I will admit that this episode was a slight improvement over the last two but to say that it salvaged the trainwreck it inherited or was simply good feels like an overstatement.
At the very least, I can say that the episode at least felt suspenseful. I don’t get how Hiro could put a timer on the bomb with the Klaxosaur Princess but whatever, it made the reunion with Zero Two feel dire. And after spending so many episodes with them, seeing the whole Squad risk their lives for Zero Two was a little intense. A shame the writing isn’t as strong as it should. Ikuno exhausting her powers to clear a path (so that’s what the white hair means) would impact more if she got the screentime she deserved. And maybe if Zorome wasn’t the worst character ever, I’d give a damn. But no, we still need a scene of him spouting nonsense like “kill the klaxosaurs because that’s what we’ve always been doing”. Fuck this kid. When will the show kill him off?
Actually, that brings me to another point about this episode. There’s a handful of deaths in this episode but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. To be a bit strange, let’s start with the fact that it looks like 99% of Squad 13 survived the ordeal. I know fans have speculated on whose death flag is waving the hardest but 21 episodes in, I’m not sure if the show has the balls to kill off anyone important. Maybe Zero Two (more on that later) but it wouldn’t surprise me if Ikuno just lost her powers or Kokoro and Mitsuru lives to raise their kid or Zorome lives and continues being a dumbass. If they were to die sometime in the next three episodes, it’d feel last-minute or Deathly Hallows-levels of absurd cruelty.
As for the people who did die, who cares?
Who actually gave a shit that two of the Nines died? The only one who was given any ounce of identity was Alpha and that’s only because he’s had the most lines of dialogue out of the bunch. They’re just bullies, the kind of one-dimensional bullies you’d find in bad 90s sports movie. Even by that standard, they’re poorly written. They lash at Squad 13 for insubordination and then forget about them to kill monsters ten seconds later! And then one of them is afraid to die even though dying for Papa is what’s expected of them. They can’t even bully properly. Even the revelation that they have klaxo DNA falls flat.
The Klaxosaur Princess dying also lacked weight. At the end of the day, she’s just a plot device. She explains her people and VIRM some more, acts as a foil to Hiro and Zero Two’s resolve, and then she dies once those utilities dries up. I’m fine with Zero Two saying that she doesn’t care that she’s a clone but it’s a shame what wasted potential the Princess is. And apparently, blue ancient humans can astral project? What?
Dr. FranXX’s death is arguably the least bad one out of the bunch. At least the man had an arc. Still, I thought it was hilarious seeing all that rubble fall on him. The only thing missing was a piano or an avil to go along with it. Giving a heroic sacrifice feels a little shallow since Episode 19 simplified his amorality so much. Maybe if there were more scenes of him actually regretting his actions or at least showing care to Zero Two, his actions would actually impact.
As for Zero Two, I’m 50-50 over whether or not she is dead. That final shot of her lifeless body is genuinely haunting (God, at least close her eyes) but it wouldn’t shock me if the show is faking it. I think the better question to ask is whether or not keeping her alive would be a cop out.
This whole scene seems connected to “The Beast and the Prince” book. I didn’t mention it in the last few posts (because there was a lot of dumb shit to address) but I did notice that Zero Two didn’t draw the last page of the book. Even though that book means so much to her, it’s clear that one thing she doesn’t want to come true is the ending. She wants a happier ending. But in this episode, she reaches a similarly difficult point as the Beast did. The whole kiss thing to revive Hiro is admittedly bizarre but the gamble is similar to the end of the book. Like the Beast, Zero Two refuses to let her love die but also like the Beast, there’s a price: her life or to better parallel with the book, the future she promised with the man she loves. So, either fate given to Zero Two could work. They could kill her off and have Hiro deal with the fallout or they could provide a strong contrast to one of its devices.
What would make having the heroine live be a cop out though is the fact that the blue dino loli princess also gives her life force to help resuscitate Hiro. That would be really shallow of the show to do — relying on a third party in order for the contrast to its in-universe picture book to work.
Still, I think it says a lot about Darling in the FranXX that it at least has me invested in one fate. I might sound like a broken record, but I really am glad this show had someone like Zero Two. There’s plenty of trainwrecks in anime but even those sometimes has that one character that keeps the whole thing going and right now, Darling has that niche. Now it just needs to avoid screwing it up…
Thanks for reading!
For more Darling in the FranXX posts, check out the show’s archive page!