This is going to sound like damning the Kamen Rider franchise with the faintest of praise, but I honestly mean it: I love when these shows have their heroes face a problem, devise a strategy, execute the strategy, and overcome an obstacle.

It probably sounds like I’ve just described Heroic Storytelling at its most simplistic, but it’s weirdly something this franchise grapples with fulfilling? A ton of plots count more on a hero being in a place than anything more clever or complex, and most tension is derived from the heroes responding to a(nother) villainous scheme. The villains plot, the heroes respond; that’s, like, ninety percent of Kamen Rider storytelling. So when we get an episode where the heroes have to figure out a way to take the fight to the villains and win? Refreshing! Very refreshing change of pace!

I knew this was going to be a good one for me when the heroes are trying to figure out who knows how to enter the Giffamilia base, and I went Kagerou Knows and then a scene later Sakura goes Kagerou Knows. I don’t like guessing stuff on the show to feel smart or anything (my guesses are almost always wrong), but I like it because it means the show is adhering to a logic that I can comprehend. It’s not pulling some information out of its Driver, it’s using the details of previous episodes to embroider this one. Kagerou is the only cast member who actually hung out with the Giffamilia, and it’s a clever and fascinating plot development to find a way to get that information out of him.

That was the high point of the episode for me, by a mile, all of that stuff where Ikki and Sakura Rider Kick Daiji into Kagerou and then feed him spicy food that Daiji hates until he parts with the info. It’s adorably half-assed in a classic Igarashi way, where a million things could go wrong but somehow don’t through sheer pluck. They make a great/terrible team!

The rest of the episode proceeds pretty much how you’d expect. Team Igarashi breaks up the sacrifice of Aguilera, brawls with the Deadmans, and stops Giff from manifesting. Each fight has a detail or two that keeps it entertaining – Olteca complimenting Live’s suit, Commander Chameleon inaccurately duplicating Vice, Aguilera getting super creeped out by Lovekov – but there’s no real sense of danger for our heroes. Stories like this one, when the villains are on the back foot, they’re kind of foregone conclusions. It’s still fun, the fights all have strong individual hero moments (even Hiromi! Despite having a demonic seizure, maybe!), but it’s the weird consequence of the heroes setting the tone for a change: it’s the protagonists in too much control of the narrative.

So they win! They win big! The Deadmans’ nightclub-slash-church-slash-spaceship(?) dislodges from the Toku Caves and hovers over the bay, then gets obliterated by a full roster of giant-sized Remixes. It’s a lot of CG, which had me tuning out, but I appreciated how fully this episode cleared the deck of the villains’ status quo. Giff got blown up! Aguilera and Julio have split from Olteca! Maybe Fenix is going to arrest the other Giftex baddies! There wasn’t even an Or Did They stinger to the team’s win, since the cliffhanger is just Aguilera despondently screaming over not being a sacrificial bride to a yonic sculpture who is also sort of her dad. Seems like a clean win? Not sure where the show goes next, which is kind of a fun place to be in. Possibilities! I do like them!

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