Normally, we start things off with a screencap that's either relevant, or funny, or both. (Or neither! I don't want to assume!) They're up there, I don't really comment on them. But then there's this episode, and what it's about, and how it executes its story, and I just need to talk about this shot:

Look at that. Look at it. In the aftermath of There Was No Way Ren Was Going To Kill Shibaura, we've got this beautiful shot. Look at how happy Shinji is, that he was right about his friend, that Ren's not really a killer, that they can work together to destroy monsters without fighting other Riders. Look at how devastated Ren is, how certain he is that his weakness has doomed both himself and Eri, that his rage isn't quite enough to suffocate his shame. Look at how two characters view the start of this episode in diametrically opposed ways. It's an awesome idea for an episode to explore, and a gorgeous shot to sell it to an audience. So great. So smart.

A lot of really smart choices in this episode, actually. It's not a total winner, unfortunately. We're in the middle chapters of an arc here, so there's nothing really approaching a resolution of any plotlines. Ren's still a mess at the end, and nothing definitively changes for anyone else. (Yui's investigations into Shiro's Secret Science Society, formerly a Club but there's just too much Secrecy, that's still happening. I really wish the show could find a way to loop Reiko in on this one. It seems way more in her wheelhouse than Yui, considering Yui's thing is just badgering some traumatized dude until he gives her info so she'll shut up. Yui and Reiko, Secret Science Society investigators! It needs to happen!) But, you know, even if it's a linking segment, there's some very smart writing in this one.

It's mostly Shinji/Tezuka stuff, and it works better than I'd thought it would. Shinji's bafflement that Ren's decision to not murder someone would cause an existential crisis gets him to bounce off of Tezuka organically, exploring their differences in clever ways. There's some great points about how Shinji's tendency to charge in, to not consider consequences, that's the antithesis of how Tezuka views the world. Tezuka believes in fate, and he's sometimes haunted by his decision-making. He's not choosing to do something, he's choosing to not do every other option. It's paralyzing for him, the weight of those choices. Shinji is... not haunted by his decision-making. Shinji throws himself in and hopes for the best. It's brave and generous and heroic and honestly pretty stupid. (Tezuka even brings up the fact that Shinji sacrificing his life to a Mirror Dragon was maybe something he could've mulled over!) Shinji can't understand why Tezuka has to make an easy decision difficult, and Tezuka can't understand why Shinji doesn't need to think things through. It's that friction I was looking for between them, the thing where Shinji's dismissal of the power of fate makes Tezuka start to lose his shit. It's that shot of Ren and Shinji transposed over Shinji and Tezuka, one event with two reactions. I love it. I love how Ren's crisis starts to ripple out through the whole episode, infecting other people, other relationships. Just some super smart writing.

God, what else was in this one? I was mostly concentrating on the Shinji/Tezuka stuff. I talked about that Yui scene. Hmm. Shibaura's in lockup, pending Kitaoka (!) swinging by after he visits another prisoner in jail, presumably next episode. Hmm.

Oh! One other minor thing I remember liking from this episode. I like that Quarter's got a Copy Vent, that his abilities are intrinsically tied to other Riders, to their powers. He's an assist for them, a boost. (also a mirror because motifffffffs) I think that's perfect for Tezuka. Just a little way of leveraging the character work for a fun superpower in the action scenes. Clever!

A pretty tightly written episode. Very transitional, but still super satisfying to watch. I like the cage the show has built around Ren, how colossally screwed he is. I'm really really hoping the conclusion to this plot is as smart as the writing was to trap him.