The Gist: We meet several new skaters in Russia, JJ being the only direct challenger to Yuri (and Yurio), and see some great skating. Yurio has a rough but acceptable start, and his relationship with Yuri and Victor gets a little boost when they cheer him on lovingly.
But on the eve of the final showdown, Victor’s beloved Dog Maccachin is rushed to the vet, having choked on buns left at Yuri’s family shrine. Maccachin may not make it and Yuri begs Victor to rush home just in case. In desperation, Victor asks Yukov to coach Yuri in his absence, which puts Yuri and Yurio on the same team in a way. The stage is set for an epic showdown.
In YOI’s world, all skaters are crazy… but in a crazy family sort of way that obsesses internally about their relationships and reason for being…
The Verdict: Awarding a Masterpiece grade mid-season is always more challenging than the beginning and the end because a build up, even perfectly executed, is predictable by design. This is why successful shows employ a mid season twist — a sudden death of a loved character or a reveal that a greater enemy was lurking all along — to make the audience reassess their belief in the Hero’s chances of success.
What puts Yuri on Ice above the rest is how it spins this convention on its head — how it fully bends it to the show’s own style and needs. Yes, Maccachin may die and that means Victor will not be beside Yuri during the second half of the performance, where Yuri is at his most vulnerable. Yes, Maccachin’s injury subtly setup and Yuri’s insistence that Victor go to his pup is emotionally resonant, but the masterwork is in YOI’s lightness.
Victor runs to his former coach, his current antagonist of sorts, and asks that he coach for Yuri on the coming day. This entirely reshapes the relationship between several characters, totally diverts what would be a strong but conventional conflict (Yuri’s coach isn’t there to bolster his nerve) and absolutely locks next week in for an exciting and totally unpredictable showdown.