With the true identity of 001 now revealed Shinnosuke is determined to stop him…no matter what the cost.
Even though we’ve only been gone a few episodes (sorry about that guys!) it almost feels like Drive has transformed into an entirely different show over that time. The speed and audacity of the things that have happened over these few episodes have been pretty shocking, and while it’s made for tremendously entertaining television, it does leave me rather curious as to where we’re going to go from here. Let’s kick off with the big one, which is undoubtedly the ludicrously fast arc progress of 001. We’ve barely had time to get used to him as the show’s primary villain before he’s achieved his ultimate form, taken out our hero, laid the smackdown on Chase and then subsequently been blown to bits, seemingly for good. Did I miss something here? The show has spent all this time setting up the mystery behind 001, laying foundations for his ultimate goals, seeding the mystery behind his powers, and generally establishing him as a dominant, mysterious mastermind. Having him obliterated so quickly seems like an utter waste of that effort. It’s so abrupt actually that I wonder if this was an unplanned narrative alteration. Given that it’s shot fairly close to air time, Kamen Rider has in the past made abrupt knee-jerk script changes and this feels a little like one of those. With all that said, I don’t actually think this is a terrible idea. Truth be told, 001 was by far the least interesting Roidmude introduced yet. If this means that the focus shifts back towards the intriguing three way dance between Brain, Heart and Medic, that could be for the better. Certainly I expect some backlash for Brain now the bandwagon he’s hitched himself to has gone up in smoke. Again though there’s a nagging sense that the writers set up some pins that they haven’t yet knocked down. The tension between Medic and Brain has been evident from the start, but since Medic hasn’t had an explicit agenda that differs from the others it’s all been a little pointless. With 001 now gone what the Roidmudes do next will be key to determining the quality of the show as it enters its home stretch. The concept of the ‘Ultimate Evolution’ Heart explains to Chase in their (magnificent) confrontation scene is very intriguing, bringing the subtle Pinnochio-style ‘become a real boy’ aspect of the Roidmudes to the foreground. The idea that they rely on a single overwhelming emotion to evolve also has potential. The reality of 001’s ultimate evolution though (a powerup and a colour change) is severely underwhelming. The other stated objective of the Roidmudes has been to reach ‘The Promised Number’, something which we’ve had basically no concrete information on. What that goal ultimately is may determine their overall effectiveness as villains. The second beat I want to talk about is Gou, whose villainous turn has been really rather entertaining. The revelation that he was a mole all along is simultaneously brilliant and awful. It’s brilliant because it’s a genuinely unexpected twist, largely because (unlike almost every other ‘surprise’ in Kamen Rider history) the writers actually play the long game, allowing his heel turn to stick for a considerable portion of time. The awful part of it is that we’re just supposed to believe the he’s randomly immune to 001’s ability (something which the show goes out of its way to remind us is extremely unusual) and then came up with his plan right on the spot. Furthermore, Gou has had many many chances to turn on Brain before this point, so it doesn’t really make much sense that he’d do it at this precise point. That said, I do think it’s nice that Gou gets a big emotional scene afterwards where he confesses he fucked up. His wild emotional instability can be annoying but it’s also successful at bringing a real impression of a tortured young man through. It’s almost as if his mistakes have actual consequences, a concept so far divorced from the regular Kamen Rider status quo that it’s practically alien. It’s great fun to see him get bright slapped by Chase too, and there’s an encouragingly spiky chemistry developing between the two of them. Finally there’s Shinnosuke himself. He definitely shows a bit more edge in this sequence of episodes, but lead character mandated blandness syndrome prevents him from really cutting loose, which is a shame. The ‘death’ sequence is utterly laughable, and has been used many times before, but it achieves its basic goal of giving us a big hurdle to overcome before we make it to the Ultimate Form. Plus there’s an added opportunity for Kiriko to be badass and save the say, and that’s a development I’m always comfortable with. As for the aforementioned ultimate form, I’m actually digging this one a fair bit. Yes, Type Tridoron looks goofy as hell, but it’s actually slimmed down a fair bit from the epically stupid Type Formula, and that narrow-eyed helmet is excellent at changing up the basic look for the character. I’m less enthused with the idea of Mr Belt and Shinnosuke melding into one character. Yes, it’s a potentially neat battle gimmick and a clever way to explain away the death of our hero, but writer Riku Sanjo has already used this trick once before in Kamen Rider W. Besides, Belt and Shinnosuke’s relationship was already so symbiotic this seems an unnecessary extra step. Where does that leave us then? In a somewhat confusing place to be sure. The action across these three episode was wild, delightfully unrestrained and genuinely surprising. But it was also confusing, a little sloppy and very abrupt. The show seems to have thrown its long term plan into a ditch before our very eyes. That’s worrying, because if the story is still up in the air it may lead to no ultimate payoff, the worst kind of letdown. On the other hand, if the level of energy can be maintained then it’s exciting to see where this huge mess can go. At the very least, Drive has found its own voice and its own identity. The rest of the ride should be a lot of fun.
- Sorry about my extended absence. Sometimes real life gets in the way a bit.
- There’s some really nice SFX work in the Type Tridoron battle, especially the shot of Drive blocking 001’s energy attack then tossing it away into the water.
- We will be writing up a piece on the just-subbed Movie War Full Throttle