A barnburner of an episode, here. Instead of the typical two or three stories that get a check-in, or some larger threads that need developing, this one's a big ol' Banjou spotlight episode.

Taking away Sento for an episode and giving the reins to Banjou (why in the world Grease would let Banjou be the one in charge is utterly beyond me) gives us a different type of Build episode, and it's weirdly one that shows just why Sento is such a fun Rider to watch. Banjou's a dumb guy, and he's easily led by Evol(t). He's not a planner or a plotter, so all he can do is acquiesce to Evol(t)'s demands and hope to beat him in a fight. That would probably not be Sento's play. Sento's a genius, and he's got a rare Rider ability to figure out a solution besides facing an opponent head-on. He can think around a problem, not just through it. That makes for Build stories that have some fun surprises to them, ways the heroes don't just fight harder but fight smarter. This, though, was just Banjou trying his best, for better or worse. It's an incredibly straightforward Rider story that gains points in propulsive action and deadly stakes, but loses points in a lack of twists and (to me) not doing that much with the dramatic potential of the story.

For example, Evol(t)'s strategy, of riling Banjou up enough until they can combine, was visually impressive, but dramatically only adequate. The flames during the nighttime portion of the fight (how, uh... how long was Grease just lying there?) looked awesome, and made the fight feel appropriately apocalyptic. The problem, for me, was that Evol(t) was trying this "we're not so different, you and I" villain thing, trying to cloud Banjou's thoughts, and it's just, has Evol(t) not met Banjou? Does he think Banjou's smart enough to dismiss his humanity in favor of a different paradigm? Does he think Banjou can even spell "paradigm"? How this cunning dude thought that musclebrained Banjou could be manipulated philosophically, I don't get it. All he had to do was threaten Sento and he was good to go. The emotional taunting through the fight, it just felt unnecessary to me. Gilding the lily.

Great fight, though, and a killer cliffhanger as Evol(t) seems to be fully in control of Banjou. There's even a cool new helmet for Kamen Rider Evol(t) Phase 2! I'm not sure dragons work that great with an astronomy motif, but I'm also not sure Evol(t) cares what I think.

There're times I feel like this series is 90% about people telling the real story this time about something. I'm a fan of the narrative trick in principle, where you can give just enough information to move the story forward, while leaving room to surprise the audience later. It's just, this is the fourth or fifth time we've gotten The Truth About Mars, and at least three of those are from Hipster Dad. It's more convoluted each time it's told, as it has to line up with all the various versions that've already been put forward. I kind-of don't care anymore what happened on Mars!

Anyway, hi. Sorry. This episode. This one's another very plot-driven episode, with not a lot of character development or choices. It's a Big Picture one. There's a little bit of character business during the Build/Evol(t) throwdown, but even that's a retread of Sento's "science is as good or bad as the intentions behind it" speech that we've had a couple three times already. Mostly it's another one where Evol(t) has a plan, and he acts on it, while the heroes react to it.

It's maybe a little rushed? There's a ton of time in the beginning devoted to Evol(t) connecting all of the Martian dots, then Sento wakes up, calls Rogue, they all get abducted, big fight at Pandora Tower Field, the end. There's plenty of time spent on plot stuff and Evol(t), but a potentially huge scene like Build recruiting Rogue is only a minute or so until Bad Hair Banjou shows up to start the endgame. Wasteful! I'm not sure why they didn't drop one of those Nanba scenes or something and let a big moment like Rogue Joins The Team play out. Bonkers. Confusing decision.

At least the final fight was good? It was! It was so good! I really like Evol(t) Dragon(z) as a suit. It's imposing without being over-the-top, the color scheme is great, the collar is great, the dragon helmet maybe works great, the suit actor has full rotation of his shoulders... it's a real winner, I think. And, yeah, the fight itself was a winner. It's very cleanly choreographed, with fun moves against each opponent coherently conveyed, some great Holy Shit moments like punching Rogue and Grease over the Sky Wall, but the fake out with Banjou's plea for mercy? Loved it. I was wondering why they'd only used the Evol(t) voice all episode, when Hipster Dad would usually use his own voice, but that's why. If Evol(t) uses Banjou's voice through the episode, it wouldn't play as though Banjou was resisting, because he's been talking like that all episode. If they save it, the audience buys it, Build buys it, and then Evol(t) wins. I love it. I love Evol(t) as a season-long villain. His plan has a billion discrete phases to it, and requires tricking a hundred different people over a multiple-decade period, but he does it all with so much confidence and style, I'm almost rooting for him. And I'm a human! And that dude hates humans! Like, a lot!