’s hearts are filled with hatred... where fingers have no purpose other than to pull triggers.”) Rau truly thought the world was one big doom fest, and look how he ended. My guess is Rey doesn’t want to end up like that. Is it any wonder he therefore supports Durandal’s idea of a world without war? Any wonder he would support a world that assigns people a purpose and place? Rey has a shortened lifespan; surely he doesn’t want to waste most of it struggling to figure out how to obtain his desires. Durandal’s plan would give him his happiness easily, so he could enjoy it before death.
In short, I’m cool with Rey’s choices at this point. But. I can’t rest easy. The truth of the matter is that Rey still resembles Rau a bit too much, so I’m not convinced he won’t crack and pull a Rau and become a serious villain before this series is through.
Take 2 — Figure It Out, Luna, Please
Luna seems to be having doubts about Durandal’s master plan.
Reaction as a fan: Please, Luna, come around. Because unless you do, idiotic Shinn is never going to break free of his brainwashing — and he’s running out of episodes and time to redeem himself for his bullshittery, here.
Reaction as a writer. Hopefully this means Luna will have played an epic role and done something extremely cool by the time this series is over.
Take 1 — Shinn Turns Down His Final Chance To Be A Good Protagonist
Durandal calls Shinn and Rey to him, asking them to help him in his final battle against the Archangel and Eternal. Shinn appears conflicted again at first. Durandal senses it and asks for confirmation that Shinn is indeed still prepared to support him. Shinn reflects on Rey’s fate as a clone and says yes.
Reaction as a fan: ...I will now proceed to scream and flip every table there is. REALLY, SHINN ASUKA? REALLY?! This was your final chance — yOUR FINAL CHANCE — to become an actual good hero protagonist redeemable human being, and YOU JUST COMPLETELY BLEW IT?! I CAN’T SUPPORT YOU ANY MORE!
Reaction as a writer: Honestly, I am surprised my patience with Shinn lasted this long. It probably did because I get what Destiny is trying to do — especially in this scene with Shinn. Shinn is supposed to be the embodiment of Durandal’s earlier-posited concept that people are the victims of their times. Shinn is absolutely supposed to be seen as a victim; viewers are supposed to understand that Shinn — having been exposed to everything he has during this war — can only act accordingly to those events and feelings, as a product of his circumstances. Hence why we are also supposed to recognize the good side to Durandal’s Destiny Plan. If Durandal could have had the peaceful, controlled world he wanted from the beginning, then Shinn never would have turned into the stubborn person he is here. I understand what Destiny is trying to show...but for the love of Gundam — it doesn’t work.
Why doesn’t it work? Why does fan me hate Shinn now, and not care if he dies? Why do I HOPE he dies, so he can at least finally have some peace like Stella if he can’t just do something that I can cheer for? I officially hate Shinn now because the writers — in trying to illustrate their offbeat, thought-provoking, and unique concept through his character — have forgotten the most important thing about writing protagonists... and therefore compromised Shinn in a way that gets me fed up and nothing more.
In short, the writers strayed too far off the tried and true character and story-writing path. The tropes exist for a REASON — because they work. Doing something really different is always a toss up, and in this case, unfortunately the Destiny writers’ master plans for Shinn landed in a nasty splat like somebody’s dropped ice cream.
You cannot. Have a hero. That never changes. And you cannot have a hero — or even an anti-hero — that’s not able to be redeemed. Redemption is key especially for protagonists like Shinn here who are written as morally wrong and/or very stubborn; they must be redeemed for the viewers to see, or the viewers are going to be left feeling unsatisfied and negatively about the main character. I don’t mean I need to see Shinn do a complete 180 and go kill Durandal. But I do need to see Shinn admit “Oh shit, I’ve been wrong; I’d better at least TRY to make this right...” and I am certain I just missed my last chance to. The writers don’t intend it to happen — because it’s part of them being able to illustrate their neat idea/theme and say, “See? Shinn is such a victim, so tragic! He cannot help but be stubborn forever! It’s the fault of the war and the world; isn’t that poignant and sad?”
NO, DESTINY. WHAT IT IS... IS UNSATISFYING.
I should say, it’s fine for a protagonist to actively choose to REFUSE redemption, don’t get me wrong. But Shinn hasn’t chosen. And anyway, the characters that do refuse and say “Screw you; I’m never changing my mind and I don’t care if I’m terrible for it,” are usually villains! Shinn is not meant to be a villain. (Though Destiny might have done better if they’d made him one, simply committing to it.)
Destiny has tried SO HARD to make sure Shinn’s reasons for siding with Durandal until the end are justified — but Shinn’s stubbornness wrecks it. There’s also too much else stacked against Shinn that clearly the writers didn’t think about. Shinn’s character simply can’t hold up when Athrun AND Kira AND Lacus are all so obviously more heroic and more traditional protagonists.
Take 2 — Mu Gets His Memories Back
The Minerva moves to shoot the Archangel down, and Captain Ramius can’t move the ship to evade, or the Eternal behind it will get shot down instead. It looks like the Archangel is toast... until Mu in the Akatsuki comes to block the shot — exactly the way he blocked a shot in the first SEED and ‘died’ doing it. The trauma of the repeated incident — or maybe just plain Deja vu — triggers Mu’s memories to come back. He tells Murrue not to worry, that he’ll never be leaving her again.
Reaction as a fan: Cute. That is cute.
Reaction as a writer. But... but why did we need to revive him, again? Especially if his ultimate purpose in the plot/as a character was solely to provide Mu/Murrue drama and cuteness? Does that really justify ret-conning his awesome death? Couldn’t Neo have just been Neo if the writers needed an instrument for the temporary Stella arc? Couldn’t they just have left Mu dead? I’M STILL SO TORN OVER THIS, because clearly all it is... is pandering to a group of certain fans.
Bonus Take — Yzak And Dearka For The Win
Despite being on the ZAFT side, these two decide to help Athrun & Co.
Reaction as a fan: THANK YOU. Now THIS is called being a cool character — realizing the truth behind what’s up, and actually doing something badass!
Reaction as a writer: Thanks for this consolation prize, Destiny, that still does not make up at all for how you have shackled Shinn Asuka to the role of annoying idiot we hate.
BONUS Bonus Take — Neo GENESIS
Because in case you thought the final boss weapon that Athrun and Kira took out in the last show was gone, or you thought this show had enough of its own crazy weapons of mass destruction, Gundam SEED Destiny would like you to know that you are wrong.
Reaction as a fan: OH, COME ON. I mean, I guess it makes sense that Durandal would have a backup plan for if the good guys took out his rebuilt Requiem, but like... AM I SUPPOSED TO ACCEPT THIS INSANITY?
Reaction as a writer: This feels excessive. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been such a shock if I’d caught the foreshadowing for it. (Durandal re-built the broken Requiem... and he’s an overall fiend who will stop at nothing; it is therefore believable to think he might have rebuilt GENESIS a while ago — first — and simply been sitting on it. I guess.) But as it stands, it just feels like the writers got carried away trying to stack the deck against our heroes to amp up the last battle.
By all means, amp up the last battle — but the solution to raising those stakes isn’t always “Just add more guns!” (Was the Requiem aiming at Orb not enough?!)