Holy Grail and Wholly Fail, or, Under Siege Did it Better

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Oct 012011

There was a bit in the first episode of Fate/Zero that toyed with being kinda awesome.

One of the characters went on a spiel about how another character hired by some warring family had a reputation for being something of a magical terrorist. They proceeded to talk about how he specialized in assassination-styled magic– sniping, poisoning, even terrorist bombings. All of that started to make this dude sound kinda interesting, since everything we’d seen of him to this point (Save for some vague, mysterious double-talk) made him seem like a mild-mannered, loving husband type.

It was like a scene out of a Steven Seagal movie or something. Seagal always starts off as some “unassuming” everyday dude, like a ship cook or something, only to turn around and bust out some badass fighting moves and kill some unsuspecting thugs or terrorists or whatever. Immediately after said scene we often cut to some authorities who go into a spiel about how Seagal’s character is actually an ex-Green Beret who’s a master in Aikido, has twenty purple hearts, and has a midichlorian count higher than Anakin Skywalker’s.

It’s one of those trademark action movie scenes that let us know things about the character and put their actions into perspective– a cool little character development trick. Fate/Zero almost pulled it off. I was almost interested in this character based on the preceding spiel.

The main difference is that this dude didn’t get a expectations-shattering action scene that segued into said rhetorical scene.

In order for that speech to have the required effect, we need to have that dynamic. We got the scenes establishing this dude as a “normal” guy, seeing to his wife after the birth of their daughter, and we got the info-dump from an outside source detailing his past exploits, but we’re lacking that “transitional” scene where we get to see him break the mold established earlier. Instead, we just get the info heaped on us. We’re left to accept all of this information as fact rather than having said assassination skills demonstrated to us first hand. We’re missing that verse in this action movie chorus, and it makes the whole thing fall apart. This guy could have been shaped into some badass type, but now he’s just some dude with a bunch of background info taped to his back like a kick-me sign that I don’t give a damn about.

And that’s a perfect example of what’s wrong with this first episode of Fate/Zero. It’s all prattling on about background details and no action or plot or anything else to back it up.

The damn thing spent 40+ minutes showing us dudes literally walking around in circles and discussing vaguely interesting and mysterious things that either happened in the past or were happening off-screen. In both cases, they were things that were most likely far more interesting than what was transpiring on the screen. It’s a bit like watching the post-game show on Sunday afternoon, except instead of showing clips from that day’s football games we just see Jimmy Johnson and Terry Bradshaw circle around each other and drink beers while hinting at who won that day’s games.

I can forgive the series for seeming to have a plot stripped straight out of my three ring binders I used for my high school RP sessions, and I can forgive the cheesy dialogue that sounds like an NPC giving you a tutorial in a JRPG. All of that made me giggle, but at least that was soliciting an emotion out of me that wasn’t frustration. What sucks about the whole thing is that we don’t get to see anything happen.

But anyway, why are these peeps fighting over the Holy Grail? They aren’t Indiana Jones. He’s the only one penitent enough to pass.