Gou faces off against Banno in a final battle between father and son, while Shinnosuke, Heart, and Medic race to stop the Sigma Circular
This episode would be super bizarre under any circumstances, but that oddness is amplified by the fact that it’s the penultimate episode. There’s a bunch of great, dramatic stuff in here, but it’s so poorly staged that it’s difficult not to feel a frustrating sense of missed opportunity over almost everything that happens. We’ve spoken a lot about how Drive‘s flighty, unpredictable nature can be a double edged sword – it makes the show a lot more entertaining when it works well but it can really cause big moments to lose some substance. That’s the case here, as valiantly as the script struggles to make this a big deal™.
Of the two major plot threads in this episode, the Gou/Banno battle undoubtedly works better because it’s something we have a primal emotional stake in. Banno has been a super-bastard for quite a while now and nobody has suffered more from that than Gou. I don’t think it works quite as well as intended, partially because I still don’t think Chase’s death was handled as well as it could have been, but it’s still great to see Gou finally acknowledge him as a friend. The fight is fantastic – all crunchy violence and all out anger-induced mania, and after episodes of Banno being presented as near untouchable it’s just satisfying to see him dismantled. I will say though that they hybrid Mach/Chaser costume is astonishingly lame, perhaps even worse than the monstrosity that is Dead Heat. If you’r trying to emphasise his connection with Chase why not go the whole hog and just have him transform into Chaser? It’d be a cool ‘take up my sword’ moment and save us from this god-awful visual which confirms every cheap, throwaway thing you’ve ever suspected about the franchise.
The other plotline is way less satisfying and it’s mostly due to the lack of the aforementioned emotional connection. I can’t really fathom why you’d make the dumbass Sigma Circular the ‘final boos’ rather than Banno himself. This…thing barely was a thing until a few episodes ago and we have no reason at all to have any interest in it other than the fact it’s going to cause the end of the world, which in Kamen Rider terms is a threat so mundane it might as well be stealing your pocket money. To compensate they’ve made it super overpowered which just makes the transparent manufacture of the situation that much more obvious. We’re pretty obviously meant to be distracted from this by Medic’s heroic last stand, but this doesn’t work for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Medic has been through the tragic hero/villain door so many times at this point that it’s hard to really care about her. It doesn’t help that actually meaningful characterisation has been somewhat lacking – hell, I’d argue even Brain was more three-dimensional. The second is that this final sacrifice and tearful last speech takes place in aid of Shinnosuke, which make absolutely no sense from a narrative perspective. Medic’s entire presence in the show has centered around Heart – why not make saving him her final act and close that loop in the most satisfying way possible? I can’t see any reason at all why you couldn’t have written it this way and the fact they had the option and didn’t makes my head spin. Without it any catharsis we might feel at the death of the character is squandered.
Fortunately, the final episode preview looks like all the nonsense with Sigma Circular will be dealt with quickly and that it’ll focus on what we really want to see – Drive vs Heart. It’s been a bumpy road, but we’re almost at the end now, and there’s still a chance to finish with a flourish.
- Seeing Banno turn into a gibbering coward before Gou axed him to pieces was an outstanding highlight of this episode.
- There wasn’t really anywhere to put it in the main write up but Yu Inaba and Rio Ichida as Gou and Kiriko really bring their A-game acting here, doing a very good job and conveying the grief and trauma of losing Chase.
- Medic can’t heal cores anymore. Why?
- Rinna and Gen continue to be just too adorable as a team