Oh boy, well that was an episode wasn’t it? So much to talk about came out of this one as this series is really kicking into high gear with this third... or is it the fourth amazing episode in a row? Honestly it’s getting hard to keep track considering how this series just keeps on going at such break neck speed by this point. Following on last weeks action heavy episode we get an episode of both amazing action however now served with world changing plot development. For the first time this season I now see an end game that could wrap the series up rather quickly and succinctly, something I had not quite expected even three episodes ago.
Authors note: This week we’ll be doing something a little different. Due to the nature of the episode I thought I’d go in depth and analyse the keys parts rather then impressions and recaps as I normally do. Warning this is a big one.
As the episode opens up we the viewer are treated to extended flashbacks of McGillis’ childhood. It is here where I realized how little we actually know about McGillis or where he came from and why he has such an attachment to the Orphans. This episode though we get a lot of answers to many of these questions and in doing so a more complete picture of the real McGillis Faheed.
The first revelation is that McGillis childhood was rough, street urchin rough. This likely explains why he feels so connected to Tekkadan as like he once did they wish to use power to create a better life for themselves. Indeed it is only by a flip of fates coin that McGillis himself didn’t end up as Human Debris.
During this sequence of events there are so many scenes that seem specifically designed to show how similar Mikazuki and McGillis really are; cementing their thematic connections to each other. One such scene that stuck with me was as a young McGillis eating a blood red apple there appears to be what looks like a dead body in the background, before the young boy is accosted. The scene is strikingly similar to the now famous flashback of a young Mikazuki killing another child in cold blood. It is clear here McGillis was not always the character he appeared to be and that his past is strikingly similar to the cold Mikazuki.
However this alone isn’t the only revelation regarding McGillis past. As following his adoption into the Fareed family things changed, sadly they did not much improve for the young boy. As we see another thematic connection between McGillis and the boys of Mars, where on Mars boys bodily autonomy was violated by the Alaya-Vijnana system. McGillis’ was too, however his violation was in a much more basic way. As the episode highly implied McGillis along with what appears to be many other boys was systemically raped by their adoptive father Iznario Fareed, all for the reason they were blonde. Giving the scene where McGillis finally overcame his “father” Iznario and usurped his place entirely new meaning.
With the new found context, McGillis actions and especially his attraction to Tekkadan in general and Mikazuki in particular seem quite clear. McGillis seeks all forms of power so he will never again be abused or used. However he knows that alone isn’t enough, meaning he has to change the world so no other children will be abused either as he was. By breaking Gjallahorn’s power structure an organization he knows intimately to be corrupt McGillis will become a protector of the weak
In Tekkadan though he sees kindred spirits and likely feels attracted to them as such. By promising to make them Kings of Mars potentially he sees them creating a sanctuary whereby he defends the Earth as they defend Mars.
With this backstory it paints a sympathetic picture of McGillis one that is easy to understand and sympathize with. However it also shows how profoundly divided as a person he is, for to achieve his goals he has used people much in the same way others used him. His “Bride” Almiria is little more then a tool - we hope - for his ambitions, in many ways robbing her of a childhood and her family, much as he was robbed of his own.
Furthermore, his almost sociopathic ability to lie and manipulates shows how deeply a disturbed and broken person he really is. As Gaelio points out the McGillis we see is a mask, the real McGillis is the cold street urchin we see in the flashbacks.
This of course is similarly mirrored in Mikazuki, If you have been following my write up’s my may have noticed a habit of mine. Whereby when Mikazuki is piloting and generally being the sociopath he is I refer to him as his full name; however when he’s being relatively normal and dare I say cute he’s simply “Mika”. This is a deliberate attempt to differentiate the differences in his persona as I quickly noticed this tendency well back in episode one or two.
Now we see McGillis is very much a similar character. The charming and debonair man we often see is the mask, one he put on sometime in his childhood. While the darker and cunning McGillis is the reality, the man who has no problem killing a friend or using a child bride. Honestly what this means for the story I’m not sure as I always assumed McGillis was a Char clone. However with these revelations to call McGillis a “Char Clone” is to do him and perhaps even Char Aznable a disservice. McGillis is his own person and perhaps could one day be a true rival to the great Char.
Who saw that one coming? I mean this was totally out of the blue. Seriously the biggest surprise of the season ever, when he took of his mask I was SHOCKED. SHOCKED I SAY. Okay ya... nobody believe that because nobody really had any doubt what so ever Vidar was Gaelio. The series didn’t even try to hide this fact, meaning there was something else that had to be at play. There was another shoe that just needed to drop and well it kind of did. As Ein is back!
Ein really is the Frankenstein’s Monster of this story is he not? Even in death Gjallahorn is not through with him. Gjallahorn has attached to the Vidar Gundam a pseudo-Alaya-Vijnana which is controlled effectively by the ghost of Ein, or more specifically a copy of his brainwaves they took from Edmonton. Yes Vidar/Gaelio has never been “alone” as his greatest success and failure have always been with him. Ein is now effectively a Gundam version of a ghost in the shell... sorry I really had to do that.
What is surprising however is their strength together rivals Mikazuki going all out in the Barbatos Lupis Rex. This is an interesting development as Mikazuki has only been pushed to his full limits twice the first in Edmonton against the Graze-Ein and the second time against the Mobile Armor. Both times though he won, a terrible price was paid by the young man, sacrificing almost full use of his body. Could the reemergence of Ein and Gaelio push Mikazuki that far, perhaps even enough to pay the ultimate price?
Myself, I’m skeptical. As all these revelations surrounding Gaelio likely have less plot importance then the final moment of the episode. Where as McGillis is making his triumphant address to the world and Gjallahorn in particular, Gaelio breaks in challenging McGillis. Letting the world know he yet lives, this is interesting as I have a feeling the Bauduin family has a deeper connection to all this then has been let on.
The final and most fanboy (well this one anyways) pleasing moment of the episode was the introduction of the Gundam Bael, named after the final demon of the Ars Goetia. Adding to its importance the Bael is the first Gundam ever produced and judging by the reaction to it, likely among the most powerful frames. Furthermore from this fans perspective Bael represents the first “Blue Angel” Gundam as I like to call them seen in Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans.
On the design I seriously dig it and clearly so does McGillis, as he emerges using the old school “behold me” pose that many egomaniacs seem to prefer. What is interesting is the pose seems to give credence Rustal Elions assertion that McGillis is little more then a boy, looking to play at legends a realization that is very similar to Kudelia’s “Maiden of the Revolution” fantasy. Speaking of which what is she up to again... this series has seemed to forget about her...
Finally with Bael now active its clear what the great conflict that Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has been building too for over forty episodes. Those who have been abused and oppressed against those who abused and oppressed them. However one issue seems to linger than of McGillis-Gaelio.
While McGillis is superficially on Tekkadan’s side its clear he doesn’t fit the protagonist role. His actions although arguably in the name of a good cause have been as abusive and destructive as anything used against him, in short he is not a good guy even if he is easy to understand.
While Gaelio since we’ve seen him has actually been among the more stand up characters. Continually showing remorse and compassion, most notably since his resurrection, for others and a battlefield honour that often extends to his enemies. In many ways Gaelio’s only sin was trusting in McGillis’ dreams and trying to aid his supposed friend. As such the question of who is the true enemy once again arises in Iron-Blooded Orphans. Is it the man who is aiding our heroes or is it the man who by and large has been among the more moral in the series?
As you can see this episode has me reevaluating many of my preconceived notions of what Iron-Blood Orphans is and where its taking us in these final episodes. Most notably what is McGillis supposed to be in the grand scheme of things. Where he is now we know him as a very Char like character, however he is strikingly different from prior Char clones and is increasingly coming into his own character. Using the tool of Char Clones to analyse McGillis seems to be a fools errand now, he is simply put more then that. Gaelio on the other hand has certainly emerged from his Garma archetype form.
Anyways I think I’ve prattled on long enough for this write up. Right now its clear Iron-Blooded Orphans will be finding its way onto my Best of Gundam list, how high it will go is up in the air. However another few episodes like this one and the sky really is the limit.
“The sustenance of life, is on the battlefield”
No Gundam Music of the Week this week, long enough...