Not that long after Kiritsugu has left the Einzbern castle, the Boundary Field surrounding it is broken once more. This time by Rider, who’s came to meet Saber for a simple drink between kings. And just as they start another guest arrives to join in, Archer.
Someone who Rider had happened to spot on his way but disgusted in the cheap swill they intend to serve him, he reaches into the Gate of Babylon to draw a flask of his treasury’s finest. After which they begin to talk about what they intend to use the Grail for, starting with Archer who due to seeing the Grail as something that already belongs to him feels as if it’s his duty to carry out the law he set on any thieves who would attempt to steal it. Rider, embarrassed to mention that he would wish to live once more in the modern era, and would then attempt to conquer the globe once more.
Of course both of these reasons strike a chord with Saber and after a few snide remarks from her, she’s forced to tell them what she would wish for, to redo her mistakes and prevent her kingdom from falling into ruin, even if it means going against just what presents her as a candidate to join the Throne of Heroes. Feeling that a king must be a martyr for their people and sacrifice everything for the sake of their kingdom, however for both Rider and Archer it’s the other way around, with Rider bluntly telling her that she’s a fool, regretting nothing when she attempts to throw how his kingdom fell into ruin after his death in his face, declaring that a king must live in excess to make his subjects both love and envy him, and that her childish ideals only gained their resentment. Bringing her back to the Battle of Camlann for all but a moment.
However before things can go any further an uninvited guest arrives in force, Assassin. But regardless Rider welcomes them and offers any who would take it, a drink that is their blood, at which point they make the mistake of spilling it so Rider proceeds to finish the job. Asking Saber and Archer if a King must be alone, to which Archer responds with a smile and Saber declares that they must, another answer which to him she got wrong as they find themselves in the ever expansive desert that is Rider’s Reality Marble, the Ionian Hetairoi. Where as if like a mirage, his friends and army who shared his dream and imprinted it upon their hearts appear. And personally leading the charge, Rider marches on the now outnumbered Assassin and annihilates them.
After which Rider now disappointed decides to call it a day and head back, refusing to acknowledge Saber as a king so long as she clings to her naive ideals. But even so Archer remains and attempts to encourage her to keep going, telling her that he enjoys seeing her head down the painful and sorrowful path she intends to follow and that he may fall for her because of it as he leaves. And with no one else but Irisviel at her side now, Saber recalls of how a certain knight left Camelot claiming that their king couldn’t understand others, wondering how many at the Round Table shared those sentiments without speaking of them.
Despite the amount of QUALITY after the last episode must have eaten into the art budget a little this was a great episode. Starting out as a fun meeting between kings to have a drink before giving us some character development for all three of them. And of course Rider simply stole the show by unveiling his other Noble Phantasm, the Ionian Hetairoi.
Or quite literally the King’s Companions, showing not only could Rider call forth a divine ox chariot based upon how he severed the Gordian Knot but he could also call forth an entire army, an army of bros (or so we’re led to believe). Bound by a friendship that not even death itself could overcome as all those who pledged him loyalty and accompanied him in life return once more to fight by his side, even his noble steed Bucephalus who you would expect him to have instead of the Gordius Wheel, showing up instead as a separate Heroic Spirit with E rank Independent Action. It may not have the same sort of legacy behind it, but personally I think it easily ranks up there with Archer’s iconic Unlimited Blade Works as far as epic (even though I hate that word) Noble Phantasms go, and on the side it’s also pretty fun to take guesses as to who some of the prominent figures inside it are.
Before which though the character development that we saw for Rider and Archer was great as well, even without the pretext for it being a fun meeting between all the kings of the war to share a drink and discuss their ideals and such. With their views on kingship and just what they intend to use the Grail for really saying a lot about them, in contrast to Saber’s selflessness regarding it both, both of them felt that it was a king’s job to do what ever they wanted to and the kingdom’s job to sacrifice for their wishes. Rider particularly feeling that they must regret nothing and live in excess, he himself wishing for the chance to do everything he did all over again regardless of the result. And Archer in his typical haughty fashion considering the Grail to already be part of his treasury and that it’s his job to exact punishment upon any would be thieves. Something which was actually pretty interesting to see, it’s small but he’s still quite different to who he is in Stay Night, and we even got to see the moment where he fell for Saber.
Finally I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that one of the funnest parts about this episode for me was seeing Saber being continually told just how wrong she is whenever she speaks up, something that so far Zero appears to be quite proficient in so far. Kiritsugu performed this role nicely beforehand regardless of whether he was actually acknowledging her, and with him nowhere to be seen Rider seemed to pick up where he left off. Picking apart her ideals and views of kingship and directly confronting her on the flaws in it and threw it in her face with one of his Noble Phantasms, that she may acted distant and selflessly for the good of her people but it didn’t earn their love. A thing she didn’t seem to acknowledge at first as she typically made snide comments calling Rider and Archer out on their flaws while ignoring her own, not to mention how ironic it is that all three of their kingdom’s supposedly fell apart following their deaths regardless of their views. In all though with this, it was all still great development for her, we saw just how stubbornly she refuses to accept what she herself sowed, and alongside that how she’s haunted by the aftermath to the Battle of Camlann as well as how she realised just how right Rider was by remembering how a certain knight left because of just how out of touch she was with her people.