Sorta split on this one? It’s an episode that takes forever to get going, but I was way less into it once it did?

Like, I could’ve watched an entire episode of Sougo being an average student and the team of Geiz and Tsukuyomi being incredibly weird. It’s the best part of this episode, by a mile. The time spent establishing this potentially combustible grouping is the smartest decision this show has made to date. They’re very fun together, once the show lets them get into a routine.

Sougo snaps into focus here, as a kid who’s well-meaning but overmatched by the world. Him talking about how a friend is going to have a place in Sougo’s future kingdom comes off less as a warning sign to get a mental health professional involved, and more as a cute affectation. There’s a lot of warmth to his ineptitude, and his earnestness makes him feel central to the narrative. He’s a comedy character intersecting with a sci-fi story, and that tension finally starts feeling like something valuable.

Everything in the school was great, for the ways it reframed the story as one that’s interfering with a normal kid’s normal life. Having Tsukuyomi and Geiz very poorly surveil Sougo is a fantastic plotline, because it grounds the story back into Sougo’s life, instead of dragging him all over time and space for reasons he can’t comprehend. It’s also funny as hell? Every cut to our two Time Orphans pressing their faces up to windows or peering from binoculars at a six foot distance was great. It’s a big episode for our core trio.

But Geiz! Big episode for Geiz, specifically! As this episode’s (non-cameo) Legend Rider would indicate, this is a story about pushing Geiz to be less of a taciturn assassin and more of a goddamn Kamen Rider.

Hiiro’s a dude who, ironically, took a while to become a hero. As Kamen Rider Brave (a thing he is not called once in this episode), he warred against the Bugsters for pride, for vengeance, for guilt. It took him a long time to fight for people, to protect their futures. Geiz is sort of in the early stages of that, where he’s willing to fight monsters and threaten teenage doofuses, but actually helping people is something he more or less needs to be cajoled into. Tsukuyomi teases him about it in this episode, that he’s accidentally giving Sougo valuable advice and pretty integral to their success as a group of heroes. But it’s Hiiro’s direct plea to investigate Emu’s disappearance that feels like a turning point. It’s the Zi-O story I’d hoped to see, where a hero sees something of themselves in our cast, and wants to make their journey a little easier, a little more navigable. Hiiro handing Geiz the crucial clue and Geiz being like What Wait… best point in the episode.

And then everything after that is a bit of a bummer.

It’s the dumb rules they set for themselves that help weaken the finale. We were told last time that only Ex-Aid’s power can defeat Another Ex-Aid… but Zi-O and Geiz don’t have that yet, so they can only fight Another Ex-Aid to a standstill, at best.

That sucks! I’m all about Kamen Rider stories where our heroes try and push back an unrelenting tide, or battle a foe that’s impossible to defeat in order to stall for another shot at success. Stories about never giving up, or taking on insurmountable odds? Yeah, sure, definitely. But not in the third episode. It’s way way too early for our heroes to be like Welp Time To Bang Our Heads Against The Wall, but that’s sort of the only outcome we’re likely to get in these multi-part stories? This isn’t about our heroes being unaware of a monster’s pattern, or weak-point, or whatever, all the normal narrative tricks to delay a successful resolution until the concluding installment. This is the show outright saying You Can’t Win Until Part Two, and it sucked all the fun out of the fight for me.

Beyond that hiccup, it was a fun episode. As much of an Ex-Aid fan as I am, I wish they’d never fought a monster. Everything up to them ending up in the Game World was delightfully strange, and addictively sweet. Letting Tsukuyomi and Geiz get as weird as Sougo was a godsend. Gimme a hundred more scenes of Sougo being terrible at tasks and Geiz accidentally being helpful and Tsukuyomi cheerfully stalking people. That version of this show is the best.


Hey, I never talked about Ora! She’s okay!

In the actual episode, we only see her tease Heure about last episode’s disaster, and convince a terrified father to become Another Ex-Aid. It’s not a lot! I liked her playful demeanor, but it’s not a million miles away from what we got with Heure. Ora’s taller, though? So there’s that?

Also, this short film was the best one yet. It continues the theme of the episode, where our heroes work as a team for the first time (it is a Kamen Rider Ex-Aid tribute story, so expect Teamwork to be a main theme), while being recalibrated for Insane. When Ora informs the heroes that there’ll be a Rider War in the future, Team Zi-O strategizes how to prevent it. Tsukuyomi wants to “persuade” the writer (which comes off as “seduce”), Geiz wants to kill the producers, and Sougo (with the most unrealistic suggestion, naturally) makes a case for blowing up all of Toei Studios.

They’re way better when they’re a group of lunatic teenagers! I’m glad this show finally figured that out!