Both Shinnosuke and Gou attempt to find the source of the Slowdown wristbands in their own way.
While the second Rider usually gets to steal the spotlight in the most comically blatant way, the fact remains that they’re hardly ever as well off as their protagonist foils. Whether their powers are older or newer than the main Rider’s, second Riders have the tendency to end up with unstable prototypes that run on easily extended commodities, life force, or worse. Gou’s no different, though the complications often accompanying a new costumed hero seem to be mostly abandoned in his case — the Mach suit simply tires him out because it’s been poorly optimized. It’s a bit trite, for now, and the same applies to the reasons why he’s even in the show in the first place. Gou’s no mole like Ryuusei or essential plot point like Yuuto, he just shows up because he has to, and antagonizes Shinnosuke only because he’s a massive jerk — albeit a highly enjoyable one — seemingly without any role to play in the grander conflict.
Nevertheless, his addition to the main duo highlights the fabulous on-screen chemistry Shinnosuke and Kiriko have. Due to its general lack of big mechanics and concepts, Drive is unusually negligent of the bigger picture — eschewing most character development and myth-building in favour of the two blazing through one mystery after another. Gou’s entrance, however, takes the most enjoyable aspect of Drive‘s beginnings and turns it into its main attraction, elevating the show’s moments of consistently enjoyable double act to a proud and prominent cast of three. It both makes for more enjoyable and more varied jokes, and puts Kiriko’s earlier behaviour in a new daylight, as seeing her evolve visibly while retaining her uncompromising badassitude in tact, as proven by this episode’s spectacular fight scene, easily turns her into one of the best female Kamen Rider characters to date.
With Mach’s enthusiastic explosion onto the proverbial stage, the Roidmudes take a bit of a step backwards this week, though it’s nice to get some clarity on how exactly they evolve — which has never been explicitly stated. This week’s monster and his unsavory business in criminal assistance was a nice call back to the blatant drug peddling vibes of Kamen Rider W, down to a Rider disguising himself to go score some plastic cocaine. Looks like Gou’s doing a better job at detective work than the actual detective, and I don’t think I agree with Shinnosuke slamming Mach’s vigilantism, given his own shenanigans usually aren’t any better. It’s another reminder that Drive is far from perfect even after the introduction of its amazing second hero, though the sum of its parts has become more of a multiplication. Lat it be known that the show is stronger now than it has ever been.
- Somehow Gou can cause Density Shifts, but he’s still affected by them, even while holding his Zenrin Shooter. I’m calling shameless nonsense made up to have Shinnosuke have his big damn heroes moment.
- The writing did a good job at never explicitly stating that Mach’s powers are dangerous to Gou’s health, but it sure as heck made one heck of a fumble by having Shinnosuke loudly declare that there’s more to Gou than initially seems. We’re not stupid, Drive.
- Poor Kyu getting viciously beaten up for merely being in the vicinity of girls is all kinds of unfunnily hilarious.
Gou continues to inject a pleasant amount of energy into what had become very routine proceedings, and this is the first episode in a while which I felt actually had an effective arc throughout its running time. They probably try and cram in a bit too much, but Mach’s detective work is a decent twist and shows the power of witholding information from the viewer, something Drive hasn’t been too great at up to this point. The result is a pacy, well rounded episode with a plot-line just compelling enough to keep you engaged squeezed between the fights and character development. That’s about the best structure that a Rider episode can have.
The enjoyment is enhanced by the continuing good chemistry between the three leads. One of my major issues with Shinnosuke up to this point is that he’s been a little bland – personable but never really too close to either the funny or serious ends. Now though with this trio assembled his personality makes much more sense. He’s the straight man in the middle between the serious Kiriko and the goofy Gou and in that regard he works really well and playing peacemaker between the brother and sister and giving the audience a sane voice they can look to. It’s pretty unusual for the hero to be placed in this position, but I think with good writing it can work out fine.
I think the thing I most enjoyed about this episode was Gou himself though. Most second riders come in one of two forms – happy go lucky goofballs who effortlessly outpace the main rider, or (much more often) super serious jerks who clash with our heroes at first. Gou however straddles the line in a clever and interesting way. He’s clearly kind of a jerk, but at the same time isn’t openly hostile to Shinnosuke and indeed he’s the one who seems more sure of their alliance than vice-versa. He’s smug and over-confident, but in a playful way rather than an exasperating one. It’s a fun dynamic that actually might be the way a real person could act, and there are many interesting directions the relationship could go. It seems the Drive is firing up nicely and I’m eager to see what’s to come.