It's been a few days. Where were we? Oh, right -- the end of the world.

Build, for better or worse, has had a few points where it seemed like the story could be over. Emotionally, episode 22 felt like it said everything that needed to be said. It felt like a series finale on every axis. But it wasn't, it was barely the midpoint of the series. What came after has been strong, but it's definitely felt to me like almost an epilogue.

It doesn't help that a lot of the villainy that's driving the plot recently is of a somewhat amorphous shape. Seito wants to rule the world while Evol(t) wants to destroy it, and while that's definitely villainous (I mean, I live in the world, it's where I watch Kamen Rider, it'd suck if that couldn't happen anymore) it's also kind-of generic and hard to feel that connected to, despite giving it the face of Banjou or having Sento reiterate his personal responsibility for the war. The villain plots are just sort-of there for me, nothing to get too thrilled about.

Luckily, everything else is thrilling. I've compared my relationship with Kamen Rider to pizza before (even bad Kamen Rider is still Kamen Rider, and thus pretty good), so let me go to the pizza metaphor well once more. The villain plots are like the crust on a pizza: a base that's necessary for construction, but rarely the thing that you're most interested in. It's better if it tastes good, but it's more important that everything else tastes good. And this is a pretty delicious episode! It's great to see Rogue integrated more fully in the line-up, and the scene with him and Grease was exactly what I want out of a Kamen Rider fight scene: it's visually enjoyable while still telling me something about the characters. Grease needs to feel some closure over Rogue's actions while making sure Rogue can contribute to the fight, while Rogue needs to address his past mistakes and figure out what he's even fighting for now. It's a well-done scene between two characters I hope get more to do together.

The concluding Evol(t)/Build fight is an episode highlight. Sento's got yet another fake-out up his sleeve, staying one step ahead of the unstoppable plotter. I appreciated that, while the show was absolutely going to have Sento try to sacrifice himself to stop Evol(t) and save the world, the characters get to push back a bit through Misora. The "Misora yells at Sento to stop trying to kill himself" scene wasn't exactly the most poignant or best delivered, but I liked that it existed and that it had a decent list of reasons Sento was being an awful friend. Sometimes it needs to be said! It's hard for a friend to watch another friend almost blow themselves up but instead give a more powerful form to an extinction-level supervillain, y'know? We've all been there.

Is this the ideal episode of Kamen Rider? Does it have absolutely everything it takes to satisfy the average Kamen Rider viewer? Let's check!

GOOD EPISODIC STORY - The Sento/Evol(t) stuff is terrific. It's a clear, immediate, personal goal for the characters to free Sento from Evol(t)'s clutches, and it's edge-of-your-seat storytelling. Sento/Evol(t) is a grinning asshole, convinced he holds all the cards. Team Build has lost their best strategist, leaving only an underpowered Grease, a depowered Cross-Z, and a devastated Rogue. Not exactly an all-star team! But the method through which Team No Build has to fight anyway, to figure out what they're fighting for and what it'll take to win, it all feels vital and it all feels earned. A great beginning, middle, and end to this story.

CONNECTION TO SERIES ARC - The Evol Trigger is the power up du jour, and so much of the story is about what it'll do once Evol(t) gets it working. After a few feints, the Trigger's up and running by the end, and it feels suitably apocalyptic.

HUMOR - Banjou's henshin anxiety in the beginning is laugh-out-loud funny, and the show (as always) does a great job of not forcing the humor. Jokes just land, like Rogue's admission that the only reason he ran a lab was nepotism, or Evol(t)'s general dismissal of every single Rider. Not an all-out side-splitting episode, but plenty of humor around the edges.

DRAMA - Banjou has to ask for the help of the man who murdered his girlfriend! And then that murderer reminds Banjou that he's responsible for Banjou's girlfriend's death! Like he forgot! And Grease just has to sit there while it's happening! Heavy stuff, handled deftly, no surprise. And, of course, this episode is another entry in But Why Heroism, checking in with Rogue's development. It's a good Tragic Rider twist on "patriotism", separating his need to fix a country he broke from Grease's need to protect his vulnerable country. It's maybe a small thing, but I appreciated the distinction. More than the Grease/Rogue stuff, though, there's Banjou's, like, Will To Henshin, as he regains his Rider status as Great Cross-Z. There's not much to say about his motivation, since "wants to protect the people he cares about" has been his stated motivation for, uh, the last twenty-something episodes, but I loved his pre-henshin fight against Evol(t) because it highlighted and rewarded his skill set for solving problems: Just Keep Punching. He literally punched his way to victory. No high-minded strategy, no belief in the power of friendship, Just Keep Punching. Fantastic. Standing O.

FIGHTS - Um, hell yes. Grease versus the Hell Bros, Rogue versus the Hell Bros, Rogue and Grease teaming-up (badly, but still!) against Evol(t), Banjou versus Evol(t), so much good fights in this one. I love that set (it's been in every show, most recent for me in the Ex-Aid: Lazer vs Genm movie), it's got so many fun areas to get good shots. Great action in this episode!

NEW SUITS AND/OR FORM CHANGES - ha ha ha YOU BET. Starting off the episode with Evol Rabbit, rolling out Great Cross-Z, and ending up with Evol(t)'s final form, this episode doled out bad-ass new suits like they all of a sudden needed space in the Kamen Rider suit closet. All three are based around the Evol design, which is an incredibly flexible template. Some of it's the streamlined nature of the suit, how it's not crazy and bulky like a lot of villain suits, but I think a lot of it is the color scheme. That blue/red/gold is striking, and it easily supports variations based on Stalk (red), Build (red and blue), and Cross-Z (blue and gold). The suits all look good and visually identify what body Evol(t) is in today. Great Cross-Z plusses up a suit I was never that thrilled with, giving it some of Evol's astronomy flourishes and using the darker red to make the suit pop a bit more. It's a great visual signifier of both Evol(t) and Banjou. I don't really love the "final form" for Evol(t) (they didn't name it in the show yet, I don't want to go looking for its name in case of spoilers), but I barely got a chance to see it. I also, rudely, barely got a chance to see Great Cross-Z, my favorite Banjou suit so far. I may have actually said "OH, COME ON" out loud when he switched to Magma. How dare. Anyway, Great Cross-Z looks great, Evol Rabbit was a treat, and I'll probably get used to Evol's final form. Tons of good new suits in this episode.

THE ENDING - A jaw-droppingly good twist ending. They saved the wrong Build. It's Takumi that came out of the Evol Trigger, not Sento. So, so, good. A lot of what's been working for me the last few episodes is how the emphasis on the characters for most of the series is paying dividends as they keep shaking up the team. My favorite part of the first few episodes, and the thing that told me this show was going to work, was how much I wanted to see every combination of characters. This arc, this phase, is applying that to the whole show, the whole premise. It helps that the actors can pull off any variation of their character that the writer comes up with, but it's also the hard work of character-building that makes any change fascinating. A very, very exciting ending.

Yeah, I don't know, this episode really had it all for me. I don't think it's the best episode the series has done, but everything in it is so good. Very interested to see how far the show can take this.