What is this show?! What a well-done string of episodes! The action's great, the drama is strong, the subplots are funny without feeling forced, there's a sense of stakes to everything... these are easily the best episodes I've seen of Ghost. I'm not entirely sure where this show was hiding all along.

There's a thing I've noticed, the way Kamen Rider series are structured. You've got your first act, which introduces the hero, his supporting cast, and the season's gimmick. You get a bunch of monster-of-the-week episodes with varying levels of repetition. Then, the winter movie happens, and afterwards you get a secondary (or additional) Rider introduction. A few episodes later, once the second act has started, it's a transitional time for the show. It's too early to get into the final stages of the villain's plot, and you can't really keep doing monster-of-the-week episodes for another four months, so it's usually time to Find Out What The Deal Is With The New Rider. They've shown up, fought alongside the main cast for an episode or two, but what's their deal? Where'd they come from? What do they want? How do their goals overlap with or run in opposition to the main Rider? What's up with them? Ghost had that inexplicable First First Act and Second First Act structure, which means it's only now, at Episode 25, that we're really entering the Second Act.

So it is that this string of episodes focus on Alain/Necrom while Takeru recedes a bit to the background, and JESUS is the show better for it. The Epic Grade melodrama of Alain's world and family is so much more compelling than Takeru's bland earnestness. The quest to rescue Makoto feels so much more vital than a nebulous Save Takeru Someday or Beat The Villains Someday motivation. Mostly, though, using Takeru to act as cheerleader/emotional idol for Alain makes them both come out better. Alain's arc has a recognizable endpoint, and Takeru's partially naive belief in Alain is proven valid. It's a really great use of both characters.

Most astonishingly, these are excellent episodes for Akari and Onari. Really! I'm not 100% on them yet or anything, but Akari's anger at Igor and Onari's kindness towards Javert felt grounded and realistic, a million miles from the Wacky Antics that made me loathe the pair from the first first act. The whole ensemble really snaps into focus with the Riders absence, leaving me caring more about every single character. (I mean, not Yurusen. I'm not crazy.)

Kudos to Ghost for righting the ship, at least for these four episodes.