As the pentultimate episode of Iron-Blooded Orphans comes to a close and we stare into the abyss that is the ending of this series many things continue to rush through my mind and I assume many of yours. Not the least of which is what is the end game for this series, as at this current junction I honestly have no idea how the series will end. Could this really just be a status quo ending, honestly if Mari is going for a “good” ending what does that entail? As at the moment the best outcome I can foresee is who still lives continues to live may be these best outcome left.
That said this episode does have quite a few things to digest. No less the fact that two named characters passed away this episode. One was a little bit of a surprise while the other was less so. Of course the first death should have been expected as they fit the type of character who tends to die in Iron-Blooded Orphans paired with a major death, expendable but known enough. In many ways this character almost seemed too perfect a kill to make it through, though we shall talk more about him later.
As the episode formally opens my suspicions are confirmed as Nobliss Gordon is indeed the man behind the hit on Orga and Tekkadan. While not a surprise considering all the context clues and allusions in the previous episode it does put to bed one small - if obvious - mystery from the last episode. His motivations beyond that were also pretty standard fare, he wished to get himself closer to Rustal Elion the man he obviously believes will come out on top of the current “conflict”. Which by now is less a conflict and more a whole sale slaughter.
On the other side of this tete e’tete Rustal Elion and Julieta are having what seems to amount to a heart to heart between the two. Julieta explains she has in Rustal a man who she can trust and that is what separates her from Tekkadan, who grew up being used by various adults. Rustal is a little bemused by this reminding Julieta that he himself is a man that uses others - including her. She responds that she is useful to him as she acts according to expectation.
It appears Rustal enjoys this thought as we will later learn he has sent Julieta down to the surface likely leading an elite strike team. This sadly sets Julieta up for a final confrontation with one of the Tekkadan aces, who though remains up in the air. I’m going to put my chips on Akihiro though due to his killing of “the bearded man” one of Julieta’s “trusted adults”, who again she REALLY shouldn’t have trusted...
Around this time the tragic news of Orga’s demise begins to circulate around Tekkadan’s headquarters on Mars. It of course hits many of the members hard, especially the younger recruits. Though all eyes including the viewers are on Mikazuki, how our King of Wolves reacts will almost certainly determine the fate of the series.
In the fandom and certainly around these parts how Mika would react to the death of his best friend and quite literally his platonic life mate was a big question. Myself, I was clearly in the Mikazuki berserker rage camp as his sociopathy came out more and more. However likely through the intervention of Atra and Kudelia through the series Mika seemed to finally find humanity.
As such when Orga’s death found its way to him rather then succumbing to the grief, he found the strength within. His mission was the same as always to carry out Orga’s last orders. That entailed saving as many lives as possible and getting out of the situation, taking command in a way I never thought possible Mika - not Mikazuki - rallied the troops for the final conflict. Of course only a few units would actually be on the field, it was time for the Wold Pack, Tekkadan, to RAISE THEIR FLAG! One last time.
As the battle began in earnest Tekkadan was outmatched in every way possible, suits on the field, arms, and confidence of victory. In the words of the Aces they are their to by time before “they are ground to dust”. Victory is less routing the enemy, more surviving the onslaught long enough for the rest to live. This is a suicide mission in all but name.
As the battle rages in earnest Tekkadan seems to be holding their own, well... at least their elites. Those outside of Gundam’s seem to have less success in sustaining hits from the continuous barrage of Gjallahorn shells. One combatant that requires some attention is Hush.
Despite being a constant presence throughout season two he didn’t make much of a narrative impact. Honestly looking back I can’t think of one major plot point that turned on him. As such despite the heroic nature of his death and ya... he died. I can’t really summon much more to say, he seemed like he existed to die, not unlike Biscuit in S1. I almost wish he was the traitor we thought he could be as at the end he was just kind of there, always trailing Mikazuki but never really doing much besides.
Am I being too harsh here? Did Hush make more of an impact on you? Or was he like his name merely a hush, something to be lost in the sounds of everything around it. Was that his point?
Moving on we come to the name sake of the episode and the emotional core of it. McGillis Fareed. If you have been reading these articles for some time, you may have picked up on the fact I have a little bit of a soft spot for our golden haired anti-hero... nah, anti-villian... perhaps... honestly even at the end I don’t know how to characterize him. It’s what fascinates me so, he doesn’t fit any real archetypes except McGillis Farheed.
Of a series that was full of shades of grey, there was no one more clad in the shade than McGillis. One on hand he used literally everyone he met since he was a child, he even used his child bride to achieve more power. His dominion over her was so complete she even defended him when there was no point. Beyond that he callously killed his friends, his allies, and benefactors. McGillis was a ruthless son of a bitch.
However on the other hand we know why he was this way. He was a boy sexually, emotionally, and physically abused. While those are no excuses for his actions they do show the origins of what has to be called a messiah complex. However even in this pathology there was good, he felt a need to protect and encourage Tekkadan. To reform Gjallahorn by all means possible (see above). McGillis did evil to arguably promote good.
As he approached his last acts he promised his subordinates everything he could. Yet in the end he gave them all he could, a chance at life. For he knew he had nothing left, he was spent.
What ensued was some of the best animation this season of Iron-Blooded Orphans has offered, hell any season of Gundam really. Bael the King of the Demons that soared as an Angel struck down everything McGillis saw as an enemy. Aiming for his one target; Rustal Elion and the future. However in his way was his dirty past; Gaeleo piloting the Vidar Kimaris the horse bound Demon of revenge.
After an epic battle one must see aided and abetted by Rustal refusing to send reinforcements, McGillis finds himself on the other side of the man he killed’s spear. Temporarily escaping into Rustal Elion’s ship in one final dash to secure his ideal future he meet the masked man Vidar. The physical embodiment of revenge removes his mask and officially reveals himself to the man he aspires to end, that he is a Revenant out for one purpose, to kill McGillis.
After a brief and futile struggle Gaelio takes the upper hand and mortally wounds McGillis. However as McGillis’ life drains from his body he explains his motivations, his actions. Gaelio begs him to stop for his words are sapping him of his resolve to never forgive him. However before he can finish McGillis passes from his wounds. Us as the viewer are now left wondering is Gaelio wavering in some way and if he is, what is he wavering from? His path as an avenger or his path as a friend.
As Episode 49 ends I really am still lost. McGillis has quickly become one of my favorite Gundam protagonists ever and it is weird to write that as I always felt he was an antagonist, for too long I held on to the “Char Clone” idea. However as we come closer and closer to the end of Iron-Blooded Orphans I have come to a conclusion, there is no antagonists nor protagonists there is only view point characters and not.
In many ways Iron-Blooded Orphans reminds me of one of my favorite fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Initially it was clear who was “good” who was “bad”, but as it grew such labels lost all meaning. In many ways to compare Jamie Lannister to McGillis Fareed would not be too far fetched even beyond their more obvious physical similarities.
We sympathize with Tekkadan and those they connect with due to sharing time with them. Over season two we began... well at least I did to sympathize with the Farheed faction despite their underhanded tactics. While it is true Gjallahorn under Rustal Elion is the most corrupt and monstrous the organization has ever been seen in Iron-Blooded Orphans compared to other Gundam antagonists they are positively benign. In reality they are the other side of a war; the Dainsleif the symbol of their corruption was used by Tekkadan... the Flauros was armed and used the exact same weapon.
As we move to what may yet be the final episode of Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans I wonder what the future holds. There are two fields left the surface of Mars with the Wolf Pack of Tekkadan and the cold of space dominated by Gjallahorn. However there remains wildcards in play.
Of course Mikazuki must never be counted out, despite the overwhelming force there can always be a Gundam ending, though I doubt that here at least for some characters. As I said above I think Akihiro and Julieta will engage in one true battle, in a few days I may play the fool though I think Akihiro survives the series along with Julieta! I have no idea why, call it a hunch. Mika... ya don’t call me on that one... though if money... Mika lives.
As for Gjallahorn. Rustal Elion is charged with using the Dainsleif System by the actual head of the largest Seven Star Family - Gaelio who has full control of his family and the Farheeds through his sister through her marriage to McGillis. Beyond this Gaelio also just happens to have access to Bael due to be Alaya-Vijnana compatible. This leads to a reformation of Gjallahorn by the true “Good Guy” of the series Gaelio as Tekkadan finds their future somewhere in the sunset.
Am I being too rosy? Likely, these last few episodes have been bloody after all. However isn’t it also possible the last twist is an actual happy ending? Mari Okada has set us up for tragedy and we now expect it, however if Iron-Blooded Orphans has taught us anything never expect the expected.
Wow... second last one of these and I’m going with Gundam SEED Destiny. Not going to lie that’s a little weird for me, this is not a good series. Know what is good though the music the SEED series is without any doubt out of the best in the franchise for music. Shinn saying goodbye to Stella for some reason resonates with me here. This of course is not the official track... those are becoming harder and harder to come by.