Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 10

Entering this shokugeki, I was a little dubious: I generally dig the concept of Kurokiba Ryo’s dual identity, but in execution, while cooking Okamoto Nobuhiko yells a lot in that very annoying Okamoto Nobuhiko way (though it has its uses). Meanwhile, this new baddie Kusunoki Rentaro, not only sounds a lot like angry Ryo, he also looks stupid with all his fussy accessories, and his haughty attitude is poised to wear faster than clothes during a foodgasm.

Still, by the time he’s completed his salmon confit flamme, I gotta hand it to Rentaro—the kid knows what he’s doing and he’s supremely confident in victory in a way every chef must be. While I came to love a good many of Food Wars many characters, this episode gets back to the show’s roots, and the thing that got be hooked early on before I knew anyone—the process of creating a dish.

Rentaro is a veritable culinary Radio Shack, employing many of the same innovative gadgets that Alice uses in her molecular gastronomy. And I can tell ya first hand it’s no gimmick—some of the moistest, most flavorful turkey I’ve ever tasted came from the sous-vide water bath method. Rentaro’s “elegant” use of heat (cooking the fish through steam convection) and cold (salmon ice cream from the cryomill) lends his dish a thermal interplay that knocks even Momo’s clothes off.

But while we were hearing all about Rentaro’s dish and how great it is, all we saw at the beginning of the battle was Ryo sauteeing rice and prepping bread dough. The final product is a total surprise: a french dish of Russian royal origin called coulibiac, and it looks every bit as succulent as the confit flamme.

I’m one of those people whose enjoyment of a food—any food, even highly processed—is only enhanced by learning more about it, particularly while eating it. So I can relate to the judges seeming to enjoy the dish even more once they unpack how it was prepared. Like Ryo’s cartoccio in the Autumn Elections, the brioche crust serves as a container for pure, intense umami that causes a brain jolt (and the loss of Megumi’s clothes, sneaking a bite from a portion Alice stole).

So, who’s the winner, eh? Rentaro and his elite colleagues believe the tie will be broken by his dish, because he was able to maintain moisture without drying out the fish. But it isn’t moisture that tips the scales, nor is it Rentaro’s dish that wins—it’s Ryo’s coulibiac.

How did he nab victory after Rentaro’s nearly-perfect dish? With imperfection. His umami was superior due to the use of an outside factor—spinach in the crepe, while his own original blend of spices (using a skill learned at the Indian restaurant where he interned) are unevenly distributed throughout that crepe, a non-homogenous tactic that enables the palates of all who taste it to sense the richness and flavor with greater acuity.

The use and distribution of spices was born out of the guy who ultimately won the Autumn Elections, Akira, as well as Ryo’s circumstance of ending up in the very kind of restaurant where he can bone up on a field he may have neglected in the past.

Then you have Alice supporting him as always (these two should really just get married at this point), and it all adds up to a Ryo who is not the chef who distinguished himself at the Autumn Elections: he’s better. And he gets a sweep and the first blow to the arrogant Central-picked elites.

Nice ep; its main demerit is that it checked in on Erina.

Why is that bad? Because it’s a reminder that, so far, Erina has had next to nothing to do but sit around the dorm. Granted, her movements are limited due to her runaway status, but that amplifies the Princess Toadstool(or Kuchiki Rukia)-esque quality of her arc thus far. But she’s just not the factor I’d hoped her to be so far.

Here’s hoping the series can get her more involved before this Third Plate is finished.

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Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 09

After all the upheaval of Nakiri Azami’s oppressive new regime, the good guys really needed a win badly, and Souma put himself out there, took a chance, and won against an ill-prepared and overconfident Eizan. To the show’s credit, the good guys are actually allowed to revel in this victory, as Souma soaks in his triumphant return to Polar Star, greeted with hugs, tears, and warm smiles…even from Erina!

But as Isshiki Satoshi told Rindou before Souma’s match, he had every confidence in his kohai’s ability to beat Eizan, while being focused on what’s to come afterwards. While Souma loudly and brazenly stood up against the oppression, he provided time and cover for Satoshi to do some behind-the-scenes legal wrangling. As such, now every club slated for disbanding has the right to challenge via Shokugeki…and a fairly-judged one at that.

Souma may have won a Shokugeki, and Satoshi may have set a precedent that must be followed, but it isn’t long before Azami kicks Satoshi off the Elite Ten (along with Eighth Seat Kuga and Third Seat Megishima), both for voting against Azami’s installation and for not being “team players.”

Only Rindou protested the oustings, but ultimately falls in line. If Souma has an ally in her, she’s one who seems poised to play both sides to the end. As for the other Elite Tens, they and their “Elite reserve troops” knock off one research club after another, as those clubs are unable to put up as much of a fight as Souma.

One of these “elites”, hand-picked by Azami, is Kusunoki Rentaro, who has a very fussy and cliche-packed style and a haughty, abrasive attitude, and neither Souma nor Takumi (both of whom attended the Shokugekis for scouting purposes) are able to take his trash-talking lying down.

Ultimately, Kuzunoki’s next opponent is neither Souma nor Takumi, but Kurokiba Ryo. Alice has unknowingly been the chief of the “Cutting Edge Cuisine RS” for a while now, and Ryo aims to defend her title and the club.

Like the other guys, he’s not about to let Kusunoki talk shit about him and his. Perhaps he can provide that crucial second victory against Azami, further legitimizing the rebel forces in this Totsuki Civil War. 

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 46

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Once Shino’s suit blows up, there’s not enough time for Mika to take over the task of destroying Rustal’s bridge (nor is he assured to succeed). Besides, Mika is still busy with a very pesky Julieta. When Shino dies, we see a switch go off in Mika’s head: no more messing around with this relative amateur: Get out of my way.

After that, Julieta is lucky to escape with her life and limbs. But even when her suit is impaled, she still grabs on to Mika. Every moment he must fight her is a victory for her, especially considering she’s merely a human pilot, albeit a talented one; she hasn’t sold her soul to any technological devils. Julieta may be on the wrong side, but I still admire the hell out of her.

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Gaelio, who is tired to no end of McGillis’ bullshit, is determined to kill his former friend and commmander, a man who once inspired him. And to his credit, he seems to be doing quite well in his duel, even mocking McGillis for being so arrogant about piloting a suit with the soul of G-horn’s founder. And to the duel’s credit, it’s another brutal, beam-weapon-less smash-fest.

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In a crucial moment, the hand Almiria stabbed fails Macky, and Gaelio almost gets him, if it weren’t for somebody Gaelio sees his past self in: Isurugi. Someone hypnotised by the BS and whose head is filled with dreams that will never coalesce, but which will end only in his ruin.

Gaelio isn’t wrong about what happens: Isurugi’s last-ditch defense of his commander claims his life. But Isurugi wasn’t from a great family; he was colonist and a commoner, and being with McGillis allowed him to dream big, so big that he didn’t even need to be around to see those dreams fulfilled, as long as he was useful to McGillis.

It’s not a one-sided thing to him, in which Macky takes and the world makes. McGillis gave hope to the hopeless, and they gave him their lives.

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IBO has always had exciting battles, but it’s often the aftermaths of those battles that I’m more invested in, and that’s the case here. The “final battle” wasn’t final and wasn’t a battle so much as a rout, in which McGillis’ shorthanded fleet poked the bear and got mauled.

But Tekkadan isn’t just a military organization like G-horn, they’re a family, and to see Shino and others buy it not for final victory, but just so the rest of the family can live to fight another day (which they were hoping not to do) is particularly despairing.

There’s a great moment when Derma is wishing he had died alongside his friend, rather than losing an arm and becoming less useful as a weapon. Akihiro puts his hand on his head and simply thanks him for surviving. Aki doesn’t care about his adoptive brother’s future effectiveness as a weapon. He cares about being able to talk to him.

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Shaking off the loss of his most loyal lieutenant, it’s full-speed ahead to Mars for McGillis, who has the awkward task of having to call Orga and Eugene to his ship to talk about what happens next, even though the battle they just fought was supposed to be the final one.

At this particular juncture, McGillis believes, or at least gives the impression that he believes, Tekkadan will weather these setbacks and terrible odds as they always have, better than the group’s actual leaders. Orga likely never considered that whatever loses they sustained in the battle with Rustal would only be the beginning; that all those losses gave them was time.

The significance McGillis places on “flying over Mars” and fighting on “home ground” in the next leg of the battle couldn’t feel more hollow, because there wasn’t supposed to be a next leg.

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I loved the scene where Akihiro comforted Derma, but I loved the scene with a recovering Julieta and Gaelio even more. The second he appears, the playful adversity picks right back up, with her wondering what took him so long to visit her after she woke up.

In some Gundams, no doubt this would be a scene in which the injured pilot double down and decides that, like Gaelio, there’s no price she won’t pay, nothing she wouldn’t give up, to become stronger; strong enough to beat Mika. Julieta doesn’t go there.

Having faced off against the terrifying, inhuman might of Mikazuki, she’s decided that’s not her path. Even if she didn’t see the malice in Mika’s real face, his Barbatos’ “expression” mirrored his own. Julieta will become stronger as a human, as herself. No shortcuts.

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Having come back from that deeply unpleasant meeting with McGillis, Orga inspects a room full of body bags filled with comrades for whom he promised a warm place to live and make money without bloodshed. Yamagi, still reeling from the loss of Shino, expresses his resentment for what he sees as cowardly whining by Orga.

When Eugene tracks Yamagi down, he thanks him for tellking Orga what he couldn’t say. Then he tells Yamagi about a time Shino pondered whether Yamagi liked him, and expressed his gratitude that their family is full of so many different types of guys, including a guy who’d love someone like him.

Yamagi knows Shino wouldn’t want him to worry about having not died with him, but to live on, fight on, and make him proud. Just as Isurugi gave his life for a dream he’ll never see, so did Shino, and both went out perfectly fine with that arrangement. No one cursed their lot in life, because they were the lives they chose.

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We end with another excellent Orga-and-Mika scene, in which Orga admits all the lies and big talk he told everyone about money and status and one last battle. Mika, true to his Mika-ness, tells him if there’s someone to blame, it’s him. Orga only “lied” because Mika couldn’t wipe everyone out. His failure to do so only steels him to want to correct that failure in the battles to come.

Orga seems to get it, finally: he’s never had to bear the entire weight of the decisions that have led to their current situation, because they were never his and his alone. They were also Mika’s, and Eugene’s, and Akihiro’s, and everyone else’s, because Orga isn’t a dictator. The things they’ve done are things everyone more or less agreed to or went along with.

On the one hand, most of Tekkadan can’t easily walk away, like Zack could (but likely won’t). But the responsibility lies with everyone. Orga’s most important job is to not have doubts, and as Macky sends Tekkadan and what’s left of his fleet into a Martian trap, a absolute lack of doubt is vital to just keep going.

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Kekkai Sensen – 12 (Fin)

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Life isn’t like a dream, to sit back and experience or be amazed when you find yourself able to take control. It’s a game; The Game, and it can’t be won unless you stand up, move forward, and play. This week Leo is at his lowest point, but thanks to the light and love of those he’s surrounded himself with, he’s able to deflect the more petty games of the King of Depravity (who lets him go, figuring he’ll get an entertaining show regardless), and starts is ascent back onto the real game board, where the objective is to save Black, White, and the World.

Good things come to those that wait, and after waiting the entire Summer for Blood Blade Battlefront to return with its 46-minute finale, I can report that they did a great job wrapping things up, sticking with the same themes of the previous eleven episodes: life and love; friendship and belonging; teamwork and cooperation, which prevail even on the darkest night since the First Collapse.

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As far as game boards go, Hellsalem’s Lot gets trashed this week, but the wide-scale destruction of HLC’s buildings and infrastructure underscore’s the show’s general apathy for those things. Things can be repaired, rebuilt, replaced. Not so with human souls. Of far more interest to the show is that the collection of souls we’ve watched thus far make it out of this tumult. The accounting of material collateral damage is, well, immaterial.

In fact, the only thing keeping total apocalypse at bay isn’t a wall or a dam or a generator; it’s a force field with will, located within White. That barrier is now failing, and Leo’s the only one who can save her, by freeing Black from his possession.

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Once Femt frees him, Leo heads upwards and forwards with this objective in mind, forsaking all other considerations. The thing is, all Hell is literally starting to break loose, including an army of zombies risen to spice things up.

Thankfully for Leo, his comrades at Libra have his back, his front, his top and bottom and his sides, as they utilize their unique skills to clear a path, all the while warning Leo in one way or another not to be too reckless; they’re not doing this so he can sacrifice himself, but so he can save the world and come back none the worse for wear.

This sequence of encounters with his comrades serves as a fitting way to give each of them a curtain call, since this is the finale and all.

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Meanwhile, at the church where Black/The King of Despair wait, Klaus is there to save Black from “himself”, or rather the entity possessing him. This takes all of Klaus’ not inconsiderable strength, but he buys just enough time to keep Black alive so that Leo can do what he has to do.

Earlier, Femt calls The King of Despair “Watchman”, as he has been around throughout human history, making sure there’s enough “nonsense” in the world to keep things interesting. That makes him responsible for a massive array of atrocity and yes despair, but were it not for him, Adam and Eve would never have left the Garden of Eden and grown; i.e. woken up from their dreams and started playing The Game.

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Then Leo confronts Black, uses his eyes—one of which was damaged getting there—and Black’s love for and devotion to White, to separate him from the King of Despair.

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Now that William is himself again and Mary is shaken out of her funk, the two reunite, and Will is able to use his innate power to fully repair, or rather rebuild, the city’s spiritual barrier, ending the crisis. When he does so, Mary disappears, which neither Will nor Leo are happy about, but she’ll always be in their hearts, and as she insisted, even a world without her physical presence continues to turn. In fact, it’s a world that wouldn’t be possible without her sacrifice.

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Once the barrier is restored, the process of rebuilding the city commences, and it isn’t long before life returns to “normal” for Leo and Libra, the kind of normal that isn’t normal anywhere else, but is nevertheless a normal Leo has not only gotten used to but come to love. As he writes his sister, he’s not quite done living and working in Hellsalem’s Lot, but it’s thanks to her light that he’s able to survive each day there.

After the credits, a man pinstriped suit picks up a coin and whistles the King of Despair’s familiar tune. The Watchman always comes back, and is always watching, and the game is always in progress. But as this finale’s events demonstrated, the human soul won’t be so easily defeated, as long as that soul faces the light and takes at least one step forward.

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GOD EATER – 03

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GOD EATER follows up its slow, stretched-out, uninspired second episode with a big shot of adrenaline, as the entire third episode is one big aerial battle. It could also have been titled “Enter Underboob”, as after a couple of glimpses of her last week we finally see Alisa in her element (as opposed to sitting quietly on a plane) as a (mostly) efficient exterminator of Aragami.

The First Unit and Lenka in particular gawk from their helicopter as the one-woman army Alisa darts and jumps and repels about the giant transport plane. Not only does it get to show us the extent of her abilities (and her superiority to fellow new-type Lenka), but also the various tools at a new-type’s disposal. Alisa switches from sword to gun with ease, and when she tuns out of ammo, she simply uses her arc to devour an aragami and convert it into more ammo…which is a handy trick.

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When Lindow, Sakuya, and Lenka spot a gigantic swarm of fresh Aragami on the horizon, Lindow decides it’s time to grab Alisa and leave before they get there. It’s a practical and pragmatic call, considering Alisa’s importance to the war effort. But when Lenka jumps down to get her, Alisa pounces on him and proceeds to beat the everloving shit out of him. The message is clear: she’s not leaving the plane. Shortly thereafter we learn why, and see another side of Alisa: the plane is full of wounded survivors, and she won’t abandon them to save her own skin. She values their lives as much as her own (if not more).

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If Alisa won’t leave and they can’t make her, Lindow changes his orders: the four God Eaters will go all out in a defensive stand. They’ll either defeat all the Aragami after them and land safely at Fenrir east together, or they’ll die together.

We get a lot of badass shots of the team about to get to work, and then working. Lenka gradually gets the hang of his arc and is able to keep up with Alisa; while she had a head start I imagine his kill tally was comparable to hers when all was said and done. He even learns to devour.

There are also a lot of smooth moves, like Alisa and Lenka using both versions of their weapons to kill Aragami, or Lindow tossing one into Sakuya’s firing line so she can finish it off. Their flying battlefield, surrounded by sky on all sides, adds excitement and breathlessness to the proceedings.

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Speaking of breathless, how about that sunset, as seen from the plane’s cargo bay ramp? Or the shot of the absolutely massive Aragami taking the helicopter decoy bait, which definitely looks like a very very good thing to happen, as despite our heroes’ successes, there remain things well out of their league…at least for now.

So…why only an 8? Well, because GOD EATER is very one-dimensional. It’s hella cool and stylish and fun, but it’s ultimately empty calories: immediate satisfaction but no nutrition. The characters are very well-drawn and awesome looking, but there’s nothing below the surface. Alisa, like Lenka, is just another bland cipher we’ve seen a million times before (though Sakamoto Maaya does a good job voicing her).

And while I’m not really going to get into the hefty suspension of disbelief required to accept the physics of the battle (Are everyone’s shoes magnetic? Does no one need oxygen), it was pretty silly how last week the much faster fighter jets were immediately taken out by the Aragami, yet this week the helicopter was completely ignored. GOD EATER remains great fun and this was a far better episode than last week’s, but its core flaws remain, which can’t be ignored.

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Kekkai Sensen – 11

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In my experience, Kekkai Sensen is at it’s best when it’s balancing the chaos of its setting and characters, with focused, clever, bombastic action setpieces that propel an episode forward. A drawback of the show is its insistence on explaining every last little thing in asides, voiceovers, crawling CRT text and heads-up graphics.

As a result, episodes can end up showing a lot, but still telling too much, or at least more than I really need to know. After a recap last week, I really wanted things to get moving, and they do, but not until some way into the episode. And the forward motion is preceded by flashbacks to White’s life.

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It’s not that I disliked White story of her life, it just felt a little momentum-killing when combined with the recap. There’s too much narrative process and procedure on display; and I had the uncomfortable feeling that all of this was one very large advertisment for further explaining/justifying White’s motivations for betraying Leo for her brother: “She is doing this because of this.”

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And that’s the thing: the family and sibling moments were sweet, and Kugimiya Rie’s dual performance was lovely, but they didn’t feel necessary. I didn’t really need any further explanation for her actions, I already got the gist why she was doing it and felt she had no other choice. The show had already given us subtle, relatively unobtrusive bits and pieces of that past. I didn’t really need all the blanks filled in, especially not now.

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All that being said, once White has finished telling her story and turning on Leo, things do indeed take a satisfyingly dark and dire turn. I’m not sure why White thought to trust the word of the King of Despair, but she believes she’ll get Will back if she helps him get the eyes, probably because, just as she told Will, if he was gone, she wouldn’t know what to do. They are twins, after all, closer than mere siblings.

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Once “Black” starts implementing his plan, which is apparently to cause a Second Collapse, one that Libra will certainly be hard-pressed to stop with people like The MacBeths no longer casting, the show stops explaining things and just shows us a whole bunch of crazy shit going down, all of it set to a soaring classical score that recalled Klaus’ great Prosfair match.

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As Despair grabs Leos eyes and causes city-wide explosions in the midst of a massive Halloween parade, a dejected White pores over Leo’s photos, and remembers why she first started taking photos: to prove she existed when she’s gone.

Looking at Leo’s photos through this lens makes her despair even more, and she asks a suddenly present Sonic to find Leo. As for White herself, she suffers a kind of heart attack, which as Black explains, is part of the spell his parents used to keep her alive through “persistent affection”, and she appears to be at the end of its tether.

In a move I wasn’t expecting, Black takes a gun and shoots her…or does he? With all the camera flashes and the fact there was no audio during the “shot”, part of me wonders if he really shot her. Whatever the case, she, Leo, and all of Hellsalem’s Lot are in big trouble.

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Kekkai Sensen – 10

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This week Libra works with HSLPD to defeat a thousand-strong yakuza mecha incursion, and with LHOS’ help, start to uncover they mystery of Black & White with regards to one of the city’s damaged barriers. White also picks a side—her possessed brother’s—and demands Leo hand over his eyes. And she gets that opportunity because Zapp ate some bad tuna!

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While many of those events sound far more significant to the overarching story, it will come as no surprise to those who have followed Kekkai Sensen thus far that the majority of this episode is spent on the most mundane of those events: the search for lunch that ended with a sushi place Zapp had a bad feeling about from the start. Still, it’s clever non-linear storytelling and yet another opportunity to present how strange even a lunch run can get if you walk in the wrong doors.

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Like Zapp’s bachelor nights filled with victory, defeat, and a girl kicking him out of her place, the show portrays the lunch run in rapid-fire fashion, only like a house of horrors, with a staggering variety of bizarre foods. Even when they locate human-run establishments, they’re either getting blood from extramarital brawl all over the food, or trying to serve rival yakuza stew.

Having to flee from so many establishments takes Leo to his breaking point, hallucinating about a “God of Chow” spouting random (and unhelpful) diet-related slogans, before Leo finally declares they’re receiving “Divine Famishment” as a result of trying to use food to haze newbie Zed O’Brien.

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When they finally end up at Leo’s usual foodbag, where they were in the cold open, we now understand why Leo and Zapp are crying with joy upon receiving their chow. And yet, even then they can’t even take one bite, because the Libra-Yakuza battle blows another hole in the diner, and one of those mechas flattens Leo’s beloved burger.

Yet it takes one more round of narrative calisthenics to get Leo to the hospital before a waiting White: After the battle that interrupted their lunch, they end up at the sushi place, and Zapp ends up so sick he has to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, this development is explained with words on the screen, which somewhat undermines the cleverness of the narrative so far.

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In any case, Leo’s there, White gets him alone in the church, where she very well could have been praying to someone, anyone, for some way out of the unfortunate mess she’s in. But then Black arrives, and it’s time for her to ask for Leo’s eyes, revealing her duplicity.

If White had sat Leo down to explain everything to him, he’d probably understand, but considering how in the dark he is (ironic considering his eyes), this betrayal must sting all the more, especially as it’s being committed by someone he’d come to like as a friend and possibly as something more. Then again, he’s also still convinced she’s a ghost.

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P.S. The preview mentioned a “Special episode” while time-lapsing the whole show so far, which can only mean one thing: A dreaded recap is likely next week. >:(