Darling in the FRANXX Episode 21

“For You, My Love”

Saturdays at 12:00 pm EST on Crunchyroll

With Hiro and the Klaxosaur Princess incapacitated, it’s up to Zero Two and Dr FRANXX to break through and rescue them and, by proxy, the entire planet.

Zigg’s Thoughts

This is the best episode of FRANXX in weeks, which admittedly isn’t saying much at this point. Still, they actually manage to master the basics of having a plot which goes from A to B in a mostly logical and sensible manner. Look, I’ve gotta take what I can get at this point OK? With that said, an awful lot of this episode also feels like it’s running on autopilot, churning out the kind of cliches obligatory to an episode in the closing stages of a mech show. All along FRANXX has been plagued by a lack of originality, and this segment shows that remains its primary problem, as efficient as its execution can be sometime.

Take for example, the series of dramatic deaths that take place in this episode. They’re here because, well, this is meant to be some sort of grand climatic battle, so you’ve got to kill someone right? The problem is that the script sort of just flails around and tries to take out anyone it can, without considering why you kill characters or what sort of effect that’s meant to have. So we see the death of one of the Nines, who we don’t care about because they’ve been total jerks and have had precisely zero time spent trying to establish them as characters beyond their faceless antagonist role. The show tries to compensate by making it as gruesome as possible but that doesn’t work because you might as well be killing a paper cutout for all we care.

Then they also kill the Klaxosaur Princess, who apparently lived for sixty million years but was won over by one face-sucking between two dumbass teens. Again, there’s been less than zero effort to build her up as a character and despite having more screentime than the Nines, she’s just as shallow and just as paper-thin. This should be a powerful moment in theory because it’s the culmination of a millennia-long struggle between the Klaxo Sapiens and VIRM…except that that entire plot thread was only introduced last episode and most of the time we spent with the Princess before that was dedicated to Dr FRANXX getting very horny for her. The idea that she’d be won over by THE POWER OF LOVE and sacrifice her life to save a species that has spent most of the last few decades acting as puppets is pretty laughable, and as it is elicits almost no emotional reaction except mild puzzlement.

The third death is of course the aforementioned Dr FRANXX and it’s here where the show’s absolute inability to give its characters anything more than the depth of a puddle really comes back to hurt it. It tries to frame his final moments as the culmination of a redemptive arc that ultimately ends with Zero Two forgiving him, which is so unbelievably stupid I have trouble fathoming it. All along the show has continuously swept the good Doctor’s numerous hideous crimes under the rug, attempting instead to present him as a tortured soul who was merely driven by SCIENCE, when in fact he’s an unethical, soulless creep who’s pretty much jerked along the entire human race to its doom. Zero Two’s smiling, happy forgiveness of the man who tortured, imprisoned and abused her throughout her entire childhood would be an absolute act of character assassination if, well, she had any character to begin with. As it is it merely seems morally dissonant in the extreme. There’s not even an attempt to frame this as some sort of grudging struggle for Zero Two – she even thanks him for god’s sake!

Still that’s about par for Zero Two, who once again displays in this episode that now she’s with her ‘Darling’ she has the emotional range of one of those baby toys where you press a button to make the cat go meow. This is really more a failure of long-term writing than this particular episode, but it’s even harder to tolerate Hiro and Zero Two’s astonishingly milquetoast relationship now that we’re forced to believe the fate of the world hinges on it . It’s not like regular anime romance is an astonishing blast of nuanced character writing or anything, but at least it’s generally cute or charming, and implies some spark between the couple. The Hiro/Zero Two relationship, if you can call it that, has mostly been them repeatedly saying ‘I like you!’ at each other in the most unbearably saccharine way possible, and now they’re trying to leverage that relationship into an important plot point it just totally collapses under the strain. THIS is what convinced the Klaxosaur princess that humanity could defeat an aeons-old evil? It barely defeats my impulse to nap quite frankly.

Like I said at the beginning, I don’t think this episode is a total disaster – there’s some neat action, the rest of the squad actually do something for a change (even if it’s a very cliched ‘hold the line’ sequence) and there’s forward movement on the plot in some notable ways. The ending is somewhat baffling though, and speaks to the issues FRANXX has had all along with dramatic structure. Why have your big bad retreat with only three episodes remaining, leading to what’s inevitably going to be a breather episode and the need to build back up to a climax again? It’s an odd decision and I’m not necessarily going to condemn it until we see where they go with it, but it does seems strange. Oh also Zero Two is super not dead because again, there’s three episodes left, so let’s see what they do to bring her back around.

Random Observations

  • Perhaps the most hilarious death of all is the Princess’s giant snake-dragon thing, which might be the most low-ball effort for audience sympathy of all time.
  • Speaking of which, Zero Two takes the exact same route the Princess did to get to the core, so why does she have to smash through a wall to do it?
  • Ikuno very clearly ages after expending her energy to blast the rubble, so I’m preparing my ‘Bury Your Gays’ bingo.
  • Even though Delphinium avoids crushing Zero Two and Dr FRANXX, shouldn’t they be obliterated a moment later when it fires its rocket boosters?
  • Though ‘Hringhorn’ was briefly mentioned previously, its sudden appearance and importance are easily enough to put it in the ‘giant McGuffin from nowhere’ category, just like Star Entity in the last episode. Also, wasn’t there another robot show that had an important magical lance?
  • VIRM totally achieve Human Instrumentality in the opening minutes of this episode right? Why didn’t they just take the Parasites as well? Does this mean they’re the only human beings left on Earth?

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